OKRs

How to implement the OKRs successfully

By on December 22, 2021

The OKR success stories like Google, LinkedIn, Spotify, etc. share a common trait: Value Compatibility. They believed in transparency, they were eager to disrupt their industries, and above all, they had faith in their teams. These seem like simple values to have and practice, but there can be a lot of reasons why the culture of the organization is not geared towards them.

Transparency: Rather than the traditional ‘share only what is necessary’ behaviour, adopting a sharing (almost) everything approach tends to foster an environment of trust & helps align the overall direction.

Clarity of purpose: Be it through vision or mission, providing a crystal clear purpose that the employees can relate to as individuals, makes all the difference in the world when decision-making powers are delegated through the hierarchy.

Trust among stakeholders: When trust is inherent among employees, companies deliver positive results for every stakeholder involved. Ensuring accepted practices in the organization are based on trust, lets employees be free of other distractions, and focus on the common goal.

Ambitious goals: Goals that challenge the status quo, make the goal-setting process exciting for disruptors & ambitious employees. The fact that employees can set goals they are not going to achieve 100% is a shocking departure from the norm for many, and it frees them up from looking at their performance management process as some list that has items to be ticked on. Instead, they can focus on gaining the knowledge and experience of solving the problem at hand.

High engagement at work: High engagement rates in the organization helps in OKR adoption, and the reverse can be true too – where OKR adoption improves employee engagement. Finding out about the current engagement factor (Here’s a sample survey) is essential to understand the organization’s compatibility with OKR. The values that an organization practices as a whole is essential for the success of OKR adoption.

Guide on OKR implementation

The profile of the companies using OKR and their stupendous success – Google, LinkedIn, et al – can give an impression that OKRs can be a solution to all organizational problems. The temptation to see OKRs as such is understandable, but practising only the values that these organizations follow is not a key to success of OKRs.

For example, setting an arbitrary goal like ‘Increase revenue’ as a top-level objective fails to align teams and employees – since there is no concrete value attached to it. The trickiest part is the process of designing OKRs at the team & individual level so that they support the top-level objective (For example, providing solutions to X% of the population, and achieving a Y% increase in revenue as a result). That is where the translation of strategy into execution happens, and the process needs to be consistently monitored for efficiency & effectiveness.

What are the steps to take care of while onboarding OKRs

Giving employees a clear picture of what is happening during OKR adoption is necessary to keep them from getting overwhelmed. It is natural for them to see the new OKR-based processes as an addition to the work they do every day, and the resistance to do extra work due to the whims and fancies of their leaders is understandable. Here are a few key steps involved in preparing a workforce to see OKRs as an add-on to improve their work, and not a burden on their already overflowing plate.

  • Promotion
    Different events can be utilized to showcase the importance of, and the reason behind, OKR adoption. All hands meetings, team stand-ups, monthly town halls, etc. can be good places to introduce initiatives, as these events are designed around discussions as well as dissipating information.
  • Introduction
    Planning a few OKR workshops or training camps a few days before OKR adoption can help too. These can be conducted by internal OKR experts or external consultants who are well-versed in the subject. Also, informing the employees about the framework and how it is being tailored to suit the organization’s needs, gives them a clear view of what the future holds – and this can be achieved with OKR team play from Atlassian.
  • Expectation Setting
    When the Objectives and Key Results are being defined, it is prudent to have an idea of what failure looks like too. Anonymous surveys (here’s an example) help gauge the sentiments, and allow for a clear definition of what success & failure looks like, in the short, mid & long term.
  • Recruiting OKR Champions
    The process of agile goal setting in OKR differs from other methods, mainly because OKR processes may vary entirely from team to team. Identifying self-driven individuals in teams and then assigning them the task of improvising the process can speed up the process of getting the buy-in from the entire team. These OKR champions can take up the role of mentors who can clear doubts about OKRs of their team members, and act as sounding boards to help the rest of the team craft meaningful OKRs.

Importance of OKR adoption

OKRs allow teams to work in a collaborative way, as the direction provided by the objectives set can guide teams towards the most important tasks. The stretch factor of OKRs makes space for newer, innovative solutions – and allows employees to strive for improvement.

OKRs also help in the separation of performance management from the evaluation process. Using year-end goals and targets as a base for evaluation can be useful, but it takes away the learning aspect of performance management. With OKRs, organizations can genuinely separate their performance management from appraisals, and allow employees to openly work on their primary and secondary skills. The continuous feedback aspect of OKRs keeps managers and employees on the lookout for better solutions and coaching if help is required in any aspect.

Finding the right OKR guidance

There are plenty of good things organizations can achieve with OKRs, and the probability of success increases on seeking help from accomplished OKR partners. With solutions that integrate with Jira, UpRaise suite of apps also provide a comprehensive understanding of OKR adoption. The simplicity of UpRaise apps, along with the fact that they can be used with Jira, ensures a higher rate of compliance with a simpler learning curve.

Conclusion

 Trying to emulate the success of industry leaders by adopting OKRs can be appealing, but the process requires 100% commitment from the leaders and employees of the organization considering the shift. The basics of OKRs might seem simple enough, but implementing them without any glitch requires serious changes in behaviour. Organizations need to have a strong mission and value statement that employees can look up to, and derive their individual or team-level OKRs from. It is essential for managers to understand the basics of OKRs, gauge the readiness of their organization, note down the changes necessary for OKRs to succeed, and help their team members understand the importance of using OKRs.

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