This article covers a proprietary strategic planning methodology developed by our Director of Healthcare Solutions, Jeannine Siviy. It provides an overview, outlines the process and benefits, as well as includes a more in-depth comparison to other strategic planning processes for the truly techie strat plan pros.

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When organizations are faced with a change, whether that be a new industry trend, a change in market dynamics, or an opportunity for differentiation, they are faced with the difficult task of determining how best to position themselves to create or retain competitive advantage. This general strategic planning process can be slow, cumbersome, and unguided without the right approach.

FAST Goals© is a tool for people to self-organize in a complex system by making the goals and critical capabilities transparent, as well as understanding how they fit into the bigger picture.

Created through combining “best practice” approaches from multiple industries, FAST1 Goals is a proven technique to identify the logical relationships between goals of a project, product, or organization based on the questions “How” and “Why”. Each improvement goal has agreed upon strategies, tactics, and measures to achieve each objective and track success.

The value of FAST Goals is that it builds alignment within a system or organization quickly and in a “disarming” way, serving as the beginning of the strategic plan for the organization along with providing the backbone for a measurement infrastructure to ensure continued success.

Through a workshop-style approach, facilitators help organizational leaders frame their collective goals, strategies, tactics, and measures to diagrammatically categorize them based on how they might contribute to the organization’s objectives. Not only will a visually digestible diagram of these aligned goals and baselined measures be created, but the logical next steps of executing towards those goals will emerge. This capitalizes on the momentum created through an engaging and collaborative approach.

[1] Function Analysis System Technique (FAST)
© FAST Goals copyright
J. M. Siviy 2007 – 2018 Siviy, Jeannine, Strategic Classification and Technology Selection in Multimodel Environments, SEI White Paper Series, March 2008

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The Challenge

While many academics have posited on the importance of strategic planning in creating competitive advantage, few formal and proven methodologies exist to create a strategic goal-driven plan for organizations. What is most prevalent are frameworks that prescribe defining objectives, goals, strategies, and measures (OGSM). But, these frameworks fall short to create a hierarchical focus that stems from the overall company mission or vision. They leave much to be desired in terms of organizing goals and leave little room for comprehensively measuring infrastructure.

Executives using the old-style framework may generate metrics, but not necessarily the ones that directly relate to the most important goals that the organization must pursue. They may develop dashboards that show interesting trends and results that are easy to visualize, but those may not include the key performance indicators that matter most.

This laborious process can take months to create, review, and refine with one executive team, just to repeat the cycle with next group of identified stakeholders. This cycle may repeat until all relevant voices are heard and aligned. It fails to create alignment across the various areas of the organization from the outset, further delaying the production of a useful strategic plan. Once a plan is developed, organizational leaders may ask “now what?” because a clear path with delineated tactics or strategies to achieve the goals aren’t clear.

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The Solution

The FAST Goals methodology resolves many of the strategic planning struggles that plague organizations and slow down progress. It provides a clear hierarchical and appropriately-grouped diagram that identifies and organizes the most important goals for company success. Plus, it creates the measurement infrastructure to immediately baseline efforts towards the goals and prioritize the projects that will ‘move the needle’ on key measures – specific infrastructural investments, process improvement (PI), or organizational change management (OCM).

A FAST Goals engagement depends on client needs and scope of the problem being addressed, but typically has the following design:

  1. Workshop Style: FAST Goals is best carried out workshop style in a room with walls and sticky notes on hand. If the group of participants is large, the workshop can include a mix from the larger team arranged into smaller breakout groups.
  2. Cross-Functional Leaders: Participants would be a mix of cross-functional senior and junior leaders to provide as many engaged voices as possible. A typical engagement will begin with (1) a kickoff meeting with all participants, (2) multiple working meetings with breakout sessions to iteratively create the goals diagram, (3) all supporting materials, and (4) a larger group meeting to review the composite diagram and findings.
  3. Progress Path: The general path of progress is to ideate, coalesce, and refine.

At the end of the engagement, the organization will have a clearly defined objective, a “How-Why” hierarchically-organized goals diagram with supporting sub-goals, as well as identified strategies and tactics to achieve the goals. Most importantly, they will have identified indicators to measure how progress and success of those goals is to be achieved. A baselining effort is performed on those measures to use data to determine what is the best path forward towards executing on the selected strategies and tactics.

FAST Goals allows for seamless integration with widely-discussed management theories and tools, such as:

  • Harvard Business Review’s Balanced Scorecard [2] coupled with Strategy Maps3 for prioritizing goals and making strategy a continual process
  • Cranfield University’s Performance Prism [4] for stakeholder alignment and accountability towards customer needs
  • Michael Porter’s Value Chain Analysis [5] for generating competitive advantage through the right strategies and tactics born out of a measurement infrastructure

FAST Goals improves upon, and provides a practical alternative to, the following methodologies in strategy development:

  • Harvard Business Review’s Critical Success Factor (CSF) [6] method of identifying various measures that are tied directly to the success of an organization – the FAST Goals methodology allows for these to be revealed organically
  • Six Sigma’s data-intensive Critical to Quality (CTQ) flow-down for identifying business processes with the largest potential impact on customer experience – FAST Goals allows for the same development of critical functions in a more straight-forward, accelerated, and experientially-based way.

[2] Kaplan, R. and Norton, D., “The Balanced Scorecard – Measures that Drive Performance”, Harvard Business Review, 1992.

[3] Kaplan, R. and Norton, D., “Strategy Maps: Converting Intangible Assets into Tangible Outcomes”, Harvard Business School Press, 2004.

[4] Neely, A. et al, “The Performance Prism: The Scorecard for Measuring and Managing Business Success”, Prentice Hall Financial Times, 2002.

[5] Porter, M. E., “The Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance”, NY: Free Press, 1985.

[6 ] Rockart, J., “Chief Executives Define their own Data Needs”, Harvard Business Review, 52(2): 81-93, 1979.

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The Results

The following is an interview with Jeannine Siviy, Director of Healthcare Solutions at SDLC Partners, L.P., creator of the FAST Goals methodology, highlighting its success with numerous clients across industries where the methodology has been used.

How was FAST Goals developed?

Its early roots were in manufacturing function analysis to improve reliability – breaking a process down, figuring out what could fail, and then, either, detecting or preventing said failure. Fast forward, I married this decomposition methodology with the principles of goal-driven measurement to decompose a set of business objectives. It became a “What-How-Why” structure: what are all the goals, how will they be achieved, and the validation of why are we [the organization] doing everything that we are doing.  A front-end to Goal Driven Measurement, [1] and its derivative, goal-question-(indicator)-metric (GQ[I]M) [2], FAST Goals serves as the backbone for fully aligning an organization’s measurement infrastructure and evolving into a full strategic plan.

We’ve proven success of using FAST Goals within the healthcare industry. Give me some examples of other industries, markets, or projects where FAST Goals has been used.

I’ve used it in large software and systems engineering organizations, government, and commercial organizations. In these contexts, it has served as a backdrop for, both, large scale organizational process maturity and for balancing a portfolio of initiatives in the migration from a legacy system to a new system.

I’ve used it for an operations department within a data processing company.  In this situation, we coupled it with traditional strategic planning – clarified mission and vision and used FAST Goals to define how to cascade business objectives into specific goals for the department.  By having this goal structure, we found ways to balance our core operational accountabilities with growth and personnel development.  On a general note, growth and innovation are, often, at odds with standardization and efficiency.  We used the method to balance these competing interests and associated strategies and tactics.

I’ve also used FAST for account management – again – finding actionable ways to balance growth and efficient internal operations.  It led us to some big realizations about why we were doing certain things that caused us to revamp the way account management was performed.

In your experience, tell me what you find to be the biggest benefits to using FAST Goals.

Alignment – everything becomes aligned: the goals, the activities, the measures, as well as the people – top to bottom so that people in the trenches have a line of sight and work towards the same goals as do the upper-level executives. Their metrics are aligned, their activities are aligned, and with that alignment comes appropriate prioritization across the organization.

Balance – Interestingly, the balance between growth and efficiency is achieved.  Although not explicitly planned, it arose as a theme across all of the clients that used FAST Goals.

Another two important benefits are speed and inclusion.  The speed at which organizations can develop their strategic plans or measurement infrastructure comes as a surprise to those who use FAST Goals.  The speed of adoption and alignment to the goals is a result of the inclusion of ideas and voices that FAST Goals fosters.

When is FAST Goals best suited for client needs?

It works really well when you have a lot of different voices who aren’t quite in agreement. It coalesces everyone’s voices and reveals a way to reconcile all of those opinions or beliefs. I think it works very well when there are numerous moving parts and it’s not clear which possibilities should make the cut.  Between alignment and prioritization, you can begin to shed the unnecessary, eliminate the noise, and gain real focus.  Going back to its roots, FAST Goals is an amazing backdrop for creating a dashboard architecture – right measures to right people.

Other strategic planning tools or strategy development methodologies exist in the space.  What makes FAST Goals different?  What kinds of challenges will a client face if they do not use a structured methodology like FAST Goals?

Its simplicity brings high value and quality output. Anytime you use it with a group, it allows them to put all of their brain power into creating new solutions, ideas, and opportunities, as opposed to other methodologies that might require them to spend a lot of brain bandwidth wrapping their arms around the methodology before they can use it effectively.

One of the challenges that I have seen is when tactical activities are misaligned it’s difficult to get traction.  When organizations start doing the right things, but for unclear or erroneous reasons, FAST Goals helps align and gain focus on the objective that matters. It greatly increases people’s willingness to engage.

Also, organizations face a great deal of churn and failed attempts when it comes to achieving objectives.  Identifying the strategies and tactics that directly tie to goals, as FAST Goals does, ensures that all of the desired objectives can be achieved.

There are other methodologies, like Y-to-X Flow Down in Six Sigma, which is very quantitative and rigorous and requires a great deal of understanding of the interrelationships between outcomes and processes.  This makes it more difficult to implement.  There is the Balanced Scorecard, coupled with Strategy Maps, which are techniques I like and use.  However, they don’t decompose as deeply as may be needed. I find that you can head in the right direction, but you’ll still need to drill it down to the tactical.

FAST Goals strikes a valuable balance. It has adequate rigor. It taps into logic.  It’s easy to use and it can supplement other methodologies when a more involved and complex model is needed to suit the client’s situation.

[7] Basili, V. and Weiss, D., “A Methodology for Collecting Valid Software Engineering Data,” IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, vol.10 (3): 728-738, November 1984.

[8] Park, Robert et al, Goal-Driven Software Measurement – A Guidebook, Software Engineering Measurement and Analysis. Pittsburgh, PA: Software Engineering Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, August 1996.

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