OKRs is a strategy execution framework that has grown increasingly popular. While thousands of companies want to create their own version of Google’s success story, the first challenge lies in understanding what you’re committing to, and if you’re ready to commit to it. It’s no secret that it takes time to find success with OKRs. Even though it is a highly flexible framework that you can shape to fit the needs of your company, first-timers are prone to falling into well-known OKR traps. This article will help you get clarity on whether you’re ready for OKRs and what to expect during OKR implementation.
To begin with, 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).
Finally, let’s get to the main point: how many steps are there to rolling out OKRs? Five. Here’s an overview of how the process works:
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 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.
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. A much more detailed answer with useful links can be found here:
OKRs are set at the company and team levels. Individual OKRs are not recommended and here’s why. 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.
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.
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 and patience to find success with OKRs. There might be some initial resistance from teams or they might fall into well-known OKR traps.
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 Talview not only implemented the OKRs framework but also used it to make the best of teams even as remote work became the need of the hour. Their story is a clear example of the power of good OKR implementation, especially in uncertain times. But the key here is that OKRs were correctly implemented. Reaching this level of finesse with OKR implementation requires commitment, and often the companies who couldn’t make OKR work fell into the trap of not being completely committed. If you choose to take on the OKR process, give yourself and your company at least two years to learn about the framework and practice it for successful execution.
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.
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 right for you?
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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