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Getting started with OKRs

Convinced by the effectiveness of OKRs but don’t know where to start? OKRs are widely regarded as the best goal-setting system to improve focus and commitment, and create a bold culture among teams.

But from the start they must be embedded properly. Otherwise it’s a bit like going to a bad dentist – it will be time-consuming and painful, and nothing gets fixed.

Targets go wrong when they are short-term, poorly designed, and set from the top with no eye to the reality on the ground. The good news is the process doesn’t have to be cumbersome and uncomfortable, the key is to make sure the reforms are implemented strategically.

There’s no one-size-fits-all, so every organisation will put OKRS into action in a different way, but the process tends to follow a similar pattern. In its simplest form, here’s a breakdown of how we do it.

1) Orientation

There are any number of ways to start the OKR process, but for those who are new to the framework we suggest a free orientation session. We put OKRs into context for you – where they originated, why they work, and what to consider to make them a success.

That way you can make a clear judgement call about whether they may be right for your organisation, and right now. Or we offer a more in-depth session, where we’ll cover all the above but start to tailor it more specifically for your business, and help you envisage what an implementation process might look like.

2) Discovery

This is the ‘scoping it out’ stage, which involves a lot of brainstorming. It will consider what it is your organisation is looking to achieve, and can we ‘hand on heart’ be of value to you on that journey?

We pride ourselves in being fully invested in the work we do, so for any engagement to be a success there needs to be a common understanding of your goals, and complementary working cultures.

If both parties agree that OKRs will drive success, it's then time to lift the lid and fully understand everything there is to know that will be relevant to your OKRs implementation program.

3) Design

We’ll set out a plan of action that is clear and comprehensive. When we’re rolling out OKRs for the first time it usually involves a 12-month timespan.

All the key activities and milestones will be detailed, and the level of our involvement in each element, as well as the likely time and financial overheads associated with the programme.

4) Communication

Ultimately OKRs will vastly improve the flow of communication within your organisation, but before we reach that point it’s vital to get staff on board with the new system. The way to do that is with first-rate communication.

We’ve said this before, and no doubt we’ll say it again - the information needs to be expressed the right way, and it needs to be expressed often. We can’t stress enough how critical this is for a successful OKR rollout. Designing effective messaging for all levels of the organisation is key.

Employees must be given a clear overview of what is going on and what is expected of them. Often it is necessary to highlight that OKRs will not represent an additional task, it is ‘instead of’ rather than ‘in addition to’.

5) Training

No matter your rollout strategy, you will need to find OKR cheerleaders within the organisation who will help champion the cause. We will undertake the training of the key resources, which are usually the senior executive, ambassadors, and team leaders.

6) Implementation

Now it starts to get really engaging because it’s time to put the knowledge into action. We will work with your core team to build out the foundation of the program, identifying or validating the key strategic goals at corporate level and then supporting the crafting of effective OKRs that ensure alignment and engagement throughout the organisation.

This will most likely follow the principles of our Variable Cadence Implementation methodology. That sounds like quite a fancy title, but it will make the various OKRs more realistic and achievable.

The standard set-up is usually annual company-level OKRs and quarterly team OKRs, but different goals will have different rhythms so choosing your own adventure is often the most effective approach.

7) Support

The training wheels are almost ready to come off. In this post-implementation period we provide ongoing support, coaching and guidance whilst also allowing the team to build its own ‘OKR muscle’.

No one goes to the gym for the first time and starts lifting the heaviest weights, so it can take a bit of practice. OKRs need to become a frequent touchpoint.

Armed with a 90-day roadmap the OKR team will be in a position to initiate the required activities (meetings, check-ins) that will embed OKRs within the organisation.

8) Review

A radical shift always requires reflection. At the end of the allotted period, we will conduct a joint review of the existing framework and establish whether the organisation is now in a position to “go it alone”, or if further support and coaching may be needed going forwards.

In conclusion, it’s no secret that many of the world’s most innovative and successful companies use OKRs to fuel growth. The benefits of the system can be huge, but there may be some short-term pain before the long-term gain.

To limit the pain we highly recommend getting professional help in starting with OKRs. Our robust methodology will guide you through the process, setting the right priorities to get the best from teams. Click here to schedule a call with someone from our friendly team.


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