Creating your Strategic Plan

Overview

The article will guide you through the main steps involved in setting up your strategic plan in Cascade. At this point, we’re going to assume that you have your actual strategy ready to go and so this article will be focused on the technical side of setting it up in Cascade. Check out our Strategy Center if you need help with the content side of things.

The Strategy Planner is located under the Strategy menu:


strategyplanmenu

 

To create your strategic plan, just follow the wizard steps on the left hand side of the screen, starting with creating your vision statement.


strategyplannerwizard

Create your vision statement

The vision in Cascade provides people with an inspirational overview of the long term direction of the organization. You will encounter the vision in various places throughout Cascade.

There are two steps to creating your vision statement:

First, write the vision statement for your organization into the ‘Create vision’ tab. Then, switch to the ‘Bring it to life’ tab, which is where you can add additional information about your vision statement. This could be a detailed explanation of how you came to this particular vision statement, or a video of the CEO explaining more about the vision.

If you’re using a video, you’ll need to host your video somewhere. Drop us a line at support@executestrategy.net if you need a hand hosting your video, or use a popular video hosting service like youtube.com or wistia.com – then just copy and paste the link to your hosted video into Cascade:

visionbringtolife

 

Once you’re happy with your vision hit apply and the vision will be saved.

Create your values

Values serve two main purposes in Cascade – firstly, they will display throughout the system and on your generated reports, to help guide the creation and management of strategy and action throughout your organization. Secondly, they are used as part of the appraisal process for performance management – one of the optional sections that you can appraise your people on is their behavior against the values that you define here.

Your values embody the characteristics to which you want your organization to aspire. You want any major decision about “how” your organization is going to operate to be rooted in these values, which is why it’s so important to have them a) explicit, b) agreed, and c) visible.

The process for adding values works much the same as the vision statement, in that you create the value on the first tab, then ‘Bring it to life’ with a video or further details.

Unlike the vision statement, you can create as many values as you wish – just keep clicking the ‘Add a Value’ button on the wizard for each value that you want to add.

Add your focus areas

Focus areas in Cascade provide people with the high level ‘themes’ that encapsulate your organization’s strategy. You will encounter the Focus Areas in various places – the vast majority of goals that people work on in Cascade will ultimately be aligned back to at least one Focus Area.

Once again, adding a focus area is a two step process, whereby you firstly name the focus area, then you have the option to ‘Bring it to life’ with text and videos. Again, you can add as many focus areas as you like.

 

Define your framework

The strategy framework in Cascade is where you define various settings for your strategic plan that will impact how people create goals and subsequent reporting. You will want to define your framework before you start entering large numbers of goals into Cascade. Here’s a quick overview of the things you can manage in this section:

Goal Types

Goal types are essentially labels that you can apply to your goals, to categorise them in different ways. You can apply up to 3 goal type groups. When people create goals they will be given the option to apply the labels that you define here to those goals. That will then allow you to generate reports based on the labels that have been defined. Find out more about Goal Types including our best practices for how to use them in this dedicated article.

 

Goal Units

Goal units are the units of measurement by which you want to measure your various goals – having a controlled set of units promotes consistent management and use of your information. When a user creates a goal in Cascade, they will be able to select one of your goal units as the ‘counting’ mechanism for that goal. For example, say the goal was: “Raise additional funding of $5,000,000 by 21st Dec 2018″ – the goal unit here would be the ‘$‘.

 

Goal Weights

When you create goals in Cascade, you will be given the option to weight them. Weighting a goal has two key functions. Firstly it allows you to report on your goals according to their weights (e.g. having Cascade display Top Priority goals towards the top of any dashboard). Secondly, the auto tracking feature of Cascade (which automatically track the progress of a goal based on the progress of sub goals) will factor in the weighting of a goal to determine the importance of each sub-goal.

You can configure how Cascade weights your goals here – you may want to read our detailed guide on Goal Weights here.

 

Resources

You can track resource allocation for goals that you create in Cascade. A resource can be anything from ‘time’ to ‘budget’. When you create a goal in Cascade, you will be asked to specify how much resource that new goal will consume. You can configure the total resource settings here:

Resource Name: The name of your resource e.g. “Marketing Budget”.

Unit: The unit of measurement for this resource e.g. “$” – note that this list is populated from the units you create under the ‘Goal Units’ tab (see above).

Maximum Allocation: The total pool available for this resource, e.g. if your total Marketing Budget for the organization was $3,000,000 you would enter this here.

Minimum Increment: The increments in which this resource can be applied to a goal. For example if you set this to 5,000 – people would only be able to apply specify how much Marketing Budget their goal was using up, to the nearest $5,000.

Currently you can only add one resource for the organization.

 

Labels

In some cases, you may want to tweak the language used for the key terminology throughout Cascade. You can configure those changes here. This may be a very simple change such as changing the ‘z’ to an ‘s’ in the word ‘Organization’, or something more dramatic, such as renaming ‘Focus Areas’ to ‘Strategic Pillars’.


Note that when you change these labels, they will no longer match what’s in the Cascade help material or online articles.

 

Add organizational goals

Organizational goals are the high level goals that you want your organization to achieve – and they fit into one or more of your focus areas. Organizational goals display as bars on the strategy planner, and you will be able to add many levels of sub goals underneath each one.

When you click the ‘Add Organizational Goal’ button, you’ll be presented with Cascade’s goal designer. The goal designer is a multi-step wizard to help you create your goal.


addorggoal

 

There are 4 steps to adding your organizational goal:

Start: An overview of what you’re about to do.

Contribute: Specify which of the focus areas your organizational goal will contribute to. You can align your goal to as many focus areas as you want, but you must align to at least 1.

Title: The details of the organizational goal such as the name, dates, metrics, etc.

Settings: Apply any Goal Types to the goal and define other settings such as its weighting and visibility.

Note that organizational goals do not have specific owners – they are owned by the organization itself. In the next step, you will have the opportunity to assign specific owners to the sub goals underneath this organizational goal.

Check out our detailed guide to creating great organizational goals by clicking here.

Add goals

Once you’ve added some organizational goals, the next step will be to add some goals. The key difference between organizational goals and goals is that goals can be assigned to specific users to be executed, whereas organizational goals cannot.

Expand the organizational goal that you want to add a goal under, and then click on the ‘Add goal’ button:


addgoalunderorggoal

 

You’ll be presented with the goal designer once more. Simply follow the tabs as before, and note the addition of the ‘Assign’ tab. On this tab, you can assign the goal to anyone in the organization. By default, you will see a list of people who report to you displayed. However, you can search for anyone in the organization using the search box, or if you don’t see the person in Cascade yet, you can quickly add them using the ‘Add New User’ button.


assigntab

 

Watch the video below to see how to create both organizational goals and goals:

 

Bring your plan to life with pictures and colors

By default, your plan will use the branding colors you have specified under Admin – System – Branding. If however you want to add specific colors or even pictures and icons to elements of your plan, you can do so by enabling ‘Planner Theming’ from Admin – System – Features. Once enabled, you can then add colors and pictures to your Vision Statement, Values, Focus Areas and Organizational Goals. Simply click on the ‘Bring it to Life’ tab when you’re editing the Vision, Values or Focus Areas (for Organizational Goals you’ll find the option on the Settings tab):

Bring Strategy to Life

Exporting your strategy to PDF

If you want to create a PDF export of your strategic plan, just click the ‘Export Strategic Plan’ button:


exportplan

 

You’ll be asked to choose between a ‘Summary’ export which is just the high level elements of your plan on 1 or 2 pages, or a ‘Full’ export which will give you a detailed document with all aspects of your plan. Click here for a sample of what the final strategic plan will look like.

 

Launch your strategy

Once you’ve finished creating your plan and the linked goals, you are ready to launch it out to your people. Click the launch button at the bottom of the wizard, and you will be shown what changes will be made live. Even if you haven’t made any changes that need to be launched, you can still click through and communicate your plan.


launchstrategy


You can choose which people you want to receive the communication – by default, anyone with a goal assigned to them as part of these changes will be pre-populated in the list. You can also customize the text which will go out as part of the communication.

The communication will be sent both as a notification inside Cascade and by email, assuming you have enabled emails for your instance. The email will contain a link which users can click on to access the system and view the new strategic plan.

Note that the changes themselves will be visible to anyone with the appropriate user privileges, it’s just this specific communication that will be targeted at the people you select.

Archiving Your Strategy

If you want to archive your whole strategy, or parts of it, you can also also do this on the Strategy – Plan page. You’ll need to archive each organizational goal one by one – but don’t worry, when you do this, you’ll be given the option to also archive EVERY linked goal underneath each one too. Click the ‘Edit’ icon for an organizational goal, then in the bottom left of the screen you’ll see an ‘Archive’ button. Click this, and you’ll be able to select whether to archive only the organizational goal, or ALSO all of the linked goals underneath it:
archive
Click on a goal to include it in the archiving process. Each time you click on a goal, it will expand to show if there are also linked goals underneath that you need to consider archiving. Once you’ve selected the goals to archive, click ‘Next’ and you will shown a summary of all actions and notifications that will be sent when you confirm the archive.


FAQs

How can I add a mission statement?

Cascade’s strategy framework deliberately omits mission statements. The reason is that in our experiences working with clients, we find that a lot of people ask the question ‘What is the difference between a vision and a mission?’. Whilst it’s perfectly possible to explain the difference, we believe that any distraction from the key message of the plan, or anything that add confusion should be avoided. If you really want to include a mission statement, you can do so in two ways. Option 1: Rename ‘Vision’ to ‘Mission’ using the Labels option described above – note that you will lose the ability to have a vision statement if you do this. Option 2: Use the ‘Bring it to life’ section of the vision statement to add your mission statement, so when people click on the vision statement, they expand this out to then see the mission underneath.


Can I re-order my Focus Areas?

Focus areas can be drag and dropped into place, so you can order them any way you choose.


Can I re-order my organizational goals and goals?

You can define the order of your goals using the options on the left of the planner – you can choose between date order, alphabetical order, etc.


Why are some parts of my plan showing in grey?

Any parts of your plan that show in grey are still in draft form – to make them live, click the ‘Launch and Communicate’ button.


How can I add my logo and branding to the strategy export?

Simply ensure that you have uploaded your logo and set your branding colors under Admin – System – Branding.


Can I use custom colors and pictures to liven up my strategic plan?

Ensure that ‘Planner Theming’ is enabled under Admin – System – Features and you can upload individual pictures and colors that appear next to your vision, values and focus areas.


Can I view my strategic plan as a Gantt chart?

Simply switch to the ‘Gantt View’ using the button above the Focus Areas.


Why are parts of my plan showing in the color grey?

There are two things to check if parts of your plan are showing in grey:

1) If your plan is not yet ‘launched’ then it will be grey – however as soon as you click the “Launch and communicate” button on the right hand side of the strategy planner, it will adopt the colors you have specified under Admin – System – Branding.

2) If, even after launching, you find it is still grey (sometimes this is the case if your company colors happen to be grey) – then you can enable ‘Planner Theming‘ from Admin – System – Features (the switch at the bottom of this page). Once you have done this, click on any component of the strategic plan, then click the ‘Bring it to Life’ tab and customize colors from there.


Can I see a live demo of Cascade?

To see a live demo of Cascade, fully populated with dummy data, just click the ‘Switch to Demo’ button in the top right of the screen:

switchtodemo

Alternatively if you’d rather have one of our team walk you through the platform and answer any questions, you can book a product demo here.