Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.
- Steve Jobs
We must admit, we are obsessed with Steve Job’s approach to execution of ideas. He believed in the same ideologies that OKR promotes - keeping things simple and trying to work through the ways that can help create success.
Companies often struggle with OKRs implementation because they consider it to be something very complex and intimidating. Teams believe that the framework is very difficult to get started with and the whole process would take a long time and a lot of effort.
Here’s some good news! OKRs will not add to your ever increasing “To Do” list, instead it is a framework which can seamlessly seep into accelerating your business growth, by bringing out the best in your teams. However, it does need to be crafted correctly, with a clear understanding of the basics, regular cadence, and sharp focus - not just from the teams, but also from leaders and executive sponsors.
Here are some best practices of implementing OKRs and setting your first 90 days to a successful start.
During the Pre-Implementation Phase...
- Once your teams are up to speed with the concept of OKRs, work with the leadership teams (company-wide or pilot) to define their priorities and OKRs for 6-12 months
- Once the company OKRs are defined, work with the next level teams/pods/pilot teams to help them align their OKRs with the company OKRs, keeping a visibility of 90 days in mind
- Get a buy-in from the key stakeholders (mentioned in the blog below) on the identified Objectives and the Key Result areas and get started with your OKR Check-Ins
Get the Right Anchors Ready
We all know it takes two to tango. But for OKRs, maybe it's more of a football team, where each player has a very critical role in taking the team towards its success story. You need the right anchors to make sure that teams are sailing through every difficult situation without crashing or just running away from the challenges. Have a well-defined checklist to make sure your Key Role holders can increase your chances of a successful implementation.
We know that every change-management initiative needs a lot of clarity, commitment and most importantly, communication.
OKR implementation is no different. If you are an internal sponsor working towards making OKR implementation successful in your company, you might find a lot of literature out there on making OKRs transparent. Transparency drives a sense of alignment of individual and team OKRs towards company purpose.
While transparency is key, communicating the Why is most important. Company OKRs communicated by the company CEO or Business leader during town hall meetings give a sense of accountability and commitment to teams, helping them understand the magnitude of change and how it impacts the overall business environment.
Involving key stakeholders from different teams as ambassadors of OKR implementation and giving them more clarity around the framework can help build more acceptance towards the adoption.
Don’t Miss the Rigor on Check-in Meetings
We know, this sounds like the same old tune, but the fact remains, no check-in discipline, no OKR success. By focusing on progress against outcomes, leadership teams are effectively able to review, reset and remove constraints to keep their OKRs on the right track.
Here are 5 powerful questions which you could ask your teams to keep them on top of their outcomes and progress.
- What are the wins this week? Let’s celebrate them!
- What is stopping us from achieving OKRs?
- How is the confidence in achieving them? How can we support you?
- What are the commitments for the following week?
- What do we need to do to measure outcomes better?
Reflect on the Quarter That Went By
This is your first litmus test of the pilot program. At this juncture, you would clearly know if your teams are aligned to the OKR framework, thanks to the Check-in rigor. A good check point would be to conduct a meeting to understand what went well and what could be improved. Ask your team:
- What was good about OKRs and not so good?
- What could have improved?
- What difference did you see pre and post OKR implementation?
- Were the OKRs chosen relevant to your team?
- If OKRs did not work. Why?
- Can we set better OKRs for next quarter?
- Did OKRs really move the needle? Did you feel motivated?
Look at the Company Objectives and see how OKRs have contributed towards making progress. Do you see a difference between achieving OKRs vs. the normal performance metrics you currently use?
Now that you know what helps companies succeed in their first 90 days of OKR implementation, here’s a quick summary for you on what helps build the right OKR Culture.
Whatever stage your OKR implementation journey may be at, always remember, the game begins by communicating effectively and helping everyone involved in understanding the purpose and the vision behind adopting it. If teams are not aligned to the core purpose of implementing OKRs, bumps will arise in your journey. However, we do hope that some of these tips could help you prevent the hiccups and have a smooth OKR Implementation, filled with learnings.
Remember the OKR quiz you took earlier? We hope you noted your score, because this is a good time to take another shot at it and see how much you've learnt!
Having reached this stage of your OKR Basics Program, here’s an interesting case study for you to jump onto and apply all the OKR skills that you have attained through this course.
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