OKR is an acronym that stands for “Objectives and Key Results”.

It may be helpful to have a little background on the OKR acronym and what it means. “OKR” stands for objectives and key results, a goal-setting methodology that allows you to set objectives—the goals you want to achieve—and then track the results you want to hit in order to get there. As the name suggests, OKRs are made up of two parts:

  • Objectives: these are what you want your company or team to aim for; they should be ambitious but not impossible.
  • Key Results: these are how you’re going to measure your objectives, and ideally, they’re quantitative so it’s easy to see whether or not you’ve met them.

Big companies like Google, LinkedIn and Zynga use this method of goal-setting because using OKRs has been shown to increase employee engagement by up to 300%.

The process of setting OKRs helps organizations define their goals, key performance indicators and set up clear metrics that can be tracked and monitored.

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are a framework for defining and tracking objectives and their outcomes. They were first developed by Intel in the 1970s, popularized by John Doerr when he was at Google, and have since gained popularity across a range of industries.

The process of setting OKRs helps organizations define their goals, key performance indicators and set up clear metrics that can be tracked and monitored. Companies using this method establish a culture of transparency, focus, alignment and accountability. It’s easy to see why OKR adoption has grown so rapidly: every company wants all these things!

So what are the possible challenges? How do you really know if your company is ready to start implementing OKRs?

Is Your Organisation Ready for OKRs? 

1. Not committing to transparency:

One of the most fundamental mistakes an organization can make when implementing OKRs is not committing to transparency. Transparency is the cornerstone of any successful OKR system, and without it you may as well just skip the whole process.

OKR transparency has two components:

  • The first component is that there has to be a clear company-wide understanding that transparency is important, desired, and a part of the culture. It’s not enough for leadership alone to discuss how they want more “transparency” in the company—there needs to be a concerted effort at all levels of management to make sure everyone knows transparency is important (and why).
  • The second component is in getting your actual work done “on the ground.” If you’re trying out OKRs for yourself or your team, but aren’t making an active effort toward greater visibility with your Objectives or Key Results, you won’t reap the benefits that OKRs promise. This means actually sharing your individual Objectives and Key Results with those in your direct reporting hierarchy so they can see what you’re working on and how it relates to their own teams’ efforts.

The Importance of Transparency in Leadership

2. Not being specific enough in your objectives

Objectives should be crystal clear, and this is where we see the majority of mistakes. The objective ‘Improve our product’ is not specific enough—we need to know what we’re improving and how much, or else the team will end up wasting time debating what exactly it means to improve the product in general. A more specific example would be ‘Increase the number of users from 80 to 200 by the end of Q1’.Similarly, if you have an objective that’s too broad like ‘Improve user satisfaction, it’s hard to determine whether it’s been achieved or not—you’ll need a key result like ‘Receive 30% more positive reviews on Trustpilot’ as part of your OKR framework.

Is Your Organisation Ready for OKRs? 

3. Not aligning with the company

Clear communication is key when setting OKRs. The best way to do that is by having everyone communicate with each other and understanding the strategy, vision and goals of the company. Without this, the effort behind setting OKRs becomes lost because people don’t understand why they’re doing things or what benefit their work will provide.

To make sure everyone at your company understands the importance of your OKRs, it’s a good idea to think about how you want each person to feel about them. Do you want every employee to know that they’ll be held accountable for helping set them? Or would an employee be able to say “I was on track all year” be more meaningful?

It’s also important for all employees to understand their role in achieving the company’s goals so working together can drive progress. Part of making sure everyone knows their role is communicating it and checking in with them on a regular basis.

4. Focusing too much on outputs instead of outcomes.

In this case, the output (or task) is the unit of measurement; so it may be good to set different OKRs that focus on outputs and outcomes.

This will help you develop a culture that tracks results rather than tasks. Remember, these results can be qualitative or quantitative.

If an important KPI depends on output, work with your teams to find a way to aggregate these outputs into a single number. This will allow you to view progress better and encourage teams to focus on outcomes over outputs.

The Outcome-Based Guide to Meetings – rAVe [PUBS]

5. Too many OKRs to track or too few OKRs

Being focused is key to success. Make sure that every OKR you set is aligned with a broader objective, and if it isn’t, remove it from the list.

If you have too many OKRs, then some will be lost in translation and won’t make their way to the frontline effectively enough so that teams can deliver on them well. This will also lead to confusion as leaders and team members become uncertain about what they’re supposed to focus on — which results in a lack of focus altogether — or wasting time trying to figure out what they should work on first while important deadlines approach fast.

In the end, it all comes down to commitment from leadership, clarity from employees and staying focused on making sure everything is aligned with your company’s strategy and vision.

Leadership is the key to achieving your OKRs. You can’t do it alone, though. A company needs a motivated, inspiring team that follows through on projects and goals in alignment with the business objectives. But don’t be fooled: OKRs are not just about meeting numbers. They’re about making sure you are focused on the right things at the right time. For example, if you have an OKR for improving personal productivity, let employees know ahead of time that if they can tell your manager that they have improved their productivity by at least 20% compared to what was expected (based on a previous quarter), then they will receive a bonus for doing so. If your manager does not think that someone has made significant improvements in personal productivity and it shows in their work, he or she can ask them why they haven’t done so and advise them of what steps they should take to do so.

Praise is also important when it comes to employee performance. It shows people how much we value them and makes them want to go above expectations even more than before—and getting involved with their projects helps us achieve our goals faster than ever before!

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