Recently we looked at an overview of OKRs and a framework to consider if they might be suited for your team. If you think OKR’s might be right for your team, read on, because we’re going to provide a few helpful getting-started do’s and don’ts.
But wait, before diving in, keep in mind these common OKR pitfalls you’ll want to avoid…
The purpose of setting stretch goals (Key Results that push people toward an out-of-reach target) is to give permission and motivate teams to explore and implement completely new ways to achieve outcomes – not to set them up for failure. It’s vital that all team members understand they are not necessarily expected to hit that lofty target straight away, and they will be achieving a great outcome even if they get close to the ultimate target. The last thing you want is for people to fall into a negative mindset where they feel they have no chance of hitting their goals. The purpose is to give them the freedom to reach as high as they can, and if they fall slightly short, know this is better than setting the bar low and hitting it.
Further to the point above, OKRs only work when the Key Results are ambitious. It’s about aiming higher than what has ever been achieved before, forcing teams to rethink how they do things and find completely new approaches.
OKRs are also beneficial for creating strong alignment throughout the organisation, and among teams, but this comes from how the Objectives are conceived. Objectives should be derived from overarching organisation priorities, creating Objectives for each team that all work together to contribute to these higher-level company goals. If a team’s objectives don’t contribute to any organisational goals, ask yourself: are they really necessary?
OKRs should serve to provide focus for a team, and allow them to concentrate their energy on a few meaningful outcomes at any given time. Sticking to around three objectives per quarter at most is a good rule of thumb, but this may be adjusted slightly depending on the size of the team and other factors – it may be less! The main thing is to ensure teams aren’t overwhelmed with too many objectives and struggling to knuckle down on any meaningful work.
The last thing you want to do is reach the due date of your OKR and find that no real progress has been made. OKRs are designed to make measuring progress super simple, and this is in part what makes them so effective. We’ll share some tips on making tracking easy in the next section.
Once organisational priorities are in order, sub-objectives for individual teams can be determined. These should form the basis of all OKRs.
Remembering that the Key Results must act as a stretch goal, don’t simply define Key Results that are in-line with what you need to hit, but what you could hit if things were done differently and team performance was at its peak. Key Results are always quantitative and measurable.
One way to measure your Key Results is through a sliding scale, for example between 0 to 1, to show how close the team came to reaching it (1 being they met the goal). For example, if the marketing team had a goal to increase market share by 20%, a 15% increase would equate to a 0.75 score (or 75%).
This type of result is what separates OKRs from normal goal setting, for example a goal for a 5% increase in market share mostly likely could be achieved by incremental improvements of their current activities, a 20% improvement most likely requires some completely new approaches, meaning the 15% result is actually a brilliant result for the business.
One of the benefits of OKRs is they are transparent and visible to the entire organisation, as often they will be being worked upon across multiple teams. Using an online goal management tool will make this possible. Start by ensuring top-level organisational goals are in the system, and then cascade these to all relevant teams, allowing them to set their own supporting goal. Ensure all of these are entered using the OKR framework.
Motivation to strive further and experiment with new approaches is key for making OKRs work. Keeping track of progress online so everyone in the business can see progress updates in real time is a must.
On top of this, tracking progress allows you to see if goals need to be reassessed. For example, major changes in the external or internal environment may necessitate increasing or decreasing the Key Result metric, or perhaps keeping this the same but moving the due date.
You may also want to make decisions about committing more resources to an OKR in order to get it over the line on time. All of these decisions are made possible by having progress visible at the click of a button.
If teams are comfortably achieving their OKRs, they’re too low. A good rule of thumb is that Key Results should be fulfilled at 60-75% of the target level. In most cases if an OKR is fully achieved it wasn’t stretch enough. It’s worth reassessing goals on a quarterly basis to ensure they continue to challenge your teams and goals are also kept in line with current priorities.
This makes OKR setting a cyclical process that is constantly happening and gradually driving your organisation to higher and higher levels of success. Setting OKRs right and committing to the process over the long term is by far the best way to get the most value from this technique!
Most importantly, if they don’t work the first time, refine your process and try again. As long as you have the data in front of you, this should be easy.
So there you have it, our guide on how to set OKRs in your business. Remember, being able to manage all your people’s goals in one place is easy when you have the right tools. If you’d like to learn more about managing goals through intelliHR, get started here.