Targets Series#1 : How to deploy targets to teams?

In a series of 4 articles, I would cover about the traditional ways that most of us adapt to deploy targets to our teams, pros & cons, live cases and introduce ‘Catch-ball’ technique of policy deployment that is used of deploying targets which is several notches about traditional methods.

First in this series, I m talking about traditional ways of deploying metrics. Here are two scenarios that I commonly come across where people are really puzzled about deploying goals to teams.

Scenario 1

  • Head of a business unit has received an annual target which is atleast 3 fold more than last year. While he doesn’t have a say in deciding his targets, he has to manage to convey this target to his team managers. He knows there is going to be resistance, but he wouldn’t care much about it as he doesn’t have a choice.

Scenario 2

  • Staff attrition is on a rise this year. Operation attributes this to low non-competitive staff compensation & lack of flexible work policies. However, HR head associates this to poor staff supervision, low/no motivation, poor daily management and lack of clarity on growth. So essentially, there is lack of ownership for staff attrition.

Scenario 1 is an example of Vertical deployment of targets to one’s direct reports and scenario 2 is Horizontal deployment, where there is shared ownership of targets, inter-dependencies, etc. between different departments.

Traditionally, vertical deployment of targets has not been a problem due to concentration of power and controllership with the functional head. Mostly Top-down approach is used, but rarely Bottom-up approach is also used.

Read my articles ‘Matsushita example of Top-down approach to deploy targets’ & ‘Bando example of Bottom-up approach to deploy targets’ where they are interesting live cases to read.

Both these approaches have their own pros & cons. Lets review the most important ones.

Top-down approach


  • Quick & fast in deploying
  • Goes well with directive leadership or when the message comes from ‘trusted’ & ‘respected’ Leader
  • Also works well for regulatory targets
  • Most of times, teams achieve such targets
  • Incentives are carrot & stick
  • Works where there are dominant reporting relationships


  • Demoralizes teams
  • Not a long term & sustainable approach
  • Discourages openness & transparency
  • Can’t be used to share cross-functional ownership

We all know that top-down is the single most commonly used method to deploy targets today.

Bottom-up approach


  • Team participation is high & so builds morale
  • Encourages empowerment & fosters openness
  • Benefits on long run
  • For cross-functional goals, it’s not as bad as Top-down


  • Targets may not be met all times
  • Leader should be ready to compromise if team can’t deliver
  • Time consuming process

Bottom-up most of the time, sounds impractical and an ideal-case.

Catch-ball technique

In my experience, ‘Catch-ball’ technique which is used in Hoshin-Kanri is much more effective method to deploy goals. It takes a mid-way approach between top-down and bottom-up, but at the same time it doesn’t compromise on the ownership, timeliness and success rate.

More importantly, in an increasingly matrix-driven culture, deploying goals to peers (cross-functional) for shared accountability can only be addressed by Catch-ball technique. Traditional methods of Top-down and Bottom-up down have least impacts.

Sign-up for collaborat newsletter