We will discover the 4 superpowers of this method, the importance that the whole organization, from the base to the management, concentrates its efforts on the same important issues, and how it is relevant to monitor through key results, in what way these objectives are achieved.
A management and growth methodology applicable both on a startup, as well as within a company already on the market.
This model is called OKR ( O bjectives and K ey R esults) and is a collaborative goal setting protocol for companies, teams and individuals. It is a management methodology that helps ensure that efforts are focused on the same important issues across the organization chain, from grassroots to management.
A goal is simply what needs to be achieved, nothing more and nothing less. By definition, the objectives are significant, concrete, action-oriented, motivating. If properly designed and distributed, they are a vaccine against confused thinking and an uncertain execution.
The key findings are reference standards and monitor how the goal is achieved. To be effective they must be specific, bound by a deadline, aggressive but realistic and, above all, measurable and verifiable.
Either you meet the requirements of a key result, or you don’t: there is no gray area, there is no room for doubt. At the end of the designated period, typically a quarter, it is stated whether the key result has been achieved or not.
The 4 superpowers of the OKR method:
1) Focus and engage on priorities
OKRs help us choose the one that matters most.
- Set the appropriate cadence for your OKR cycle. Double tracking is recommended, with quarterly OKRs distributed in parallel and associated with long-term strategies.
- To work out the implementation nodes and strengthen the commitment of the leaders, introduce the launch of the OKRs first with senior management. In this way you will allow the process to gain momentum, before recruiting individual collaborators to participate.
- Designate an OKR “pastor” to ensure that each individual spends the time of each cycle choosing what matters most.
- Set yourself three to five main goals – what you need to achieve – for each cycle. Too many OKRs dilute and disperse people’s effort. Expand your actual capacity by deciding what not to do, then discard, differ or scale accordingly.
- In choosing the OKR, look for the lenses that have the maximum power to obtain exceptional performance.
- Find the raw material for the main OKRs in the mission statement of the organization, in the strategic plan or in a general theme chosen by the leadership.
- To emphasize a departmental goal and gain lateral support, raise it to the company’s general OKR.
- For each goal, establish no more than five key outcomes that are measurable, unambiguous and bound by a deadline. By definition, completing all the key results equates to achieving the goal.
- When a key result requires extra attention, target it for one or more cycles.
- The most important element for the success of the OKR method is the belief and support from the leaders of the organization.
2) Align and connect teamwork
Public and transparent OKRs ignite and strengthen collaboration.
- It encourages employees by showing how their goals are related to the leader’s vision and the company’s main priorities. The path to operational excellence is made up of public, transparent and aligned objectives, starting from the base up to the CEO.
- Use all-hands meetings (meetings involving everyone who works in the company) to explain why an OKR is important for the organization. Then keep repeating the message until you are tired of hearing it yourself.
- When implementing cascading OKRs, with the objectives guided by the top management, the implementation of the key results by frontline employees is welcome. Innovation resides more on the margins of a company than in the center.
- Encourage a good bottom-up percentage of OKR – about half.
- Destroy departmental isolation by connecting teams with horizontally shared OKRs. The cross-functional operations allow quick and coordinated decisions, they are the basis for seizing a competitive advantage.
- Make all cross-functional and cross-functional dependencies explicit.
- When an OKR is reviewed or deleted, make sure that all stakeholders (all parties actively involved in the project) become aware of it.
3) The track for responsibility
OKRs help us monitor progress and correct trajectory.
- To build a culture of responsibility it is necessary to put in place a continuous revaluation and an honest and objective classification, starting from the top. When leaders openly admit their missteps, contributors feel more free to take health risks.
- To motivate contributors, open and tangible measures that reward their achievements are more effective than extrinsic rewards.
- To ensure that the OKRs are always timely and relevant, you need to make sure that the designated “shepherd” checks the flock by means of regular check-ins and updates on progress. Frequent check-ins allow teams and people to adjust their trajectory with agility, or to fail quickly.
- To sustain high performance, individual OKR meetings between contributors and managers should be encouraged weekly, in addition to monthly department meetings.
- When conditions change, feel free to review, add or delete OKR appropriately, even halfway through a cycle. Goals are not written in stone. It is counterproductive to stubbornly maintain goals that are no longer relevant or achievable.
- At the end of a cycle, he uses an OKR ranking – in addition to the self-assessment – to determine past performance, to celebrate results and to plan for future improvement.
- Before moving on to the next cycle, take a moment to reflect and savor what you have accomplished in the previous one.
- To keep OKRs up to date and on time, invest in a dedicated, automated and cloud-based platform. Goal setting systems, when they are public, collaborative, and in real time, work best.
4) Stretch to surprise
OKRs allow us to achieve what seems seemingly impossible.
- At the beginning of each cycle, distinguish between the objectives that must be achieved at 100% (obligatory OKR) and those that can extend to become Big Hairy Audacious Goals, that is, daring, visionary and long-term objectives (aspirational OKR).
- Build an environment where individuals are free to make mistakes without being judged.
- To stimulate problem solving and encourage people to achieve ever greater results, set ambitious goals – even if this may mean losing some quarterly target.
However, do not set the bar high enough to make the OKR completely unrealistic. Morale suffers when people think it is impossible to succeed.
- To achieve productivity or innovation leaps, replace incremental OKRs with exponential ones. This is how industries are disrupted and categories are reinvented.
- He plans the lengthening of the OKRs to adapt them to the culture of the organization. The optimal “stretching” of a company can vary over time, depending on the operational needs of the incoming cycle.
- When a team fails to reach an elongated OKR, they consider taking the goal to the next cycle – as long as the goal is still relevant.
Address issues through ongoing performance management
To address issues before they become problems and give troubled contributors the support they need, you need to switch from annual performance management to ongoing management.
- Achieve an ambitious goal setting by separating forward-looking OKRs from annual retrospective reviews. Rewarding the achievement with a bonus means inviting risk-averse behavior.
- For performance assessments you must replace competitive judgments with transparent and multidimensional criteria. In setting goals, in addition to numbers, you must also consider the teamwork, communication and ambition of each contributor.
- Rely on intrinsic motivations – significant work and growth opportunities – rather than financial incentives, the former are much more powerful.
- To obtain positive business results, you need to implement the ongoing CFRs ( C onversations, F eedbacks and R iconons), in concert with the setting of the structured objectives. Transparent OKRs make coaching more concrete and useful. Continuous CFRs make daily work genuinely collaborative.
- In conversations between managers and contributors about setting performance, allow the contributor to set the agenda. The manager’s role is to learn and help.
- Make performance feedback two-way, not bound by the organization chart.
- Use anonymous surveys to get real-time feedback on particular operations or general morale.
- Strengthen connections between teams and departments through peer-to-peer feedback, in conjunction with cross-functional OKRs.
- Use peer recognition to improve employee engagement and performance. To have the maximum impact, the recognition should be frequent, specific, highly visible and linked to the upper OKR line.
The OKR and CFR: catalysts and nourishment for culture
The OKR catalyze culture, the CFR nurture it.
- Align top line OKRs with the organization’s mission, vision and core values.
- Transmit cultural values with words, but above all with actions.
- Promote maximum performance through collaboration and responsibility.
- To develop a highly motivated culture, he balances OKR “catalysts” (actions that support work) with “nutritious” CFRs (acts of interpersonal support and actions of kindness distributed at random).
- Use OKRs to promote transparency, clarity, purpose and general orientation. Distribute CFRs to build positivity, enthusiasm, openness of thought and daily improvement.
- Before implementing the OKRs, pay attention to the need to address cultural barriers, in particular issues of responsibility and trust.