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Tips for Cascading Goals to Annual Action Plans

When you’re figuring out how to measure the success of your strategic plan, you’re basically developing an action plan for each goal. An action plan explains who’s going to do what, when they’re going to do it by, and in what order they’re going to do it for the organization to reach its goals.

Tips for cascading one level

For every short-term corporate goal, identify the following items. These items are listed in logical order and flow to make it easy to develop each one:

  • Action item or to-do: Start the sentence with a verb to show the action that’s being done. After all the action items are listed, order them based on priority.

    Don’t worry about writing action items for your financial goals. All your financial goals are achieved through the rest of the goals in your plan. For example, increasing sales by 10 percent is a function of marketing and sales reaching new customers or selling more to existing customers.

  • Person or department responsible: If the action plan requires shared responsibility, make one person the lead.

  • Start and end dates: Start dates are important because they allow you to see the duration of an action. Without the start date, you won’t know whether you’re behind schedule until the end date passes. When establishing an end date, commit to the deadline.

  • Expense: Identify an estimated expense if applicable. If dollars are hard to estimate, then estimate the time required.

See the figure for visual representation of cascading one level.

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Tips for cascading multiple levels

Cascading goals multiple levels means breaking down the corporate goals into a set of smaller goals relevant to each department and then again to individual goals. A simple way to think about this process is to think about goals spilling over a cliff like a waterfall. Goals must spread throughout an entire organization to be executed, as the next figure shows.

The department goals describe what each unit needs to achieve. These goals are then broken down further until individuals in the unit have their own performance goals. In this way, progress throughout the organization is measurable.

Cascading goals isn’t an easy or fast process. Be prepared to meet resistance in getting people to get on board. Some may need specific training because they don’t know how to develop goals and others may need coaching to enhance their performance.

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