One of the differentiators for high-performing organizations is their ability to set and achieve the most important things consistently. How does your company stack up? Twenty years ago, MBOs were the key - now it's OKRs. What are OKRs? Objectives, and Key Results. Sounds simple, but it typically takes at least a year or two for an organization to figure out how to leverage them. If you need to hit your OKRs for that next job, and become essential to your company, read on...
Visionary Leaders Start the OKR Wave.
For OKRs to be successful, there must be alignment to the big rocks of the organization. That means that the top leaders need to embrace both essential business OKRs, and visionary OKRs. The business ones are those required for business success or growth. The visionary ones help to exponentially add value or innovation, to help the organization spin ahead of competitors. Both are essential for rapid growth and success. Think of the visionary ones as big hairy audacious goals, or BHAGs. If you're an entrepreneur, I know that you're already dreaming of the potential. Successful start-ups can really leverage OKRs, to get the most benefit from few resources. It all begins with leaders deciding to commit to specific objectives set at the company level that serve as the north star for the company's direction, measured monthly, or at least quarterly against specific metric results. When the measures are well-selected, they become tools for work prioritization, alignment of resources, and more effective focused communication. A wave begins!
Engagement and Autonomy Make it Work.
When the top leaders identify the direction and the big rocks, every member of the organization must have ready access to progress reports, and consider how their work supports the big rocks. Horizontal and vertical alignment happen not by accident or mandate but by telling the story of why the big rock is so important, and keeping the focus on it relentlessly. When OKRs are set optimally, achievement requires a significant stretch. If the OKRs are easy, a realignment process happens at each review interval, to ensure that they are focused, challenging, and measuring the right elements. Leaders support achievement by frequent conversations, feedback and recognition along the way. Cross departmental communication and collaboration help make the work more rewarding while promoting creative solutions and greater autonomy. Imagine the sales team, marketing team, and design or engineering team all working on the same goal? Nailed it!
Line of Sight Keeps it Top of Mind.
When the OKRs are transparent from the top of the company to every team member, beautiful results happen. It takes a system to support realtime information sharing, whether for individual metric performance results, or for sharing the team's OKRs on a shared data platform. Success requires a tool that can manage data with open access and edits. That means that the CEO's goals should be out there with their status just as every team member's are. There also needs to be a way to evaluate progress toward the goals in metric terms, or in colors (red, yellow, green). Think of a watch or a thermometer. They give rapid progress feedback that we don't even have to think about. OKRs should be that simple to use, view, and manage. When the organization gets on the same page with OKRs, and checks in regularly on progress, amazing results are possible!
Ready to Get Started?
If you are ready to jump into OKRs, to unleash your best business performance, you need to consider a few foundation items:
- Have you identified your big rocks? Keep the list to three to five measures, in order to keep a clear focus on them. More is not better in OKRs - quality counts.
- Have you considered stretch goals? When you get started, begin with a few major stretch goals for leaders first.
- Can you commit to checking in regularly on these as a coach? If you lack the discipline to commit to checking in regularly (a software data tool is very helpful in this), then proceed with extreme caution. Execution is key to deployment and results.
- Can you inspire your team to get on board? The best approach is to excite and inspire your team, and create some healthy personal competition.
If you are motivated but unsure how to proceed most effectively, we can help you get started on the right foot, while maintaining credibility with your team. The process works extremely well, yet experience greatly benefits application and results. If the time is right, .
Source: Doerr, John. (2018). Measure what matters. New York: Portfolio/Penquin.
Dawn Garcia is Principal and Founder of Pursuit of Excellence LLC, an independent business management consulting firm specializing in service-based businesses; delivering leadership, strategy and execution expertise. Experience the Excellence Driven® System for your business, and achieve the results you need! Every business needs help at some point; great business leaders actually get help when needed, realizing greater returns. When you need help, consult the experts. Our success is your success!