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Please note, Demystifying OKRs has been divided over 5 parts, & you are currently on one of the elemental parts (Part 4 of 5). Across these 5 elements, we demystify OKRs, from theory, its application, to it’s deployment, the best practices & the common mistakes.
Bringing OKRs 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 OKRs will be incredibly different than how you will.
That’s because at its core, OKR 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 that you should understand and customize for your teams.
If you want to start experimenting with OKRs, however, there are a few best practices you should follow:
Train the team on the “Why” and the “What”
Too many unsuccessful OKR implementations start the same way. An executive sends an email saying “We are going to adopt OKR, 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 company needs to educate the team:
1) Teach people about what motivated the adoption of OKR, explaining its benefits. Understanding the “Why” behind the OKR initiative 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.
Start small and iterate
According to OKR coach Felipe Castro, it’s important to understand the tradeoffs you’re making when you adopt OKR. 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 OKRs? Explain the basics of OKRs to your team and how they work.
2) Why use OKRs? 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 do OKRs 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.
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.”
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.
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 it’s deployment, the best practices & the common mistakes.
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