We would nudge you to think again. Rolling out OKRs can be a tricky process, and the first step to getting started is understanding if your company is ready for OKRs.
To those who are new to OKRs, you would know that it is anything but a performance review framework! OKRs is a strategy execution framework. Leadership teams have a strategic direction, which is most often articulated in town halls once a year or quarter, calling out key priorities and progress. Not all in a company are mostly involved and become silent spectators to quarterly progress call-outs, and probably never remember ‘What goes behind a strategic choice?’ and ‘Does my task or project impact the same?’
New to OKRs but familiar with performance reviews or KPIs? Learn how OKRs differ from performance reviews.
The process of OKRs enables teams (not individuals) to write directly into the company’s strategy! This is a bold move, but yes, who else would know best on how to move the business needle than the teams who are actually doing the job?
The need for OKRs stems from some clearly identified pain. The pain could be different depending upon the company, business model, culture, market, and more. Some organizations introduce OKRs to pivot to new business realities, others look at OKRs to break silos to innovate, and some introduce OKRs to ‘get to the next stage of their growth aspirations.’
Remember that OKRs is about ‘change’ and a cultural shift. Communication is a key part of Change Management. If there is a clearly identified pain, the CXO message would need to call out the pain and explain to teams exactly ‘Why OKRs, and Why now!’
An executive sponsor is the key to introducing OKRs, as it is not a program but a new way of working that requires teams to collaborate. CEOs, Chief of Staff, Strategy Leaders, and Business Unit leaders (if you are considering OKRs for a specific unit) are great sponsors of OKRs.
If you have top-down OKRs and thrust on teams in the classic way of the cascade method, you would be sure that OKRs may have the wisdom of only a section of the organization. The magic of OKRs is when teams deeply reflect on the strategic metrics that they can influence, and come together to write and execute OKRs that move a company's Key Result(s) forward. Bottom-up and top-down is where the river meets the road for a great OKRs roll out.
Internal OKRs Champions are the heartbeat of an OKRs rollout. They would be overseeing the introduction, setting, and most importantly, managing by OKRs. The Champion is usually certified on OKRs and has the tools and techniques to coach teams on how to write high-quality OKRs which are well connected and aligned. This individual is usually someone who has been with the organization for at least a year, has a great view of the business, and can influence stakeholders.
Learn about the role of an OKRs Champion and how to run an effective check-in meeting here.
Traditional performance reviews assess individuals on tasks and KPIs. In contrast, OKRs are a fundamental shift from ‘Me’ to ‘We.’ They are best written when teams come together to move a strategic business metric. Training would be required for leadership and next-level teams on the fundamentals of OKRs:
The training plan should also factor in new members in the workforce and how to get them up to speed on OKRs.
Leaders always have the option to become certified OKR coaches and lead growth by confidently implementing OKRs in their organization and onboarding new members seamlessly.
OKRs do not need to be ‘another meeting’ added to your To-do. They need not stretch your bandwidth, either. It should be the meeting that defines how you work together. Combining OKR meets with your weekly ones alongside changing how you facilitate the meeting helps teams speak through business outcomes.
A committed executive sponsor’s role can make an OKR rollout highly successful. The sponsor is the chair of the OKR reviews. Additionally, sponsors remove blockers and coach teams to think about what metrics to focus on during mid-quarter reviews to move the needle. Learn about the value of good sponsorship and how sponsors are the jumping-off point of a dive into OKRs.
Looping back to the point that OKRs is definitely not something to set and forget! They are managed week-on-week and reset by teams at the end of 90 days. So, if you are considering taking a bunch of metrics and dividing them into 4 quarters, think again! Teams should have a bunch of new metrics linked to Objectives, which they would want to achieve and improve quarter on quarter. Making them static takes the pizzaz out of OKRs. Read more about the relationship between Agile and OKRs.
Organizations that deeply reflect, learn, and course correct, have a high chance of sustaining OKRs. They look at OKRs as not another chore, but simply as the way that business is done. That’s why Google says “It's just the way we do business around here.”
To learn more about how to get your OKRs to work, do check out our case study on how Will Group transformed its business execution with OKRs.
Vidya Santhanam is the Co-Founder of Fitbots OKRs. Having coached 600+ teams, and conducted 1000+ check-in meetings, Vidya likes writing about Metrics, high performance, and leadership.
Free 21-day access when you sign up...