Part of the ASPIRE Talent Management series

This series looks at the key elements and philosophies around the Talent Management lifecycle of ASPIRE: Acquisition, Succession Planning, Improvement, Retention and Engagement, and a few key aspects which support these elements. You’ll find links throughout to our previous articles if you want to explore certain elements in more detail.

If you’ve been following the series you’ll know we’ve been talking around one of the principles from Jim Collins’ book Good to Great: ‘First WHO, then WHAT’ – the idea of first looking at the people you want in your organisation – your talent – and then considering what you want your organisation to look like from a structural and cultural point of view. We’re now moving into the realms of ‘HOW’ – offering some insights into some of the models and processes we use to help clients to implement changes into their own businesses.

In our previous article, we explored the Business Roadmap – the live document which maps out and displays the destination, direction and strategies of your business, including key milestones and potential roadblocks on the journey. It illustrates the markers which show that you are moving in the right direction and can highlight any potential roadblocks on the journey which could stop you reaching that destination. These key milestones are the Strategic priorities for your business. These are the top level organisation priorities for the next 12-18 months which are going to drive and dictate activity by cascading and interpreting these priorities through the rest of the organisation. Usually no more than six and no fewer than three, these strategic priorities will define the destination, the direction, the milestones, and the roadblocks for your organisation for the 12 to 18 months ahead.

Once you’ve got those top level priorities, you now need to know how to cascade those priorities through your business so that they become live meaningful tactics and objectives for those in your organisation who can help achieve the business goals and objectives, and that’s where CaZcade can help… Yes, the ‘Z’ is there on purpose – it’s not a typo & we’ll explain why shortly!

What is CaZcade?

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CaZcade is the process which enables you to take the key milestones (Strategic priorities) and cascade these into meaningful and measurable objectives at ALL levels in your organisation, so that they touch the people that they need to. You can then monitor and evaluate this on a regular basis as part of your business review and strategy review.

This is where many businesses can struggle. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking ALL of your goals and objectives fall into the category of strategic priorities, end up setting far too many, and struggling to achieve any. This is because they have not been clearly defined or thoroughly examined to ensure they are set at the highest level. In other cases, a business may have well-considered priorities but fail to communicate them effectively through the organisation so departments and teams lack alignment to the central objectives and goals and can seem to be pulling in opposite directions. Failing to regularly review your priorities and the subsequent actions required can lead to timescales, delivery targets and schedules slipping beyond repair. Sound familiar? We’re sure most businesses will go through some of these pain points at one time or another!

So how do you go about ensuring those meaningful and measurable objectives are cascaded right through you organisation? This is where it comes down to the leaders in the organisation and where a leadership mind-set is really important to implementing this successfully.

A focused mind-set

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You may be familiar with Tony Robbins in your own reading and research; we’ve certainly referenced him previously and we’re going to use some of his concepts around leadership mind-set in this next section. (If you aren’t familiar with his work as a master business and life coach his TED Talk is a great place to start).

“Leaders spend 5% of their time on the problem and 95% of their time on the solution” – Tony Robbins

As a leader, you should be spending 95% of your time on the solutions, however in reality it can often be the case that it’s the other way round; you probably seem to spend most of your time firefighting, trying to solve the problems, or sometimes even just moaning about the problems you have (we can all be guilty of that one)! The key here is to shift your focus, and follows another concept from Robbins – ‘Focus, Meaning, Action’ orenergy flows where attention goes.

Whatever you focus on, you give meaning to. This then creates action and drives your behaviours to move things forward; thus, you get what you look for. This concept can also translate right across your personal life and relationships as well as your business. If you focus on problems, you’ll get more problems. However, if you choose to develop a more positive mind-set and thinking process as a leader and focus more of your time on the solutions and not the problems you will find it easier to be able to move forward.

One more quote from Robbins leads us to the next element to encourage the necessary mind-set to drive a process like CaZcade through your organisation;

“If you talk about it, it’s a dream. If you envision it, it’s possible. But if you schedule it, it’s real”.

As we’ve mentioned, we’ve spent time in previous articles focusing on the who and the what, the people, the ‘bus’, the culture. Now we’re starting to get into how we make things happen in the organisation, and this is where this quote plays its part – if we schedule something it becomes real. There will be times where most of us can fail to schedule things; it’s easy to get excited about and talk around ideas and dreams but in order to bring these ideas and dreams to reality it requires tangible actions and priorities and schedules to make it real.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

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Dr Nicola Bateman, then a professor at Cardiff University and currently at the University of Leicester, undertook a piece of research in collaboration with Price Waterhouse Coopers. Based on 200 leading global companies and included more than 10,000 improvement projects, the results showed the failure rate for improvement initiatives: over 70% showed considerable evidence of high failure rate and only 2.5% delivered desirable business benefits.

The trouble is, great ideas are all too often just that… ideas. To bring ideas to fruition, we need the help of our teams, we need to include methods to make implementation and execution measurable, and we need discipline to make the changes stick.

On the flipside, another great piece of research shows what can be possible when structure and measures are introduced to the process.

Nissan are currently the 6th largest car manufacturer in the world, and one of the top 5 leaders of the industry in the UK. While Dr Keith Copeland MBE, retired Quality Engineer & Data Analyst worked at Nissan UK, he completed a comprehensive 5 year study of 163 Nissan suppliers to look at sustainability rates for improvement initiatives across the businesses which supplied the £6.2bn car manufacturing site which employs 8,000 people.

Dr Copeland’s study split the 163 suppliers into two groups; Group A, where companies had put into place some form of Policy Deployment to sustain improvements and Group B, those companies without any form of Policy Deployment practices.

The results for group A, the companies which incorporated some form of Policy Deployment to support sustainability, showed that only 4% of the suppliers reported seeing sustainability issues after 12 months.

However, the results for group B – the companies which had not put any Policy Deployment measures or systems in place –show that 74% of initiatives that failed did so in the first 12 months and a shocking 100% of failures had occurred within the first 24 months.

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These figures support the case that you simply cannot enjoy sustained business benefits without strategic deployment. Where there was a schedule, a plan, and responsibility assigned there was really good success rate, but where those measures had not been put into place after two years of going through all the pain and effort of implementing these initiatives, every single one of them had failed.

“Here we go again…”

Consider then the likely impact of those types of results on your culture and your workforce’s mentality. Your workforce would probably think, “Oh, look here’s another change coming… something else which is doomed to fail”. And so your organisation develops a culture where change is seen as negative because everyone knows it’s not going to stick, and we know that is not the type of culture you want to design for your organisation! (You can read our previous article on Culture Design here.)

Those types of statistics can be worrying for any business. We’re all going to want to sit in the other camp, where there’s a plan, a schedule and some meaningful measures which will make those ideas and our envisioning of a bright future REAL. So how do you make that stick? How do you sustain and maintain it?

Your current business vs your future business

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Again, we’re going to refer back to the Business Roadmap here from our previous article. Your Business roadmap (not to be confused with a business plan) is the live document which maps out and displays the destination, direction and strategies of your business, including key milestones and potential roadblocks on the journey. It is a way of helping you move your current business towards your future business.

Where you need to focus now is on closing the gap between the two, and putting in those key milestones – your Strategic priorities to enable you to get to where you want to go. As we’ve mentioned before, these should be between 3-6 priorities. Smaller businesses will often be more comfortable with three, Nissan as a huge multi-national organisation still just have six Strategic priorities on a global level’s which just shouts focus! Having this small number give you a fighting chance to communicate them properly and show focus.

These Strategic priorities are your key milestones and will help you to overcome any roadblocks or problems you may encounter. But going back to the leadership mind-set we explored earlier, it’s the solutions you want to focus on, not the problems.

Alignment is the aim of the game

What you are looking to achieve at this point is alignment of the organisation to your business roadmap using these strategic priorities, and you do this by taking these higher level priorities and cascading them through meaningful and measurable objectives into the different levels of your organisation, using something like CaZcade.

We have developed our CaZcade model from a Japanese Lean philosophy and tailored it to suit any organisation, of any size and in any industry; so whether you’re a small professional services outfit, a large-scale manufacturing operation or anywhere in between, it can be a useful and adaptable tool. You may be familiar with the Lean manufacturing principle of Hoshin Kanri, or Policy Deployment. Hoshin means ‘compass’ or ‘direction’ and Kanri means ‘management’ or ‘administration’. It’s a method for ensuring that the strategic goals and annual priorities of a company drive progress and action at every level within that company, which then eliminates the waste that comes from inconsistent direction and poor communication. In other words, it’s how you manage where you want to go.

CaZcade, explained

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The CaZcade model which we developed is based around a ‘Z’ Model approach as used by some large car manufacturers for example – which is where the ‘Z’ in CaZcade comes from. The ‘Z’ is just reference to how the key responsibilities linked to each priority zig-zags through each level of the organisation.

Our CaZcade model incorporates three vital elements of Leadership, Ownership and Involvement, as people are a fundamental part of this process. You take the strategic objectives or your priorities which comes from the leadership obviously. But then you also consider how you work with that middle group, your line managers and mid-managers to get the necessary ownership and key responsibilities in place. You also then need to engage the levels further down, and that’s how you get the involvement. So it involves everyone right across the organisation and it should all cascade back up to the top priorities and objectives you set.

CaZcade is a five-step structured approach and it helps to standardise and control the way you set and cascade and monitor those business priorities on an annual basis. Normally you would look at 12 months – using the calendar year is a good opportunity to think about your priorities for the coming year. Your CaZcade process must be aligned to the longer-term 3 – 5 year vision, values and growth aspirations of your business.

A process to encourage a collaborative approach to decision making, this method is designed to clarify what you are trying to improve as an organisation, the role of everyone in achieving it, and how you intend to go about it. The 5 steps go like this:

CaZcade 5 Steps

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1.    SET and agree annual priorities between Leadership Team; aligned to the 3 – 5 year vision/values of the business

2.    DEVELOP key actions, targets, timings and control items for all objectives and decide cross-functional and individual responsibilities

3.    CHECK objectives – to ensure they link to site level, to make sure you haven’t lost your way a bit, but also to check that responsibility has been fairly apportioned to avoid any potential bottleneck. Once checked and you’re happy to progress, communicate to the entire workforce.

NB: Communication is a key point; your priorities need to be very transparent to the whole workforce, so that when you ask someone in any level of the organisation to do something, they are aware it’s important because it flows back up to the business priorities. Stating the changes and what they mean specifically to an individual or team can help transition your people through that well-known change curve – the set of emotions people go through naturally with any major change

4.    MONITOR via relevant KPIs and regular meetings and decide appropriate actions giving clear expectations and responsibilities.

Putting in key actions is important – we all know that timescales and schedules can slip and you may fall behind on certain things – you don’t want to get to the end of the year and find there is not enough time to achieve your targets and monthly monitoring should avoid this. Again, this is where your business roadmap comes into play – by providing that live feedback at all times through the business.

5.    REVIEW, self-assess and feedback – ready to improve process for the following year. Start this process well in advance of the CaZcade setting process. This is a great opportunity to always learn from the process to put something better in place, using that ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act’ philosophy.

Here we have covered the 5 steps of CaZcade at a really high level which will give you something to start to think about; if you’re interested, more detail on each step of the process is available for you to access and download in our free e-book.

As usual, we like to help consolidate everything we have been exploring through the course of the article into the top things we would recommend you consider when you’re thinking about implementing this or any of our topics into your own businesses.

Top things to think about:

1.    Close the gap. We recommend you implement no more than 3-6 strategic priorities; it’s all about focus! If you as the leader are focused, then the rest of your organisation has a chance

2.    Honour the problems or roadblocks. Recognise that they are there but don’t spend all your time on them – remember 95% of your time should be spent on the solutions not the problems!

3.    Plan for those solutions by using a structured approach like CaZcade to align the organisations activity to your objectives and goals

Thanks for reading!

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This wheel provides a reminder of those 4 key elements of ASPIRE: Acquisition, Succession Planning, Improvement, Retention and Engagement, which covers the full talent management cycle.

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Peak Performance Partnership Ltd (3P) is a Business Performance Consultancy specialising in Talent Management. ASPIRE by 3P is our talent management solution which supports the talent life cycle of Acquisition, Succession Planning, Improvement and Retention & Engagement.

Co-authored by Lindsay McGhie, Trevor Norman and Michelle Manning