Mapping 2018:  Cascading Objectives

Posted by Doug Johnson on Wed, Jan 17, 2018 @ 11:51 AM




In this final blog of my three-part series on the importance of planning, I’d like to discuss the idea of Cascading Objectives.  The general purpose of Cascading Objectives is to “cascade” your executive/business level objectives, strategies, and metrics down through the organization. Which enables each function, department, and even individual, to tie their activities, projects, and tasks to the key objectives that will drive your company’s success.

Let’s start with the Executive (Business) level objectives.  During your strategic/business planning process, you should identify three to five Key Objectives that will drive success.  These are usually breakthrough objectives that, when achieved, are differentiable.  These objectives should not be focused on objectives like “grow revenue 5%.”  If you have that objective, what are the BHAGs (Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goals) that will largely contribute to achieving that overall result?

Once you’ve established those objectives, determine—for each objective—the  Key Strategies your company will need to undertake to achieve those objectives.  As with each Key Objective, you should limit the Key Strategies for each Key Objective to three to five.  Don’t boil the ocean and list every possible strategy you might undertake.  Be thoughtful and focus on the most impactful strategies. 

Each Key Objective must have Metric(s) that are measurable and clear indicators of achievement to the Key Objective.  The same is true for Key Strategies.  A great rule of thumb is if the Key Objective or Key Strategy cannot be measured, it is not a good Key Objective or Key Strategy, it should be re-evaluated.  Once you have established the Executive Level Key Objectives, Key Strategies (for each Key Objective), and Metrics, you are now ready to “Cascade” these throughout your organization.



In most organizations, the next level down from the Executive team are the functions (Sales, Marketing, Finance, Operations, Service, etc.).  Task each functional lead with identifying Key Objectives for their function that tie to one or more of the Key Strategies identified at the Executive Level for one or more Executive Level Key Objectives.  In other words, your Executive Level Key Strategies often become the Key Objectives for one or more of the functions in your company.

As they identify their three to five Key Objectives that contribute specifically to one or more of those at the Executive level, they will then repeat the process of identifying their Key Strategies for each Key Objective, as well as the measurable Metrics for each.  This process cascades down from the functional level to the department level and so on.  Many companies often cascade all the way to the Supervisor or even Individual Contributor level as well.

Once complete, you will now be able to “roll up” all efforts across the company that tie to your Executive Level Key Objectives and Key Strategies.  It helps you see where you are progressing and achieving results and where you are not.  It also more importantly aligns the organization from top to bottom (everyone is rowing in the same direction), and as noted earlier, makes it much easier to identify activity that is not directly aligned to the Company’s overall goals.

That’s it.  Simple, huh?  I know—no, it isn’t.  But, putting effort on Strategic Planning and driving execution using Cascading Objectives can drive real change in your organization faster than a “best efforts” plan, and empower your organization in ways you may have never thought possible. 

Good luck.  See you in 2019.


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Further Reading:

Mapping 2018: Your Starting Point

Mapping 2018: Creating a 10-Step Business Plan 




Tags: creating a 2018 strategy, new year resolutions for businesses, business plan, 2018, business planning, business strategy, mapping a successful 2018, 2018 goals, mapping2018

Mapping 2018: Creating a 10-Step Business Plan 

Posted by Doug Johnson on Wed, Jan 10, 2018 @ 06:35 PM


In my last blog, I talked about the importance of strategic planning to drive effective execution within your organization.  Done right, strategic planning is a natural part of how you manage your business, and can drive competitive advantage, particularly in complex markets like ours, where the water has been lowered over the last few years and we are all “feeling the rocks” now in our respective business models.

There are many great reasons to do strategic planning:

  • It gives your team the direction and focus necessary to achieve success and market leadership.
  • It aligns your organization and key resources around your most important objectives.
  • It enables the broader resources and partnerships—outside of your company—to be effectively leveraged.
  • In addition to providing the overall guidance for functional plans (sales, marketing, operations, etc.).


Great business and strategic planning is also often more about what you are NOT going to do than it is about what you ARE going to do.


As I mentioned last time, I am a fan of the 10-Step Business Plan.  It is a proven model that guides you through asking the right questions to help drive focused execution.  It is an iterative process; which means you will often find that you are “circling back” to earlier steps to refine your thoughts as you work through the steps.  The first step is your Business Purpose.  This may be obvious, but why does your business exist?  This often is described as your Vision and Mission Statement.

Step 1 “sets the tone” against which you will measure the rest of the plan.  For example, LMI’s Mission Statement is to provide market-leading, best-quality products, services, and solutions that leverage IoT, Cloud, Big Data Analytics, and emerging technologies to enable partners around the globe to deliver an array of market-leading Managed Business Services to business customers of all sizes.  While it is a mouthful, all decisions we make as an executive team are within the context of this framework.

Step 2 in your plan is to lay out at least your three year objectives and key milestones.  What success do you want to achieve over the next three years?  Make sure it is written in terms the team will understand, and by time horizon (at least by year, if not semi-annually).  In this second step, you should also include the assets (tools, resources) and competencies (knowledge, skills) by function the organization will maintain and/or develop over those same time horizons.  At this step, it is also very helpful to list the assets and competencies you will partner or outsource that will nonetheless contribute to achieving your objectives.

Step 3 is about your market.  First, describe the overall market opportunity for your business model.  Then total the number and size of customers for your products, services, and solutions, current and new customer potential, local, regional, and national opportunities.  Prioritize the target customers from this macro list.  I recommend a rolling 3 or 4 quarter plan, updated at the end of each quarter based on results.  And, of course have a mix of small, medium, and larger customers to prevent the team from only whale hunting.

In Step 4, you will describe your top competitors in the business and geographic market you’ve defined and prioritized.  Who are the top competitors for your current customers and new target customers?  What is their current offering, including programs, product lines, and partnerships?  Develop a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) for each key competitor.

Step 5 is all about the products, services, and solutions you are bringing to your customers—current and new.  Be specific about each area of offering.  Again, by describing what you are specifically offering, it is easier to identify and eliminate activities in your organization that are not aligned to your specific offering.  Describe the elements of your offering you provide, and which elements you intend to outsource or partner on to complete your solution portfolio.  And finally, how does this offering differentiate from your competitors’ offerings?

In Step 6 of your business plan, you now describe specifically the resources and capabilities, over time, you need to develop and/or partner to deliver the portfolio in Step 5.  As noted earlier, what are the assets (tools, resources) and competencies (skills, knowledge) necessary within each functional area?  This is a key step in your plan, as this fully engages each functional and department head in a “good look in the mirror” to objectively look at the function or department’s capabilities and compare them to what is needed for success.

Step 7 of the business plan is designed to articulate the business network and interdependencies to achieve your business goals.  What are the alliances and partnerships required to deliver the whole solution to the customer?  How do they enable or maintain competitive advantage over time?  How to they evolve to meet your needs as they evolve over the plan horizon?

Step 8 is all about the rubber meeting the road—the financials.  You will want to describe your financial objectives, forecasts and resulting revenue and profit goals—by product, service, and solution categories as necessary.  This step should describe these goals over time, highlight risks and sensitivities (a sensitivity analysis is key to quantifying risk), with the customer base stratified by product, service, and solution categories.  This last element helps identify more specifically which customer sets are really paying the bills over the plan horizon.

Step 9 is for the naysayers in the organization.  This step lists all of the issues and potential problems with this great plan you’ve put together.  In short, what are the biggest risks to the successful implementation of the plan?  And, what steps can be taken to mitigate or eliminate these risks? 

Finally, in Step 10, you and the team pull together the first year tactical plan.  This will include specific goals and objectives pulled from the overall plan.  As I noted in my last blog, if this type of planning becomes just a natural part of the way you do business, you can have a rolling four quarter plan, updated based on results from the prior quarter.

That’s it.  Simple, huh?  J  But worth it.  Next time, I’ll discuss how to take the goals and objectives of the first year tactical plan and cascade them down through your organization to drive complete alignment.


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Futher Reading:

Mapping 2018 Your Starting Point

2018 Goals: 5 Money Making Resolutions for MPS Sales Managers


Tags: creating a 2018 strategy, business plan, 2018, business planning, business strategy, mapping a successful 2018, 2018 goals, mapping2018

Mapping 2018: Your Starting Point

Posted by Doug Johnson on Tue, Jan 02, 2018 @ 01:18 PM


It’s that time of the season where we all roll into the New Year with the promise of a “fresh start”—whether it is a personal resolution to get in shape, be a better person, get rid of a bad habit, or a reexamination of your business to find ways to improve your top and bottom line in 2018. Unfortunately, often the process to improve your business ends up like your New Year’s resolution—you are back to the same old habits by the end of January.

What prevents most of us from applying strategic planning and thoughtful, focused execution to our businesses? Often, the main answers I get to that question are: “Strategic planning is for big companies. I don’t have time to take my team out of the business to plan. We need to hit the ground running in the New Year. I have an experienced team. They know what to do…..” And so on.

The reality is that good strategic planning (and the focused execution that should follow) is not a once every five years or even once a year exercise. Done right, strategic planning is a natural part of the way you manage your business, updated quarterly to semi-annually, and always looking forward 4 to 6 quarters. And, the right process and tools to do strategic planning enable you to make this recurring exercise a standard part of your business without sucking up your most valuable resource—your staff’s time and bandwidth. Strategic planning is NOT just for big companies. It is for any company that wants to grow and remain relevant (or even viable) in our fast-changing industry and global economy.

I like to use a 10-step Business Plan for strategic planning. I know 10 steps sounds like a lot, but there are no bonus points for length when it comes to Business Planning. This isn’t a term paper. A 10-step Business Plan provides the roadmap to look at your business and go-to-market model from every functional and partnership angle. It forces choices for you and your team—which are key to generating focus and alignment across your company. It actually brings to life clichés like getting the team “all rowing in the same direction.” In my next blog, I’ll briefly outline the 10 steps. I’ve used this in very large companies (Hewlett-Packard) to start ups (Print, Inc.) with equal success, so this isn’t just an exercise for the Fortune 1000.

Once you have a solid Business Plan, you have to turn that plan into an executable, measurable set of objectives, strategies, and metrics that run from top to bottom in the company. Everyone in the company should have focused objectives and key strategies with quantifiable metrics. Metrics are key. As Dave Packard famously said: “What gets measured gets done.” They should see how their daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly activities and efforts contribute directly to the success of the company. My favorite technique is to use Cascading Objectives. I will cover this tool set in more detail in a blog following the 10-step Business Plan.

2017 was an interesting, challenging, fun, stressful, (pick your adjective) year for most of us, and I expect 2018 will be no different. Make a commitment to put some effort into a Business Plan and Cascading Objectives early in the year, and you’ll find yourself using a list of adjectives to describe 2018 that is much more positive than negative!


Don't miss the next in Doug's series: Creating a 10-Step Business Plan.

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 Additional Reading:

5 Must Make New Years Resolutions for Managed Print Providers

5 Money-Making New Years Resolutions for MPS Sales Managers




Tags: creating a 2018 strategy, new year resolutions for businesses, business plan, 2018, business planning, business strategy, mapping a successful 2018, 2018 goals