Interim Executive Resources

Strategic Cascade: Mission-Objectives-Strategy

Let’s look at the Strategic Cascade at a more detailed level.  We’ll start by dividing the six elements of the 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 the 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 Framework.  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.