How to start using OKRs:
OKRs are a great way to create structure and focus for your organization, but you can only reap their benefits if you actually start using them. So how do you get going?
- Write it down. It’s impossible to know if something is right, wrong or missing if it exists only in your head. Putting OKRs down on paper helps solidify them and gives everyone an opportunity to see the targets they need to work towards.
- Make sure that everyone understands what OKRs are (and aren’t). If not all of your employees understand how OKRs work, there’s a good chance that they will end up feeling confused, frustrated and unproductive instead of energized, focused and accountable. It’s essential that your team knows the difference between OKRs and KPIs so that they can understand why both are essential for business success (and when each should be used).
- Don’t just talk about it… do it! Although there is no single way to implement OKRs, starting with a workshop can help educate your team on what exactly OKRs are as well as how they work and why they matter. In our workshop specifically designed around creating successful objectives, we provide ample time for discussion and question-asking so that everyone has an opportunity to have their voice heard before setting any goals.
- Remember: the aim of using OKR is not simply to set goals; it’s to use these goals as a joint learning tool of accountability while also making sure that each person has clear direction surrounding what needs to be done in order for the company to grow successfully into the future — together.* Remember: OKR should be ambitious! One of the most common mistakes people make when creating their first set of OKR is failing to think big enough. Since this framework often challenges teams out of their comfort zones by encouraging them toward more difficult challenges than those previously faced individually or in smaller groups, some people may be tempted
Be specific and write them down.
The next step after establishing a goal is to make it specific. You can do this by writing OKRs down on a whiteboard or using a tool like Asana. By making them something visual and tangible, you’ll help everyone keep the objectives in mind throughout the quarter, and it also makes it easy to refer back to them at any point.
Writing them down also helps you be more specific from the get-go. If your objective is “improve team communication,” for example, writing that on a whiteboard could provoke questions like “how will we measure that?” or “what does ‘improved’ actually mean?” This type of specificity is critical for creating meaningful OKRs—and if you don’t find yourself asking these types of questions when writing down your goal, you probably need to go further with your definition.
Give yourself time and space to think.
In order to come up with good ideas, you need time and space. Make sure you have both when you think about your OKRs. This means that you should avoid situations where you are distracted or rushed, and aim for settings where you are focused and relaxed. Being in a good mood can also help–try to make sure that you’re well-rested, well-fed, and comfortable before thinking through your OKRs.
Get buy-in from your team.
One of the best ways to ensure a smooth transition to OKRs is to get buy-in from your team. If they feel they have ownership over the process and understand how it works, it will make it easier for them to adapt. If you want their help working through OKRs, be sure that they know that you are counting on them for input when deciding what goals and outcomes should be set.
Use a tool to help you manage your OKRs.
Once you’ve established your OKRs, it’s important to use a tool that will help you manage them. Ideally, this tool should be:
- Easy to use. The point is to make life easier for you and your employees—not more stressful. If the tool is too hard or complicated to figure out, no one will want to use it.
- Visible. For OKRs to work, they must be visible and accessible at all times; otherwise, people won’t have an incentive to hit their key results or even set them in the first place. You need a tool that allows everyone on the team to see their departmental objectives as well as team objectives on an ongoing basis so they can keep working towards hitting their goals at all times.
- Track progress and key results easily. Make sure the tool has a way for employees to track progress on their key results and check off milestones along the way so they can feel like they’re making headway toward achieving ambitious objectives (and so you can gauge whether your OKRs are actually working).
- Secure access for every team member (and only team members). This goes without saying, but make sure any data that’s being stored in your tracking system is secure from hackers/the general public; you don’t want sensitive information about yourself or your company leaking out into cyberspace!
Make sure everyone understands them.
The idea behind OKRs is simple: instead of having everyone come up with their own goals and objectives, you define a few key objectives that are collaboratively agreed on in a team. Once those are defined, each person has to come up with the specific steps they can take to achieve those goals. For example, one objective could be “improve the customer experience by 25%.” That might start with improving communication within your company and between departments. Then another part of this objective might be “increase revenue by £100 million,” so coming up with specific ways to accomplish these two things might include deciding how much more your company needs to spend on marketing next year and developing a marketing plan for the next 3 months.
A lot of people think OKRs are only about setting measurable strategies that can be accomplished through hard work and dedication; however, these strategies should also be ambitious enough for them to take on without being overwhelming or unrealistic. After all, some team members might have more insight into the inner workings of your business than others—and no one wants their job solely dependent on someone else’s ideas.
Don’t be afraid to iterate.
Because of this, it’s important that OKRs are not set in stone and should be seen as something that can be adjusted throughout the process. You should not be afraid to change goals or priorities if they aren’t working or are no longer needed. This is an ongoing process, so there’s no need to hesitate when making adjustments.
One way to do this is by holding a quarterly review with your team where you can make these changes together. It’s also important to discuss the results of these reviews with your team and make sure everyone understands the reasons for changing objectives and key results so everyone feels invested in the work they’re doing.
Startups can harness the power of OKRs by formulating them ambitiously, using them as a joint learning tool, focusing on three to five key results that matter, and not connecting them with bonuses or promotions.
Hopefully, this post serves as a good overview of how to get started with OKRs. From my experience, using OKRs is a valuable practice for startups. It helps to align their efforts throughout the company and can help make each individual’s goals more concrete, which surveys have shown contributes heavily to productivity.