Please note, Demystifying OKRs has been divided over 5 parts, & you are currently on one of the elemental parts (Part 2 of 5). Across these 5 elements, we demystify Objectives – Key results, from theory (Part 1), it’s application (Part 2), the best practices (Part 3), OKR readiness & deployment (Part 4) & the best practices & common mistakes (Part 5). Also see, The Brew’s success stories in aligning human capital to business strategy here.
Bringing Objectives – Key Results to your company isn’t just a matter of copying the way a company like Google uses them. Google isn’t the average company, and they’ve spent almost 2 decades growing, scaling, and experimenting with how their internal goal-setting structure works. Because of that, how they use it will be incredibly different than how you will.
Also, there just isn’t ‘one-size’ fits all OKR strategy to success – that’s because at its core, Objectives – Key Results isn’t a methodology. There’s no set path or steps you take for bringing it into your workplace. Instead, it’s a set of practices and ideals (OKR readiness factors here after) that you should understand and customize for your teams.
If you want to deploy OKRs successfully it at your workplace, then we suggest to start with nimble experiments, along with keeping eye on following OKR Readiness nuances, which will make or break the transformation:
OKR Readiness #1: Train the team on the “Why” and the “What”
Too many unsuccessful implementations start the same way. An executive sends an email saying “We are going to adopt Objective – Key Results (or the google way of setting goals), please watch this video from Google.”OKR is straightforward, easy to understand but hard to master. Your team is going to need more than that to get started.
Either using an external consultant or not, your organization needs to educate the team on the following:
1) Teach employees about what motivated the adoption of OKR, explaining its benefits. Understanding the “Why” behind these transformational initiatives increases the team motivation and engagement.
2) Selecting Key Results is hard, so educating the team on how to choose them and set measurable goals is key. Too many individuals lack the proper training to set goals and to coach the team to develop theirs.
OKR Readiness #2: Start small and iterate
According to OKR coach Felipe Castro, it’s important to understand the trade-offs you’re making when you adopt & deploy objectives – key results. Which means it’s probably a good idea to start small and iterate as you understand how it works in your company.
In Google’s own guide to introducing OKRs, they suggest starting with the basics:
1) What are Objectives – Key Results? Explain the basics to your team and how they work.
2) Why use Objectives – Key Results? Review your current approach to goal-setting and any limits or issues you’ve had with that approach. This is a good time to highlight how OKRs connect everyone’s work to the company’s purpose and mission.
3) How does it work? Explain the timeline of your OKR cycle (it’s good to start with shorter ones. Around 30–45 days.) What is expected of each person. What the major milestones will be. And what success looks like. Remember, you’re not shooting for 100% every single time. And it might take some time to get your team to accept that 60–70% is totally fine.
OKR Readiness #3: Deployment strategy
Though there are several ways to implement OKR methodology, and it’s definitely not a rocket science, but the best chances to improve OKR readiness & getting adopted by the team successfully, is when the team understands the fundamental elements of objectives, key results & is able to put green ticks to most of the key results they have defined. That moment of truth get’s the team to be baptized (& sold on) by the transformational nature of OKR. From our experiences, we have seen organizations take 2 approaches to deploy the practice – Deploy in a Pilot team or Deploy it with Heads / Key Persons.
Deploying in a Pilot team helps detect pitfalls the team can face before scaling it across organization. This approach definitely helps understand atleast 2 things – how will the receptivity & acceptance be with respect to Culture & what suits best – Committed objectives or Aspirational objectives. While it deinitely takes time to figure this out, the trade-off is well compensated with developing the change agents, who can advocate & foster, scaling the framework across organization.
Deploying it with Heads / Key Persons, is again similar to above approach, where one can set aligned objectives to organizational objectives, along with understanding the possible pitfalls & execution nuances to expect & perfect.
OKR Readiness #4: Focus on communication and prioritization
One of the most important aspects of OKRs is that they’re public. Which isn’t always an easy thing for teams to do. However, making it clear where you can see what other people are working on and what metrics they’re chasing is an important part of adopting OKRs.
As former Googler and former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo explains: “As you grow a company, the single hardest thing to scale is communication. It’s remarkably difficult. OKRs are a great way to make sure everyone understands how you’re going to measure success and strategy.”
OKR Readiness #5: Use regular check-ins to stay disciplined
Because of the agile nature of OKRs, it’s important to set and stick to regular check-ins. And that doesn’t just mean at the start and end of an OKR cycle. You might want to set a cadence that includes:
1) OKR planning sessions: Bring together a small group of people that work together to plan and talk through objectives and key results for the next cycle.
2) Weekly check-ins: A team-level meeting focused on tactical updates to ensure everyone is working on the right priorities and isn’t being blocked.
3) Mid-quarter/cycle review: A quick step back to reassess the OKR, add or eliminate Key Results or adjust targets, and define action plans for addressing OKRs that are below your goal.
4) All-hands meetings: A company wide meeting where you can communicate and reiterate your strategy and goals to make sure everyone’s still aligned and excited.
OKR Readiness #6: Don’t go all in on OKRs until your whole organization/function is ready
Change is hard. And it’s probably not a good idea to just drop OKRs on your entire team. Instead, choose to either integrate them horizontally or vertically:
- Horizontal: Start with one team and add additional ones each cycle or quarter.
- Vertical: Start with company OKRs and senior management and then add new layers beneath each cycle or quarter.
Stay with The Brew on Demystifying OKRs for the rest of the parts. Divided over 5 parts, we demystify OKRs, from theory, its application, to OKR readiness & deployment, the best practices & the common mistakes.