Efforts don’t mean much if they do not lead to demonstrable results. And efforts without a goal are futile. Whether personal or organizational, several goal-setting concepts, formulae, and tools have been tried, tested, discarded, and adopted. While no single tool, software, or process has been universally adoptable, a few come close. One that has stood out in recent times is OKRs.
What is OKR?
The acronym stands for Objectives and Key Results.
This concept is simple to implement and helps organizations of all sizes meet their goals. The OKR process involves defining one or two broad and ambitious goals for the year, which are broken down into more specific and achievable goals per quarter.
Each goal (Objective) needs to be linked to deliverables (Key Results). To determine the success or achievement of the goals, the deliverables must be measurable, but not necessarily with numbers. For example, a milestone can be measured by its completion.
The concept has been around for about half a century and continues to gain popularity. Today, it is used by several companies across various sectors worldwide. Here’s how you can implement OKRs successfully.
On the face of it, it may seem like OKRs are more suited for smaller or flatter organizations, but it was conceptualized and first used by Intel and Google.
Large-sized companies use OKRs for many reasons, the chief of them being ease and transparency in communication, leading to the alignment of goals. This alignment happens not only between organizational goals and individual goals but also across departments and divisions, making the company a truly cohesive unit.
The Benefits of OKRs in business
Using OKRs in business – especially in large-scale enterprises – helps address some common issues companies face. Well-defined and constructed company OKRs can help improve communication, increase transparency, sharpen focus, and track progress.
In large-sized companies, coordination and communication across teams, even far-flung ones, becomes more accessible. It also encourages efficacy and efficiency at work.
Among the significant benefits of implementing OKRs in large organizations are the following:
1. Teams in Alignment :
Effective use of OKRs means that divisions, departments, teams, and individuals are all aware of the company’s goals and are focused on them. With these as the lighthouse, the goals and objectives of teams and individuals can be charted.
2. Clarity and Transparency :
When company OKRs are communicated across the organization, everyone knows the connection between individual goals and broader aspects like the company’s vision and business strategy. This tool introduces transparency that shows what’s working well and which areas need improvement.
3. Invested Employees :
OKRs define the ‘what’ and ‘how’ at the macro level. But at the level of the individual, the ‘how’ is not mandated. This allows employees to come up with suggestions and ideas for improving processes and achieving goals. The clear direction will enable them to understand how their contribution affects the business’s overall success. Thus, employees are more motivated, driven, and invested in the company’s goals.
Challenges while implementing company OKRs
Highlighting positives must go hand-in-hand with addressing negatives. And there are several challenges prevalent when implementing OKRs in business. Of utmost importance is the need to identify and define OKRs. If these are ambiguous, it creates divisions instead of unity, leading to confusion rather than clarity. This will help if you’re looking for examples of OKRs or tips on writing them.
Some of the common challenges are:
1.Tradition and legacy
In older and large-sized organizations, people are hesitant to move away from formulae that have served them well. There is comfort in sticking to doing things the same way over and over again. Getting people out of this box to implement a new method is a challenge that needs consideration.
Appointing OKR Ambassadors at various levels who are enthusiastic and convinced of the benefits of the OKR process helps with implementation.
With so many people involved at so many levels, it can become difficult to balance the process with individual goals on one end and organizational objectives on the other.
Here’s why consistency is essential. Operating with a high level of transparency at all levels and demonstrating how goals are being met at the organizational level helps maintain conformity. Everyone understands what is going on; they can change course as needed and align accordingly.
3.Setting OKRs in business
Setting off a chain reaction during the OKR process is very tempting. Especially in a solid hierarchical setup where the Key Results of the top level become the Objectives for the next. While it’s relatively easy to set OKRs this way, the OKR process becomes rigid and may hinder change.
It may be easier to get teams to align if the process is more participative and allows directional goal alignment at various levels.
What OKRs mean in practice
Large-size company OKRs need to be set at many different levels. Broadly these levels are:
It’s essential to have a healthy mix of top-down OKRs and those that are participative and inclusive. Organizational goals and deliverables, for example, are usually non-negotiable and cannot be wholly participative. However, those set at the team and individual levels leave room for innovation, participation, and involvement of employees.
Examples of enterprise OKRs are:
1. At the Organizational Level
Objective: Position the company as an ‘Employer of Choice’ concerning working conditions, work culture, and employee benefits
- Increase in positive Glassdoor reviews from 60% to 80%
- Features in the local press and leading publications
- 50% increase in applications from the Top 5 institutes to the company’s internship program
2. At the Departmental Level
Objective: Create a hybrid working environment
- Identify roles that can be successful in a hybrid working mode
- Prepare job descriptions and employee personas to fit these roles
- Identify support required in the work-from-home environment
- Prepare a budget for infrastructure support for employees working in the hybrid setup
3. At the Team Level
Objective: Improve work culture
- Conduct quarterly one-on-ones with each team member – to better understand their circumstances, motivations, and ambitions
- Increase positive feedback in anonymous surveys conducted from 65% to 80%
- 30% increase in referrals from current employees
4. At the Individual Level
Objective: Organize one CSR initiative every quarter
- Identify a CSR initiative that aligns with the company’s vision and goals
- Plan an activity that benefits a local body and involves the employees of the company
- Organize and execute the planned activity
Important points to consider
Not all OKRs are 100% achievable. A 60%-70% success rate is considered admirable, and if all OKRs are achieved 100% of the time, they are not challenging enough.
OKRs fail for many reasons. Some of the most common and preventable problems are making the process too complicated, making OKRs too rigid and complex, leaving OKRs vague and ambiguous, and not having a method to monitor and follow up.
OKR software can be used to track the OKR process. This helps with managing consistency for better results.
Putting a collaborative OKR process in place that encourages ownership of the process and achieving objectives, can see large-size organizations implement this framework successfully.