Introduction: What are OKRs?
Before we discuss OKR best practices, it’s useful to define OKRs and consider why they are beneficial.
OKR stands for objectives and key results.
Company OKRs are a form of goal-setting, which can help to track progress and outline and work towards clear strategic goals.
Good OKRs can transform the way businesses and their team members perform.
Leading companies across the world use OKR frameworks to enhance performance management through the alignment of team and company goals. Examples include Amazon, Google, Spotify and Microsoft (source).
OKR best practices
To maximise the impact of implementing OKRs, it’s beneficial to follow these good practice guidelines:
1. Prioritise clear, effective communication
Clear, effective communication is critical to encourage employees to buy into the OKR model and ensure that they understand how to use team and individual goals and how they align with company goals.
Good communicators will be able to explain how OKRs support and facilitate growth and personal and professional development and how employee and business goals are interlinked.
Team leads, executives and directors should be open and transparent about company objectives and discuss them with team members so that every individual is aware of the priority areas and the relationship between organisational and team objectives.
2. Establish timeframes
OKRs should have a timeframe to enable effective monitoring and make sure that goals are reached within a suitable period.
Depending on the individual company, this could cover monthly, quarterly or annual targets.
We typically recommend employing an OKR Cycle of 12 weeks.
3. Ensure alignment between company and team goals
The primary aim of OKRs is to align company and team goals.
Team objectives should be relevant to company objectives and vice-versa to ensure that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet and working towards collective goals.
4. Start small
When listing company objectives, it’s best to start small with a short list of key targets that are clearly defined.
This will enable you to prioritise and focus on the goals that are most relevant and important to your business.
If you outline too many objectives, this can cause confusion and detract from the most pressing goals.
5. Encourage employee involvement and engagement
Encouraging employees to get involved in setting OKRs and share ideas and suggestions promotes engagement and increases the chances of seamless alignment between business and team goals.
6. Set objectives that can be measured
It’s important to establish objectives that can be measured to track progress effectively and implement performance management.
Decide on key metrics and choose which techniques or methods to use to monitor results and outcomes.
7. Get together to discuss OKRs frequently
Communication plays an integral role in the success of OKRs.
The leadership team should encourage company-wide communication and schedule regular meetings and catch-ups.
Meetings are important for monitoring and evaluating progress, reviewing plans and creating new plans. Keep weekly check-ins short.
Up to 20 minutes should be sufficient to keep everyone in the loop, provide updates and set new plans for the week ahead.
8. Connect the objectives to the key results
Every objective you outline in your framework should be connected with key results.
If you set a goal, the next step is to determine and outline methods to achieve the goal and measure success.
If your goal is to generate a specific number of leads for a product, the key results should be focused on techniques to create those leads, for example, new marketing and advertising campaigns.
Using analytics and data, you can monitor lead generation continuously.
9. Ensure there is support for the OKR framework
Setting goals doesn’t guarantee success. To benefit from the OKR process and achieve objectives, there has to be support for the framework.
The leadership team should actively promote OKRs. It can also be beneficial to consider appointing an OKR champion or a number of champions in larger organisations.
This role involves overseeing the rollout of OKRs and ensuring everyone is using the framework effectively.
10. Reflect and act
Using OKRs can be an incredibly valuable means of tracking performance, gathering feedback and learning lessons.
Take the time to reflect on cycles. Build on successful elements and positive outcomes and address issues or shortfalls.
OKRs can transform the way companies work, but they are not a miracle cure.
To achieve success, it’s essential to follow best practice guidelines to ensure effective planning, implementation and analysis.
Establish a small number of clear objectives, ensure that company and team goals are aligned, communicate openly and encourage employee involvement.
Link objectives to key results, meet regularly, ensure that there is support for the OKR framework and learn from each cycle.
Creating OKRs can be a struggle for many teams, so have a read of our guide to writing effective OKRs.