Please note, for in-depth insights & comprehensive guides about OKRs – Check out the following detailed reads, enriched with nuances & learnings from actual deployment across high growth workplaces. Check them here as follows: A 6 part comprehensive OKR Manual on demystifying OKRs, The Ultimate OKR Checklist
OKR Case Study: About the Client
The context of this OKR case study (& OKR success story) is a high growth – high potential organization, with decent maturity in its human capital systems (consisting of structured process, the organization had embedded traditional performance management system with individual employee objectives, annual reviews and variable incentives several years before – definitely good positives by industry benchmarks & practices) was reflecting on its goal setting & management process (the client’s opted for The Brew’s Goal Alignment index, & the scores were in 70th percentile), evident from its lack of operational focus, amidst a highly competitive environment.
Convinced about limited enablement & impact of existing human capital systems on organizational performance, the Exec Leadership team were definitely looking for options with an open mind & no holds approach. Given this, the objective set by team for qualifying options, were proven, established practices that not just measurably drive performance but also transform the company into a more agile organization of self-managed teams. (Self Managing Work Teams, Psychology Wiki)
OKR Case Study: The Solution
Given the objective, Objectives and Key Results framework (OKR) was qualified by the team as most suited with respect to objective set & organizational context – equally being aware of the disruption & change management it will entail, should OKR be finalized. What followed was thorough research with industry leaders in other domains (who had fared well with similar objectives & context). Definitely a Eureka moment for Exec Leadership team – OKRs seemed to be the war horses, most suited to tread across defined objectives – a transformation tool and a fresh operating system for an agile, collaborative, high impact setup.
Looking for end to end deployment & hand-holding support, the management team got connected to The Brew, on the transformational OKR journey, to kick off the first Objectives and Key Results cycle.
OKR Case Study: The Approach
Setting up the OKR Cycle (part of OKR Case Study approach)
T – 3 Weeks: With T as zero date, embarking the start of new OKR cycle (this OKR case study starts from OKR progress cycle, it does not contain earlier workshop mentions of on-boarding team with OKR methodology), 3 weeks prior to that, the Executive team works on guiding a set of top organizational priorities for next quarter. Post finalization, these are publicly shared with all employees of the organization. With this info, teams start discussing how they can contribute to organizational goals, setting up their priorities, & assigning owners, to drive it forward. Along with drawing alignment from teams, the idea is to have ownership accorded for every single important metric / key result.
T – 2 Weeks: With 2 weeks to go, this is an active collaboration time across – this requires all the OKR Owners, OKR Champions, the Executive team & key people to come on same page, to draft, improvise, validate & accept the OKR drafts. With improved visibility, scope & flow – the teams huddle to develop their pre-final OKRs. The key deliverable of this session is to limit the assignment of refined objectives to an employee to 1.
T – 1 Week: A week prior to Kickoff, the participants of earlier session reconvene – this time to semi-finalize the OKRs, presenting the entire picture to the team & the Leadership. Subject to group scrutiny & improvisation, the deliverable in this session is to arrive at a set of OKRs, which are validated & have buy-in from the respective owners & their teams.
T: Kickoff, when the OKRs cycle goes live & teams start focusing on work, as priorities set in OKRs. Between now & next milestone, on a weekly basis, the KR keep seeing regular updates from the owners (and/or their teams).
T + 4 Weeks: in this week, the Grading / Scoring & Reviews of entire monthly cycle happens. OKR progress and achievements of previous month are talked about by the respective owners / teams.
T + 5 Weeks: To improvise on the earlier iterative process, making it incrementally refined, the teams brainstorm on improving collaboration & the entire process. The focus is on gaps between OKR planning and achievement in order to develop the organizational performance.
T + 9 Weeks: With 3 weeks to go for the start of another cycle, along with re-visiting the OKRs, the focus is on integrating the learnings & improvisations (Start, Stop, Continue doing methodology) to refine the overall deployment.
Check-ins: Configuring meeting rhythms with OKRs (part of OKR Case Study approach)
Across the entire OKR cycle, every week, all OKR owners and the executive team would assess the KR progress, along with estimating the probability of achieving current OKRs. The weekly check-in meeting typically constitutes discussions about significant changes of confidence levels and progress. The idea is to ensure the confidence level updates are backed by required capabilities & capacities, required to fulfill the objectives.
Preparation for Check-ins: For Check-ins to be effective, it is crucial that OKR stakeholders update progress and confidence levels before the meeting. Thus, Check-ins are an important cue / early warning indicator to how the future can shape, if it is allowed to continue as status quo. Infact, this approach helps in resource allocation & capacity planning for dependencies on conflicting resources & bandwidth availability. The Check-in meetings, over multiple rhythms improving in efficiency, data quality, & accountability.
OKR Case Study: The Impact
The results & impact post deployment of several OKR cycles was in line with the overall objective set by Exec Leadership to begin with. Equally well validated with the following impact, OKR enabled the organization with a promising journey to go beyond the competitive matching, to taking it a level beyond & discovering their potential.
These were the impacts (few of them – this OKR case study is still work-in-progress as the said organization evolves further in it’s OKR journey) observed from OKR deployment:
- Improved & deliberated level of higher transparency crushed the silos, fostering the discussion and alignment of priorities across organization
- With goals being transparently developed and projected across, the allocation & cross utilization of resources is better planned & efficiently managed.
- This led to re-organization of organizational design & structure as well – with improved planning, the cross utilized resources were earmarked for cross-functional teams & could get started asap (earlier this was done in functional hierarchies, conflicting constraints & limited resources in hierarchies were breeding grounds for power plays & turf wars). However, with better management, the cross-functional teams could get started with their objectives with improved dialogue, as they were the owners. This was a major breakthrough – delineating the value creation structure (the OKR teams) & organizational hierarchies (the line management), re-organizing the org design & structure.
- Given all of this, the client was able to improve alignment, agility and focus, decreasing the average number of OKRs from 150 to less than 20 per cycle.
That’s all folks, this OKR case study is part of The Brew’s featured collective, OKR Success Stories, highlighting the OKR impact across all types of organizations – high growth startups, midsize to large scale enterprises. As this is a developing case, all data-points & key statistics presented in this OKR case study are presented with Client’s assent & approval.