Aligning goals: Loose alignment to give visibility on which goal helps achieve organisation’s goal. Not all goals need to forcefully align with a company or other team’s goals.

🚫 Cascading goals: Trying to link all goals to a parent goal such that they fit like a tree map.

Aligning goals is important, but cascading is not.

Once the Organisation’s OKRs are set, teams get a clear direction and then decide how they can contribute to those OKRs.

Each team then defines their OKRs that contribute to the organisation’s OKRs and that loosely align with them. The team can have their OKRs based on their planning process that doesn’t align with the company’s OKRs. This is completely OK. Trying to align everything is wrong and takes up a lot of time and energy. this is one of the common mistakes why OKRs fail

Laszlo Bock, former Google VP of People Operations wrote in his book Work Rules!:

On the topic of goals, academic research agrees with your intuition: Having goals improves performance. Spending hours cascading goals up and down the company, however, does not. It takes way too much time and it’s too hard to make sure all the goals line up. We have a market-based approach, where over time our goals all converge because the top OKRs are known and everyone else’s OKRs are visible. Teams that are grossly out of alignment stand out, and the few major initiatives that touch everyone are easy enough to manage directly. So far, so good!

What cascading looks like

In his popular book, Measure what Matters, John Doer explains cascading with an OKRs strategy for a Football team example. He calls out upfront that cascading top-down is an old outdated method which was once popular.

In the below example notice how in the cascaded version of the OKRs, the General manager’s key result become the Head coach’s Objective. and the Head coach’s key result becomes the Defensive coach’s objective. this is not a good way of structuring OKRs, read on to learn why.

Cascading OKRs

General Manager
Objective: Make $ for owners
Key Result 1: Win super bowl
Key Result 2: Fill stands at 90%

—👇 —

Head Coach
Objective: Win super bowl
Key Result 1: Passing attack of at least 300 yards per game
Key Result 2: Defence allows <17 points per game
Key Result 3: Special teams unit ranks in top 3 in punt returns coverage

—👇 —

Defensive Coach
Objective: Passing attack of at least 300 yards per game
Key Result 1: Passing attack of at least 300 yards per game
Key Result 2: Defence allows < 17 points per game
Key Result 3: Special teams unit ranks in top 3 in punt returns coverage


These are the General manager’s OKRs, notice the 1st KR in this list.





These are the Head coaches OKRs, see how the Objective here is the first KR of the General Manager






These are the Defensive coaches OKRs, see how the Objective here is the first KR of the head coach’s OKR

You’ll see this trend continue below.

Why is cascading OKRs a bad idea

Cascading is a fundamentally wrong way to create OKRs. It goes against everything that OKRs stand for, which is creating inspiration, alignment and context for everyone in the team.

Cascading OKRs does not give the big picture context to the individuals owning those KRs and instead hands them a metric to manage. This means they don’t feel responsible for the outcome.

  • Cascading is a lot of work. When all are required to cascade, it means that Tightly cascading organizations tend to resist fast and frequent goal setting. Implementation is so cumbersome that quarterly OKRs may prove impractical.
  • No flexibility. Teams are not creative in setting their own goals.
  • Marginalized contributors. In a top-down goal-setting culture, teams don’t feel a sense of ownership.
  • One-dimensional linkages. While cascading locks in vertical alignment, it’s less effective in connecting peers horizontally, across departmental lines.

Alternatives or how not to cascading OKRs

  • Set a clear strategy – The strategy can inform how leaders create company goals
  • Set clear Organisation Goals – Setting Organisation goals allows teams to know what are the key measures of outcome.
  • Determine key leverage points: these are the key opportunities for your organisation.
  • Bottoms up team goals – with strategy, and organisation goals as key outcomes supported by hi leverage opportunities, support bottoms up goal creations by each team on how might they best contribute and align to the above.


North Features
Getting started with North
Org and Team goals
Goal Initiatives
Goal Check-ins
Give Awards
Goal Alignment

Our take on Product
On Product discovery
Communicating well
Metrics for Product teams
Telling stories with data
Data visualisation


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