Adopting OKRs Effectively

Companies like Google have been using OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) for years, but those who are new to this powerful goal setting framework are curious about how to implement them most effectively. Here at Atiim, we provide the tools and resources each company needs to adopt OKRs in a way that best aligns with their unique needs. With that said, there are a few best practices all organizations can follow to begin using OKRs successfully. Here’s how.

Adopt Your Own OKR Method

As mentioned above, Google is among the most noteworthy examples of how to use OKRs for ongoing success. Yet, not every company bears similarities to Google. While you may follow some of the same goal setting practices as them, it’s unlikely you’d want to completely imitate their approach. For instance, the Google OKR method recommends setting uncomfortable goals – those which teams are unsure they’ll be able to fully achieve – exclusively. Yet, most organizations need to also balance some aspirational goals with operational ones, not only to fulfil company priorities, but also to prevent teams from becoming demotivated.

Ultimately, it’s essential that you familiarize yourself with the general concepts of OKR goal setting, and then make adjustments to fit your company culture and business needs accordingly. At the most basic level, OKRs are meant to be simple, so don’t feel compelled to force any aspect of the approach. They’re highly agile and adaptable.

Start Small

Many companies make the mistake of trying to roll out OKRs across their entire organization all at once. It’s best to instead enforce a trial period, and begin with select groups.

For instance, even if you intend to use a quarterly schedule for OKRs (which most companies find ideal since it allows for 10% progress on goals with a 2-3 week grace period), you might still consider using them on a shorter time frame at first. Try a 30-day cycle, using smaller, more manageable Objectives to start.

You might also want to consider implementing OKRs at the top first, and then adding new departments, teams, and finally, individuals, over a designated period of time. Or, begin with cross-functional groups to add alignment and then expand from there.

Another important factor is to avoid incorporating BHAGs (“big, hairy audacious goals”) into your OKRs at the beginning. While teams are getting adjusted with the approach, there’s no need to add the pressure associated with pursuing moonshots.

Communicate the Value of OKRs

To achieve OKR buy-in, communicate the value of using this goal setting approach to your key stakeholders. Discuss the power of using metrics to drive results, focusing on how tying individual contributions to company goals will help teams excel. Show them both the “why” behind your decision to begin using OKRs, as well as the “how” – as in, exactly what to expect from before, during, and after implementation.

Develop a Rhythm

Lastly – but most importantly – once you’ve adopted OKRs, develop a rhythm to ensure ongoing success. Use ongoing management tactics like weekly one-on-one meetings to manage goal progress and maintain a continuous two-way feedback loop. You can also use OKR software to give managers and teams the ability to monitor goal progress. OKR tools can even send alerts when a certain goal is at risk of falling behind. When that occurs, managers can step in and course correct with an action plan to guide teams in the right direction.

Throughout the quarter, management can also regularly evaluate goals to ensure they’re still supporting company priorities. Because OKR goal setting is an agile system, Objectives can be adjusted to accommodate evolving business plans as needed. Most importantly, however, goal progress must be tracked and addressed by managers via ongoing performance management to hold teams accountable for their Objectives.

As the next OKR period approaches, have managers collaborate with their teams to discuss goals from the upcoming quarter. Remember to use both cascading goals as well as a bottoms-up approach to give teams an appropriate level of autonomy in the goal setting process and thus secure buy-in at all levels.

What else? Have you adopted OKRs in your organization? If so, what are some tactics you used to ensure successful implementation?

Do you manage a company or teams (either as a CEO, a senior executive, a middle manager or even a front-line manager)? Do you set and track objectives? Does aligning employee performance to business goals matter, and are you responsible for driving results? If so, please check out a live demo of Atiim OKR & Goals Management Software and we’d love to hear what you think about it. Thank you!

Image Credit: Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

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