Both startups and established organizations benefit from implementing an OKR methodology. Here’s how they can implement it effectively:
Success does not come easy to a startup. Startups struggle with change at various levels. On their path to growth, they need to juggle many issues to escape the chaos and bring some order to their affairs, as they steadily work towards achieving success. This is only possible if we bring in a system, like OKRs that provides a set of objectives and key results not just for the organization but also to every employee and team, giving them clarity of purpose. OKRs help to translate organizational objectives into personal objectives for every employee and goals and specify the key results. This helps an organization or startup to attain the objectives it originally set out to achieve while making any course corrections possible through frequent reviews if warranted.
Get everyone on board: No initiative succeeds without the buy-in of senior leadership. Secure their sponsorship before setting out to help everyone in the organization or startup to understand all about the OKR Methodology. If necessary, appoint an ambassador who can explain the process steps to everyone, build some enthusiasm and motivation. This would help to set and meet clear timelines for the implementation.
Decide the Objectives: Think back to any successes and failures the organization or startup may have experienced, before choosing about 5 to 7 objectives, for formulating an annual plan. Check where you stand, understand the aspirations and priorities without omitting the pain points. You can then break them down into annual and quarterly objectives. Set objectives as goalposts for the entire organization or startup. Adopt technology to help with process automation for best OKR results.
Set Key Results: Key results cannot be general or subjective. They need to track results by taking a quantitative approach. The targets usually are set as stretch goals. This makes people try to reach their potential as the achievement of 80% itself is more in absolute terms than a non-stretch goal. . Determine how the results will be measured upfront. Quantify key results to the extent possible when you create them. These could be numbers, percentages, or even deadlines.
Train everyone: Do train everyone on the concept of OKRs, on what constitutes a quality OKR and how to conduct periodic reviews. If needed bring in an external expert. Share the guidelines for creating OKRs with everyone and reward anyone for drafting good OKRs.
Pitfalls to Avoid: Not adopting any change management process before moving to OKRs could derail the process. So can failing to link your OKRs with your weekly (or monthly) business reviews. Or, not setting the top management OKRs first. Not ensuring that they cascade right to the next level is another major pitfall that needs to be avoided. Setting too many Objectives or Key Results, or not aligning the goals across the organization, team or individuals could also affect the program. Linking OKRs to compensation or expecting encouraging results within two or three quarters is counterproductive. To succeed, any program needs to mature over time.
Picking a Champion: Not designating an OKR implementation champion could also derail an implementation. The program needs someone to influence people while leveraging their extensive knowledge of the business to set direction. Every organization has teams and departments, and many of them share common goals and objectives. The OKR Champion could be any team or department which understands how the rest of the function. They should be designated as the organization’s OKR champion and be assigned the task of designing the process, driving its adoption. They can also maintain it going forward, and answer any questions or doubts other teams and departments may have.
Give it Time: OKRs need time for implementation and results depend on how well the organization or startup, along with the employees understands the concept of OKRs. This helps to progressively improve the implementation and take the right direction. The whole process also hinges on the levels of
communication, collaboration, and transparency between the stakeholders on the subject of OKRs.
OKRs are not for Appraisals: Given that OKRs set ambitious, stretch goals, they cannot be added to your appraisal system. Key results cannot be set at low levels and OKRs cannot be linked to compensation either. However, it is important to track them and measure them to ensure that the organizational goals are being achieved.
Effective OKR implementation translates to organizational growth and success, provided it is done right. It presupposes some prior information, planning, and strategy to ensure a successful implementation. Following a process for tracking and grading OKRs and for setting more OKRs as targets, you can make the organization take a big leap forward with each iteration. There’s no need to do it in stages as OKRs can be rolled out across an entire organization at the same time. Everyone can set on the journey together with confidence and commitment, assured of ultimate success.
Read the following blog posts to learn more about practical OKR examples and how to enable employees to achieve business goals