In the previous chapter of this OKR guide, we have covered the conceptual understanding of what are Objectives, Key Results, and Projects. Though OKR is simple and easy to implement framework across businesses of any industry and business size, there is still room to optimize to get the maximum benefit as per your business needs.
In this chapter, we explore the nuances of OKR implementation based on different levels of organizational structure and executional aspects of its implementation within your organization.
In this section, we will look at different organizational levels and share best practices on how they should adopt OKR in their zone of work.
Before your employees get their hands dirty as they embrace OKR, the management and leadership within a company need to adopt the OKR mindset and believe that it is truly going to positively impact their business.
This is because OKRs are linked to the company’s vision and mission, acting as a basis for laying the foundation of OKR further down the hierarchy.
Hence, as a business leader, it’s your job to ensure clarity in communication about OKRs so that everyone is aligned with your expectations of the goals to be achieved. A failure of commitment from top management to do so would lead to the failure of the OKR exercise itself, resulting in a waste of time and resources.
Here are the top 3 considerations that you as a leader need to adopt to ensure OKR results in improved organizational performance:
As a leader, you need to understand why Objectives and Key Results are important for your company and what purpose it is going to serve. Ensure that purpose is being achieved at every level of employee OKRs, else
Turning OKR exercise into extensive to-do task lists from start to end will make your employees think this is another corporate gimmick. OKRs help you frame your ambitious high-level goals into specific to-do tasks by the end it reaches your lowest level employee.
It’s easy as a leader to micromanage your people or take a blind eye to how OKR is being implemented in your company. Read more about bringing OKR transparency and building a collaborative work culture, a crucial ingredient in implementing OKR *in this article*.
The maturity of adopting OKR starts from the leadership, so lead by example and ensure you nail your homework!
Understanding what is OKR provides a great learning opportunity for managers to sharpen their management skills and streamline their work ethics. OKR acts like a blueprint of the vision of a founder/leadership team that you can include in your management style. OKR alignment can help you:
Your role is crucial for the execution of OKR goals as it’s your responsibility to keep it on the right track. It’s the middle managers who align the leadership and employees and help team members collaborate to ensure smooth sailing.
Here are the top 3 considerations that you as a manager need to focus on to ensure OKR results in improved employee performance:
Your team looks up to you more than the organization’s leaders they are exposed to you the most in their professional journey with the organization. It’s up to you to inspire your team by helping them visualize their role in the grand scheme of Objectives defined and communicating the benefits of adopting OKR with measurable outcomes.
Your employees need to take OKR seriously and not treat it like ‘just another checkbox to be ticked’. Keep them engaged by focusing on the gamification aspects that OKR tends to bring. Highlight how achieving aspirational OKR goals can grow their career and accommodate them in the decision-making of defining key results and Projects to nurture accountability.
Is this OKR exercise working? Are your team members right on track to achieve their OKRr goals? What hurdles are they facing? What’s working and how can you double down on that? Feedback helps you improve your workflows, share insights and smoothen your OKR execution journey, ultimately making it the default workplace culture.
When it comes to OKR for junior employees, it's important to think of them as a set of ‘team OKRs’ and not ‘individual or personal OKRs’. This mindset will help leaders and managers create a transparent and collaborative environment, where there is no zero-sum competition.
“Transparency seeds collaboration.”
John Doerr, author of Measure What Matters
The key to successful OKR is ensuring your teams understand that they need NOT focus on ‘completing tasks’, but achieving maximum impact by working on the tasks ‘together’. This happens when there is ‘teamwork’ as a way of achieving OKR goals, and not a rat race to tick checkboxes.
What happens when you stress on ‘individual OKRs’?
As an organization, you would want teams to innovate - and that happens when teamwork is the default work culture.
Different businesses have different needs and north star metrics that they use to gauge their progress. While startups hate ‘routine’, established organizations might be slow to adapt to changes that OKR brings. Let’s discuss how one can navigate OKRs based on growth sizes across Startups, Scale Up, involve, and MNCs organizations.
During the early stage of a startup, you reach a stage where you simply jump from 6 to 80 employees in the blink of an eye. We understand the state of chaos, but this is also the best time to implement the Objectives and Key Results framework as an integral part of your company culture.
If you’re a startup founder reading this OKR guide, you must keep in mind the below 3 things while adopting OKR into your growing organization’s DNA:
Like babies, startups at an early stage also speak the language of chaos. But as you grow, especially as a founder, one needs to adopt a more formal structure so that things are not all over the place. OKRs are exactly what will help you learn to communicate with your team where you want the startup to be headed as your employees continue to lose direct access to your cabin with business growth.
You can sit on your bean bag and despise corporate structures, but OKRs are not another corporate jargon. It’s a simple and flexible framework suited to make ambitious goals a reality - exactly what you need as an early-stage startup.
Startups cause disruption, but consistent efforts for the same are what will help you survive long term. As you have maximum energy when you start, OKRs help you keep up with the momentum and gauge where you are speeding off to, even if it's as far as Mars.
Objectives and Key Results framework can help you navigate the chaotic transformation from startup to scaleup stage by aligning your company towards business growth. At this stage, if you make wrong moves, you can put your startup into the infamous death valley. Hence, showing patience, resilience and an adaptive plan of action would be crucial to sail through the rough seas, for which OKR is useful.
If you’re a startup founder running a company at the scaleup stage, we have listed 3 considerations in this OKR guide to help you scale and grow your business:
Increasing workloads, the high attrition rate for employees, decreasing attention span - it all comes together when you’re scaling your business. But it need not be this way if you’re growing by tackling challenges on the way daily. Use OKRs to build an agile organization by identifying them and aligning teams to ensure these challenges do not crop up in the first place.
It’s easy to get distracted during the scale-up stage since customers might ask for customized solutions, new features, employees sharing feedback and ideas - it’s too much information to take it! But what will keep you going is your vision and mission - which is exactly the basis of designing OKRs at an organizational scale.
At small startups, the founder and his/her personality define the culture. But now you’re transitioning to a 100+ employee organization and you cannot be everywhere grabbing beers. But OKRs can personify your vision and idea of culture to be around every level of your organization as it scales. Re-read how OKR impacts culture in Chapter-2 to refresh how!
OKR for corporates and MNCs
Grown-up organizations tend to be structured that provide operational efficiency, but this is the very same reason why they tend to become less innovative. OKRs are extremely beneficial to target moonshot projects and write the next chapter of your business story.
As an MNC, here are the top 3 considerations for you to pay attention to while implementing OKR across your organization:
Though MNCs are structured with their business processes, understand that OKRs have a significant impact on your organization that otherwise is used to ‘business as usual’ work. Ensure your OKR goal-setting efforts pay off otherwise you might end up confusing your employees, wasting resources, and disrupting existing workflows unnecessarily.
It must have taken you years to build the legacy you have at present. To move onto the next leg of your business, you need to educate every single employee about the upcoming OKR program. Remember, OKRs have the potential to become the default language of communication among your teams, hence ensuring your OKR program is conducted uniformly across the organization is important.
‘Change’ is difficult to execute for larger organizations, wherein you need to ensure your existing systems don’t get disrupted while your new ambitions are also being taken care of. Implementing OKRs and KPIs together is a great way to find your sweet spot of both committed and aspirational OKRs.
One of the key characteristics that make for a good OKR program is the focus on being time-bound. To manage time better, setting up Annual and Quarterly OKR goals such that they are linked together can set a great pace at which your organization is moving forward. The model needs to be repeatable so that you can run these exercises and scale them as your organization grows, as done by Google:
“OKRs have helped lead us to 10x growth, many times over.”
Larry Page, Co-Founder at Google
There is nothing that makes people work other than ‘deadlines’ - hence being ambiguous about ‘timelines’ can lead to haphazard OKR execution. At the end of the OKR program, you do need to justify your efforts and time spent on achieving your OKRs.
Setting Annual goals is quite common in every organization, but adopting the OKR framework will provide you with actionable clarity on how you’re going to achieve your target numbers. But even if you manage to write down perfect OKRs that are timebound, ambitious, and actionable, the time stretch is too long for people to stick to the plan and track OKR progress.
Though using an OKR software helps, at Superbeings, we would recommend stressing on Quarterly OKRs so that you can visualize your milestones at shorter periods to increase completion rates.
A nested combination of both can help chart out a better plan of action where Annual OKRs can act as guidelines. It will make your organization more flexible in adapting to changes OKR brings. One can also improve their agility by introducing weekly reviews of OKRs, as explained in the next chapter.
Here’s an OKR template for executing repeated OKR cycles for you to refer to and implement for your organization.