Cascading, Devolving, Linkage - What do these three words have in common? They are all used to commonly describe what is supposed to happen to an organisation's strategic objectives - basically getting them down to individual level so everyone can see how they fit into the grand scheme of things, understand their purpose and contribution and how they can 'add value'.
Translating vision and strategy into meaningful goals however seems to be an art-form, and not one that too many workplaces are that adept at. Recent research highlights that the best performers understand the organisational strategy and were able to apply that understanding in their job to make a difference. Those who did not make the effort to connect their work to the company strategy appeared to work in a vacuum. Often, their decisions were based on personal preferences rather than on being aligned with the vision. So this all makes sense to me so surely we need to be better at describing the stuff at the top in a more tangible and relatable way!
'Increase market share by 10%'
'Delight our customers'
'Improve shareholder value'
'Be the leading retailer of ...'
are four 'corporate objectives' I recently read! They are either too broad and generic or something that is difficult for me as one of perhaps 1000 employees to tangibly understand, influence, relate to or feel I make a contribution towards. Consider this: What are the objectives for a Receptionist in the context of these sorts of buzzword, cliche 'goals'. How do these sorts of goals get down to Reception-level? I ask this in my events and workshops and people really do struggle and say things like 'well, they would be welcoming to visitors coming in'. But they would be anyway wouldn't they? - because that's one of the main duties of the job strategy or not!
If we have any hope of being able to make these links from the top to the bottom of an organisation then I would suggest two courses of action:
1) Make the organisational goals/objectives/strategic pillars (or whatever else you call them) something we can measure and track and actually be a plain-English response to a particular challenge faced or something we want to particularly get better at in the next year or two. General statements about market positioning, customer satisfaction and people engagement are all very well but surely they are the obvious things that you and 600 other companies would want - and would go without saying!
2) Don't force corporate objectives down to individual role level when they just don't fit! I recently worked with a MD in the South West who insisted that every individual performance objective had a corresponding organisational objective highlighted next to it. The word 'shoehorn' came to mind. The most random connections were being made in desperate attempts to link an individual's focus to where the Company wanted to be. It sometimes works, it sometimes doesn't....