Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are goal-setting and achieving frameworks that help set measurable goals and options to track their progress. Goals are desired results that people work towards. There can be multiple goals in an organization – individual, team, and organizational. Setting goals can be easy. However, due to different reasons, these goals may not be followed through.
Having a framework to set, monitor, and track goals makes it easy to achieve them. Without a doubt, OKRs have made goal setting and achieving them actionable, tangible, and concrete.
An OKR cycle is a set of activities you go through to set, monitor, and achieve goals. When the cycle is perfected, the goal-setting process becomes seamless every time and can become a long-term practice that yields benefits to both employees and the organization.
The term OKR was initially popularized by Andrew Grove, the CEO of Intel Corporation. It is believed that he encouraged his team to set goals using this framework and later spoke about it in his book, High Output Management.
In the OKR retrospective, here are some of the benefits to look forward to when you follow this goal-setting framework.
Align the company’s objectives with that of individuals
Have a clear direction in which employees can move
Make it easy to track progress
Make better and more informed decisions
Create a continuous OKR cycle that the team can follow in the long term
Set specific goals that can be measured
Have the right data to aid during performance appraisals
Have something concrete to discuss in team meetings
Increase transparency across levels (both horizontal and vertical)
Get employees engaged in goal setting processes
Why do OKRs fail? Staying away from common mistakes
When you design a typical OKR cycle, some of these common mistakes can bring down its efficiency or lead to failures.
Making aspirational OKRs instead of concrete, achievable ones
Aspirations are good. However, they don’t convert into good objectives. An aspirational objective may be difficult to achieve in the timeline you have set. One person’s aspirations may not sit well with the others, and this may lead to differences in the efforts put into achieving them. Aspirational OKRs have a higher chance of failing, and this may bring down the morale of your team. So, start with the concrete and committed OKRs.
Your objectives may be committed and concrete. However, if they are going to take your team all the time and energy, then it may not make sense. An employee has to go about doing everyday tasks apart from spending time on these set objectives. So, when you design an OKR cycle, make sure you spend time analyzing how resource-absorbing these objectives will turn out to be.
Setting objectives that don’t matter/have low priority
Creating an OKR cycle and achieving the objectives take time and effort. So, it does not make sense to spend too many resources trying to achieve low priority objectives. If employees don’t consider the objectives worthy, they will not put in the effort, which will reflect in the results.
Having too many or too few key results
Key results are measurable pointers with which you can track the progress of goals-achievement. Now, ideally, an objective can have 3-5 key results.
When there are very few key results under each objective, you may not be able to completely judge how well the person is progressing with the objectives.
If there are too many key results, then employees may only focus on measuring these results instead of holistically trying to achieve the objective.
Hence, limiting the number of key results is an integral part of a successful OKR cycle. Are you a startup looking to implement OKR? Then this blog is just for you. Do read it next.
The three steps to designing a successful OKR cycle
Now that we have discussed what not to do when creating a typicalOKR cycle, here are three steps that, when done right, will help create a long-lasting and straightforward framework.
What does setting goals mean? It is the first step to creating a successful OKR cycle. It needs to be done right so the next two steps succeed.
Make sure your goals are:
Worthy of the resources spent
If even one of these factors is not ticked, then go back to the table and rework the objectives. There are teams that spend incredible time just setting the right objectives because they know how important this is.
Once the objectives are set, discuss the right key results to track these objectives.
Key results need to be:
Easy to follow through
Here is an example of each of the good and bad objectives to give you an idea.
Type of objective
Increase the customer pool by 100% in the next 4 weeks
Increase the website traffic by 2% in the next 3 months (website traffic doesn’t always convert into leads. So, a 2% increase may not matter much)
Increase website lead conversion by 25% in the next 3 months
Alignment refers to the alignment of the objectives with other members of the team and organization. When you set an OKR cycle, the complex thing about such objectives is that a person’s objective is not just theirs. It can be dependent on other people’s objectives, or it can affect the objectives of another team member. That is why alignment is important.
Start by charting the interdependencies. Find out how these objectives overlap or tag one another and make sure employees know about these interdependencies. Create shared OKRs if team effort is needed to achieve these objectives.
Alignment can take time in the beginning, but once the framework is set, it will get easier.
The last step of setting a successful OKR cycle is to achieve the objectives. Logically, if this step doesn’t happen, the first two will not matter. Help your employees achieve their objectives by tracking and monitoring the process regularly. Some employees might be moving away from the right track, while others may be concentrating on activities that don’t add value to the objectives.
Few employees may have backlogs, while others who are doing a great job may need to be reminded that they are doing well. For all these, feedback and monitoring sessions are important.
If your organization is used to 360-degree feedback and continuous communication, then this part will come easily. If you think your team needs to work on the feedback and communication aspect, then PossibleWorks’ continuous feedback tools can help. Check this to know more.
In the OKR retrospective, all three steps of the cycle matter and need to be approached right. Even if one of these steps is not designed right, the remaining ones won’t be as effective. So, are you looking to implement an effective OKR cycle in your workplace? Do check out PossibleWorks’ OKR tools and software. These are designed to automate the process, create easy interdependencies, and make tracking and monitoring hassle-free and simple.