Creating products that customers are looking for, requires organizations to take a reviewing look at the functions and journeys. It highlights the need to be aligned within and across teams to achieve the priorities set as a whole. The business landscape is changing quite fast and no doubt accelerated by the happenings all over the world, and organizations have to iterate quickly to align on strategic priorities. Leadership needs to play an important role in making this happen: Objectives and Key Results help in this regard, by bringing disparate teams together, and keeping team members connected, aligned, and moving toward results.
What is the OKR approach?
OKRs help teams to define what they want to achieve in the given timeframe (typically a quarter), and align those goals with that of the organization’s vision. With OKRs, measurable outcomes can easily be understood by every employee in the organization and they can actively contribute to the process by constantly iterating as and when they have more actionable data. OKRs are adopted to improve individual performances that lead to the success of the organization, not measure it and rate it. OKR software provides a platform to keep track of these.
3 Important elements of OKRs:
Goals, metrics, and targets are the three important elements of the OKR structure. Among these, goals are the direction towards which the organization aspires to go, and metrics help in monitoring the employee performance and finding out if targets are at the level of performance an organization wants to achieve.
What is OKR tracking?
OKR tracking helps team leads and managers to provide direction to the individual members of their team. The main aspects of OKR tracking are:
Defining the Objectives and Key results
The qualitative descriptions of what an organization aims to achieve can be worded to form the objectives, and the steps that can be taken to achieve those form Key Results. Key results have definite numbers attached to them so that they can be tracked. Clearly defining objectives simplifies the planning of everyday work, and the success of this approach is measured by the Key Results.
Making OKRs transparent (or How to track OKRs)
By sharing OKRs with their team members, managers can encourage active participation in defining and achieving the values set. Managers have to make sure that everybody can see the current status of OKRs and track the Key results on a regular basis.
Working towards achieving the OKR
Evaluating the achievements and progress regularly highlights the gaps in skills, understanding, and the difficulties of the project. The process also sheds light on the amount of time available to complete and communicate any risks in advance.
What are OKR software? Why are they used?
Objectives and key results (OKR) software simplify the process of overall productivity measurement across the organization, in a way that doesn’t force employees to mindlessly achieve arbitrary targets. Dedicated OKR software helps the managers and the leadership team to set and monitor goals for teams and individual employees. These software solutions provide an effective alternative to chats, emails and shared sheets that allow comments – because they integrate with these pre-existing tools and make it easy for managers to check in regularly with the goals set and convey the expectations from team members.
What should I look for in an OKR tool?
Before adopting a tool that is tailor-made for Objectives and Key Results, a few factors need to be looked into. Finding out where the OKR practices are differing from the requirements of the organizations, helps in setting better goals and performance management measures. These features are usually not supported by generic goal management solutions. Some other such factors to consider are:
Two different organizations will have vastly different approaches to their OKR adoption process. These are minute variations in the approach taken by teams towards OKRs: some organizations go for variations that make the process more like an agile goal-setting framework, whereas some others keep a semi-annual/annual cadence. Strictly public OKRs might be the way to go in some organizations, and some may resort to privacy controls to streamline OKRs with existing processes. The list is endless.
These tweaks can happen only if the framework is flexible. What feels like an unsuitable approach for the team today might end up being the chosen solution during the next cycle.
Ease in visualising the complex alignments through supported views
Alignment is a key feature of OKR. The OKR software used by an organization should provide supported views for employees and managers so that they can keep track of the progress without making large detours from their everyday work. This results in every member of the team knowing how their progress is tied with others and who is aiming for what.
Scalable from small to large teams
While it is important for the organizations to consider the performance, security, and robustness of the software application while adopting OKRs – but more importantly, the OKR software being used should evolve as the process develops with changes in team size. e.g. initially it may want to ensure progress updates every 2 weeks but as the team size grows may desire weekly updates. It could be the other way round as well, reducing frequency as the team size grows.
Whichever direction the process evolves, the OKR tool should evolve with the team or organization adopting it.
Reflecting on real-time progress with integrations
One of the key elements of an OKR tool is its ability to automate the progress update by integrating it with other tools. By helping employees set goals that are in line with the vision of the organization, teams can gamify the OKR process that encourages individual contributors to excel and focus on learning. And of course, one of the obvious benefits is that the managers don’t have to manage progress in multiple places, which saves a lot of operational overhead. The advantage is that the employees start focusing on the outcomes, instead of getting assigned tasks done without bothering to understand why.
Key Results lead to a lot of numerical data & analytics around not just progress but also the overall process adoption. Most software provides seemingly endless data. But the OKR software chosen should be able to give actionable insights, like how many & which of the employees are not actively involved in OKR adoption. The statistics and results also highlight the bottlenecks that are detrimental towards the achievement of the vision of the organization.
OKR software should be User-friendly
This may sound like a cliché but it is very important to choose software that has a seamless user experience. Failing to do so might lead to low adoption rates, a high risk of failure in achieving organization goals, and other long-term problems. Make sure that the OKR tool can be easily integrated into the team’s daily routine and does not require any special effort. Within the software itself, try to assess how detailed attention is given to the core features of the product.
The fact that the OKR framework has proved to be successful for so many organizations and is being adopted by industry leaders, it is natural to assume that implementing them is a costly affair. Google used spreadsheets to manage their OKRs when it was a small start-up. And even now, the internal tool used by the organization is devoid of any bells and whistles. This shows it is acceptable to use a cost-effective tool to test out OKRs, and the process is easier now with free versions of OKR management tools.