3 Critical Factors for Success with OKRs

June 07, 2015 No Comment
An increasing number of growing companies worldwide are implementing OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) and goal-management in their organizations. The promise of OKRs to always keep people aligned on key priorities, to instantly know the progress of any individual and team goals and the creation of company-wide transparency is powerful. Its proving to be particularly attractive to growth leaders who want to sustain their high-performance cultures as they scale up beyond the initial team that could easily talk to each other across a few cubes.

With our experience helping dozens of U.S. and international customers succeed with OKRs, we often get asked about the most important factors that make OKRs successful in companies. We have seen OKRs work very well in many work cultures and learnt from several where they have failed to sustain themselves.

Here’s what I have observed as the most common best practices to make your team or organization successful with goals and OKRs.

* The most important step to successful adoption of OKRs is a periodic goal-setting process. It may sound surprising but most leaders in most companies have not clearly written down their 3-5 most important quarterly objectives . This typically requires providing leaders and managers some education on good goal-setting and providing guidance on how frequently goals should be reviewed and re-set (quarterly is most common). This is where access to online resources, some consulting, internal champions and vendor customer success people can play an important upfront role, before implementing OKRs.

* Once goals are set, their progress/update must be reviewed as the first item on the agenda of any regular team or individual meetings (weekly or bi-weekly). This frequent progress review make goals a part of ongoing work culture and overtime embed them in the company’s DNA. If the employees view goals as a separate parallel process similar to the annual performance reviews, they will eventually fail. (This is the area where OKR software can be most helpful with visual dashboards, tweet-like updates etc. that make it easy to review progress without turning it into a HR process).

* A couple of senior OKR champion(s) in the organization are critical. It is particularly valuable if one of the core champions is the CEO, particularly in the beginning. A champion must be from the executive leadership team, if its not the CEO. In the most successful implementations we see, the champion initially adopted OKRs in their own team plus 1-2 others, ensured that they understood the specific barriers to adoption in their culture and then expanded them to the entire company. Champions then have good awareness of where most help will be needed for long-term success and can anticipate areas of resistance.

If you are considering using OKRs in your organization, these tips will help you get started right. After sign up, we offer our customers an optional 30-minute consulting session to assist with goal-setting examples and best practices to make their implementations as successful as possible. Customers later tell us its the most useful thing they did before getting started.

We always love to hear from your experiences with OKRs. Let us know what has worked well for you by commenting here or by emailing me directly at [email protected]

– Fawad Zakariya, Co-Founder & CEO