Are you tired of setting goals and KPIs for your business and teams only to watch them fall by the wayside?
It’s a common frustration many business leaders find exhausting to keep their teams aligned and focused on the right objectives.
However, the OKR framework is a simple yet revolutionary goal-setting and strategy-execution solution that can transform how you set and achieve your business goals.
Let’s dive in and uncover the main facts about OKRs!
What are OKRs in business?
OKRs help in business define clear objectives and the key results they need to achieve to measure progress.
It’s a straightforward method that encourages focus, alignment, and accountability in working toward meaningful core business priorities and objectives.
Let’s illustrate this with a brief example of one objective and the key results.
Objective: Increase Customer Satisfaction
This is a simple, actionable, and inspirational objective that represents one of your current business priorities and also aligns with the company’s values.
Now, the key results are your stepping stones to achieve your objectives. Here is one of the Key Results of this objective.
Key Result: Achieve a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 75 or higher by the end of the quarter. (This quantifies customer satisfaction and sets a clear target score.)
KRs are time-bound, specific, measurable, and aspirational yet realistic.
Who invented the OKRs? How did they evolve?
Andy Grove, a Hungarian-American businessman and engineer, created OKRs, taking inspiration from the Management by Objectives (MBO) framework developed by Peter Drucker in the 1950s.
He created OKRs for his teams at Intel when he was serving as the third CEO of Intel. He simply explained the meaning of OKRs as follows: the objective is “what” you want to achieve for your business, and the key results are “how” you will attain that objective.
But as the OKR framework matured, more companies started using it, namely Google, Uber, Spotify, etc., and they moulded the framework to fit them in their organizations.
For example, Google introduced the OKR grading system for their teams.
OKRs vs. KPIs (Know the difference)
Almost every modern organisation is familiar with KPIs. They are simply the metrics that teams and individuals have to achieve to justify good business health.
If you are meeting your KPIs, it simply means that you are achieving those standalone metrics that are not usually related to each other and the top-level business goals.
When you use OKRs, you start to see the difference it brings in measuring goals and how they are set.
All of the team and individual OKRs are supposed to be contributing toward the key business goals.
You set the top business priorities as company objectives, cascaded down or aligned bottom-up or horizontally.
KPIs check your business health, while OKRs keep you focused on company milestones for success.
Overall, this makes the OKRs more purposeful, connected to the business goals, an enabler of innovation, and a method of transformation.
Why should a business adopt the OKRs?
These benefits of OKRs demonstrate how they can enhance a business’s strategic focus, culture, decision-making, problem-solving, innovation, and accountability.
1. Shifts the focus to top business priorities
OKRs ensure everyone’s on the same page. If the big goal is to expand market share, OKRs ensure every team’s efforts are geared towards that mission.
2. Supports a mission-driven culture
OKRs tie everyone’s work to a bigger purpose. If your company’s all about sustainability, setting OKRs to cut carbon emissions inspires employees to work toward that mission.
3. Helps in impactful decision-making
OKRs give a clear lens for decision-making. It’s like asking, “Does this decision help us reach our objectives?” If not, it might not be the right move.
4. Allows for early identification of progress roadblocks
With OKRs, you spot problems early. Falling short of your goal to gain new customers? OKRs show you well before the quarter ends so you can adjust the course.
5. Enables more innovation and excellent performance
OKRs spark creative thinking. Need better customer engagement? Teams can brainstorm new ideas, features, or strategies to make it happen.
6. More transparency and accountability for the teams
OKRs are like a team scoreboard. Everyone can see their common objectives’ progress, so if a team’s behind, it’s clear. This transparency pushes everyone to step up and deliver.
How can a business implement OKRs for the first time?
These are the main steps you can follow to create and implement OKRs for your company for the first time.
1. Understand the OKR framework and get the leadership buy-in
This involves understanding what Objectives and Key Results are and how they work. Once you’re comfortable with the framework, it’s essential to secure leadership support. Explain the benefits of OKRs and how they align with the company’s goals.
2. Start by deciding on key company objectives:
What are the 3-4 most critical goals for the company? These should be the guiding stars that inform every team and individual’s OKRs. For example, if your company aims to boost revenue, that might be a primary objective.
3. Create the team and individual OKRs
These OKRs should directly contribute to the overarching company goals. Each team and individual should set clear, measurable objectives and the key results that indicate success. For instance, a marketing team’s objective is to increase website traffic, and they outline key results like achieving a 20% increase in monthly visitors.
4. Follow the best OKR practices to create and implement OKRs
Adhering to best practices for creating and implementing OKRs ensures everyone works toward the company’s objectives.
What are some OKR best practices?
OKR best practices are not some rules written in the stones. These methods for the OKR framework will help your teams work in the right direction, i.e., towards set top-level objectives.
You have to see your organizational situation and find the best ways to follow the practices that help you achieve your KRs and, hence, the key objectives.
- Align your objectives with the company priorities, missions, and vision
- Differentiate between committed and aspirational OKRs
- Don’t create BAU (Business-as-usual) and invaluable OKRs
- Take the help of the external OKR experts in creating meaningful OKRs
- Create the right mix of top-bottom, bottom-up, and cross-functional OKRs depending on your organization
- Don’t create too many objectives (should be 3-5) and key results (3-5) to avoid ineffective execution
- Conduct regular OKR check-ins and let your team speak about their progress without any fear of being judgment
- Reflect on your OKRs at the end of each cycle
- Keep learning from your mistakes and refine writing your OKRs and their implementation
If you’re already using metrics to measure progress, OKRs take it to the next level. They bring alignment to your organization, ensuring that every team and every individual is marching to the same beat toward the top company priorities.
By embracing this goal-setting framework, you gain the flexibility and focus needed to adapt, recover, and thrive in times of crisis.
It demands change management and a commitment to following best practices. But the effort is well worth it. The discipline of OKRs empowers your teams, propels innovation, and fosters a sense of purpose.