Why OKRs are important for leadership

The leadership team plays a critical role in building and sustaining a successful OKR program for their organization. Why lead with objectives and key results? The goal management methodology, used by companies such as Google, Microsoft and Twitter, is closely tied to an organization’s mission, vision and values. It’s a process to select the best course of action to support business goals and incorporates top-to-bottom company involvement and commitment. 

OKRs involve all employees, improve communication, and give the entire organization clarity on measurable goals. OKRs also require organizational commitment, keeping everyone accountable. 

It starts at the top 

Leadership’s role is to produce executive sponsorship so OKRs can be integrated into the DNA of the organization. Executive-level buy-in is crucial for a successful program. Leadership will also support your organization's OKR champion (this could be the chief of staff or even a team manager). Executive sponsorship ensures there is accountability in regard to engagement and participation, setting the tone for the entire company. 

Connecting OKRs to your 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. 

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.

When you add mission, vision and values together, what you end up 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. 

Senior leadership needs to spend time on these three things to establish a culture that is sustainable and scalable over time.

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.

How to avoid OKR failure 

Businesses can fail before they even get started with their OKR program. Make sure your organization is not creating goals in a vacuum, and that they are a well-defined, cohesive plan that unifies the business and drives organizational outcomes. The OKR process can also be held back by a lack of expertise or executive support. Make sure your organization has the tools and knowledge you need before rolling out a program. 

Top 6 reasons objectives aren’t achieved

  1. Doesn’t support the company’s main business purpose
  2. Lacks continuous action that leads to “dead” objectives
  3. Limited commitment due to unclear objectives or the belief that someone else should do it
  4. Loss of focus due to no formalized ongoing check-in cadence
  5. Objective setting process is mostly “top-down” with limited staff involvement
  6. Task-driven “laundry list of to-dos”

Learn more on red flags to watch for when rolling out an OKR program here

Planning for success

Reaching a mature OKR program takes time, commitment and iteration. Keep in mind that every company’s journey will look different. To start, look at ways you can bring OKRs into the daily workflow and plan for a phased approach of upward progression. 

Read our OKR Maturity Model white paper here for more on program maturity. 

We can’t say it enough, an OKR program won’t be successful without commitment from the top. Take the time to make sure business leaders fully understand the OKR framework and are committed to the ongoing work involved for the success of a program. And if you want to learn more about successfully adopting OKRs, check out our blog here.

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