How to connect your business mission to long-term outcomes using OKRs

In the first webinar of our three-part OKR Maturity Model series, OKR experts and Intel alumni Howard Jacob and James Cape, along with Ally.io’s Product Marketing Director Jes Baum, discussed creating the right company culture through mission, vision and values. Here’s some insight into what they had to say. 

How to connect the business mission to long-term outcomes, purpose, culture and direction:

Knowing where you are going and how you’re going to get there is the key to success for organizations, as well as individuals. 

Your organization’s mission is your reason for being. It’s what the company does, who benefits and how they benefit. The mission maintains a focus on day-to-day activities and motivates and inspires the organization. 

The vision is an audacious dream of a future reality based on the success of the work you do. 

Lastly, values create a sense of purpose around mission and vision. They are the shared beliefs that define how your organization conducts business. They also inform both business strategy and execution initiatives. 

James said that one thing he walked away with during his time as a consultant is that really good organizations spend the time to go through the difficult process of vetting what their mission, vision and values are, regardless of where they start. 

When you add mission, vision and values together, what you end with is a culture. The culture of an organization is critical for keeping people and resources aligned on the priorities of the organization as it moves forward in time. Without it, the priorities tend to wander. 

The organization or senior leadership needs to spend time on these three things to establish a culture that is sustainable and scalable over time.

Mission, vision and values examples: 

Great brands and companies value spending the time on mission, vision and values, and recognize the worth it brings to the company. Having a strong culture based on this also allows for a natural progression to the creation of robust OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). 



Why OKRs are a great vehicle for coordinating activities and achieving maximum impact: 

All companies in some way or another have to manage activity, work, goals, and tasks. There is always too much work to do, and never enough bodies to do it. OKRs allow an organization to align and prioritize the work that needs to be accomplished, and allocate the right level of resources to get the job done. 

To clarify, an OKR is not a task. Tasks are things you have to get done, while Objectives are something that are very specific, time bound and attainable. The Key Results are put in place to measure progress against achieving those Objectives.

OKRs are truly a framework to help organizations create a cadence that gets work done in a way that is more effective.  

It’s an excellent tool to help separate out the important things from the urgent things. While something might be urgent, it might not be as important. 

Flexibility and direction: 

Objectives and Key Results provide a framework for flexibility within the context of what you identified at the beginning of the quarter or year as the most significant goals you need to achieve. 

They allow for everyone in the organization to be able to see what other teams are working on, and how individual Objectives and team Objectives align with the broader organization’s Objectives. Teams are then able to collaborate to make sure everyone is working toward the goals that matter most. 

Once COVID-19 hit, suddenly the goals we thought we were going to achieve at the beginning of the year might not work out exactly as we had planned. OKRs provide a framework for what we need to accomplish, and if we need to change these strategies on a tactical basis. They enable us to address external events and adapt, while still moving our vision and mission forward. 

This helps you figure out where you are going, making a conscious decision to change direction, and at some point when you address those short term needs, you can return to what presumably is still a valid strategic focus, or you can refine it further. 

As you set Objectives and Key Results, one of the tests to determine whether you’re going to be successful or not is by looking at the Key Results and asking, “is every one of those Key Results necessary to achieve the Objective?” You can refine that list to sharpen the focus of the organization if you have a Key Result that’s not really necessary. 

On the other hand, we also need to ask, “if we achieve all these Key Results, do we achieve the Objective? Or is there something else involved we need to do to achieve the Objective?”

Objectives start at the top, then cascade down across teams:

Go here to register for the rest of the webinar series, and you'll receive the first one on-demand.

Creating an organizational foundation for OKR success: 

  • Achieve strategic and tactical alignment
  • Enable transparency
  • Feed collaboration
  • Drive focus
  • Create accountability
  • Bidirectional goal-development
  • Agility

The key to keeping everyone marching lockstep is cross-organizational transparency. 

Howard said when he and James were at Intel, they were doing their OKRs on Word documents, while engineering probably did them on spreadsheets. He said they would hand off the documents with the goal to make sure everyone in the organization was informed and operating in lockstep.  

Transparency and feeding collaborations are necessary to achieve the overall objective and drive focus. And with SaaS tools like Ally, there’s an easy way to do that all in one place.

Agility: 

To be successful, your business has to be agile. Agility doesn’t replace quality or excellence, smart marketing or development, but being able to do all of that in an agile environment is what is really necessary for success today. 

And OKRs are an agile tool. They give teams the opportunity to work nimbly and adjust. They drive purpose for individuals and teams, as well as the entire organization.

What's next: 

Our next two webinars will focus on breaking down the OKR Maturity Model and supporting an upward OKR journey.


You'll receive our first webinar on-demand and the OKR Maturity Model white paper, in addition to our next two webinars, when you register here.