3 Steps to Better Cascade Corporate Strategy

3 Steps to Better Cascade Corporate Strategy
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How to Better Cascade Corporate Strategy

In nature, a cascade is a small, steep waterfall that flows in a descending manner from the top to the bottom, from high to low. In business we use the verb “cascading” when we talk about communicating and embedding a corporate strategy throughout the organization — often after a successful strategy retreat.

Effective Strategy Cascading Creates Alignment, Accountability and Meaning
This communication and implementation process occurs in a series of reactions in which one causes another — in which every division, department, and individual are aligned around the overall strategic plan and the important part they play in making it a success. One move flows into another — but not always in a top-down direction.

Strategic Clarity Starts at the Top
Our organizational alignment research found strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing companies.

Once your business strategy has been fully understood and committed to as a leadership team, you should begin the hard work of strategy cascading and strategy execution. At a minimum, you need to be satisfied that the strategy you’ve created is both crystal clear and aligned across six areas:

  • Strategic Drivers
    Mission (fundamental purpose), Vision (what you hope to become) and Values (core beliefs)
  • Target Clients
    The ideal target clients who you serve best and where you should consistently win 75%+ of the time
  • Differentiation
    The value proposition that truly sets you apart from the competition in the eyes of your target clients
  • Optimizing Strategies
    The top 2 to 4 strategic priorities for gaining the most strategic leverage
  • Key Goals
    The critical few actions to achieve those optimizing strategies in the next twelve months
  • Success Metrics
    How you will measure success and failure

Cascading Your Strategy
Once your strategy is clear, believable, and implementable enough at the executive team level, you can begin the process of cascading the strategic plan so that it can be understood and successfully executed.

3 Steps to Better Cascade Your Corporate Strategy
Here are three tips on how to better cascade your corporate strategy from the board room to those employees whose day-to-day work will be informed by that strategy.

  1. Don’t Assume Top-down “Telling” is the Way to Go
    While the executive leadership team is responsible for setting the overall direction, don’t make the mistake of telling everyone WHAT to do and HOW to do it.  That approach typically only works in highly structured, traditional, and hierarchical organizations.

    In flatter organizations, you need the active involvement, input, and buy-in from all key stakeholders for the overall strategy to be consistently executed across the company.  Be clear on the parts of the strategy that are mandated, guided, or autonomous at the overall, department, team, and individual levels so people know where they are empowered to make it their own.

  2. Execute from the Bottom-up
    Though you may build your strategy in a small group of cross-functional leaders, it is often best to execute a strategy from the bottom up.  Leaders should give managers the opportunity and authority to develop meaningful and relevant goals as long as they align with the overall priorities of the business.  Managers should include their team members in figuring out how to best implement the strategy.

    Each department can take the strategy and decide how to align and accomplish it in their own unique ways.  As a rule of thumb, be prepared to spend twice as much time cascading your strategy for each level away from the executive team.  For example, if you spent one month prepping and two days creating your corporate strategy with your executive team, be prepared to spend two months prepping and four days with your direct reports to get the required level of alignment, conviction, and commitment.

  3. Monitor and Measure Progress for Accountability
    To be certain that you are moving in the right direction and that employees and their managers are implementing the strategy as planned, establish a system of regular and transparent metrics against goals for increased accountability.

    Establish consequences for poor work performance, adjust goals as necessary, celebrate progress, and reward success. Only if you hold everyone accountable for delivery against the plan will you be able to achieve it.

The Bottom Line
Well executed strategies start with strategic clarity at the top and are supported by heavily investing in cascading strategies, goals, metrics and accountability across the company. Your strategy must go through your people and your workplace culture to get fully implemented — so invest the time it takes to cascade it effectively.

To learn if you are ready to cascade corporate strategy across your organization, download The Top 7 Ways to Stress Test Your Strategic Clarity

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