How to successfully adopt OKRs
Adopting the OKR (objectives and key results) framework for your organization takes time, but when it’s done right, the benefits can be seen at every level of the company.
To successfully roll out an OKR program, there are crucial steps that need to be taken along the way. Here's some guidance on getting started.
Identify program roles
Program implementation starts with the executive team. You’ll need to make sure the founder/CEO and executive team are fully bought in to making OKR implementation a priority.
Who will be involved in the OKR program:
- Executive Sponsorship: A member of the executive leadership team who is passionate about OKRs and provides strong backing from the top.
- OKR Champion (could be a corporate strategy leader, head of human resources, chief of staff or even a team manager): Spearheads the adoption of the OKR framework within an organization, communicating its value and driving progress from the top.
- Team Leadership “Ambassadors”: These are the individuals leading teams -- from C-level executives and senior leadership to directors and department managers.
- Individual Team Members: Individual employees within a company.
Ownership of implementation and rollout of the program
Your OKR champion will own the success of your company’s OKR program and lead the rollout. The champion should be coordinating colleague training to make sure there is a deep understanding of the OKR methodology and best practices. The champion will also build advocacy and drive program participation at all levels of the organization. This role will support the execution of the OKR program while acting as a conduit with other team ambassadors.
Planning is key when it comes to operationalizing OKRs. Before rolling out OKRs, it’s important to have an OKR program champion and get executive level commitment. From there, the company needs to define the different levels of OKRs that will be rolled out, the planning cadence and lastly getting started with company-level OKRs.
Annual company-level OKRs should be connected to the organization’s mission, vision and values. Knowing where you are going and how you’re going to get there is the key to success for organizations, as well as individuals. Collaborate with team leaders and stakeholders for feedback on the annual OKRs, and then iterate, refine and finalize them.
Rolling out top-level OKRs
There are two ways you can roll out top-level OKRs. There’s the duality model, which focuses more on top-down, is more rigid, the key results of level above becomes the objective of the level below, and requires each layer of the organization to set their goals before the next layer can set theirs. The other way to roll out OKRs is the flexible OKR model. This model is a greater mix of top-down and bottom-up collaboration, a less rigid process of writing OKRs, and company level OKRs are shared, then teams and individuals are given the flexibility to define OKRs that will best align and accomplish the company’s goals.
How to cascade objectives to a team
This part of the process is driven by a top-down approach, but should also include collaboration and team direction.
When cascading company goals down to team goals, senior leadership will communicate company OKRs to managers. Managers will then define team OKRs in alignment with company OKRs and confirm those with senior leadership. OKR champions will also assist in communicating and coaching on the content and measurability of the OKRs.
How to cascade objectives to individuals
Creating individual OKRs should be a collaborative process that includes individual input. It starts with individuals digesting team OKRs and responding with their individual OKRs. Managers will then review and iterate OKRs with team members. OKRs are then reviewed and organized to ensure organizational alignment.
Check-ins and reviews
For planning cadence, define a rhythm that works well for your business and schedule meetings and reviews at the beginning of the year or quarter. Clearly communicate the planning cadence and set expectations.
It’s important to train internal teams on expectations, process and roles when it comes to rolling out OKRs. The goal with OKRs is not perfection, but a framework to keep everyone focused on the most important work that aligns with the company’s top goals. Along with regular check-ins, it’s important to also have weekly and monthly meetings to maintain focus and engagement.
Establish weekly or biweekly OKR check-ins and updates
Establish a short weekly or biweekly meeting to review and assess progress on OKRs with your team. This will drive a cultural routine and integrate OKRs into the daily workflow to ensure that instead of just being another task, OKRs are what drives the work being done. Regular check-ins are also an opportunity to be proactive and stay ahead of at-risk OKRs. Managers and employees can work together to remove blockers and enable success.
Establish effective monthly OKR reviews
Monthly OKR reviews are a bit more formal and may include stakeholders from leadership and/or other teams and departments. The focus of these meetings should be on reviewing behind or at-risk OKRs, with an emphasis on blockers and what actions can correct the course of the OKR. Schedule these meetings in advance to give employees proper notice to prepare. Before the meeting, OKRs should be updated with commentary and with everyone prepared to discuss the at-risk or behind OKRs.
End of quarter review
At the end of the quarter, it’s important to take the time to reflect on how individuals, teams and the company did at achieving their goals.
Some questions to ask :
- How well did we do at achieving our goals?
- Were our goals well-aligned?
- Did we capture all dependencies?
- Were there any mid-quarter changes we didn’t anticipate? If yes, why?
End of cycle review and scoring
At the end of an OKR cycle, assess your progress based on the goal and assign a score using a scale of 0.0 - 1.0. When scoring, take into consideration if the goal was aspirational or committed. Review and discuss wins, losses and lessons learned with your team and hold a quarter-end meeting to share scored OKRs, explaining the results and outlining adjustments for next quarter.
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