Delivering. That’s the key word here… OKRs are about delivery, ensuring your strategic priorities are sufficiently focused and transparent to enable the rest of the organisation to deliver on what the organisation has set out to achieve over a given timeframe, through alignment and ultimately, engagement.
It is vitally important to get this message about delivery across to clients, particularly as OKRs have become more widespread, and to avoid the increasingly common mistake that OKRs are about strategy development, or worse still are somehow the strategy itself. For those not “strategically mature” it is very easy to become confused, but just to be clear OKRs are purely a mechanism, a framework, for delivering what has already been identified as the most important priorities for an organisation’s survival or progression.
As I often say to new clients, the success of OKRs is actually based on two factors - the success of the implementation itself, and the robustness of the strategy upon which they are based. Using OKRs effectively within an organisation that has a poor strategy simply means they’ll be doing the wrong things very well. Not ideal!
This is why, at the start of every engagement, we request a short session with our clients to review their top level strategy to ensure it is sufficiently robust and has been developed using sound principles and best practice. This is often just a brief run through and tends to lead in one of two directions - either we establish from the outset that the strategy is well considered (and this isn’t about necessarily agreeing with the strategy, but agreeing that it has been well conceived) and provides a good foundation from which to establish OKRs, or the client quickly recognises that it’s perhaps not as fundamentally robust as it could be. If this is the case there may need to be a slightly different conversation regarding the development of a more appropriate strategic foundation, but one which is vitally important and ultimately will benefit the organisation in the short and long term.
After all, and as already mentioned, efficiently implementing a poor strategy - being good at doing the wrong things - is potentially more damaging to the long term survival of the organisation than not having a strategy at all. And that’s before we even start to consider the impact on staff engagement… The good news is that strategy development using globally recognised and best practice tools is something we’ve been doing for 20 years, so we can definitely help out here if needed.
Strategic review is an important first step, and certainly one which not all OKR consultants recommend, perhaps because not all consultants have the background in strategy consulting that we do. But for us we’d rather not build a house at all than build one on shifting sands.
Once that’s been completed however, it’s time to focus on developing the structure that will allow the organisation to deliver on those well established strategic priorities, starting with top level OKRs and then connecting horizontally as well as vertically throughout the organisation to ensure we maximise the benefit from those four key ‘superpowers’ described at the outset... focus, alignment, transparency and engagement.