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Strategic Cascade Series: Structure-Processes-Metrics

Let’s continue to look at the Strategic Cascade at a more detailed level.  In the last article we divided the six elements of the SHARPER COUNSEL Strategic Cascade into two halves and examined MISSION, OBJECTIVES, and STRATEGY.  In this article, we study the second half of the framework — STRUCTURE, PROCESSES, and METRICS.

Many organizations recognize the importance of articulating MISSION, setting OBJECTIVES, and deciding STRATEGY to accomplish business goals.  Fewer organizations understand the supporting roles STRUCTURE, PROCESSES and METRICS play in making progress towards goals.  In a negative sense, they don’t recognize that the absence of a tuned STRUCTURE, supporting PROCESSES, and aligned METRICS are actually an impediment to high performance.

The STRUCTURE of a business is basically how it is organized.  Once STRATEGY for has been set, it is useful to ensure that the way a business is organized is appropriate to pursue the STRATEGY.  In the face of dramatic changes in STRATEGY, it is an error to assume that the current organization is appropriate.  It is of equal error to change the organization STRUCTURE with every shift in STRATEGY.  The challenge is to recognize that STRUCTURE needs to be tuned to, and driven by the STRATEGY of the business.

There are many ways to STRUCTURE a business.  How to organize depends on many factors like the size of the business, the type of business itself, the health of the business, ownership status, maturity of the employee base, etc.  What is important from a performance perspective is that accountabilities are understood and complexities are minimized.

The advantage of organization STRUCTURE is that it divides work across multiple teams and increases focus towards specific tasks.  The disadvantage of STRUCTURE is that it separates parts of the organization and increases the possibility of task confusion, mismatched activities across teams, conflicts in priority, etc.  In order to avoid the downsides of STRUCTURE, it is appropriate to build a set of business PROCESSES that tie the structure together and increase cohesiveness.

Business PROCESSES come in many forms and fashions.  They have three primary functions – planning for things that need to happen, tracking things that are happening, and reporting things that have happened.

Planning PROCESSES can be as simple as a staff meeting check-in for goal alignment between two groups and can be as complicated as multi-month business planning project that involves dozens, if not hundreds of people.  A basic tenant of effective planning PROCESSES is to ensure that OBJECTIVES of the organization are divided into workable pieces across the STRUCTURE.  The most effective planning PROCESSES result in documented sub-goals, roles/responsibilities and timeframes to reach the OBJECTIVES while spreading the tasks across the business STRUCTURE so that activity can be orchestrated.  These coordinated plans help an organization meet its goals and set the stage for high performance.

Tracking PROCESSES are used to monitor the progress of the plan towards OBJECTIVES and facilitate understanding and resolving discrepancies between the plan and reality.  Effective use of tracking PROCESSES allow a business to make adjustments to its resources, its approach and its expectations to optimize progress towards OBJECTIVES.

Reporting PROCESSES provide the business specific measureable results and communicate those results to those of interest, e.g. ownership, the management team, the employees and the public.  These reporting systems are typically based on a set of METRICS that are important to the stakeholders and provide feedback to the business regarding business results.

METRICS, similar to PROCESSES, come in many forms and fashions.  METRICS are typically built into planning PROCESSES to streamline tracking and reporting, and are useful on keeping tabs on things that might not be directly related to high level objectives.  Additionally, financial METRICS are legally required for taxes and other regulatory requirements.

A key to good METRICS are to have enough, but not too many.  An organization can get swamped with keeping track of METRICS if the system is too cumbersome.   Another key is to examine METRICS across the organization to ensure alignment between teams.  Another good practice with METRICS is to balance the OBJECTIVES oriented measures with the ongoing but  maybe not so visible daily requirements of running a business.

SHARPER COUNSEL’s Strategic Cascade model consists of MISSION, OBJECTIVES, STRATEGY, STRUCTURE, PROCESSES, and METRICS.  By ensuring that all framework elements are current, appropriate and aligned, an organization can set itself up so that high performance is possible.

Sharper Counsel LLC is an executive short term assignment company dedicated to the improvement of high potential businesses.  In short, we do BUSINESS TUNEUPS.

We provide management consulting to accomplish business and organization assessments.  We specialize in business development and business process management and are one of the up and coming consulting firms in San Diego.  Our team is always eager to help you improve your business, so…

Give us a call today at 800-280-2452 !

Strategic Cascade Series: Mission-Objectives-Strategy

Let’s look at the Strategic Cascade at a more detailed level.  We’ll start by dividing the six elements of SHARPER COUNSEL’s Strategic Cascade into two halves.  MISSION-OBJECTIVES-STRATEGY is the first half, and STRUCTURE-PROCESSES-METRICS is the second half.  This article provides insight into MISSION, OBJECTIVES, and STRATEGY and discusses how these three elements lay the foundation for a high performance organization.

Each business, or each piece of a business, has a reason to be and this reason should be articulated.  We call this the MISSION of the organization.  Whether the MISSION is to field calls from customers to solve their problems or to develop new high tech products or to fill government defense contracts, describing the organization MISSION scopes the boundaries of an organization and sets the stage for business performance.

The concept of organization MISSION is not a new one, and it is surprising to see so many organizations that do not have an articulated MISSION that is accurate, specific and current.  In this hyper-competitive world where success depends on getting the absolute most out of every investment, every person and every moment of the day, businesses cannot afford to spend precious time and energy on non-MISSION activities.

There are many ideas around organization statements and what they should describe.  For some proponents, mission statements should include expected results and for others they should include visionary elements of a future state.  With SHARPER COUNSEL’s Strategic Cascade, we simplify MISSION to a very clear description of what the organization does, and perhaps just as useful, what it does not do.  The absence of an accurate, specific and current description of “what an organization does” erodes the ability to achieve high performance.

The MISSION of an organization typically has a long (multi-year) duration and at any particular time, specific OBJECTIVES are established to drive for specific business results.  For example, we want to grow revenues by 10% over the next year, or we want to reduce costs in the next six months or we want to increase customer satisfaction by five points.  Or just as common, we need to do all of these activities at the same time to be successful in the upcoming period.

OBJECTIVES are sometimes called goals and are synonymous in the SHARPER COUNSEL Strategic Cascade.  These OBJECTIVES should be set/reviewed periodically.  They should be specific business targets to achieve. And they should be comprehensive.  The idea of having clear OBJECTIVES is not new and yet it is surprising to see organizations with obsolete goals or worse yet, new OBJECTIVES that have been placed on top of old OBJECTIVES that have not been completed.

We’ll talk more in another article about translating OBJECTIVES at the business level into action items for individuals by cascading them throughout the organization.  Suffice it for now to understand that identifying specific OBJECTIVES that are appropriate and within the business MISSION is a key foundational element for achieving high performance.

A third foundational element for high performance is STRATEGY, which is employed to define the organization’s approach towards achieving the OBJECTIVES.  STRATEGY in a simple sense is decisions that are made in how to achieve a goal.  For example, our STRATEGY to “grow revenues by 10%” is to develop a “current customer program” to drive repeat business.  For our cost reduction goal, we’ll “assemble a new team” and “focus on direct material costs”.  And finally, for our “five point improvement in customer satisfaction”, we want to “reduce phone call response times” and “fix three quality issues”.

You may notice in these very simple examples that the boundaries between OBJECTIVES and STRATEGY get a bit fuzzy.  We could talk all day about the definitions of STRATEGY and OBJECTIVES, but we won’t.  What’s important is to ensure that your organization’s definitions of OBJECTIVES and STRATEGY are consistent, within the boundaries of the MISSION, and clearly documented and communicated.  If this is not the case, you have work to do to achieve your business potential.

Sharper Counsel LLC is an executive short term assignment company dedicated to the improvement of high potential businesses.

In short, we do BUSINESS TUNEUPS.

We provide management consulting to accomplish business and organization assessments.  We specialize in business development and business process management and are one of the up and coming consulting firms in San Diego.  Our team is always eager to help you improve your business, so…

Give us a call today at 800-280-2452 !

Strategic Cascade Series Overview

A strategic cascade is nothing more than a model used to describe various aspects of your business. By ensuring all the cascade elements work towards a common purpose, the power of an organization can be unleashed. If cascade elements are missing or in conflict, the efficiency of an organization is reduced and it will not deliver to its maximum potential.

Sharper Counsel, LLC uses a six element cascade for describing a business. These six elements are MISSION, OBJECTIVES, STRATEGY, STRUCTURE, PROCESSES, and METRICS. If a business does a good job of describing each of these cascade elements and brings them into alignment with each other, then high performance can be achieved.

The basic theory behind this cascade is simple: MISSION should drive OBJECTIVES which drives STRATEGY which drives STRUCTURE which drives PROCESSES which drives METRICS. There is an inherent hierarchy in the cascade elements which should be observed. For instance, a particular business metric probably should not drive the mission of the business and the way a business is currently organized should not drive next year’s strategy.

Many businesses have been built and are running without a formal articulation of all six cascade elements. In some cases the various cascade elements were co-developed over time and are operating in some form or fashion. It can be quite beneficial from a performance perspective to review strategic cascade elements and look for anomalies.


Here are some useful Strategic Cascade questions from a performance perspective:

  1. Are Objectives for the organization documented and aligned with the Mission of the business?
  2. Is the Strategy to pursue Objectives clear and has it been communicated to the team?
  3. Is the business Structure defined to address the Strategy or has it evolved into being?
  4. Do business Processes exist to coordinate activity across teams towards accomplishing Objectives?
  5. Are Metrics defined and used to measure progress towards Objectives and aligned across the teams that are involved?

Strategic Cascades help a business understand and describe various elements that tie together to meet customer needs. Through articulating the elements and more importantly, by bringing them into coordination and alignment, a business can achieve higher performance levels. Business Objectives can be achieved faster and easier through clearer accountabilities, faster decisions, better business operations and more satisfied employees.

Sharper Counsel LLC is an executive short term assignment company dedicated to the improvement of high potential businesses.

In short, we do BUSINESS TUNEUPS.

We provide management consulting to accomplish business and organization assessments.  We specialize in business development and business process management and are one of the up and coming consulting firms in San Diego.  Our team is always eager to help you improve your business, so…

Give us a call today at 800-280-2452 !

SHARPER COUNSEL

Sharper Counsel LLC is an executive short term assignment company dedicated to the improvement of high potential businesses.

In short, we do BUSINESS TUNEUPS.

We provide management consulting to accomplish business and organization assessments. We specialize in business development and business process management and are one of the up and coming consulting firms in San Diego. Our team is always eager to help you improve your business, so...

Give us a call today at 800.280.2452