Cascading goals Blog Feature

How to Set Cascading Goals for Your Team in 2024

It’s no secret that setting goals is tied to success. INC found that people are 42% more likely to achieve goals that they write down. Plus, employees with clear goals are 3.6 times more likely to be dedicated to their company. 

But the reality is that many businesses don’t set clear priorities. One Harvard Business Review study found that 84% of staff surveyed at a professional services firm weren’t clear on the organization’s top priorities. In addition, only 55% of managers could name one of the top five company goals.

So why do so many companies have problems setting goals? The process can be challenging, and it’s more than just making a blanket goal statement. Effective goals need to be measurable and targeted toward company objectives.

That’s where cascading goals can help. 👀

Here, we’ll talk about what cascading goals are and identify the benefits of using them for your business. Then, we’ll show you how to implement cascading goals to help everyone on the team contribute to your objectives.

What Are Cascading Goals?

Cascading goals are a structured framework of objectives. Start with larger organizational goals and break them into smaller targets for teams and individuals. The idea is that everyone should work toward the main company goal by working on tasks and projects that contribute to it. 

The process starts with stakeholders creating an overarching objective for the business. Next, goals and tasks are set for project managers and team leads to meet that main goal. The process continues with a cascading effect for every team member and individual at the company. ✨

The focus is to start with a main goal and work backward to create projects and tasks for each team that get the company closer to the objective. Each cascading goal should be clear and measurable. They should also be tailored to each team member’s capacity and capabilities.

Types of Cascading Goals

Within this broader goal framework are several types of cascading goals. Each one offers a different approach or technique to reach the main objective. 🏆

Types of cascading goals include:

  • SMART goals: SMART is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. These goals are designed to be realistic and doable
  • Objectives and key results (OKRs): OKRs take an overarching objective and tie them to key results and tasks that are designed as steps to meet the main goal
  • Big hairy audacious goals (BHAG): A long-term goal that aims to drive excitement by establishing a high bar for success that’s often bold, risky, and lofty 
Cascading goals: ClickUp's SMART Goals Template
Utilize ClickUp’s SMART Goals Template to structure and streamline your goal setting strategies into a manageable system

Examples of Cascading Goals 

Let’s take a travel agency as an example of cascading SMART goals. The main company objective for the quarter may be to sell 5,400 vacation packages. Every task and goal for each team should be geared toward making that happen. That might mean the sales team sets a goal of onboarding 1,300 new clients. The marketing team may aim to send out 40 email marketing campaigns. 

Within the sales team, the sales lead may set conversion goals for each sales rep—like 150 new clients per individual. On the marketing side, the manager might break work down into goals based on increasing social media conversions or creating a certain number of ad campaigns. 

Cascading goals: ClickUp's OKR Dashboard
ClickUp’s OKR Dashboard tailors views for cross-functional projects, boost efficiency through automation, and standardizes best practices for scalable success

Now let’s look closer at an example of cascading goals using OKRs. Let’s say that the owner of a boat dealership sets the main objective to become the biggest boat seller in the region.

Key results for this objective may look like:

  • Key result #1: Handle 55% of all regional boat sales
  • Key result #2: Boost branding and visibility by 35%
  • Key result #3: Implement a CRM to handle all customer engagement

As you can see, these key results affect different departments, including sales and marketing. From here, team managers can take one of these key results as their main team objective. Then, they’d break it down further into key results to meet that objective.

For example, the sales team might have 55% of all regional boat sales as their main objective and key results could include hiring three new sales representatives and increasing the number of boat sales by 40% year-over-year. The marketing team’s key results could include hiring a consultant to build a CRM and running 10 ad campaigns or email marketing initiatives.

Benefits of Setting Cascading Goals

The benefits of a top-down approach to goal setting include more devoted employees, targeted work, and improved collaboration. From the executive level down to entry-level employees, everyone is tied to a singular goal and has their work scoped out to meet the main objectives and personal employee goals.  

Here are some of the key benefits of setting cascading goals. 💪

Better performance management

Cascading goals make monitoring and assessing performance throughout the entire organization easier. With tailored project goals for each team member, it’s easy to gauge how each employee is doing. 

Since cascading goals are typically measurable, you can use metrics to see how close a team or person is to their goal, where projects fell behind, or highlight something that worked well.

Increased employee engagement

Employees work better when they have goals that directly contribute to the organization’s success. That means they’ll be more likely to take on new projects, generate creative ideas, and hone in on work that matters. They’ll be motivated to automate busy work and devote their time to more important tasks.

Cascading goals: ClickUp's Automations list
Quickly view and manage active and inactive Automations across Spaces with user updates and descriptions

Improved strategy and goal alignment 

Many businesses suffer from misalignment problems—particularly when more than one department is involved in the same project. Setting big company goals and breaking out work for each department to meet those goals makes it easier to stay aligned and simplify business process management. 📈

When you decide to scale the company or a project, it’s easy to silo new employees. Just think about the main company goal and what the new person can contribute to get the team to the finish line.

Simplified workflows and targeted tasks

With goal cascading, it’s easier for managers to create workflows and assign tasks at the company and individual levels. With an overall goal in mind, break down tasks into manageable steps at every level of the organization. ✍️

Cascading goals: ClickUp's Task Types page
Enhance clarity across your projects with customizable Task Types and improve organization across your task management efforts

You can also create priorities and dependencies to guide work, whether it’s team or individual goals. Highlight tasks with the highest impact and lowest effort to be dealt with first. Next, identify areas that require another task before work can start. With cascading goals as the guide, you can create day-to-day task lists to manage project tracking toward success.

These goals also remove redundancy, especially for large teams. Plus, it avoids competing objectives and keeps everyone focused on the work.

More transparency and accountability

With everyone working toward the company goals, cascading goals add a component of accountability. Each person knows what work they’re responsible for and what contribution they’re expected to make. That increases transparency and lets employees take ownership of projects throughout the goal-setting process.

How to Implement Cascading Goals

Implementing cascading goals is ongoing and should be revisited throughout the year. It’s also a good idea to get buy-in from employees and let them have a say in their individual and team goals. This way, they’ll feel more connected to the work and have greater ownership over the project. Here’s how to implement cascading goals in a simple five-step process. ✅

1. Review the company mission and set long-term goals

Before you think about setting goals, it’s important to consider the company mission—which may be unclear for employees at bigger firms. Your mission and values should always guide your work. It’s the driver behind your purpose and the reason you do business.

By understanding your company’s mission and values, you can create achievable goals that move your business forward. Ensuring employees understand the mission also makes them better at their jobs and more in tune with the company’s needs. 🧐

Tracking team members’ progress in ClickUp
Establish measurable goals for tasks and projects with automatic progression to more effectively achieve objectives with defined timelines and quantifiable targets

Once you know your mission, use a tool like ClickUp Goals to set measurable targets. This goal-setting software makes determining, assigning, managing, and monitoring goals easy. Use it to set and track progress with SMART Goals, KPIs, and OKRs. 

Start by creating a main goal for the company and all departments or teams. Then, work your way through each team and individual to create achievable goals that contribute to the main company-wide goals. Set up meetings with each team member to give them input into specific goals and the work they think has the biggest impact.

Organize business goals into folders to see every team member’s top-level goals or individual goals. The progress tracker feature adds a percentage chart to show how many tasks have been completed toward meeting the goal.

2. Establish short-term goals on a quarterly basis

Effective cascading goals are a blend of short-term and long-term goals. Once you have the main yearly goals mapped out for each individual, break them down into quarterly targets. 🛠️

Use a tool like ClickUp’s goal-setting templates to make this task faster and easier. With several options to choose from, set SMART goals, OKRs, balanced scorecards, or career goals in half the time.

ClickUp's OKR Template
ClickUp’s OKR Template gives the executive team a single source of truth for tracking real-time progress

You can plan goals for the entire year broken down into quarters but revisit them often. Ideally, you should meet at the end of the quarter to review work completed and set targets for the next quarter to stay on track to meet the larger company goals. 

Differentiate between goals and objectives—goals are the main targets, while objectives help employees understand how to achieve that goal. Each plays a key role in prioritizing the right work each quarter.

3. Set individual and team goals

Repeat this goal-setting process for every team and team member. Ensure they have a say in the decision-making process when choosing goals and objectives. Remember that all projects and tasks should connect back to the main company goal and quarterly targets.

Use ClickUp Priorities to create workflows that break down work based on importance. Add custom fields for work that has the highest impact and lowest effort. Use color-coding to easily identify tasks that are easy to complete and ones that will have the biggest effect.

Prioritizing tasks in ClickUp
Quickly set Task Priority within a task to communicate what needs attention first

ClickUp Dependencies also make it easy to identify work being blocked by another task. That way, cross-functional teams can quickly see what work they need to do to prevent workflow delays for the rest of the company.

4. Cross-check goals working from the bottom up

Once you’ve set goals for every individual, team, and company, you’ll want to check that everything aligns with your strategic plan. Work from the bottom up—reviewing all personal, team, and project management goals to the highest levels of the company.

Take note of goals that don’t align with your business strategy or areas that need improvement. Run the goals plan by management and key stakeholders to ensure a proper review.

5. Schedule check-ins and performance reviews

As with most projects, you can’t just implement and forget them. Reviews are key to staying on top of strategic goals and adapting as needed. Use ClickUp’s Calendar view to track progress and schedule regular check-ins. 💼

ClickUp's Calendar view
Manage projects and schedule tasks across the flexible Calendar view to keep teams in sync

Check-ins aren’t just a time to review performance goals; they’re a great opportunity to get feedback and improve employee retention. Plan a half an hour or an hour to review individual goals and get on-the-ground insights. 

During meetings, review overall company goals, leadership goals, and personal progress. Decide if you need to set new goals to meet higher targets or adjust for market changes. Adjust goals and schedules based on employee feedback and offer support when needed.

Set Goals and Reach Them Faster With ClickUp

Whether setting your own goals to reach your dreams or managing a team working toward a bigger company mission, cascading goals can help you set priorities and meet your aims. With the above five-step guide, you’ll set achievable and measurable goals for every process stage.

Sign up for ClickUp today and start building more effective and driven teams. With the Goals feature, creating targets for the company and each employee is easy. Plus, built-in workflows, task management, and reporting keep you informed on progress so you can reach your goals faster.

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