Someone once told me that traditionally, Q4 is where strategy happens. A fairly damning comment perhaps on the levels of engagement around strategy, and the ability and appetite of teams to deliver on priorities throughout the year.
All those best laid plans and ideas from the previous year’s strategy sessions are still sitting there, gathering dust, as business as usual once again takes centre stage and dominates the agenda. The rush is now on to GET SOMETHING STRATEGIC DONE! And so it goes on, year after depressingly familiar year. But how to change?
There appear to be two clear choices. Either you recognise that the current status quo isn’t working for the organisation, that the strategic cadence and habits are insufficient to drive the desired outcomes, and decide to simply repeat the same mistakes over again, regardless. Or you acknowledge that a new method for strategy implementation might produce improved results, and start to explore the options.
Enter OKRs, the agile framework for implementing strategic priorities, used the world over by some of the most successful organisations ever seen. Q4 arrives and you start to look around for more information on the subject, and fortunately find that there are consulting businesses out there that specialise in assisting organisations like yours. You book an introductory discussion to learn more about the framework and to start building a relationship with a consultancy of choice, then you debate its merits a little more internally. And then you decide you want to launch a full OKR implementation in Q1. The stopwatch is now ticking.
That’s all fine of course, but it doesn’t leave a lot of time to not only review and possibly adjust the organisation’s upcoming strategic priorities, but also to overlay an entirely new framework for delivery, educate the teams, develop the actual OKR content and then launch. And that’s before we consider the often crippling impact of the inevitable festive season holidays. Cultural changes take time to bed in - and make no mistake this almost certainly will require a change in culture - and without the opportunity for pilot teams to test the process and iron out the creases the risk of failure is significantly increased. Sounds all too familiar?
And yet… here at OKRAdvisory we receive most of our enquiries for new OKR implementation work, and also remediation engagements for poorly performing OKR rollouts, in the lead up to Q4. We can often hear the desperation in clients’ voices - another year has passed and they find themselves in the exact same scenario as the previous year, and the one before that, and so on. Another year has passed with no clear progress towards strategic goals.
Far from ideal clearly, but that’s fine, here at OKRAdvisory we can work with that. There may however be limited time for fine tuning the process, observing trial and error, and dare I say it, introducing agility.
How about we picture this instead? Halfway through the year your teams recognise that pursuit of strategic goals is going the same way as in previous years, trampled into submission by fire fighting and business as usual. But instead of waiting to see if Q3 looks the same as every other Q3 you’ve possibly ever experienced, and then starting the conversations around change and improvement in Q4, you actually begin the process for OKR implementation or remediation right then and there. You “strike while the iron is hot”.
You can then take an infinitely more measured approach to appointing a support partner. You can set up a pilot perhaps to run in Q4 so that valuable lessons are learned by the time the full rollout starts in Q1, and comprehensive orientation and training can be undertaken for those individuals and teams likely to come into contact with the framework. Training is a critical step that is often truncated or worse still, completely omitted when time is pressured, and as has been stated previously, can be a highly damaging, false economy. Having the time and space to properly follow through on this critical element sounds good doesn’t it?
It’s critical when introducing a framework such as OKRs that an organisation gives itself the greatest chance of success as is possible. Our advice would always be to start your OKR journey as soon as it becomes obvious your organisation needs to introduce change, and not simply to wait until Q4 to begin the conversation because it falls in line with the established strategic cycle. Supercharging strategy delivery should be a priority, not something that’s put on the back burner until the last possible moment.
It’s never too early to start the discussion.