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How To Cascade Goals Like a Winning Sports Franchise

Jarett Messing, Offering Manager | March 18, 2024
General Blog

In sports, individual achievements are viewed as a way to evaluate talent and measure contribution to a team’s success. The same is true for manufacturing, where each team member should have specific and measurable targets that, when hit, contribute to the overall success of the entire organization. This is easier said than done, and setting well-designed goals for individuals and teams in a manufacturing plant can be challenging. When struggling to cascade goals to their teams, plant management can often benefit from objective outside assistance and utilizing a tools such as AVEVA Insight to keep goals and progress toward them front and center. 

Sports records are made to be broken, and statistics and records were the talks of the sports media in early March when Caitlin Clark broke the NCAA scoring record and LeBron James became the first player to score 40,000 points within just days of each other. Statistics are a huge part of sports; they help sports professionals and casual fans compare players or understand more about the game. We’ll never see LeBron go head-to-head against Jordan, competing quarterbacks never play the same defenses in a season, and if we miss a game, a box score is a quick way to get a good feel for what happened. Individual statistics let fans speculate and argue about which player is the greatest of all time. Still, more importantly, they provide a more objective measure managers can use when deciding how much to offer a player during contract negotiations or if it might be time to cut or trade a player.

When it comes to team sports, there’s always a fine line between individual glory and contribution to the team’s success. Ask a large group of players if they’d instead set a personal record or win a championship, and most players will probably pick the championship. Ask a coach if they’d rather have a player set an individual record or win a championship, and ALL coaches would rather win a championship. So, while it’s true that individual accomplishments are a good measure for coaches to set their roster or starting lineup when it comes time to re-sign or replace a head coach, owners essentially don’t care how many yards the quarterback threw or how many turnovers the defense forced. Owners care about wins, and therefore, coaches care about wins.  

This is an example of goal cascading (albeit told in reverse order). The owner cares about money (and probably notoriety), which he or she earns by having a successful team. They hire a manager and a head coach to facilitate that goal, who are employed and continually evaluated based on their ability to win. Managers and coaches then build a team of independent contributors to evaluate against attributes contributing to wins – yards per carry, batting average, free throw percentage, etc. These metrics, like how many points Caitlin Clark or Lebron James can score, indicate how often their team will win. 

Manufacturing companies set their goals and targets the same way. Corporate objectives (make money) are cascaded to manufacturing plants and translated to metrics involving gross output, productivity, and budget. These are complex metrics influenced by various factors and teams, so they get cascaded further to the department level, where they’re turned into metrics that are more specific to individual contributions and help predict or anticipate higher-level performance.

Common examples of metrics cascaded to plant managers and operations departments might include asset availability, performance, and quality – which collectively make up a standard metric called Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). OEE is an excellent leading indicator of gross output because a high OEE indicates your machines have high utilization and consistently produce good products at their planned rate. It’s such a good indicator that many plants use tools like AVEVA Insight to track asset performance and display real-time status on monitors stationed throughout the plant.

Unfortunately, plant leadership often fails at cascading metrics like OEE to department managers and below. Plant managers who fail at this might even assign the improvement of OEE to individual supervisors or operators in their performance plans. While it is certainly fair game to reward individuals based on the outcome of the team’s performance, it’s also essential to give them individual, measurable objectives that they can completely control. To make an analogy back to sports – when teams want to incentivize a defensive lineman to win more games, they might compensate him based on the team’s overall record – but they also reward him for things he directly controls, like sacks per season.

Cascading goals in a manufacturing plant can be challenging. Departments need to find criteria that contribute to the plant’s success, reflect an individual’s performance and aren’t influenced by other teams or factors beyond their control. For example, “unplanned downtime” might be an acceptable metric for the department lead, but it is not as good a metric for individual packaging line operators. Downtime is caused by various factors, including things outside their scope, such as upstream failures (starved lines) or mechanical issues. A better example for a packaging operator might be “downtime due to film jams,” since a film jam indicates that the operator loaded the film sloppily – an error that can be attributed exclusively to them. It’s also essential to eliminate variability between groups or shifts and be cautious of the ability to “game” metrics. I once saw an example where the maintenance team evaluated technicians based on the number of work orders they closed per shift. However, that led to technicians skipping over complex work orders to work on easier ones they could close out faster. It also turned out that the technicians who performed higher quality work and spent more time on preventative maintenance faced fewer work orders. The metric was changed to be “actual time to close work order vs. planned timed.” These are two examples of well-designed goals because they are within the control of small groups of people and are designed to influence higher-level objectives. It might not be strictly linear, but logically, we know that reducing downtime due to film jams and spending less time on repair orders will result in higher asset availability and, therefore, higher OEE. 

Once you’ve determined which metrics you’ll set for each team and you’ve set ambitious but attainable goals, it’s critical you have a standardized and transparent way to measure outcomes. Ideally, you’ll use the same system to report each metric as it is cascaded. For example, if you use AVEVA Insight to track your OEE for the plant (owner: plant manager), you should also use it to report on the OEE for each line (owner: department manager) and to track how many film jams that line had and how much time was lost as a result (owner: line operator). With a tool like Insight, every individual can know how they stack up against their targets at all times, and they can see how their contribution is affecting the levels above them. 

If you’re struggling to find ways to cascade goals, reach out to us, and we can discuss how our operational consultants can lead your team through a goal-setting workshop or show you how tools like AVEVA Insight can provide visual, real-time feedback to your team about their performance.