Atul Gawande in his book — The Checklist Manifesto, states the following:
the volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, or reliably. Knowledge has both saved us and burdened us.”The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande
What is the need for ‘Ultimate OKR Checklist’ ?? In response to increasing complexity & building up of OKRs, as an established, structured, replicable practice, leading to similar outcomes in like -to-like deployed organizational contexts, it is imperative to have defined, measurable path. Which builds on experiences and takes advantage of the collective wisdom, developed maturity of knowledge and which also makes up for our inevitable human inadequacies. Well, We need a checklist to be an OKR Champion, which is why, at The Brew, along with penning a compendium OKR Manual (Demystifying OKRs) we have developed, ‘The Ultimate OKR Checklist’.
Without any further ado, let’s walk-through this crisp and concise list of action items that will reduce your workload in OKR deployment exercise and enhance your organizational output.
The Ultimate OKR Checklist (Most comprehensive, yet concise critical key elements to OKR success)
The Ultimate OKR Checklist #1 – Mission, Vision, and Values: Defining the Organizational macros, specifically, vision and purpose (the ‘Why’) is critical. This will help getting all on the same page, validate where you want to go, equally important, how you want to go (business strategy & values).
The Ultimate OKR Checklist #2 – Define Organizational Objectives: Often described as BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals), these objectives should be lofty, and focus on how you want to take the organization forward over the next several years (ideally a 1 to 3 year horizon is good enough, for high growth startups, especially in technology domain, we recommend setting a 1 year horizon)
The Ultimate OKR Checklist #3 – Decide Planning Cadence: Cadence is the frequency at which pre-defined OKRs will get graded & new ones will get created. The best practice is to start with defining annual objectives, breaking it into finer quarterly ones. With quite a many progressive organizations, we have seen the cadence to 3 years & above – we recommend maxing it at 3, anything beyond that, mostly will only serve as a great wall object.
The Ultimate OKR Checklist #4 – Establish mid-term goals & time periods: Post finalizing on planning cadence cycles, it’s important to establish which time periods or “OKR Cycles” will be included in the planning process. These mid-term goals will serve as a link between the organization’s mission, organizational OKRs and employees’ OKRs.
The Ultimate OKR Checklist #5 – Set the Rhythm: Creating the right rhythm is the key, as it serves to guide how frequently and thoroughly OKRs are reviewed and updated. Rhythms can span anywhere from daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly captures informing all the employees, teams & entire organization of the overall progress. With high growth organizations, we recommend having a Weekly rhythm, as things move at higher speeds in these environments – setting the rhythm beyond fortnight, is something that we normally discourage, as momentum of collective accomplishment with the team diminishes.
The Ultimate OKR Checklist #6 – Perfect the Planning Process: During the planning process, an organization’s objectives are drafted, shared and reviewed with leadership. Once high level OKRs are created, they are then distributed and cascaded across functions, teams and across. Post cascades, respective managers/leads/supervisors work with their department to identify team specific and individual-based objectives that will contribute and drive broader outcomes.
The Ultimate OKR Checklist #7 – Review OKRs in Planning Process: Once teams and individuals draft their objectives and key results, they need to be reviewed with broader teams. The goal here is to include cross-functional teams with a MECE approach (Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive), to drive transparency, alignment, and collaboration.
The Ultimate OKR Checklist #8 – Establish weekly/fortnightly Check-ins & Meetings: Building a habitual rhythm (& cadence) of weekly check-ins & meetings will ensure reinforcement of focus and deliberated purpose, being integrated into day-to-day process of all the employees. Weekly meetings serve as a reflection past week’s progress, and acts as a guide to determine priorities for the upcoming week.
The Ultimate OKR Checklist #9 – Schedule monthly OKR reviews: Unlike weekly meetings, monthly OKR reviews should be used as a platform to dive deeper into performance and progress of each OKR. The key take-away here is Organizations move in the direction in which they chose to focus on – if it chooses to stay fixated on OKR misses / gaps, then it will keep moving backwards, however, if it chooses to focus on root causes & non repeats of causes, then it will keep moving forward.
Thus Monthly reviews gives teams the opportunity to assess how the OKR is pacing against set targets, and what they can improve upon in the weeks and ahead. Use the CFR toolkit wisely, balancing it between weekly/fortnightly meetings & monthly reviews.
The Ultimate OKR Checklist #10 – End of cycle OKR reflection and scoring/grading: The end of cycle review and scoring of OKRs is the final scoring or grading of how well an objective was accomplished. It typically consists of 3 parts – Objective Grading of Key Results, Subjective Self Assessment, & Reflections. If the KRs are Committed Key Results, then a full 100% completion is required to qualify the objectives as accomplished, however, if the KRs are Aspiration / Stretch, then usually, the sweet spot is usually at 70%.
The simplest, & cleanest way to score key results is by averaging the percentage completion rates, it saves the complexity of weighted averages which can be gamed by users in getting to grades.
The Ultimate OKR Checklist #11 – Prepare for next quarter, and rollover any unfinished OKRs: This step looks back to step 7 – Review OKRs in planning process – Basically, one begins working with teams to identify priorities for the upcoming cycle. Post ascertainment of top-level priorities, one moves into OKR drafting process, as described above from Step 7 onwards.
Also note, there will be objectives that do not get completed or do not get traction. For such cases, if the objective is still a priority, it makes sense to roll it over into the upcoming cycle, as opposed to abandoning it.