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FINDING YOUR PLACE IN THE STRATEGY: Cascading the Army Transformation Roadmap to Philippine Army Offices and Units

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The cascading process will draw an interdependent relationship between the goals of the Army Transformation Roadmap (ATR) and the operations of the various PA offices and units. Accordingly, it will create focus and synergy instead of confusion in carrying out the functions of the PA offices and units. Moreover, it will result to the responsiveness of the Philippine Army as a whole to the long-term strategic direction.

 I.      INTRODUCTION

Dramatic shifts in transformation occur on organizations which have exercised strategic focus and alignment in functions. These enable units to independently perform their tasks well and which when aggregated sum up to a high level of effectiveness seen and felt in the entire organization.

New models of leadership and management techniques point to the same direction – signaling a shift from control and supervision to autonomy and empowerment. Michael Irwin Meltzer, Louis Mischkind, and David Sirota assert that the [absolute] command and control style is a sure-fire path to demotivation.[i] While centralized decision-making guards the quality of work and results to a more consistent implementation of policies, this approach does not work on large-scale organizations with varied functions and operating in several geographical areas such as the Philippine Army (PA). Imagine if all the functions of the organization down to the hiring of civilian employees, the issuance of communications, and the publication of journals would have to be done by the CGPA, the number of decisions that must be made and the volume of transactions that must be acted upon will necessarily be compromised.

For this reason, functions must be distributed to a wide array of individuals who are more capable and knowledgeable in performing such tasks.  In this way, the scope of responsibility will increase. And more decisions and transactions, of different concerns and kinds, will be made and acted upon by the organization.

While the distribution of functions has its own set of advantages, it however allows turf issues and areas of misalignment to arise. This is especially true for big organizations with clearly identified roles to portray. Their units may run the risk of operating in silos characterized by uncoordinated functions resulting to duplication of programs and projects as well as wastage of resources and time.

Organizations, therefore, are faced with the inherent need to find the right balance or mix between control and autonomy, and between supervision and empowerment. Several approaches have been adopted to spell the balance such as decentralization of authority and open door policy. These approaches empower middle managers to take a more proactive role in so far as the management of functions is concerned.

The same principle is carried and reflected in the Performance Governance System (PGS) particularly in the process of aligning the functions of the units of the organization. This process is known as CASCADING.

II.    RATIONALE FOR CASCADING

 The accurate description of the cascading process is as follows:

Cascading a balanced scorecard means to translate the corporate-wide scorecard (referred to as Tier 1) down to first business units, support units, or departments and then to teams or individuals. The end result should be focus across all levels of the organization that is consistent. The organization’s alignment should be clearly visible through the strategy.[ii]

Basically, cascading allows the organization to effectively manage its strategy by sharing the accountability to all units. It also enables greater focus, stronger integration, and synergism. Hence, the accomplishment of the strategic direction depends mainly on the ability of the organization to get everyone to work in realizing its vision.

The Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA) illustrated the strategy implementation gap between the organization’s strategy and its day-to-day operations through the following statistics:

  • Only ten percent of organizations surveyed can execute their strategy.
  • Less than fifty percent of senior officers surveyed work well together.
  • Less than sixty percent of senior managers surveyed believe they have a clear understanding of their organizations’ strategy. Furthermore, less than thirty percent of these senior managers believe their organizations’ strategy is effectively implemented.
  • Only ten percent of employees surveyed can describe the key elements of their organizations’ strategy.[iii]

These statistics point to the low awareness level of the strategy and the absence of a link to the budget. Moreover, these suggest that the strategy is not institutionalized and the actions of the organization are not anchored on it resulting to difficulty in implementation.

Consequently, problems arise when dissociating to the strategy being implemented. If the strategy is neither explained nor handled well, then it can be divisive and can result to non-performance of some units. Often, a number of questions occur in the minds of the individuals associated with the strategy. These questions include:

  • Am I involved in the vision?
  • How does my work contribute to the vision?
  • How about the other things that I am doing but that are not directly captured in the vision?
  • Does this mean I have to drop them? Aren’t they equally important as well?
  • Every unit will have their respective contributions at varying degrees; does this mean I can perform less?[iv]

The presence of these questions indicates the absence of alignment in the organization as well as the need to prioritize the alignment of the functions of the units. Achieving full alignment in functions through the cascading process will allow units to focus on the strategy in the light of performing their respective tasks – strategy as an integral component and not as an entirely different component.

The benefits of the full alignment in functions cannot be discounted. Apart from the impact it will generate through the setting up of performance standards, cascading will also solidify the base for the other mechanisms of alignment to take place and shape in the organization.

When the functions of the units of the organization are aligned to the strategy, the alignment in resources will be much easier. The choice of operational and strategic initiatives to be funded and implemented will be based on the identification of programs and projects that can bring about the expected positive results, likewise, can contribute to the attainment of the performance commitments agreed upon.

In the same way, the alignment in personnel incentives for performance can capitalize on the full alignment in functions. The second-level scorecards particularly the performance targets can be used as a reference for managing the performance of personnel. Cascading will set up one framework to uniformly guide the actions of all personnel in the organization.

The process of aligning the functions of the units of the organization to the strategy will increase the level of awareness of these units. Whether it is in a simple form of understanding the strategic direction or in a more detailed form of examining how the strategy works, cascading will bring about an alignment in message. It will only be through the effectiveness of the communication campaigns and the proper comprehension of the communication messages that the units can be able to build their scorecards.

As a result, it will be much easier for the organization to sell its brand due to a consistent and closely-tied strategic focus permeating all actions. And it will be much easier to align the expectations of the external stakeholders as they touch-base with the units of the organization.

These are the raison d’être behind the cascading process.

III.   TYPES OF CASCADING

 The full alignment in functions is achieved following the systematic process of cascading. As it is methodical in plan and procedure, cascading requires clarity of the first-level strategic direction which will be the basis for the second-level scorecards. The latter will be dependent on the quality of the first-level scorecard produced.

Second-level units are easily identified through the organizational chart. These units directly report to the head of the organization in which the latter exercises complete domain and supervision. Cascading the strategy to the second-level units, nonetheless, will depend on their classification. It is imperative for the organization to categorize these units in order to determine the type of cascading required and guarantee the accuracy and excellence of scorecard produced.

Usually, the classification of the second-level units is determined by their nature. The following are the areas to be considered in identifying the nature of these units:

  • The structure and role of the organization;
  • The primary mandate and functions of the units; and
  • The expected outputs delivered by the units.[v]

Based on these areas, second-level units are categorized either as operating units (vertical cascading units) or as supporting units (horizontal cascading units).

Consequently, the classification of the second-level units will determine whether the organization shall follow a vertical or horizontal type of cascading. Organizations, though, are not confined with only one type of the cascading process. The vertical and horizontal types of cascading can co-exist at the same time. In fact, the PA is a good example of an organization with both types of the cascading process present.

A.   Vertical Cascading

 Vertical cascading applies to second-level units which directly share the mandate; likewise, perform almost the same functions as those of the first-level unit. These units are co-accountable with the first-level unit in producing the expected results and reaching the specified targets. In effect, these units mirror even the organizational structure of the first-level unit in order to deliver the same outputs as those of the latter.

The vertical cascading units of the PA are its operating units – the Infantry Divisions, the Light Armor Division, the Special Operations Command, the Engineering   Brigades, the Army Artillery Regiment, the Army Reserve Command, the Army Support Command, and the Training and Doctrine Command. The commanders of these units are co-accountable with the Commanding General (CGPA) in guaranteeing that the organization is operationally ready to perform the missions and tasks by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Department of National Defense (DND). In doing so, the operating units also have their respective line staff.

In a vertical type of cascading, the second-level units adopt almost the same objectives and measures as those of the first-level unit. There are only minor revisions in format and probably little insertions to include the uniqueness of the geographical area being covered by the unit. For instance, the concerns of field units in Mindanao where internal security operations are adamant differ from the concerns of field units in other areas where aggression cases are minimal. The same holds true for field units in areas where political activities are heated and in areas that are coastal by nature. The uniqueness of the geographical area being covered by the unit can be captured by introducing new objectives and measures.

The usual approach to vertical cascading involves the creation of scorecard templates for the different levels of command (division, brigade, battalion, company, etc). The working sessions are carried out to do target setting which necessitates the approval at the executive leadership level.

The field units of the PA, however, have a distinct characteristic that is not found on the other second-level units of the organization: the presence of two first-level units – the PA and the AFP – to which they report to. The latter, which oversees all three major service commands, has the prerogative to hand down missions and tasks directly to these units especially if it shall require a joint and concerted effort with the other major services. In doing the vertical type of cascading, therefore, the demands of both the PA and the AFP must be taken into account.

B.   Horizontal Cascading

Horizontal cascading applies to second-level units which have a different mandate as that of the first-level unit. These units cannot represent the organization for their functions are rather limited in scope and cannot be divorced to the first-level unit. In the process of creating value to the stakeholders, the outputs of these units form part of a continuum and are essential in achieving the strategic direction of the organization.

The horizontal cascading units of the PA are its supporting units – the General, Personal, and Special and Technical Staff of the CGPA. These units provide assistance, primarily in the fields of administration and logistics, to sustain the operating units of the organization. These units cannot represent the PA; nonetheless, their outputs are essential in carrying out the functions of the organization.

Unlike the vertical cascading process of using scorecard templates, the horizontal cascading process cannot be templated.  The usual approach to horizontal cascading requires the clarification of the roles of the supporting units in order to come up with objectives that will match their functions alongside the objectives of the first-level unit. For instance, the first-level objective ‘responsive to the needs of the AFP’ is translated to ‘timely, accurate, and relevant Intelligence’ by OG2, PA; ‘operationally ready Army units’ by OG3, PA; ‘effective and relevant plans useful for the organization’ by OG5, PA; ‘relevant CMO policies’ by OG7, PA; and ‘well-educated and trained personnel and units’ by OG8, PA. Though different in scope, these second-level objectives play a significant role in enabling the organization to be the Army envisioned in the Army Transformation Roadmap (ATR).

A Special Study: Classifying the Objectives

From the discussions of both the vertical and horizontal types of cascading, it is apparent that the nature of the units affects how first-level objectives are translated to second-level objectives. The Institute for Solidarity in Asia has identified four kinds of objectives which include the following:

Identical Objectives apply when the second-level unit can directly and entirely own the first-level objective without altering its main purpose. Although the area of where the objective applies may be limited to where the second-level unit operates, the essence of the objective is still preserved. Often, identical objectives or shared objectives between the first and second level units are seen in the learning and growth perspective as well as the resource management perspective.

Contributory Objectives apply when the second-level unit can indirectly contribute to the attainment of the first-level objective in the process of performing its inherent mandate and functions. However, the said unit cannot be made accountable for attaining the first-level objective.

Not Applicable Objectives apply when a particular objective that is prioritized and given utmost importance at the first-level unit cannot be implemented at the second-level unit. This arises due to the difference in mandate and functions between the first and second level units.

New Objectives apply when first-level objectives do not suffice to cover the entire operations of the second-level unit. These objectives are necessary for the second-level unit to address its concerns and to determine its effectiveness and efficiency. Nonetheless, these objectives are not organization-wide concerns.[vi]

The kind of objectives adopted by the second-level units depends on the latter’s nature of operations. Differences in concerns to be prioritized are understandable as first-level concerns transition to second-level concerns. This means that strategic concerns become more detailed, operational, and tactical when going down the organizational chart.

As a general rule, vertical cascading units adopt identical objectives and measures though their targets may be different depending on the area of jurisdiction. The first-level measure ‘overall operational readiness’ covering the five key measurement areas of equipment, facilities, maintenance, personnel, and training can be adopted by all field units.  Conversely, horizontal cascading units can be accountable to a particular key measurement area only – overall equipment, facilities, and maintenance readiness by OG4 and OG6, PA; overall personnel readiness by OG1, PA; and overall training readiness by OG8, PA.

Concisely, the scorecards of the second-level units must capture their mandate and functions. More so, these scorecards must be in synch with the needs of the organization and must be contributory to the strategic direction.

IV.  FACTORS AFFECTING THE CASCADING PROCESS

In as much as it is to the benefit of the organization to proceed with a full alignment in functions, the cascading process is not as easy as a snap of a finger. Results of a study presented before the international community during the 2010 Palladium Asia Pacific Summit[vii] reveal that alignment is among the hardest to achieve. On the average, organizations take around two to four years before a full alignment in functions is achieved. The following are the factors affecting the cascading process:

A.   Openness of the Organization

Leadership support is essential in the cascading process. It calls for the buy-in and participation of all the leaders of the organization.

For the PA, the cascading process must be welcomed by all chiefs and commanders as they shall be accountable for whatever commitments and targets will be spelled out in the second-level scorecards. In effect, the resistance on the part of these leaders will derail the process.

As such, the guidance and participation of the CGPA will play a primordial role in shaping the commitment of the PA chiefs and commanders. Sans the buy-in and endorsement of the CGPA, the cascading process will not work.

B.   Complexity of Operations

The extent of the cascading process depends on the complexity of operations, on the organization’s structure and functions. Take the case of the PA in which the second-level units are its operating units and supporting units. Both these types of units directly report to the CGPA.

On one hand, the operating units derive their mandates and perform critical missions both from the PA and the AFP. In creating second-level scorecards for these units, it is imperative to find the right mix that will consider both their contributions to the CGPA and the Chief of Staff, AFP.

On the other hand, the supporting units perform a diversity of functions covering personnel management, intelligence, operations, logistics support, civil military operations, education and training, resource management, etc. Achieving alignment in functions will demand guiding these units to come up with scorecards that shall reflect their contributions to the PA and shall consider the uniqueness of their functions as separate but coordinating units.

With these inputs, achieving functional alignment in the PA will demand more time and expertise. The cascading process requires a parallel initiative to cover both the operating units and the supporting units in the organization.

C.   Size and Reach of Operations

Corollary to the complexity of operations is the size and reach of operations. Cascading to an office with ten people is definitely different from cascading to a big organization with hundreds of thousands of people. The difference is seen by the number of sessions that must be conducted and scorecards that must be produced which increases with the number of units created and the number of areas covered.

In the case of the PA, as the largest military service unit of the AFP and operating in all regions of the country, achieving full alignment in functions will take longer to complete and will require a stronger handholding process.

V.   CHALLENGES TO THE CASCADING PROCESS

The PA is affected by these factors. It is faced with the enormous task of bringing information and creating stronger awareness on the ATR to units outside of the headquarters. Furthermore, the operations of the PA is characterized as inherently complex due to the size of the organization, the nationwide presence of the Army, and the  composition of the organization – different units performing different functions. As a result, the limitations to the cascading process include:

A.   Limitation in Resources

One of the biggest challenges to the cascading process is the availability of resources. Organizing cascading sessions would entail financing the administrative and logistical requirements of these activities, likewise, travel requirements of the individuals involved.

B.   Limitation in Time

With the absence of an Office for Strategy Management (OSM) to take care of the alignment functions on a full-time basis, the PA finds it difficult to go full-swing with the cascading process as it would require spending time – both on the part of the individuals who will undertake the alignment functions and on the part of the second-level units which will undergo the cascading process.

Recalling the experiences of the PA in conducting working sessions, one of the problems it is faced with is requiring the presence of key personnel.

C.   Limitation in Expertise and Manpower

Cascading follows a technical process as prescribed in the PGS, processes that are new to the PA. As such, it is natural for the organization to experience what is termed to as the ‘learning curve’. In effect, the PA has to build up its capability and competency in performing the inherent functions brought about by the scorecard framework.

Expertise and manpower requirements cover not only the demands on the cascading sessions but also the implications of setting up the scorecard infrastructure. The actual test of the usefulness of the scorecard lies on its accuracy as a guide in making real-time critical decisions. As such, it is imperative that the PA gains expertise in tracking the scorecards and in ensuring that each of the actual performance data is complete and precise so as to reflect the current state of the organization and substantiate assumptions. If on the average, the scorecard has twenty performance measures distributed in twelve strategic objectives, the technical requirement is multiplied by the number of scorecard that will be set up.

Therefore, the cascading process must consider both the realities of the PA and the limitations it is faced with. The consideration of the resources, time, and expertise and manpower requirements of doing the cascading will guide the organization in plotting the plan to achieve functional alignment. Because of the existing limitations, the PA must be selective and strategic in its approach of the units who will cascade first and the pace by which the cascading process will be undertaken.

VI.  THE ARMY CASCADING PHILOSOPHY

 The Army Cascading Philosophy pertains to the approach being used by the PA in aligning the second-level units to the ATR. In designing the cascading philosophy for the organization, four essential components are taken into consideration:

Impact, in which the PA must target units that will create a strong impact in the organization. In most cases, organizations are looking at high performing units which have the potential to create a strong effect in terms of outputs produced, likewise, to encourage other units in seriously pursuing their scorecards.

Contribution, in which the identification of units is referred to the Army Strategy Map, the CGPA Performance Governance Scorecard, and the ATR Strategic Initiatives. The PA must select units which will be directly accountable to the performance targets that shall be reached as well as the programs and projects that shall be deployed.

Willingness, in which the identification of units is based on their willingness to participate in the scorecard process. According to Malcolm T Gladwell, the individuals in the organization are often distributed following a bell curve – from willingness to unwillingness in accepting and implementing change. At one end of the spectrum are the innovators who lead in the change aspect and the early adopters who open the organization for change. At the other end of the spectrum are cavemen (constantly against virtually everything) who are totally against any form of change and laggards who need thousands of evidences before accepting change.[viii] On this regard, it is best for the PA to capitalize on units which display openness to the ATR and are readily available to contribute towards its success.

Control, in which the PA must target units that are within a strong control of the leadership so as to accurately gauge and track the success of the cascading process.

On the basis of these criteria, the ATR Technical Working Group headed by the Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans, G5, PA has selected twelve supporting units as the pilot units to undergo the cascading process because of four important considerations:

  • First, In consideration of the parallel initiative of the AFP to undertake the PGS. It is best to wait for the AFP to set up its own strategy map and scorecard that shall also serve as reference in doing the scorecards of the operating units;
  • Second, in consideration of the cost. It is best for the PA to cascade first to the headquarters which may not require greater administrative and logistical requirements so as to complete the necessary outputs.
  • Third, in consideration of the extent of awareness and knowledge to the ATR. The twelve supporting units are selected given their prior exposure to and competent command over the ATR. Moreover, the ownership of the scorecard and the strategic initiatives are at the headquarters level.
  • And fourth, in consideration to the impact that will be derived from the cascading process. Policies (i.e. how personnel are to be distributed, how missions are to be carried out, and how resources are to be distributed and maximized) which are implemented by field units emanate at the headquarters. Taking this into account, stronger impact is created when a strong alignment to the strategic direction within the headquarters is showcased and when policies are aligned with the ATR. And when it is the turn of the field units to cascade, these units can even work on the existing scorecards at the headquarters as basis for setting their strategic direction.

VII. CONCLUSION

  It is true that the cascading  process is a long and arduous journey of setting the accountabilities among the second-level units of the PA. The journey will be even more difficult as it is envisioned for the alignment in functions to reach as far as the lower-level units and finally the personnel. However, the choice of the PA to go to the process of cascading is reflective of the relevance of the ATR to the organization.

The full alignment in functions may be among the most challenging tasks to achieve as literatures will describe it. Nonetheless, it is attainable as long as there is commitment and focus from all units and personnel of the PA.


NOTES

[i] Lifted from the Why Your Employees Are Losing Motivation Article. Said article was published in the Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge for Business Leaders Forum on 10 April 2006.

[ii] Lifted from the Cascading Process Definition of the Balanced Scorecard Institute.

[iii] Based on the Achieving Alignment: Aligning the Organization to the Strategy Lecture of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia. Said lecture was presented during the ATR Cascading Workshop for OG5.

[iv] Based on the Achieving Alignment: Aligning the Organization to the Strategy Lecture of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia. Said lecture was presented during the ATR Cascading Workshop for OG5, PA.

[v] Based on the discussions during the PGS Compliance Orientation Meeting participated by the staff of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia and the members of the ATR Technical Working Group.

[vi] Based on the Post Compliance Workshop Handouts for the PGS Partner of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia.

[vii] The 2010 Palladium Asia Pacific Summit with the theme: Strategy Execution and Governance for Achieving Breakthrough Performance in the Next Decade was held at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila on 22 – 23 September 2010. Said activity brought thought leadership and practical experience from around the world as well as contributions from Dr. David P Norton and Dr. Jesus P Estanislao.

[viii] Based on The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference Book of Malcolm T Gladwell. Said book was cited by the Institute for Solidarity in Asia during the 2010 Associates Boot Camp held at Naga City, Camarines Sur.

________________________

REFERENCES

Burton, T.T. & Moran, J.W. (1995). The Future-Focused Organization: Complete Organizational Alignment for Break through Results.  New Jersey, USA: Prentice-Hall PTR.

Gladwell, M.T. (2000). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.USA: Little Brown.

Harvard Business School (2005). Managing Change to Reduce Resistance. Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Harvard Business School Press.

Kaplan, R.S. & Norton, D.P. (2006). Alignment: Using the Balanced Scorecard to Create Corporate Synergies. Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Harvard Business School Press.

Kaplan, R.S. & Norton, D.P. (2004). Strategy Maps: Converting Intangible Assets into Tangible Outcomes. Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Harvard Business School Press.

Kaplan, R.S. & Norton, D.P. (2001). Strategy Focused Organization: How Balanced Scorecard Companies Thrive in the New Business Environment. Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Harvard Business School Press.

Kaplan, R.S. & Norton, D.P. (1996). The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action. Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Harvard Business School Press.

Labovitz, G. & Rosansky, V. (1997). The Power of Alignment: How Great Companies Stay Centered and Accomplish Extraordinary Things. New York, USA: Wiley Press.

Pintor, J.A. (2010). Post Compliance Workshop Handouts for the PGS Partner. Philippines: Institute for Solidarity in Asia.

Pintor, J.A. (2010). Achieving Alignment: Aligning the Organization to the Strategy Lecture. Philippines: Institute for Solidarity in Asia.

Zaens, C.P. (2011). Achieving Alignment Lecture. Philippines: Institute for Solidarity in Asia.

Balanced Scorecard Institute. Cascading Process Definition. www.balancedscorecard.org (Accessed March 2011).

Meltzer, M.; Mischkind, L.; & Sirota, D. (2006). Why Your Employees are Losing Motivation. http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/5289.html. (Accessed March 2011).


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