Cascading an OGSM

Cascading an OGSM: what does that mean?

OGSM is a systematic and disciplined but simple method for organizations to build a strategic plan, communicate it, and execute it. The power of the model lies in its simplicity, ensuring a tight unity of vision, goals, strategies and KPIs. When done correctly, OGSM empowers your organisation with a clear and coherent focus on a limited number of goals and projects.

Formulating and realising the strategy is not just a job for the upper management, however. For bigger organisations, the execution of an OGSM strategy often becomes more effective when it is ‘translated’ (or split up) into different regional divisions, dedicated departments, or product teams. That process of translating and subdividing across multiple levels is called cascading. 

What does cascading an OGSM look like? 

In essence, cascading means little more than splitting up your main Objective into a number of smaller sub-goals that, if realized, together add up to the Objective. These sub-goals then operate as the Objectives of one or more underlying OGSMs. 

The Strategies of the higher-level OGSM are then ‘translated’ to the relevant level of the sub-OGSM. For example, a Customer strategy on the organisational level can be concretised into a marketing strategy for the marketing department. In short: by cascading, you can make your Goals and Strategies more concrete and manageable at different levels of your organisation. Individual departments, teams and employees can work on lower-level objectives and strategies that are relevant for them, without losing sight of the higher-level strategic objective.

When cascading your plans to different levels of the organization, you must also ‘anchor’ certain elements of the plan that will recur on each level. In general, when cascading across the line organization (geographical units/operational departments/segments), they will adopt the Goals and Strategies of the overarching OGSM. This way, the contributions of the units will add up to the larger whole of the organization. Units should retain flexibility, however, when it comes to Dashboard and Action Measures.

‘Outsider’ departments and new ventures for specific developments or innovations often get the freedom to make their own OGSM. Functional or staff departments often don’t have a direct impact on Goals and they will also have different relevant Strategies. Vice versa, the Strategies of the main organization often set the strategic direction for functional areas like HR, quality control or IT. By cascading an OGSM across the line organization and (partially) anchoring the Goals and Strategies, the staff departments can easily understand what the line organization wants them to accomplish. Are there any important trainings planned? Or is the digitalization of certain processes the first priority? The Goals and Strategies are the skewer stick that bind all the OGSM plans together, ensuring optimal coordination between demand and staff capacity.

What are the ways to cascade an OGSM?

There are several ways to cascade an OGSM. Broadly, you can distinguish two types: 

Cascading by organizational unit

When you subdivide your strategic objective over sub-goals by country, region, department or team, we call this ‘vertical’ cascading. A subdivision over the different phases of a Customer Journey is another example of vertical cascading.

Cascading over time

A second option is cascading your OGSM over time. Many organizations make an OGSM plan for the medium to long term (the next 3-5 years), then cascade this into annual plans that add up towards the long-term goals. This allows you to work towards a long-term objective. You can use Strategies such as “maintain”, “grow” and “change” for different elements of the business. The year 1 plan will be aimed at putting the strategy in motion and ensuring everyone is trained in the strategic process. Year 2 is then devoted to strengthening execution processes and making necessary improvements, while year 3 will run and grow the business on this new basis. When a long-term OGSM is cascaded to annual plans, the annual plans have unique Objectives that define the goals for that specific year, and which specific Strategies are relevant to reach those.

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Cascading by scenario

Finally, you can also ‘cascade’ or develop OGSMs by scenario. This isn’t technically a cascading or subdivision of your plan. But it means developing different strategic plans for multiple scenarios, for example for different rates of business growth. The advantage of doing this is that you’ll have an idea of how to handle each scenario, so that you can quickly adjust course when the conditions change.


Cascading with OGSM Software

OGSM software offers a user-friendly platform that simplifies the process of cascading your OGSM throughout your organization. This video explains how to do a horizontal and vertical cascade by using OGSM Software.

What is the best way to cascade an OGSM strategic plan?

It’s important to know that there is not one ideal way to cascade an OGSM. However, we don’t recommend cascading purely across departments, since this can easily result in silo mentality: it is better to cascade across multiple process chains. For a company organized by regions, a regional cascading would be the most obvious solution. But you could also opt for a cascading based on product groups, for example. 

One thing that all forms of cascading have in common is that they are best managed through OGSM Software. After all, you’ll end up with large amounts of data for multiple strategic plans, which have to be monitored consistently and ‘added up’ to understand their contribution to the higher-level strategic objective. Using OGSM Software makes this much easier and also lets you generate reports on multiple levels with a couple of mouse clicks.