How to Align Organisations, Teams, and Individuals Around OKRs

If set properly, OKRs are more suitable to unite a company than other forms of goal setting. This is due to their focus on both qualitative and quantitative goals and a tight measurement approach. The inspiring Objective can boost engagement and deliver a sense of purpose, while KRs serve analytics and accountability. This makes OKRs a powerful communication framework.

They, however, only work as an effective alignment tool if they are being understood by everyone - departments, teams, individuals. If they are understood, they serve as a great tool to support groups to solve challenges and achieve results.

Why does this work?
Because OKRs provide an easily digestible direction such that every member in the organisation understands how they contribute to the mission; and because OKRs manage expectations amongst teams and their individual members resulting in clear accountability.

If all of this sounds impossible and overwhelming now, don’t worry. You’ll become better at setting OKRs with practice.

Staying on track with your OKRs

At the beginning of each week or biweekly, the team should meet to check in on progress against OKRs. This should aid decision making towards what projects and tasks to prioritise the coming days. OKRs give most clarity when broken down into weekly tasks. Weekly check-ins prevent the feeling of operating in a quarterly vacuum where results only matter in the end of the period, and makes feedback more relevant to achieving OKRs.

You can use a recurring check-in framework to ensure you track progress.

Here are some suggestions:

  • What is your intention for this week?
  • What are your top three priorities this week?
  • How do your tasks/priorities relate to the Objective?

This should enable you to discuss whether these priorities will get you closer to the OKRs or not.

You can follow a similar approach once a month. Based on a similar set of questions, reflect together with your team on the status towards OKRs.

  • How can you speed up the timeline?
  • What are you behind on?
  • Are there any blockers endangering your OKRs?

Make sure you have enough time for a discussion which could reveal valuable roadblocks.

Bonus Tip: Especially board members will likely only have time for monthly checkins on OKRs. Here it’s important to look at the organization as a whole. How is each department performing? Do people in Marketing know what Product is working on? How confident is everyone in reaching their OKRs? Are workflows optimised with OKRs in mind?

Finally, spend one hour at the end of every quarter reflecting on your OKRs, weather you’ve reached them or not. It’s important to take this time before you set OKRs for the next quarter. You want to talk about issues like these:

  • Did the priorities you set in your weekly/monthly meetings support you in reaching your OKRs?
  • Were you confident you’d reach OKRs throughout the entire process?
  • Was the workload ok?
  • What worked well and what didn’t?
  • What can you do to improve the organization’s overall performance on OKRs?

So how do you take it from here? And how do OKRs even affect your team?

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The role of team dynamics, feedback and skills management

OKRs will have great impact on your team dynamics. If you set them appropriately, they can make collaboration easier and more effective. However, it’s important to be mindful that setting challenging goals impacts different people differently. For some employees, OKRs may increase engagement due to their competitive spirit. Others might struggle to work with OKRs because they feel pressured. It’s important to tune in with your team to ensure you adjust team OKRs to individuals’ needs and that everyone understands why OKRs are important.

OKRs work well because they offer not just goal but also role clarity. This makes it easier to identify correlations between teams and departments i.e. marketing for a new product launch. Taking into account how certain Objectives are affected by cross-departmental collaboration, enables aligning workflows effectively. This ideally makes it possible for each department, team, and individual to achieve their OKRs while supporting others to do the same.

Feedback
A great way to tune in when working with OKRs is feedback. By inviting employees not just to feedback each other generally, but with OKRs in mind, feedback can become a powerful performance and communication tool.

Here are some ways to frame feedback around OKRs:

  • How has team member X been performing in relation to their individual OKRs?
  • How has he or she performed in relation to team and company OKRs?
  • Has team member X supported another team member in reaching their OKRs? If so, how?
  • Has something he or she did distracted from reaching OKRs? If so how could it have been avoided or dealt with differently?
  • What could we, as a team, do better to accomplish the goals?

By framing feedback around OKRs, blockers can be discovered and eliminated with intentional actions. Remember, OKRs give most clarity when broken down into weekly tasks; this also ensures that your team’s feedback is relevant.

Skills Management
One of the main things we believe in at Innential is giving regular feedback based on skills. Continuously developing skills to improve performance requires monitoring both hard and soft skills. Regular feedback, not only on OKR progress but on skills development and problem solving, can make personal development more meaningful and engaging. By providing employees with feedback on an on-going basis, an important learning loop is created. This learning loop is vital, not just when it comes to achieving results, but also to manage team dynamics and maintain a healthy, goal-oriented team climate.

Examples of OKRs for Product Teams

Last but not least, we want to showcase some brilliant examples of OKRs.

Example 1:
Objective: Successfully launch version 2 of our app
Key Results:
Get over 10000 new signups
Get published product reviews in over 15 publications
Achieve sign-up to trial ratio of over 70%
Achieve trial to paid ratio of over 50%

Example 2:
Objective: Activate user-testing of our product
Key Results:
Conduct at least 30 face to face user testing & interview sessions
Receive at least 15 video interviews from Usertesting.com
Observe 10 users testing product in person

Conclusion

OKRs, essentially, are tools for leaders to guide teams to increase performance, sustainably. If created appropriately, they can support communication, guide feedback, and increase understanding across departments. They influence team dynamics and can be a great tool to improve collaboration.

To recap, here are some OKR best practices to help you:
1. Aim for 100%, but it’s ok to reach less.
If your organisation achieves 100% of its OKRs, they are likely too easy. You might want to set more ambitious goals.
2. Make sure everyone is on board!
The commitment to OKRs needs to be company-wide - including the board, all departments, and individuals. The OKR process depends on everyone in an organization being on board.
3. Make the process manageable.
Don’t complicate OKRs with unnecessary meetings or documentation. The main reason why OKRs work well is that they bundle complex issues in a lightweight process. Companies that successfully use OKRs keep it simple.
4. Learning to work with OKRs takes time.
OKRs will likely not work out perfectly the first time. Give yourself and your organisation time to get comfortable with the process and make sure you learn from mistakes and what went well every quarter. Find a way to collect regular feedback on the process from all members of the organization to ensure you can learn, improve, and perform.

Good luck!