Are you looking to improve goal-setting and performance tracking in your organization?
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are a proven framework used by companies like Google, Intel, and LinkedIn to drive focus, alignment, and accountability. But how do you implement OKRs effectively and efficiently? In this article, we'll share a step-by-step guide on how to implement OKRs this quarter, so you can set your team up for success and achieve your goals with clarity and confidence. Whether you're a startup founder, a VC investor, a team leader, or an HR professional, you'll find practical tips, best practices, and real-world examples to help you get started with OKRs today. So, let's dive in!
Let's start from the very beginning, it's a very good place to start. 🎵 The first question that must be answered is...
How do you gauge the maturity of your organization to onboard OKRs? This 10-point checklist for your OKR rollout will help you score your readiness to start with OKRs (spoiler alert: the passing score is 10/10). Secondly, you should have some level of familiarity with the fundamentals of OKRs and know which traps to avoid. You will eventually become a master of OKRs with time, but until then, keep our resources handy!
Finally, let’s get to the main point: how many steps are there to rolling out OKRs? Five. Without further ado, let's jump into how the process works. With these insights, you can ensure that you're prepared for a smooth OKR rollout.
CEO, COO, Chiefs of Staff, or the Chief Strategy Officers make the best sponsors of OKRs. The OKR sponsor defines the success criteria for the OKRs program. Their role is to communicate the need for OKRs to the leadership team and the rest of the company. The two messages to be communicated are: Why are we using OKRs, and why is it being implemented now?
The sponsor also reviews OKRs as part of the Leadership reviews, approves budgets, and serves as an escalation point on OKRs. Commitment from the sponsor is key to the success of OKRs because everyone else will have some issues when getting on board. The sponsor must stay motivated and persevere against possible inertia or initial failures in the OKR rollout.
If you are a possible OKR sponsor, we'd highly encourage that you hear from other sponsors on their approach and experience with implementing OKRs. Tune in to this podcast with Brett Pharis, Digital Media & Affiliate Marketing Advisor and former COO at Clearlink. Brett digs into his experience with introducing OKRs into Clearlink and implementing it within several layers of the organization. Find some insightful nuggets on how you can be successful at piloting OKRs, there's definitely some advice for both large and small teams and organizations.
There are multiple ways to roll out OKRs. You could start with pilot teams / you could get some members certified on OKRs / you could seek out an integrated OKR solution provider to systematically coach your teams on OKRs, or you could have a mix of multiple approaches. It's important to create an onboarding plan that is tailored to the needs of your organization, because what worked for other companies may not work for you.
We highly recommend starting out with pilot teams if your organization is new to OKRs. This approach provides insights into how OKRs can be introduced to the rest of the company, whether or not all teams should be involved in the OKR framework, and which methods are most suitable and effective in building an outcome-focused environment.
Fundamentally, OKRs is a strategy execution process, but it also impacts the workplace culture by making teams more focused on growth and outcomes. We spoke to Subrat Pani, the Co-founder of OneAssist, on how OKRs created a shift in OneAssist's work culture, and he shared some insightful tips on gettings OKRs right in the first 90 days. You can see a recording of the webinar here.
OKRs are set at the company and team levels. Experts don't recommend individual OKRs because they tend to be a lot more task-y. For example, here's why Spotify moved away from Individual OKRs.
To keep a sharp eye on outcomes, the best practice is to set OKRs as teams — especially cross-functional teams coming together to solve a high-velocity business problem.
The leadership team writes the company-level OKRs following which, teams write their own OKRs by choosing how they will contribute (directly and indirectly) to the company’s metrics. Ideally, the 3x5 rule should be used to set OKRs: No more than 3 objectives, and no more than 5 key results per objective. This helps you/your team/your company prioritize and focus on what matters most (think spearfishing for aspirational goals, instead of casting out a net and trying to grab everything). Here’s a detailed guide for writing OKRs.
But OKR writing does not need to be drawn-out process. On Fitbots, we offer the quickest way to generate OKRs with our AI-assisted OKR writing tool, so you can set OKRs in less than a minute.
Get an expert to audit your OKRs + check for misalignment. All teams’ OKRs should be vertically and horizontally aligned. This is important because misaligned teams can cost 15–20% of annual revenue (that’s almost a whole quarter gone to waste, and OKRs are about reducing risks and waste).
Before you get an expert to audit your OKRs, you should run an internal connect and align activity to ensure that everyone is contributing in the right direction, i.e. teams should be vertically and horizontally aligned. This guide to running a connect and align explains how to go about it in a step-by-step manner.
Usually, the internal check is owned by the OKR Champions. Let's take the example of Will International. The senior leadership team identified Rebecca Hatten, Program Manager, to lead the OKR adoption process. Rebecca’s deep business knowledge and experience were a great plus in championing OKRs. The company also identified a team of internal champions who became certified professionals through Fitbots and took the lead in driving OKRs culture. By working alongside an OKRs solution provider like Fitbots, Rebecca and other internal champions were able to structure the OKR adoption process, check if OKRs were being crafted correctly, and regularly check in to update progress.
Tune into this podcast where Rebecca shares her experiences in championing OKRs and her role and approach in bringing about a transformational change to Will International.
OKRs progress is tracked through OKR check-ins, also sometimes known as OKR Update meetings.
The best practice is to run OKR check-ins weekly, same day, same time. Check-ins are run by the OKR Champion/pacer/team leaders whose responsibility is to keep these meetings short, effective, and outcome-focused. During check-ins, teams update their OKR progress, call out blockers and dependencies, review the tasks of the past week and plan activities for the next week.
OKRs build leadership effectiveness by turning managers into coaches. Coaching is a powerful mix of rapport, active listening, empathy, powerful questioning, probing for clarity, and helping teams to commit to action. Team leaders go from telling/directive management to exploratory/ participative management styles while driving the conversation during OKR check-ins.
Here’s a quick guide with links to all the resources your OKR champion will need to need to run OKR check-ins effectively.
OKRs are not a set-and-forget framework. It requires commitment from teams and sponsors alike, to find success with OKRs. However, there might be some initial resistance from teams or they might fall into well-known OKR traps.
If keeping teams motivated becomes an issue, remember that taking a break from a monotonous cadence and spicing things up with an OKR game or two can really boost team morale. Over and above, OKRs are backed by CFRs (conversations, recognition, and feedback) so do encourage teams to communicate transparently with leadership teams to identify their concerns - be it in implementing OKRs or the framework itself.
What works for others may not work for you, but it's never a bad idea to learn what worked for others as well as why it worked. For example, here's a case study on how AppKnox, a security company, built long term value for their customers by shifting to an outcome-focused approach. Their story is a clear example of the power of good OKR implementation, especially in uncertain times.
In conclusion, implementing Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is a powerful way to drive alignment, focus, and accountability in your organization. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can set clear and measurable goals, track progress in real-time, and foster a culture of continuous improvement. Remember to keep your OKRs simple, relevant, and challenging, and to communicate them effectively to your team. And don't forget to celebrate your wins and learn from your failures along the way. With the right mindset and tools, you can achieve great things with OKRs this quarter and beyond.
So, now that you have a good idea of how the OKR process is implemented in reality, why not book a free OKR consultation and meet with our experts to discuss if OKRs are the way to go this quarter?
Bani is an OKR enthusiast who anchors content and marketing at Fitbots OKRs. She loves spreading the love of OKRs to enrich workplaces and collaborating to create engaging content for her readers.
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