Beginner's guide to OKR: Everything you need to know

10x your organization's growth like Google with the right OKRs. This guide covers the best practices of setting, implementing and reviewing OKRs as well as general FAQs

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Larry Page, the former CEO of Alphabet  and co-founder of Google, publicly claimed in John Doerr’s book “Measure What Matters” that — 

OKRs have helped lead us to 10x growth, many times over. They’ve helped make our crazily bold mission of 'organizing the world’s information' perhaps even achievable. They've kept me and the rest of the company on time and on track when it mattered the most.

To learn how to use OKRs for 10x growth in your company too, keep reading!

What is an OKR?

OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results (OKR), a popular leadership tool for setting, distributing, and monitoring short and long term goals and results that align organizational purpose with individual targets across all levels. OKRs are frequently set, regularly tracked, and modified periodically. There are several aspects of OKRs that organizations need to understand to facilitate impact. This guide will help you navigate through several resources on the entire OKR lifecycle. 

Components of OKRs

Before we move on to the different considerations of OKRs, let’s quickly understand the 3 key components of any OKR which you must refer to when writing OKRs for your organization. John Doerr, one of the most prominent venture capitalists, who introduced Google to OKRs, uses a simple formula for setting Objectives and Key Results— 

okr framework

Typically, an OKR framework must have 3 parts to be effective — an objective, 3-4 key results, and key initiatives (optional).

1. Objectives (where do I want to go?)

The objectives constitute the qualitative goals to be achieved on organizational, team, and/or individual levels. Objectives must be aspirational, time-bound, easily understood, actionable, and qualitative.

2. Key Results (how to ensure I am getting there?)

Each key objective must be complemented with 3-4 clearly defined measurable results that are aspirational but achievable and quantifiable. Key results determine whether an objective has been achieved or not. Key results can be characterized by their levels of difficulty, thus acting as a milestone.

For example, 

Key result 1: Quantifiable target that can be achieved with 90% certainty.

Key result 2: Quantifiable target that can be achieved with 50% certainty.

Key result 3: Quantifiable target that can be achieved with 25% certainty.

Former Yahoo CEO Merissa Mayer defines key results by their quantifiability —  “It’s not a Key Result unless it has a number.”

3. Initiatives (how to get there?)

The third component is the initiative or projects which constitutes a series of tasks or actions that you need to undertake to reach where you want to go. This clearly illustrates the how to compliment your why of objectives.

Setting OKRs and OKR implementation

Now that you understand the importance of OKRs for your organization, it is time to explore how you can leverage them for growth. You need to adopt a robust process for setting OKRs as well as for smooth OKR implementation. Your plan or process should focus on:

  • Accountability, where you have one person responsible for implementing and managing OKRs — known as OKR Master or OKR Champion or OKR Ambassador
  • Revision, with a system (preferably a software or tool) in place that helps you shift your OKRs as and when needed, generally mid-quarter
  • Cadence, where company-wide goals usually take an annual approach, while team / departmental goals require quarterly cadence to remain effective in an agile environment.

How to create a Robust OKR Process: Read this article, for a detailed understanding on OKR cycle, which includes tips on:

1. Setting OKRs effectively

To illustrate top goals and priorities, based on collective brainstorming which are ambitious yet achievable, measurable and validate them too. 

OKR Setting Template: Refer to this template for setting OKRs effectively.

2. Communicating OKRs across the Organization

Explicitly communicate/ roll out your OKRs and initiatives to highlight the responsibility of each team member and build organization-wide visibility using the right platforms. 

3. OKR implementation to drive alignment

Start OKR implementation and the onboarding process with an OKR training module and make it easy to access OKRs, giving your employees real time visibility.

OKR Implementation Template: Use this template for more understanding

4. Robust Check-ins for OKR Tracking

Ensure regular check-ins for tracking OKRs by setting a regular cadence, focusing on achievement, blockers/enablers, using automated OKR progress reports, AI recommendations, etc. 

OKR Tracking Template: Use this template for tracking OKRs with efficacy.

Run Successful Weekly OKR Check-ins and Quarterly OKR check-ins: Check out these actionable Playbooks to improve your check-in process immediately

5. Grading OKRs for Success

Set regular review cycles with clear data points to facilitate retrospective OKR analysis and decide which OKRs need to be continued for the next OKR cycle and create new ones.

OKR Grading Template: Use this grading template for grading OKRs for your organization.

Types of OKRs

Prior to moving to the next section on OKR review, here is a quick snapshot of how you can set different levels of OKRs:

1. Company OKRs

Define the company-wide vision and break company strategy down to company OKRs i.e. 3-4 specific targets your company must achieve within the next year.

Include representatives from all levels while setting company OKRs to help the management understand what resources and support their employees need to achieve those OKRs on time. 

2. Team OKRs

Team OKRs are set quarterly by team managers with direct inputs from team members and other teams’ leaders. Not every company-wide OKR needs to be reflected in every team’s OKRs. 

Team OKRs should help all employees stay focused on their goals despite the distraction of urgent, impromptu work needs. 

Strategic Goal Alignment: How to Align Teams Using OKRs: Check out this article for to understand how to facilitate team OKR alignment.  

3. Individual OKRs

Individual OKRs are usually the initiatives that each individual team member must complete Weekly. Individual OKRs are only for high priority tasks and should not exceed 3, and must not become another checklists

OKR review

Simply setting and implementing OKRs is not enough, you need to constantly ensure OKR review to track your progress against each objective and key result and eventually, identify enablers and blockers to accelerate progress. 

How to Run a Successful OKR Progress Review: Read this article to identify all the necessary steps and best practices for OKR review. It includes:

- Three cycles, of OKRs i.e. 

  1. Weekly to maintain continuity and encourage real time updates
  2. Quarterly to get a more expansive view on performance progress 
  3. Annually to facilitate OKR grading and setting new OKRs

- Insights on how to prepare for different OKR review cycle for before, during and after the meeting

- Top 15 questions to ask during OKR review meetings

OKR examples

To help you get a practical understanding of what OKRs look like, we have compiled a few OKR examples. Since different teams have different OKRs, this quick snapshot captures broad guidelines for several business verticals, which can be refined for others as well.

okr examples

Sales OKR Example: How to Write OKRs for Sales Team: This article will help you set specific OKRs for the sales team by focusing on:

  • How to write OKRs for sales team, with 6 steps
  • Top sales OKR examples for different stages of the sales cycle including lead generation, nurturing, closure and post sales

OKR software

Getting started with OKRs on your own can be daunting at first. With multiple priorities around you, it is best to partner with some OKR software which can help you automate processes, build organization-wide OKR visibility, drive accountability, track real-time progress and much more. However, you are bound to have several apprehensions about OKR software if you are just starting. 

To start with, you need to create buy-in for OKR software. This involves creating a business case. 

Should Your Business Invest in OKR Software? See the ROI: This article details the business impact of OKR software by helping you understand the potential return on investment. Explore the article to understand:

  • The ROI of Goal Management using OKRs (real statistics of org-wide improvement)
  • How an OKR software makes a difference
  • How you can calculate the ROI of an OKR software

It will help you gauge the qualitative and quantitative aspects of your return on investment and enable you to take your first step towards partnering with an OKR software.

Once you have secured leadership buy-in, the next is following a process driven approach to choose the right OKR software. You need to make sure that the OKR software you choose is a perfect fit for not only your current needs, but can also help you in the future. 

OKR Software: A Guide To Choosing The Best One: This article can help you make an informed choice. Explore its different sections to understand:

  • The 8 critical steps for making an informed choice like clarity of goals, team size, integrations, required features, budget, etc.
  • The 4 questions that you must ask for each OKR software you take into consideration, especially around scale, OKR tracking etc.  

Now that you have a broad understanding of what are the factors you should keep in mind while choosing your OKR software, you need to start exploring the market for the options available. 

11 Best OKR Software You Need to Know About (2022 Edition): This is a curated list to help you get a detailed analysis of some of the best OKR software available for you and give you a view of what features you should not miss. Check out this article to:

  • Understand which are the top OKR software available and key information about them including which team size they are ideal for, key features, pros and cons, whether or not they offer a free trial and pricing
  • Navigate through a list of OKR software curated especially from a startup lens enlisting OKR software which are most ideal choices for rapidly growing organizations
  • Explore the key considerations you must keep in mind when comparing between different alternatives

OKR best practices

To aid you in effectively using OKRs, we have curates a list of OKR best practices that you should always keep in mind:

1. OKRs should be agile

The purpose of agile OKRs is to enable team members to work on projects that make the most impact to the business in that week and pivot at a moment’s notice without additional loss of resources. Thus, giving organizations the opportunity to quickly respond to internal and external changes and adapt their processes faster. 

Intel contributes their microprocessor win against Motorola to the OKR based model of strategy execution

OKRs and Agility: Check out this article to understand how OKRs facilitate business agility by ensuring that goals are set periodically and not annually, with a focus on real time grading and feedback which makes rearranging priorities more accessible during uncertainty and ambiguity.

2. OKRs should be simple

OKRs should be simple, not easy. They should be a stretch to an individual or a team’s ability, but they should not be too complicated to understand and should focus on simplifying organizational visions into understandable action steps. 

3. OKRs should be transparent and collaborative

OKRs are for creating alignment on an organization level. For most companies, everyone’s OKRs are accessible to everyone else’s. Thus, making the achievement of goals a clear, transparent, collaborative process. 

4. Nested cadence

The OKR framework is so compelling to organizations because it carefully combines all levels of business needs. It addresses long-term top level strategic business goals with short-term quarterly team / departmental goals. Thus, OKRs ensure that at any point in time, all organizational effort and resources are aligned toward a specific vision.

5. OKRs are bi-directional

It requires top-down and bottom-up collaboration across leadership, managers and team members. Thus, the OKR framework also utilizes 360 degree feedback. Typically, around 60% of OKRs are set in unison with managers in a bottom-up approach.

6. OKRs are aspirational

OKRs are designed to stretch individual abilities to an extent where higher than expected performance is the norm while keeping in mind that overly aggressive goals might lead to frustration and fear of failure.

“If you’re achieving all your goals, you’re not setting them aggressively enough.”- Eric Schmidt

7. OKRs should only be reserved for high value goals

Every OKR should directly add value to business results. Choose OKRs that provide real tangible value to the business. If a team can achieve 100% of their assigned OKRs without using the entire team’s bandwidth fully, make sure to raise the bar.

8. Separate OKRs from compensation

As OKRs are aspirational, it is important to use OKRs as a management tool and not as an employee evaluation tool. Instead of financial rewards driving performance, let the aspiration and autonomy behind OKRs drive intrinsic motivation that pushes employees to take risks and reach for high performance.

Bonus Tip: How to avoid OKR mistakes

15 Common OKR Mistakes & How to Fix Them: Check out this article to understand which OKR mistakes you are vulnerable to and how you can anticipate or fix them to ensure maximum impact for your organization. You can leverage the quick hacks to ensure that you avoid the common pitfalls seamless in your OKR journey. 

Benefits of OKRs

The benefits of setting clear, specific OKRs is manifold. Right OKRs can supercharge the performance of an organization within a short period of time by optimizing operational inputs. Here are some of the time-tested benefits of OKRs —

“By clearing the line of sight to everyone’s objectives, OKRs expose redundant efforts and save time and money.”

1. OKRs create accountability

OKRs are always verifiable. It is a transparent way of announcing what everyone in a department or organization is working on, thereby creating accountability. 

2. OKRs help overcome communication barriers

OKRs aid in clear communication by letting employees know what is expected of them in a given period of time, while also communicating what’s not important. 

3. OKRs align goals with purpose 

OKRs connect individual efforts with departmental and team goals which is further connected to organizational vision by another set of OKRs. 

4. OKRs accelerate growth 

When employees have clarity about their roles, assignment, and purpose, and are willing to take risks, set audacious goals, and perform at a higher level, the business thrives.

5. OKRs influence culture

OKRs transform output-based culture into outcome-based culture, leading to a culture of accountability, focus, and continuous feedback and builds a highly engaged workforce.

OKR email course

With SuperBeings, 10 days are all you need to get started with your OKR journey and master it too. This 10 day OKR email course will ensure that you receive one email every day on different aspects of OKRs. This is your direct access to highly curated and exclusive resources to set, align and achieve OKRs like never before. It will help you streamline your efforts in a process driven manner, enabling you to take one step at a time and ensuring that you set OKRs for success. Moreover, it’s completely free! 🙂

OKR advanced guide (PDF)

Once you have a basic understanding of how OKRs work and get started with them in your organization, you may want to take the next step and deepen your OKR strategy. That’s when you will need an Advanced Guide to OKRs

The OKR advanced guide talks about diverse themes focusing on setting OKRs for success, discusses the nuances of implementing them effectively, grading them strategically and how it influences your performance management process and culture.

“Healthy culture and structured goal setting are interdependent.”

How to use OKRs for impactful culture

OKRs have an impact on organizations beyond the bottom line and achievement of business objectives, they directly help create a thriving and impactful culture. Explore this article to understand how you can use OKRs to create an impactful culture. This article will help you uncover the various facets of this topic, including:

  • How OKRs lead to a spirit of collective goal setting and brainstorming
  • The impact of OKRs in facilitating transparency by making goals clear along with assigning accountability for each OKR
  • How OKRs help create a culture of check-ins and processes with their cadence driven approach 
  • The way OKRs help create a purpose driven organization by helping employee align their goals with company goals 
  • How OKRs result in a culture of autonomy which gives employees the freedom to take risks, and aspire high, without apprehensions

Why do you need an OKR master

Like any other department or priority in the organization, you need someone who can take charge of the entire OKR movement. Our article illustrates why you need an OKR master to truly unlock the potential of this goal setting framework. It talks about how without an OKR master, you will find it challenging to bring all your OKR efforts together and follow through with diverse stakeholders in the organization. An OKR master will help:

  • Introduce OKRs to your organization and help everyone understand the need to adopt them
  • Managers and team members use OKRs in an effective and efficient manner and prevent them from setting OKRs which are too many, too difficult or too easy
  • Attain accountability and ensure that everyone responsible for OKRs is tracked in real time to monitor progress and provide support
  • Employees deal with blockers and enablers and guide them in their OKR journey in case they are stuck/ need additional resources
  • Facilitate regular OKR training to keep your employees up the curve and finally, ensure that your OKRs are being completed and not being left hanging in the middle

Flexible, simple, all-in-one OKR tool 

SuperBeings OKR tool is all you need if you are getting started or are in the process of accelerating your OKR journey. With this tool, growing organizations like yours can build greater visibility into OKRs across the organization as well as enable real time insights into OKR progress to resolve issues. 

SuperBeings helps you automate reports, check-ins so you can spend your time achieving results. That’s not all, your managers can receive OKR coaching to implement right OKRs and sync OKRs with 1:1s. Check out SuperBeings OKR tool to align individual performance with business goals.

Want to see in action what you read? Book a free demo with one of our OKR experts today. No credit card required.

Goal Setting and OKR FAQs 

#1 Are OKRs the same as KPIs?

Often, organizations starting their OKR journey get confused between OKRs and KPIs. While used interchangeably by some, it is important to understand that there are critical differences between them, and they often work together rather than replacing each other. On the face of it, OKR is more of a goal-setting framework which helps organizations determine what needs to be done and how, while KPIs are focused on performance evaluation while everyone strives to achieve those goals. Also, KPIs are sustainable over time and don’t change on a regular basis, whereas OKRs often have a short life and keep transforming regularly. 

OKR vs KPI: The Difference and How They Can Work Together: Check out this quick read to understand the key differences between the two and how you can use them together for better results.

#2 What is the difference between SMART goals and OKRs?

SMART goals are defined as Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals. 

First, The primary difference between SMART goals and OKRs is that the principles of SMART goals only allow to craft the chief objective. They provide the answer to “what should we aim for?”. Whereas, OKRs, on the other hand, give clear and specific directions on where and how to allocate resources to make sure the primary objective gets done on time. OKRs provide the answer to “what should we aim for and how do we get there?”.

Secondly, SMART goals are best for setting individual or the primary organizational goal. While working on day-to-day tasks, employees often lose sight of the bigger picture to understand how their work connects to the bigger purpose. Objective and Key Results framework prevent this by strategically connecting individual and the overarching organizational goal with team and departmental goals. Thus, OKRs help employees to work together in alignment with business strategy at all moments.

Third, SMART goals do not provide a roadmap for continuously tracking progress or the lack of it. OKRs are more insightful to measure performance and build accountability.

Instead of choosing one or the other, always set OKRs and make them SMART.

#3 Should individuals have OKRs or just up to teams?

While goal setting and management is important at all levels, OKRs are most effective when they are set at the team level. There are several reasons for this.

First, if employees start setting their OKRs, it eventually becomes a list of the tasks they seek to perform and not the overarching objectives and key results.

Second, OKRs are meant to be achieved together with collaborative work. However, if individual OKRs are set, each one will focus on their key results, which can seldom be achieved in silos.

For instance, if a key result is to increase customer lifetime value by 15%, it is a shared result, which one employee cannot achieve.

Therefore, it is best to set OKRs for teams, which can be cascaded down to individual employees as KPIs based on their strengths and competencies

Wrapping Up

Objectives and Key Results are critical for organizations to clearly distinguish between strategy, tactics, and operations. OKRs help organizations to stay grounded in reality while shooting for the moon, to plan for the future while staying focused on immediate goals. Setting OKRs requires careful planning but it takes far less time to do so than traditional goal-setting methods.

Don’t treat OKRs like new year resolutions that you set once and then forget. Keep following it up with all team members at regular intervals and make sure that resources are being used for the right things at the right time.

Sudeshna Roy

Marketing, SuperBeings

Hi There! I am Sudeshna. At SuperBeings, I lead our content strategy to bring you the best and latest on everything related to people management

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Agile and OKRs: What You Need to Know to Thrive in a VUCA World

It is no longer an assumption that the traditional approach to annual goal setting and review has run its course. The VUCA world demands more quick and adaptable business models.

While the agile values and methodology was initially created for software delivery, you can apply the same to transform how you set and achieve your business goals. 

In this article, we will focus on:

  • Relevance of agile and OKRs in the VUCA world
  • Importance of leveraging agile techniques for OKRs
  • Best agile and OKR framework for growing organizations

Why you need to reimagine goal setting in the VUCA world

Traditionally, goal setting has been a very static and long-term process for organizations. Here are a few key components of traditional goal setting and performance management:

  • Annual or multi-year goals with little or no interventions at regular intervals to realign on changing priorities
  • Top-down approach — goals being set by those at the top with minimal inputs from those working on the ground
  • Only annual feedback cycles and the inability to identify or address challenges in real time
  • Lack of flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances or situations, which are uncertain and ambiguous

This form of goal setting and performance management had relevance for organizations operating in steady and stable market conditions. 

However, in today’s VUCA world, the pace of change is skyrocketing and organizations unable to tide with the same are finding it extremely difficult to survive, let alone thrive. 

Some of the reasons to reimagine goal setting for VUCA world include:

  • Increased globalization requires businesses to be agile and adapt to changes at all times
  • Focus on creating short term goals and action plans
  • Need to relook at business priorities due to changing market conditions and customer expectations 
  • Need to incorporate constant feedback from diverse stakeholders
  • Need to focus on collaborative goal setting over top down command

Relevance of agile and OKRs for growing organizations

While it may not be apparent in the first look, agile and OKRs are quite complementary and combining the two can be a great step for growing organizations. Here’s why —

  • OKRs can help you understand the end goal and envision what success will look like. 
  • On the other hand, the agile methodology can enable you to create the right roadmap with frequent experimentation to reach the OKRs successfully. 

Here are a few reasons why you should combine agile and OKRs for your organization:

  • Set shorter goals for each quarter with the flexibility to look at the results in real time
  • Agile iterations based on learning which can be communicated across teams 
  • Shorter feedback cycles which prevent investment losses that might occur if the whole project/ goal has to be reworked
  • Continuous improvement with frequent retrospectives which can enable you to reflect on what is working well
  • Focus on collaborative goal setting and performance management with team autonomy
  • Agile approach to progress tracking

How to use agile techniques for OKRs

Now that it is clear why working agile and OKRs together makes sense for growing organizations, let’s quickly explore the top ways in which you can apply agile techniques to your OKR framework to make goal setting and performance management suitable for the VUCA world. 

Agile Value 1: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

  • Ensure collaborative OKR setting, assigning OKR champions and the right team members to execute the same
  • Facilitate clear understanding and communication of the intention and expectation behind each OKR and the responsibility for every team member

Agile Value 2: Working software over comprehensive documentation

  • Focus on clear outcomes and key results instead of comprehensive literature on why something is important
  • Facilitate shorter feedback cycles to gauge challenges early on and ensure feasibility of the OKRs
  • Reduce administrative overheads and complex processes related to OKR setting and progress tracking by using a simple, integrated OKR tool

Agile Value 3: Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

  • Ensure continuous development by taking real time feedback from internal customers i.e. stakeholders in the leadership

Agile Value 4: Responding to change over following a plan

  • Facilitate dynamic planning over a static plan with quarterly OKRs
  • Ensure adaptability to change, uncertainty and ambiguity
  • Promote short cadence to gauge achievability and relevance of key results early on

Best agile and OKR framework

In this last section of agile and OKR for better goal setting and performance management, we will uncover the top framework. 

We have combined the best components of different frameworks like waterfall goals, delivery agile, scaling, full stack agile, into a single framework with 5 major components that can help you enhance the complementary potential of agile and OKR 

This approach can help you leverage the benefits of agile methodologies and OKR framework to impact all aspects of organizational structure for achievement of goals, including the culture, strategy, initiatives, tactics, etc. The framework is premised on:

1. Create value based OKRs

  • Focus on creating value based OKRs instead of activity based
  • Activity based OKRs are effective for specific projects, but for organizational goals, the focus should be on value
  • Instead of focusing only on the outcomes, have a clear understanding about how each of the outcomes can create value for the organization
  • The activities for each OKR should be a part of the agile roadmap and not the end destination

If you are struggling with combining agile and OKRs for your organizations, chances are you are focusing on activity based key results which often resemble agile steps, leading to confusion and inability to meet goals. 

2. Facilitate horizontal alignment for shared OKRs

  • Encourage collaborative OKR setting with realistic timelines and short intervals
  • Make OKRs team/ department specific and acknowledge avenues for collaboration and alignment between teams on shared OKRs
  • Acknowledge OKR dependencies between teams and facilitate transparency and horizontal alignment
  • Avoid splitting OKRs for a shared goal between teams, rather create opportunities for working together

For instance, if you have an event coming up and wish to successfully execute the same, the objective will be common, with specific value based key results for each team.

Objective: Successfully execute the 7th edition of our annual event

Key Results

  • Get 1000+ unique registrations
  • Raise INR 20,00,000 in sponsorship
  • Curate 5 high impact panels
  • Get 10+ media and affiliate partners
  • Get 5000+ impressions on social media with organic promotion

If you look closely, while the objective is shared, key results are spread across sales, marketing, and even product/ services teams

3. Combine quality and quantity results

Your agile and OKR framework should enable you to get the best of both worlds when it comes to results. Agile results by nature are qualitative in nature and focus on the features that you wish to ascertain in a specific period of time. On the other hand, OKRs are driven by metrics. Thus, you can use a combination of the two for effective results:

  • Use OKRs to validate goals set using the agile methodology
  • Ensure each key result has a quantitative (data) and qualitative aspect (value)
  • Use a combination of agile and OKRs to ensure that your progress is positively impacting the organization

The combination can help you create an ideal balance between outputs and outcomes which are both critical when it comes to goal achievement and performance management. 

4. Promote use of data

  • Leverage data and evidence to create your agile based OKRs
  • Instead of creating OKR based on leadership opinion alone, validate the same with market study
  • Don’t rely completely on hypothetical representation, undertake primary and secondary research to ensure relevance and perceived achievability

Pro-tip:

Using data and not relying solely on opinions will help you set agile OKRs which don’t under or over estimate the goals. For instance, if the market data on traffic to a new website in your industry is 20,000 clicks in one week, your OKR can focus on reaching 25,000 to make it aspirational but achievable up to 80%. 

However, if you set the target at 50,000 or above, it will become too far fetched and the team might not even strive for it. On the flip side, if the target is only at 10,000, it will not encourage your employees to push the boundaries. Thus, you need to replace opinions and command OKRs with data backed experimentation.

5. Build self organizing teams

  • Provide you teams with a clear idea of what the larger vision looks like
  • Encourage them to set their own OKRs and help with a direction to achieve the same
  • Facilitate team autonomy and empower your team members with the right tools and resources like SuperBeings to not only set OKRs, but also track progress in real time and grade them at the end of the cycle. (Learn more)

Self organizing teams are important for growing organizations as they proactively take onus and ownership of achieving OKRs and lead to a greater degree of success. Step away from controlling detailed plans for each OKR and encourage the leadership to provide direction. 

Wrapping Up

To conclude, if you combine agile and OKR, you have for yourself a clear model for success which you can easily apply to goal setting and performance management. Furthermore, leveraging the right technology resources can help you stay on track and enable you to thrive in the VUCA world. 

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How to Create a High Performance Culture Using OKR Methodology?

Like most fast growing organizations, you might also be leveraging the OKR methodology to set, implement and facilitate effective goal setting to maximize growth. If not, you should start using OKRs ASAP.

OKRs not only provide an excellent goal setting framework but also drive high performance when implemented strategically. Most importantly, with enhanced goal visibility and transparency, OKRs ensure that everyone is on the same page which is the foundation of a cohesive and high performing culture. 

In this article, we will discuss 8 ways in which you can adopt the OKR methodology to build a thriving company culture.

Use OKR methodology in 8 ways

1. Focus and clarity

A high performance and thriving company culture is based on the foundation of clarity and focus. When there are 100 things to focus on, your employees will eventually lose sight of what’s actually important and might feel burdened with non-priority tasks. This will lead to a poor employee experience and limited productivity, both situations that prevent an impactful culture.

However, when you apply the OKR methodology, you will be able to limit your focus on 3-5 top priorities which will attract attention, energy and efforts across the organization. You will then be able to create a high performance culture by dedicating all your resources to the key priorities to realize impact. 

2. Collaboration and alignment

A culture that thrives on collaboration, teamwork and alignment is one which creates maximum impact. The OKR methodology can help achieve this in an effective manner. On one hand, everyone is clear about their role in the OKR achievement, which makes collaboration seamless because everyone is on the same page and no one steps on the shoes of others. 

On the other hand, OKRs can help your employees align their responsibilities and tasks with the overall vision of the organization, motivating them to contribute to the big picture. 

To learn more about how to align teams using OKRs, read this

3. Agility and resilience

Recent times have shown that uncertainty and ambiguity will continue to mark the new normal. Thus, a culture of agility, resilience and responsiveness is critical for fast growing organizations. The OKR methodology can help achieve the same. 

OKRs are cognizant of the changing environment and have the flexibility to be adapted to the same. 

More importantly, you can leverage the OKR methodology to foster a culture that focuses on outcomes and is not fixated on the tasks to achieve the outcome at hand. 

4. Continuous engagement and reflection

One of the top challenges of building a great company culture is a siloed approach and annual reflection. This leads to surfacing of major risks and problems which result in high rates of attrition, absenteeism and lower levels of motivation, productivity, etc. 

However, the OKR methodology adopts an approach of continuous engagement and reflection. You can create a regular cadence to check OKR progress for each of your team members, even daily is effective. 

This continuous engagement and reflection can enable you to preempt risks before they surface and leverage the power of communication to address them in real-time. Invariably, a culture built on continuous engagement leads to greater impact and high levels of performance as well as employee satisfaction. 

5. Transparency 

The lack of transparency is one of the key obstacles for many fast growing organizations that seek to create a thriving company culture. A way out often seems difficult to navigate. Fortunately, the OKR methodology can help address this challenge as well. When you use OKR, especially with the support of an effective OKR tool, you can facilitate high levels of transparency. 

Everyone in the organization will not only know their role, but also will have a complete view of the level of performance for others. Such transparency can help you increase coordination of efforts and give everyone the visibility of what’s happening across the company. 

6. Non-hierarchy

You may agree that most fast growing organizations these days seek to replace a strict hierarchy with a more flat organizational structure that facilitates inclusion of diverse ideas, thoughts and opinions. However, many struggle when it comes to actually implementing this thought. 

Adopting OKRs can solve this problem.

By nature, the OKR methodology is based on a collaborative foundation where a top-down approach compliments a bottom-down approach for goal setting. 

This suggests that while the skeletal structure of the goals might be laid down by those in the top leadership, you can give all employees the freedom and autonomy to create OKRs for their teams and verticals. 

When your employees participate in setting the OKRs they have to execute, the level of ownership is much higher. Thus, you can leverage the OKR methodology to create a thriving culture built on greater ownership and a flat organizational structure. 

7. Open communication and feedback

With a focus on continuous engagement and reflection, the OKR methodology can help you facilitate open communication and feedback. Many studies have shown that a culture that facilitates regular feedback along with open channels of communication is more likely to thrive than one which does not. 

In the OKR methodology, when you constantly track your OKR progress (download our free template for tracking OKRs), you will be armed with data backed insights to offer regular feedback for your employees. Furthermore, you can also leverage the same to start meaningful conversations with your team members in case you feel that there is any kind of disconnect. Such open communication can help you create a truly inclusive culture when employees feel their voice is heard. 

8. Accountability and recognition

Finally, a company culture that thrives has two major components supporting it, accountability and recognition.

  • On one hand, only when your employees are accountable will they give in their 100% to create a high performance culture. 
  • On the other hand, if you don’t recognize the efforts of your employees frequently and in an effective manner, they are bound to feel demotivated with a lack of encouragement, leading to a poor employee experience and culture. 

The OKR methodology is an answer to both these challenges. 

  • First, being regularly reviewed, tracked and organization wide visibility makes accountability a given for fast growing organizations leveraging OKRs. Since everyone knows what the other person is responsible for, there is a development of a culture of accountability. 
  • Second, with regular tracking, monitoring individual progress becomes seamless for managers. Invariably, they can track the performance of their team members and recognize efforts in real time. This leads to a culture of recognition which is bound to see high levels of engagement, motivation and satisfaction. 

Empower your culture with the OKR methodology

Now that you know how the OKR methodology can help you in many ways to create a thriving culture, it is also true that as a fast growing organization with multi-pronged focus, leveraging OKRs is a challenging task. To address the same, you can collaborate with an integrated OKR tool like SuperBeings to automate the OKR adoption and maintenance.

With SuperBeings, you get to — 

  • Keep OKRs at the center of your business activities by aligning everyday tasks 
  • Reduce friction in goal management with zero context switching (by integrating Slack, Teams and Gchat)
  • Stay ahead of risks with a bird's eye view on key OKR status as well as compare progress over time with automated daily OKR tracking
  • Connect OKRs with Meetings tool to automate OKR check-ins and empower managers with data-backed AI driven actionable templates for meaningful conversations

Learn more about the OKR tool here. Otherwise, to see this in action, book a quick call with one of our experts. Also, get all your questions answered on the same. 

See Also

How to Run a Successful OKR Progress Review  

The complete guide to adopting OKRs (PDF)

Master OKRs in just 10 days: Free email course

Performance
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How to Write Negative Employee Reviews (Examples + Templates)

With performance management becoming a critical part of organizational success, giving effective employee reviews is becoming a crucial part of a manager’s responsibilities. While regular employee performance reviews focus on illustrating the strengths and what worked for employees and the organization at large, there needs to be an equal focus on areas of development in case of poor work performance

If you look closely, writing negative employee reviews is often considered to be more difficult because the words need to be chosen very carefully. It needs to have a developmental tone rather than a critical one. 

What are negative employee reviews?

As the term suggests, negative employee reviews are reviews delivered to employees who have underperformed and need to be pulled up to the expected levels. It involves a variety of components which include:

  • Problem statement i.e. an illustration of poor performance, how it has been manifested and its impact on the overall organizational success
  • A clear understanding of the level of performance which is expected
  • A potential way or action items to correct the poor performance and improve

To get actionable ideas of how to deal with poor performance issues at work, read this

Writing and delivering negative employee reviews is very important for any organization that seeks to maintain a high level of employee performance. It is critical to ensure that:

  • Poor performers are aware of their level of underperformance and have a clear picture of what’s expected from them
  • Those who are underperforming get an opportunity to improve or face the consequences of consistently performing poorly
  • Underperformers are given the right support and guidance to improve their work and efforts to meet the expectations

Why should you be cautious of your words?

When you are writing negative employee performance reviews, you need to be extremely cautious of the words you choose. Using the right words will help the receiver acknowledge and work on the suggested points, while using words that are too harsh or critical can lead to adverse consequences. There are a few reasons which make the choice of words extremely important. 

  • The right words can help negative employee reviews focus on the developmental aspects and the impact of poor performance on the organization, rather than criticizing the person in general
  • They can help ensure that the job and the performance are the focus of the employee reviews and not the character or the personality of the person
  • Being cautious also ensures that the negative employee reviews don’t have a negative impact on the mental and emotional wellbeing of the employee and are taken in a constructive spirit.

The same review when offered with the right words can be more powerful and have a larger influence. 

For instance a statement like ‘you interfere too much in the work of others’ can be seen as a personal attack and may yield a defensive response from the receiver. 

However if you frame it in a different manner like ‘if you give others greater autonomy and freedom to work in their own way, you will be able to inspire greater creativity and innovation’, you will be able to put your message across and also help your employees understand how it will make a difference. 

Download: Free guided 1:1 meetings template to get personalized meeting recommendations

Tips for writing negative employee reviews 

In addition to being cautious of the words you use, there are a few other tips which you must keep in mind while writing negative performance reviews, including:

1. Keep it crisp and structured

While giving negative reviews is difficult, don’t beat around the bush and get straight to the point. However, instead of directly saying what isn’t going well, try adopting the sandwich approach. Start with a positive comment, add areas of improvement and end it with some suggestions and action items. 

Example: Tina has an excellent eye for detail and is very dedicated to her work. However, she often misses the deadlines which has led to a delay in 30% of her projects resulting in poor client experience. It would help her performance greatly, if she is able to prioritize her work better and keep an organized calendar for timely delivery. She can consider using the latest project management tools to facilitate better prioritization. 

2. Don’t get personal

Second, negative employee reviews should focus on the job or the role and not the person specifically. Steer away from using words or phrases which may end up combining performance and personality of the person. Your review should be specific towards performance challenges and not generalize that performance challenge is a personality trait.

Example: Instead of saying, “you are not punctual”, you can say that “I have seen you arrive late for meetings frequently, leaving shorter time for discussions. It would be best if you could be more punctual to respect others' time and make the most effective use of the same.”

3. Focus on progress

When you are writing negative performance reviews, you must focus on the progress and how a change in behavior and attitude can help them in the long run. Simply mentioning what went wrong and the associated process might lead to demotivation. 

Example: Some of your work has had grammatical errors in the past, maybe because you were trying to complete a lot at once. I am sure if you prioritize some tasks and create an action plan, your work quality will be better. 

4. Offer facts

Don’t simply give negative employee reviews about the problem area, but back it up with facts and data points. This will help you illustrate a pattern and establish that your review is not based on a single incident. Also, it will make your review more credible and authentic and not just a few words strung together. This will also help you in being very specific.  

Example: It has been observed that 40% of your customers claim that you don’t have adequate knowledge of your product, leading to a poor experience. 

5. Give examples

There might be some performance parameters which are difficult to add quantitative data points to. In such cases, you can offer specific examples of underperformance, especially if it has been repetitive. It is ideal to have at least 2-3 instances of poor performance to make your point stronger. 

Example: It has been noticed that in the aspiration to get your work perfect, you end up delaying projects. It was observed in project X with client A, project Y with client B as well as when the internal submission for Z was due. 

Pro-tip: Use our free Performance Review Phrases template to get 50+ examples of writing a negative review positively

How to deliver a poor performance review?

Once you write the negative employee reviews, you exactly know what you want to say to your employees. However, the way you deliver it also has a big impact on how it is received. To make the process simple, we have compiled a list of some of the best practices to help you deliver a poor performance review in the best way possible:

1. Connect in person

If you are delivering a negative performance review, it is best to do it in person, or if your team is remote, over a video call. If you deliver it over an email, you cannot be sure of the tone and context in which your words will be read. 

It might backfire by being read as more critical than developmental as per the intent. Furthermore, when you are delivering the negative reviews face to face, you can also use your gestures and body language to facilitate authenticity and empathy. 

2. Steer away from yelling

No matter how poor the performance has been, when you are delivering negative employee reviews, you should stay away from yelling or using foul language. Since the focus is on facilitating development for your employee, yelling will only defeat the purpose, making the employee demotivated and pushing them towards even lower levels of confidence and motivation. Furthermore, it will negatively impact your organization from an employer brand perspective. It can also create a negative impact on the wellbeing of your employees. 

3. Add anecdotes 

While delivering the review, you may want to add some personal stories or anecdotes if you have yourself been through something on those lines. This will help you connect better with your employees and make them trust you more. Furthermore, it can enable you to illustrate how they can turn poor performance into something better with a live example in front of them. 

4. Make it a dialogue

Your negative review shouldn’t be a monologue where you deliver what you have written with the employee absorbing it as a passive recipient. Instead, make it a dialogue by putting forward questions to understand the reasons behind poor performance and how you and the organization as a whole can help turn the table. Hearing their side of the story is extremely important before deciding on the next steps. 

4. Create a safe environment

When you are delivering negative employee reviews, you need to create a safe environment. It should not be harsh and the employee should feel comfortable in receiving what you have to offer. Also, make sure you deliver the review privately and not publicly shame your employee. They should see it as a developmental conversation in a safe environment, where they can also voice their opinions. 

5. Make it regular

Finally, negative employee reviews need to be regular and not come as a surprise to your employees at the end of the year. Regular reviews will give your employees enough room to improve their performance. Furthermore, it will give them a clear picture of what to expect when the year closes. 

To learn how SuperBeings can help you have guided conversations around negative performance review with AI recommendations based on performance and goals history as well as maintain a steady cadence to maximize the impact of such conversations, see this

Offer suggestions and follow up

After you have delivered the negative reviews to employees, the natural next step is to create a plan for improvement to help your employees reach the level of performance you expect out of them. This is a critical part of the performance management and talent development process for employees who have been consistently underperforming. Here are a few ways you can help your employees improve their performance.

1. Create action items collaboratively

If you have reached this level of negative employee reviews, you and your employee would be on the same page about their level of performance. Thus, it is best to create a list of action items that can help them improve their performance. To create the next steps, you must:

  • Ensure the steps are specific and not generic which only state the objective
  • Create steps which are aspirational, but achievable at the same time
  • Ascertain that there is an intended result for each decided step
  • Collaborate and brainstorm with your employee to create action items which are agreed upon by both
  • Align timelines and other factors to achieve success

2. Document the next steps

Next, your focus should not only be on planning the action items, but documenting them as well, because once they are out of sight, they’ll be out of mind. Furthermore, documenting them will help you remember the agreed steps and track progress every now and then. 

Clearly document what needs to be achieved, by when and how. It can be a good idea to encourage your team members to constantly document their experience as well to help discuss what has been working well and what needs to improve. 

3. Draft a Performance Improvement Plan (PiP) if needed

Depending on the performance issue, you may want to introduce a performance improvement plan for your employee. It is a formal tool to address performance challenges which outlines specific goals and expectations along with clear actions that need to be undertaken over a duration of 30-90 days.

For more details on PIP, check out A guide to implementing a performance improvement plan (PIP)

4. Set up a cadence

You also must set up a cadence to discuss performance improvements or challenges once the next steps are agreed upon. Unless you connect regularly to discuss the status, you might find yourself at square one at the end of the next performance review period as well. 

Depending on what needs to be achieved, you can set a weekly, fortnightly or monthly cadence to connect with your poor performers. While it may be seen as a regular review, it will also act as a reinforcer for them to ensure there is some improvement everytime the cadence to meet comes up. 

5. Define metrics

When you are determining the next steps, it is important to identify the associated metrics as well. For instance, if you want your employee to become more detail oriented, your metric can focus on reduction in errors by a specific percentage over a specific duration of time. 

The metrics will help you measure whether or not there has been an improvement in the performance as desired or not. At the same time, the metrics will help your employee move towards a specific goal. 

6. Follow up

While you have a set cadence, you may also want to check-in or follow up from time to time to make your employee comfortable enough to reach out to you in between your cadence for connecting. The follow ups can be over emails or calls or simple messages to check if everything is on track and to offer them any support whichever is needed. Especially in the beginning, you may need to check from time to time in case there’s any additional support that the employee needs to work on the action items. 

7. Evaluate progress

Finally, to ensure that your negative employee reviews translate to impact, you must focus on evaluating progress. Use the metrics you defined to gauge the level of progress and document it whenever you evaluate the same. This will help you establish a trend over time. 

Furthermore, if you feel the progress is below expectations, try to understand the rationale behind the same to check if putting the employee on a performance improvement plan will make more sense. 

Wrapping Up

By now, you must have gained a clear understanding of how to write, deliver and follow up on negative employee performance reviews constructively. If you are keen to learn how best to connect negative performance issues with regular 1:1 meetings with your team members with technology, book a quick demo with one of our executives. We would love to show you around :)

See Also

How to use Start Stop Continue feedback framework for high performance

10 performance review tips for managers that actually work

How to use employee coaching to unlock performance

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