Buried Goals Kill the Company’s Soul

Lesson 4: What's the secret sauce of OKR Success?

Are you acing the game of OKR Basics and racing towards understanding everything that can lead you to a successful OKR implementation? We think so!

Remember the last time you set a goal on running a half marathon? You probably got an adrenaline rush, pulled out a POST-IT and stuck it on the fridge. And voila, the very next day, it was business as usual - skipping your run for a client call, sleeping late due to the latest Netflix series and your goal... Of course, waiting for itself to see the light of the day someday!


This is a classic case of Set .. and Forget. An absolute no-no when it comes to OKRs.

The key to OKRs success mostly lies in how teams adopt them with the right approach. Strategy execution is possible only when efforts of all teams are aligned in the right direction. If teams need to remain focused on achieving OKRs, the secret sauce lies in not letting it become a set-and-forget framework that teams revisit only at the quarter/year end. It needs constant attention and rigor through communication and collaboration, enabling teams to achieve their outcomes. 

How Can We Do This?

It’s simple! Get all the teams with common OKRs to meet on dedicated days weekly/fortnightly and let the magic of 'collaborating to create results' begin. However, these parameters should be controlled collectively by different team members who are accountable for their outcomes.

These special weekly meetings are known as check-in meetings, and they're the most vital OKR ritual. The check-in meetings are usually run and owned by the OKR Champion.

Check-in meetings enable teams to keep making progress after the initial high of writing OKRs has passed. The agenda for check-ins is usually to discuss the task outcomes, KR progress, what worked and didn’t work in the last week, and take those learnings to plan for the next week. This boosts agility and develops the focus on achieving outcomes at all times. 

Here’s your Quick Guide to Getting OKR Check-ins Right:

1) Select the right OKR Champion

OKR Champions also are the leaders of tomorrow, learning the end-to-end of the business. The OKR Champion is someone nominated by the sponsor of an OKR Roll out (usually the CEO), to introduce the concept of OKRs to the organization and work closely with teams to adopt them. Team OKR Champions are like the Coxswain in rowing. They get the group together during check-in meetings, monitor if the team is steering in the right direction, and call out KRs at risk early.

2) Set a Rhythm

Check-in meetings are the heartbeat of a great OKR roll out. Visualize your entire company going over OKR progress every week and updating progress. Not whenever they wish, but a specific day of the week when everyone calls out OKRs.

3) Keep it Concise 

Check-in meetings should be sharp, focused and concise. If your team has many members, or if you’ve had a very eventful week, you might want to help the team focus their discussions on the key outcomes, progress and blockers.

Managing a meeting may not be easy, so one must remember that a good OKR champion does not direct the team but allows them to move in the right direction by asking powerful questions. This applies to anyone who runs the OKR check-in meeting.

4) Ask Powerful Questions

With OKRs, you focus on checking progress and eliminating constraints early, should they arise. Asking a few powerful questions becomes imperative to get teams thinking about outcomes rather than just inputs.

Here’s our list of a few powerful questions which could come handy during these meetings….

  1. Which KRs have truly progressed?
  2. What are those big initiatives planned for the coming weeks?
  3. Are there any KRs at risk?
  4. Which ones are bi-directionally aligned and which aren't ?
  5. How pumped are we in achieving these KRs?
  6. What business priorities have changed?
  7. Are the KRs too much of a smooth sailing? Are they too aspirational?

5) Bring in some fun

Making OKR meetings fun is a game-changer to get teams enthused. Here are some OKR Games highly recommended by Team OKR Champions:

  1. People Bingo: Get some fun facts about your team members. Place a clue, and have the rest guess who that is! That’s the team member who goes next with the OKR updates. People come up with all kinds of fun clues in People Bingo ‘I can do a headstand for 5 whole minutes’ or ‘The one who has 5 cats and a dog’.
  2. The OKR Jeopardy Game: This is a good game to get new members to create a jeopardy game board (you can get some free sites to create these boards). Divide the team into groups, and shoot away those questions. Oh! Don’t forget to get those fun gifts, even if they are gift cards or virtual points.

Before we wrap up,

If you’ve managed to make it this far, kudos to you! We recognize that you have at least two key skills for OKR implementation - patience and perseverance.

We hope that this lesson helped you get familiar with the critical role that Check-In meetings play in making your OKR roll out successful. By maintaining that discipline, you can pretty much do away with any headaches on recollecting progress and firefighting on issues, especially when you are close to the end of the quarter!

Let’s ace OKRs! Has all this talk about Champions and check-ins has made you consider becoming a Champion yourself? The best place way to start is by getting certified.

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