OKR Best Practices
OKRs are becoming the go-to goal-setting system for many modern companies. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of OKR best practices. Our objective is to introduce the methodology and help you understand how an OKR execution might work.
Best practices for implementing OKRs
In his book, “Measure What Matters,” John Doerr tells us that OKRs are a collaborative goal-setting protocol for companies, teams, and individuals; a management methodology to ensure everyone in the organization focuses their efforts on the same important issues.
As with any major corporate initiative, a well-defined plan is crucial
- First, secure executive endorsement and commitment
- Determine at what level you will introduce the program, executive-only, team-level, or company-level
- Finalize an implementation plan
OKRs should be translated from your mission, vision, and strategies. The development phase is the perfect time to reinforce these values. Based on your key strategic initiatives, create your first set of OKRs. Once OKRs are determined, they need to be communicated throughout the organization, and tracked effectively either in a spreadsheet or within a work management solution like Workfront Goals.
Bottom-up should be 70% of the process
Goals can be thoroughly cascaded, driven from the top, but with input from below. Giving your people the responsibility to come up with 70% of their OKRs ensures commitment and buy-in.
A recent survey of CEOs indicated that 40% considered connecting their workforce with the company’s strategic initiatives their number one priority. By connecting, we mean creating sets of OKRs throughout the company that align with your highest-level priorities. These OKRs detail the contributions required from teams and individuals throughout the enterprise.
OKRs define who’s doing what, allowing you to monitor progress without micromanaging.
Make both long-term goals and quarterly objectives visible. An enterprise work management platform provides visibility to everyone’s OKRs. In that way, everyone knows how his or her current priorities factor into the larger overarching goals of the organization, creating alignment and focus.
The number one must do is frequent check-ins. We strongly recommend you conduct regular check-ins with teams and contributors, assessing their progress throughout the quarter.
Scoring OKRs allows you to learn more about your business. Your objective is to learn from the KRs at the end of each quarter and to create better KRs for subsequent quarters during the next quarterly planning meeting.
OKR insights from Google
“In late 1999, John Doerr gave a presentation at Google that changed the company, because it created a simple tool that let the founders institutionalize their “think big” ethos.”
– Eric Schmidt, Google
Google has shown the world the power that can be honed through the use of OKRs. Now that OKRs have existed for over a decade, we find ourselves able to learn from our predecessors. Using these insights from Google, you can make more informed decisions about where you can go to strategize the process even more, optimizing alignment, engagement, and extraordinary results.
Here are the top 15 insights we collected from Google’s video:
- Companies should fight the urge to say: “Well that’s Google, we can never be like them.” As Klau put it, Google wasn’t Google until they began using OKRs–it was just a “young and ambitious” company. In other words, it could work for any company.
- The reason Google was so attracted to OKRs is because they provide data. The setting, tracking, and measuring of objectives and their corresponding key results provides concrete data, which can be used to benefit any organization.
- OKRs are connected across the individual, team, and company levels. Klau uses the example of a football team: the head coach, defensive coordinator, and individual player each has his own set of OKRs, but they are all connected to the overall goals of winning games and selling tickets.
- Objectives should be a bit uncomfortable. As Klau puts it, if you know you’re going to nail it, you’re not trying hard enough.
- All OKRs contribute to company-level goals, but each individual’s OKRs are not necessarily a company-wide priority. Back to the football analogy: although the defensive coordinator may not be concerned with getting a feature in the Sunday paper like the PR team is, each team and individual’s OKRs align back to the main priorities; playing well and driving attendance.
- OKRs inherently create discipline and transparency within an organization, because everyone can see what everyone else is working on.
- The writing and collaborating processes of developing OKRs often becomes a cyclical process – Klau uses the term “virtuous cycle.”
- Allowing individuals to be a part of the OKR writing process creates new discussions, and perhaps even provides new insights for upper-level management.
- More than half of objectives should come from the bottom up; in order for OKRs to be effective, they cannot all be dictated down from the top.
- It’s important to understand the difference between objectives and key results. Klau explains the two by using examples of actual OKRs that he composed in the past.
- In his examples of past OKRs, Klau refers to making a “measurable impact” with Blogger–but we wonder if that phrase could be better defined. A “measurable impact” to him might not be the same as to another person. This one wasn’t so concrete and failed to have a number.
- Low scores on OKRs should not be viewed as failures, because they still provide data and can act as a roadmap for subsequent quarter’s objectives.
- According to Klau, OKRs “don’t take a ton of time.” He further says that leaders can establish a rhythm very quickly when it comes to implementing and grading OKRs.
- Klau says you only need to have one or two one-on-one meetings per quarter. Because data and feedback are crucial, weekly one-on-ones may better facilitate the OKR process. Having regular check-ins could prevent the need for the lengthy quarterly meetings Klau kept referring to, as well as formal, antiquated performance reviews.
- In response to a question about when a management team should adopt OKRs – Klau answers, “as soon as possible.” He says even if you’re a team of five, the earlier you adopt OKRs, the easier it will be.