Luis Goncalves
Last updated on | Strategic Alignment

Seven OKR Best Practices to Guide Your Team

by Luís Gonçalves
okr best practices

OKR (Objective and Key Result) is a promising framework for keeping your team aligned with the long term vision and mission of your company. If you’ve been planning to implement this for company but uncertain of the ways to fully maximise its implementation, below are some of the guidelines and best practices for adopting OKR.

Before writing anything for your company, you have to understand the nature of OKR. This framework has two essential characteristics. These are:

  • The Structure

There are two major questions that have to be answered when creating OKRs for your company:

  1. Where do we want to take our company (what are our goals?)
  2. How will we get there? (what are the steps we need to take? Must be measurable)

These two guiding questions must be used by your entire team in writing their OKR. From your key leadership teams down to the team members, answering these two questions creates a cascading interplay of objectives that keep the entire company aligned and aware of what the path the company is aiming for.

  • Philosophy

There are a few characteristics that set OKRs apart from other goal-setting strategies. First of all, OKRs consist of ambitious goals. Achieving all the goals set by your team or employee means that they are playing it safe or setting low goals. While goals are ambitious, OKRs are attainable. Second, key results should be measurable. They are tied to tangible milestones that are used to track the team or employee’s progress. Third, OKRs are geared towards transparency. Each person’s OKR is visible to other members of the organisation. Lastly, OKRs are also designed to improve performance, and not merely to evaluate the employee.

OKR was developed by Andy Grove of Intel and was passed down to John Doerr who introduced the idea to Google. Until today, OKRs are widely used by big and small companies in supporting the growth of their organisations.

How OKRs Benefit Your Team

OKRs benefit a company in plenty of ways.

  • It keeps your company aligned.

OKRs connect you, your team members and the rest of your workforce to the company objectives, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and moving in the same direction.

  • It helps you focus on what’s really important.

OKRs help you concentrate on measurable key actions, not just your everyday tasks. These are impactful steps that are critical to achieving your company objectives.

  • It drives transparency.

Instilling a transparent culture is essential to today’s modern companies. Through OKRs, employees know and understand what everybody else is doing and how each of their roles is making an impact on the company.

  • It EMPOWERS your people.

Along with transparency, OKRs instil accountability and a sense of responsibility. The increased visibility of everyone’s course of actions and objectives give them a sense that they need to make the best decision to create an impact on the company.

  • It measures progress.

A goal that is not measured remains a goal. Through OKRs, team members can accurately measure how everybody (from departments to teams and individuals) is  doing in terms of achieving their goals.

  • Higher goals mean more significant accomplishments.

OKR is a framework that challenges your employees to surpass their limits and set ambitious goals. This lead to groundbreaking accomplishments and remarkable results.

OKRs as Practised Today

Companies that use OKR have created a solid system of cascading OKRs from top to bottom. Basically, each key result cascades to the next level as an objective for that team or individual. For example, the key result of the VP Marketing office of getting 10,000 new customers by the end of the quarter will become the objective of the teams or individuals under it, such as the Product, Marketing & Engineering departments.

In some companies, OKRs are cascaded in a directional approach. Thus, the leadership group allows individual teams to contribute by asking them of their aspirational goals, along with their personal development goals that don’t strictly fall into the company’s objectives.

Writing OKRs: Best Practices

Below are the best practices many companies follow when writing OKRs.

For Objectives:

  • Each team, department or individual should have 3-5 objectives.
  • Objectives should be achieved in a certain timeframe (e.g. after one year or one quarter). It is not an ongoing task.
  • Objectives must be ambitious. In Google, a 70% success rate is considered a remarkable performance.

For Key Results:

  • There are 3 key results per objective.
  • Key results are measurable.
  • They are the steps needed to achieve an objective. Thus, achieving the key results means achieving your objectives.
  • They describe outcomes rather than activities.

Getting Started with OKRs

Implementing OKRs in your team is easy. The following process helps you transition from traditional goal-setting to OKRs in roughly six weeks before the start of another year or quarter.

  1. Identifying Your Team Objectives and Key Results

The first step in setting up an OKR is to identify three to five primary objectives of your team in the coming year or quarter. Basically, it should come from the high-level vision and mission of your company. Once you named your objectives, your team should identify the key results or the steps needed to accomplish these goals. For example, if one of your objectives is to increase your sales by 100%, a key result could be hiring 3 account executives.

  1. Deciding on How Your Team will Organise OKRs

Monitoring OKRs can be challenging. Established companies like Google make use of internal tools designed by their own data analysts and engineers, while others make use of standard methods like spreadsheets. Whatever tools you decide to use, your team has to identify a systematic process to roll out the OKRs to your team members. Otherwise, it can get very disorganised, and your employees or team members may not appreciate the value that comes out of it.

  1. Collaborating with Team Leads in Drafting Objectives

Once the primary OKRs of your company has been established, the next step is to gather all departmental heads and cascade the importance of OKRs, and how each of their own OKRs will benefit each department and the company as a whole. Set up a meeting with all heads or executives involved and together, create a process of rolling out OKRs.

  1. Cascading OKRs to the Rest of the Company

Once the leads of various teams or departments have been onboarded, it’s time to do the same to the team members. Team leads will take care of cascading the new process to their respective teams, and will see to it that everyone understands what has to be done.

  1. Writing Individual OKRs

After the meeting, the leads or managers talk to the team members to kick off the OKR writing process. In this process, the manager and the team member works hand in hand. During their initial check-in, the team member outlines what he or she wants to work on and compare it with what the manager expects of him or her. It is important, however, that the individual’s OKRs are aligned with the OKRs of the team and the company. At the end of the check-in, the immediate superior and the team member should achieve a compromise. The immediate superior should empower his members to make their own decisions and goals, but at the same time, ensure that these are aligned with the values and goals of the company.

  1. Calibration

After the first cycle of OKRs, it is crucial for your company to step back and take a look at how the individual OKRs may have changed any of the team or high-level company OKRs. If you feel good about your team’s OKRs and the results, it’s time that you present it before a company-wide meeting, collaborating with other teams heads to finalise the direction of your company for the next year or quarter.

  1. Monitoring of Individual OKRs

As each employee or team member has an OKR, the manager must check on their progress and see to it that the key results are being executed. OKRs are also a great way to measure team members’ performance and instil a sense of accountability among them.

With the steps and best practices above, you can easily adopt the OKR framework to your company. Some executives can implement this on their own and others would need some guidance. Feel free to reach out to us.

THE ULTIMATE OKR GUIDE

Do you want to know more about OKRs? We wrote a white paper that summarises everything that you need to know in order to start using OKRs in your company! Do not wait any longer and download your white paper now.

Download The White-Paper

If you liked this article, feel free to visit our OKR TrainingOKR Consulting

Luís Gonçalves

About Luís Gonçalves

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+LuisGonçalves1979

Luis Gonçalves is an Entrepreneur, Author & International Keynote Speaker. He works with Senior Executives to implement his ‘Organisational Mastery’ system so they can greatly increase the effectiveness and efficiency of their organisations; enabling them to become recognised and highly rewarded Leaders.

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