Why OKR alignment is a vital factor?

By on September 6, 2016

Recently we wrote about how a company should set its objectives. There we discussed how the company needs to focus on clearly articulating its Vision and Strategy before it even starts to think about goals.  Setting the goals at Company, Team & Individual level is one of the important recommendations in Objectives & Key Results (OKR).

OKR is a goal setting framework, increasingly picking up momentum especially in the technology companies. It favors measurable goal setting & reflects values of the contemporary workforce through high frequency feedback & flexibility to make corrections as the landscape changes.  

Earlier goals were set for the entire year, but you could now set monthly or quarterly objectives for your teams as well as individual employees. Due to this, everyone in the company, right from the top management to the most junior employee, has a precise understanding about what is expected of them within a particular period of time. This helps extract best from everyone involved.

One of the key recommendations of OKRs is alignment of objectives at different levels.

Imagine a situation where managers work together or independently with employees to set their objectives. While the objectives could be perfectly in line with the employees’ capabilities, if they are not helping achieve the team or company goal, they may not be worth investing the efforts.

It is for this reason, alignment plays an important role in OKRs. It ensures that everyone is collectively working towards the same vision.

Benefits of alignment in OKRs

Benefits of alignment in OKRs

Communication gets better:

As OKRs are public, every individual is aware of their colleagues’ objectives. It is easy for anyone to see how objectives of teammates complement their own to achieve larger goals – that of the team and the company. They need to work with their teammates and help each other to make sure the efforts are aligned.

For example, more often than not, Marketing and Sales department have to work together to increase customer base. The objective of Marketing department is to deliver information about marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to Sales Department who then take over and establish contact with them. If the departments know each other’s goals, chances of them working together towards fulfillment increase exponentially.

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Understanding the bigger picture:

While the end result of an employee in isolation may appear to be random to him, it is not so. No matter how small the contribution may appear, it is designed to achieve a higher purpose.

For example, an employee who is in charge of social media activity on Twitter is given the key result of getting 1000 relevant followers within the current quarter. This target is designed to help achieve the Marketing team’s goal of increasing social media presence within that quarter. This team goal is further aligned to the Company Objective of increasing brand value in APAC region.

Thus, alignment of goals helps employees understand the purpose of their efforts. They get to see that they too are instrumental in making the company successful.

Increased productivity:

When each individual, department has their goals defined clearly, there is little to no chance of any duplication in work taking place. The efforts that would otherwise have been wasted can now be better directed towards other useful tasks.

If one salesperson from the Sales Department is in charge of qualifying 25 leads per month and setting meetings with them, another can conduct these meetings and try to convert them into customers.

This quicker achievement of targets helps to increase productivity as the team can move on to bigger targets.

Increase in focus and discipline:

Since eventually your efforts are contributing towards the team & company OKRs, there is always a peer pressure to give your 100%

Had there been no alignment, chances of individuals slacking off a bit increase drastically.

Alignment vs Cascading

Cascading is a concept where the management sets the objectives for the company and cascades them further below to the next level of management till it reaches individual employee level. Lower levels of management do not have a say while setting their objectives. Basically it follows a top down approach where each management level has to follow goals that their immediate superiors have set for them.

Essentially it means, you are working towards completion of goals of your immediate manager. Which of course is not as inspiring when your goals are aligned directly with the team or company goals.

OKR on the other hand allows individuals as well as teams to form their own objectives depending on their capabilities. Alignment works backwards where individual goals are set to match with team goals and they turn are matched with company goals.

Alignment has been proven to be a vital part of OKRs due to its flexibility. Any management which is able to efficiently align goals at all levels of the organisation, is sure to achieve its company objectives in the most efficient manner. Not aligning is one of the mistakes you would want to avoid while setting OKRs.

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