TBM 24/52: Beware of the Cascade

Watch out for damaging cascades of work, goals, etc.

What do they look like?

As we go "down" the damaging cascade, things get....

  • More prescriptive, more specific

  • More action/task/activity focused

  • Less flexible, less creative

  • Less room to maneuver

  • More likely to have a fixed start and endpoint

  • Further from business context

  • Further from customer context

  • More input focused (less output focused)

  • More time-bound (e.g. managed to timeline)

How do you fix this?

Models like the North Star Framework are not cascades. Why? There is no hierarchal relationship between the North Star Metric and the Inputs. Yes there is a presumed leading/lagging relationship, and a positive causative relationship. But there is no top-down, "OK, here's the strategy, what projects will you do". In fact, the North Star Metric is not immediately actionable. That is by design. Teams do work to impact the the Inputs, however.

In workshops I use an example of plant growth…

And growing a healthy garden…

Yes, there is a relationship between water and plant growth, but it isn't a cascading relationship. We can also set time-based goals (like OKRs), and the goals map “the work” to our inputs.

The next time you see a cascade in action, try to:

  • Reduce the number of levels. Flatten it

  • Change the nature of the relationships (instead of "this project at L3 supports L2" think “this signal at L3 is a leading indicator of L2”

  • Make sure teams can access customers and have business context

Consider other types of relationships/models.

Hope this helps!