Critical factors to determine OKR cadence

By on June 1, 2017

OKR methodology has become increasingly popular in recent years. Its monumental contribution to some of the Silicon Valley companies’ success, is a testament to how effective it can be. Interestingly, OKRs is a philosophy that is tweaked & adapted by most of the companies. Of the many advantages of OKR methodology, flexibility has turned out to be the most important one. You do not have to follow a rigid formula. While the fundamental tenets of OKRs have to be followed, there is a lot of scope for moulding other deployment parameters to match organisation culture & state of affairs.

Beginner's guide to objectives & key results

One key question that tends to confuse first timers implementing OKRs is, “what is the correct cadence (or frequency) of OKRs for my company?” While there is no right or wrong answer, we can definitely help you account for the relevant factors before finalising the cadence.

How frequently does the strategy need to change?

Companies, irrespective of their size, take utmost efforts to set their Vision. Company level OKRs are meant to help in achieving this target. Thus they are more strategic in nature and need to have a longer shelf life, preferably for a year.

As these goals are at a higher level, they are broken down into more actionable tactical and operational goals and then cascaded down to subsequent levels in the organisation. It is what makes everyone align their efforts in one direction and help the company achieve its vision faster and more efficiently. Which is another reason they are usually not modified on a frequent basis as it will affect everyone in the organisation.

How frequently do the tactics need to change?

While company OKRs are strategic, team & individual ones are tactical. For mid & large organisations, this tactical OKR cadence is usually a quarter or half year. These companies typically serve a long list of customers so for them quarterly/half yearly cadence works well, with regular check-ins to assess progress. Do note that going beyond half yearly frequency may not be advisable, especially because of rapid speed of technological changes happening within business landscapes.

Startups are dynamic in nature and grow at a rapid rate. Their goals are constantly evolving. Thus the frequency of setting OKRs for a startup needs to be much higher to match its growth. Particularly for a startup that is trying to achieve a product-market fit, monthly OKRs tend to be sufficient. Normally it will be difficult for them to get it right for the first of couple of times. They will need to constantly keep a track on what’s working and what’s not till the time they get it right.

Can different departments/teams have different cadences?

Absolutely. If the differential frequencies are a must for your structure, don’t shy away from experimenting with it. But do keep in mind the challenges such a set up is going to offer

  • How to align for cross functional collaboration, in case teams have different frequencies?
  • What is the objective criteria that determines frequency of each of these teams?

Testing phase:

When you are relatively new to the concept or just getting started with OKR methodology, it is highly recommended that you get an expert on board. You could even conduct training sessions to make sure everyone understands the concept thoroughly. Begin with smaller focus groups or 1-2 teams. Set goals for shorter durations and at a higher frequency. You need to familiarize yourself with stretch goals and set ambitious targets. Once you gain expertise, you can follow the standard procedure of setting quarterly OKRs with intermittent check-ins for the entire organisation.

Whatever be the case, the only way you will know what works for your company is by experimentation. Definitely, there are chances that you won’t be successful setting OKRs the very first time. Or the next. Avoid some of these more common mistakes of OKR and with a few trial and errors you will eventually get better. Let us know how frequently do you set your OKRs.

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