A practical guide to OKRs process

Common challenges in adoption of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) at your organisation.

Many organizations, especially the ones that are not well-established, face various challenges in the adoption of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) at their offices. Some of these challenges are:

  • Vague understanding of the concepts and purposes of OKRs
  • Limited access to resources to help with development of OKRs
  • Lack of understanding of how to implement OKRs in the organisation
  • Lack of accountability for achieving targets or KPIs set in OKRs

Why OKRs are Important for Every Business

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is a way to set goals and measure your success. It is important because it provides a framework for clear communication, alignment of effort, and ownership of the desired result.

It’s an effective project management process that can be used by any company or team. There are many ways to use the OKR methodology but they all have one goal in common – aligning the organization around common goals. This alignment of effort leads to higher productivity, better quality outcomes as well as better work-life balance.

“As much as I hate process, good ideas with great execution are how you make magic. And that’s where OKRs come in.”
– Larry Page, Google

Follow These 7 Steps to Create a Solid OKRs Process

1. Determine if the Company is a good fit to use Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)

A company should be using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) when they want to improve their performance by prioritizing tasks that would increase efficiency. They also need to keep track of the progress of the tasks so that goals can be achieved in an efficient time frame. OKRs are great for companies who don’t want to waste any time and just want to work on what will get them closer to their goal. Using OKRs for goal planning and execution monitoring results in the following changes

  1. Complete Transparency – Companies that use OKRs are super transparent about what they are after. They often share their progress publicly on social media to keep employees engaged and focussed. Complete Transparency might have some disadvantages for certain companies where privacy of work is important. Ex: A R&D firm that only wants a handful of scientists to know the goals of their research.
  2. Open to Feedback – By virtue of laying out OKRs, companies create an environment to collect feedback on all its goals from everyone. This promotes an open and a meritocratic culture.
  3. Ongoing Accountability – OKRs provide a great way to monitor real time progress of goals. Every employee gets to see how all the goals are progressing. This makes the entire workforce accountable for what they have signed up for.
  4. Ambition Friendly – OKR thinking natively works well for teams that are inherently ambitious. This aspect is contagious and encourages the participants to aspire for ambitious goals.

Evaluate if the desired changes in culture caused by OKRs are welcome in your Company or Team.

2. Bring Employees onboard with OKRs

Once the Leadership has taken a call to implement OKRs, focus on educating the various participants (usually the entire workforce) on the fundamentals of OKRs. OKRs are a fairly simple concept to grasp. Its simplicity makes it easy for organizations to adopt and at the same time gives way for oversimplification of its concepts. There are a handful of concepts and topics that need to understand everyone so that the company as a whole is on the same page in the way they are going to define and progress on their goals. Possible ways to get educated on OKRs

  1. Work with an OKR coach, who can also be consultative in helping teams define their OKRs.
  2. Read the book ‘Measure What Matters’, which succinctly illustrates the theory behind OKRs with some mini case studies.
  3. Read up on online resources.
Measure what matters by John Doer

However you plan for training your workforce, make sure the following OKR concepts are well understood

  1. Outcome vs Outputs
  2. How to write good Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)
  3. Committed vs Aspirational OKRs
  4. Types of OKRs – Organisation, Team and Individual
  5. Initiatives and Weekly Plans
  6. Checkins
  7. OKR Alignment and Progress Computation
3. Brainstorm on Goals

Armed with a proven methodology to execute audacious goals, the next step is to apply the theory to your practical situation. The first order of business is to determine the time period over which you want to define and execute goals. Companies typically plan their goals for a quarter-time period. Larger companies do it for an entire year and it’s not uncommon to see startups just plan for a month.

A common way to get started is for the Leadership to lay down the Organisation’s goals. These are the goals that need to be achieved as a company in its entirety. In general, these goals would be achieved by cross-department/team collaboration. Therefore these Organisation Goals lead the way to define Team Goals for the relevant teams. This tree of Organisation and Team goals is a good deliverable to arrive at. Socialize this tree of goals with the Department heads to get their buy-in. The department heads will highlight their Team goals within their sub-organizations to collect feedback and get the buy-in from the entire workforce.

4. Break down the Goals and collect Bottom-Up Feedback

Once the Organisation and Team goals are agreed upon, the various Department Heads can do a similar exercise to further break down the Team goals into Individual goals. The prescribed approach is predominantly a top-down approach. But organizations with OKR usage experience will find ways to also incorporate feedback bottom-up that result in a hybrid approach of top-down and bottom-up OKR goal setting

5. Solidify Key Results

When OKRs are initially composed, they will be a bit vague and that’s fine. The most important thing is to get clarity and buy-in in terms of what needs to be achieved. The details and specifics are secondary. For example, choosing to “Be recognized as a top customer-centric company” is an exciting and challenging goal that first needs to be prioritized. Key Results which help measure the Objective in multiple dimensions will emerge later as a result of thought, discussion, and feedback incorporation. Once the Key Results are figured out for each Objective, the goals become very categorical.

6. Add Initiatives to OKRs

With the desired end state nicely captured by the OKRs, it’s time for methodical execution. Teams can capture the tasks that need to be performed to achieve the measurable outcomes captured in the Key Results. These tasks are also called as Initiatives in the OKR framework. Owners of the OKRs can augment their OKRs with Initiatives. This can also be done collectively within teams so that each team member can pitch in the various Initiatives that can result in the Key Result progress. Detailing the Initiatives capture the ‘How’ part of execution on a Key Result and by extension the Objective.

7. Monitor progress with weekly CheckIns

A major appealing factor of OKRs is that it captures the realtime progress and makes it transparent for everyone to identify where efforts need to be prioritized. This helps teams to be aware of their strengths and gaps at every moment of execution. This is only possible when individuals check in their progress frequently. A popular cadence that is followed is a minimum of one check-in every week. Teams get together every week and provide an update on their OKRs and update the system accordingly. This helps in collecting ideas and organizing the next steps to execute the OKRs.

Irrespective of the type of goals you are trying to accomplish – personal, professional, or organizational, working on them within the perspective of Objectives and Key Results is going to make the process more practical and achievable because OKRs let you focus on what matters the most and pave the path for goal execution. In addition to this, organizational OKRs bring alignment between teams and the organization, laying the foundation for High-performance culture. 

To learn more about how OKRs methodology can benefit your organization and how you can transition your team to OKR methodology seamlessly, schedule a call today.

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