Blog & Resources

The OKR System

So you have laboured long and hard and you now you have your business vision and strategy. Congratulations! So what’s next? How do you now do the hardest thing of all which is to actually implement that strategy – get it done – make your vision a reality?

WHAT ARE OKRs?

More and more companies are using the simple framework known as OKRs to achieve this, “Objectives and Key Results.

We love OKRs. It’s a straightforward system and structure to help organisations of all sizes to implement their strategy. A way to work out the best way to achieve the organisation’s top-level objectives and overall vision.

The greatest value of the OKR system is how it forces us to rigorously focus on prioritisation – defining and tracking the highest leverage business priorities and their outcomes.

OKRs make us focus only on what’s most important, the priorities, for achieving our business strategy and therefore business success. 

OKRs align teams and individuals with the business vision and objectives and create a clear roadmap of how everyone plays their part to get there. It acts like a “strategic thread” that keeps us all moving in the same direction.

WHY USE OKRs?

OKRs help leadership fit objectives into the company vision, mission and values to motivate the company with purpose.

OKRs help managers keep their team focused, inspired and aligned by providing context and direction and setting top priorities each quarter.

OKRs help individuals feel more purpose, direction and less overwhelmed by aligning individual goals to company goals, focusing on priorities and providing structure and plans.

WHAT’S THE OKR PROCESS

  • OBJECTIVES (WHAT): what the organisation, team or individual wants to accomplish – qualitative and time-bound. The objective provides the direction.
    • The main idea with OKRs is to prioritize the larger, most important goals. In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey calls them your “big rocks” Others refer to them as the “big frogs” but however you think about them it is about getting everyone focused on tackling the key things that will add value and really move things forward in the right direction.
  • KEY RESULTS (HOW): are concrete, specific and measurable and describe how you’ll accomplish the objective. KRs typically include hard numbers.

Key Results are measurable, and the Objectives are what’s meaningful and inspirational.

KEY STEPS IN THE PROCESS

1. Company leadership has clarity on company Vision & Purpose

2. Company leadership sets company 1 – 3 Year Objectives that they see as key to achieving that vision

3. Company leadership sets 3 Company Objectives for the next Quarter which work towards achieving the long-term Company Objectives

  • Focus only on 3 major objectives that are aligned with the company goals, because the path to success lies in narrowing down to what is KEY. These keep everyone focussed on doing the most important things first – the added value activities that really move the dial in the direction you want to be going.

4. Team / Individuals set 1 – 3 objectives for each company objective on how they can best help achieve the company goals

5. Under each Objective set 3-4 measurable Key Results.

  • Key Results show the most important things you need to do this quarter, not every small task you do each day. Key Results can be based on growth, performance, revenue, or engagement.
  • It is recommended to make 1 Key result “aspirational” and the rest to be “commitment-based” and realistic.
  • Targets set by the company can be between 50-70% success for aspirational OKRs or 100% for commitment based OKRs.

6. Managers carry out weekly “Check-Ins” with their team to monitor and report progress and listen to any concerns and ideas so that “tweaks” can be made along the way.

  • Managers can use individual 1 to 1s to uncover employee challenges so that they can offer support as well as listen for new ideas and helpful feedback.
  • By asking the right questions every week, managers obtain deeper insight into the motivations, distractions that influence or hinder results.
  • Managers can see where employees are challenged and offer just enough support to allow them to grow into their roles and achieve their goals.
  • Employees have the opportunity to share triumphs and be acknowledged by management. Acknowledgements help motivate employees to perform and boosts morale.
  • Managers can quickly and easily discover misalignments and make weekly course corrections.

7. Managers carry out quarterly evaluation & review with their team at the end of each quarter to monitor and report on results, celebrate “wins” and review learning in preparation for the next quarter.

  • What’s working what’s not? Why? How can we learn to replicate the successes and stop the issues happening again? How can we improve the OKR system for next quarter?

8. Managers set new Objectives and Key Results for the next Quarter – return to Step 3.

  • Employees and managers decide whether employees should continue incomplete objectives (which only occurs if they are still important to the business).

9. Monitoring and Project Managing the Process

  • Whilst there many software options on the market we recommend initially trying a low-cost option of excel or google docs whilst you get used to te process and how to make it work best for your organisation so that you can see if investing in software is worthwhile.
  • To help you set out and monitor progress with your OKRs we have a special Excel template you can use. Contact us to get a copy.

TRAVEL KINSHIP TIPS FOR SUCCESS

1. Everything starts with and depends on Leadership.

  • Not only to develop yearly and quarterly Objectives, but to be the chief advocate(s) of the company mission, vision, and values. Objectives translate strategy into organizational priorities.

2. Think deeply about the Company Objectives, communicate them often and check every quarter that they are still relevant and still priorities.

  • Company Objectives are instrumental for prioritizing focus areas, directing attention, and ensuring that everyone is aligned and motivated by contributing to something greater than the self. It may seem like common sense, but many companies are unclear about their top priorities or don’t communicate them, thereby losing out on a valuable opportunity to increase performance, engagement, and motivation.

3. Don’t set too many Company Objectives.

  • Many companies set way too many company Objectives making it hard for employees to keep track and set their own priorities.

4. Live by ‘do less and then obsess.’ – rigorously prioritise – get radically focused.

  • Employees and organizations who chose a few key priorities and channel tremendous effort into doing exceptional work in those areas greatly outperform those who overextend themselves.

5. Your OKRs should never be used to set metrics that are concerned with “business as usual” Ask yourself constantly…

  • which OKRs would make the most significant difference to how your company operates and its ability to achieve its company vision and objectives?
  • Which OKRs would really inspire and challenge your people to do their best work?

6. Make it a collaborative process where possible.

  •  The research support for the benefits of team goals is very strong. When team members can create goals together and see how their work contributes to the progress of team goals, performance improves. Collaborative Objectives and Key result setting enable teams to align and work together to drive company initiatives forward.

7. Allow flexibility.

  • Objectives should be flexible enough so that they can be adjusted/revised or even abandoned as work evolves and situations and priorities may change.

8. Balance Ambition and Success

  • Balance the more realistic “Commitment-based” Key Results (where you are expected to hit 100% of your metric) with “Aspirational-based” Key Results (where you have only 50-70% chance of actually hitting your metric).
  • OKRs by and large aim to stretch you and help you achieve more but you need balance with some easier wins as well. A good way to maintain this balance is to make one Key Result per Objective be aspirational in nature. The rest of the Key Results for that Objective can remain commitment- based so you can get the satisfaction of having some successes, in addition to getting used to stretching more than usual.

9. Watch for unintended negative consequences in the long term.

  • Don’t set goals that are focused purely on quantity-based metrics or heavily skewed towards only tracking revenue. Goal setting should be a balanced and nuanced process.

For example, if through really hard work and substantial luck your company achieves a really ambitious revenue goal for the year, but your workforce is burned-out and attrition rates are getting high, will you really have a viable growth business left in the following years?

  • To avoid unintended consequences, be sure to counterbalance quantity metrics with quality metrics and short-term ambitions with the long-term viability and desires of your organization.

10. Check in regularly and make it personal and supportive. Focus on progress over results.

To increase performance and motivation, managers should focus on goal progress over results. Although this may sound counterintuitive to the results-driven manager, the research is clear: progress monitoring will greatly increase motivation and a focus on results only can lead to cultures of unhealthy internal competition.

  • Managers have to check in frequently to ensure that employees stay on track.
  • Break down quarterly objectives into weekly or bi-weekly goals. Taking small bites feels more manageable and provides a roadmap to completing the larger objective.
  • Don’t tie key results to performance or compensation.
  • Enabling achievement and performance instead of measuring and evaluating it – supporting employees to do their best work
  • Go beyond the metrics and ask a mix of questions such as:

“How are you doing? What challenges are you facing? How can I help?” What are your objectives this quarter? What are our company-wide goals? Do you see any conflicts between your goals and those of anyone else on the team? What do you see as the blocks to achieving your objectives? What did you learn based on your performance of last quarter’s objectives? “What do you think is the best way for us to implement this?”, “What resources and support do you need to make this happen?”, “Tell me more”.

We hope you find this information on OKRs useful. Please contact us if you would like more information or we can help you with your business development in any way.

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