OKRs are not a good starting point to define what matters for your organization. You need more strategic and tactic thinking before jumping into company and team OKRs.
Two of our recent corporate clients tried OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) on team level and were surprised that it did not work neither to create results not to motivate their teams to apply OKRs to their work. It is because the main principles of OKRs are focus, alignment and cooperation which can only be created if team OKRs are aligned to the overall strategy and company targets, not by everybody coming up with their own targets in silo environments.
Read more about avoiding or breaking silos in our previous blog.
How to find out what matters in your organization?
1. Define and vision your end game
Even being in agile and fast-moving start-up environment you should define your Mission (Why we are here) and Vision (How we see us in the future) or at least trying to define a guiding principle, long-term target or North Star which is both inspiring and easy to remember for you, your investors and staff to know what they are striving for. This could be as big as a mars colony in the case of Tesla or more down to earth to sell anything online after starting with books as we have seen with Amazon. This Mission, Vision or North Star can change over time but should not be adapted in a short term scenario. It also helpful to define your culture, values and behaviors to let everybody know what kind of organization and environment you want to build or work in. Have a look how the right values are important to implement and drive OKRs.
2. Make it more tangible and relatable
After knowing where you want to go in the future, we would define a one to three year business strategy with concrete milestone and deliverables which can translate in one year objectives. The paradox of OKRs is that we want to micro plan only 3 months ahead and adapt each OKR cycle to the new business situation and the previous quarter results in an agile and result oriented way, however we advise to build this flexibility into a a one year framework in which we already estimate the key results for each quarter (and then adapt to reality if needed). This is necessary as a lot of projects and deliverables take more than 3 months (e.g. system developments & integration, product developments & launches, customer / employee experience improvements, etc.) and therefore we can already estimate which quarters could be for preparation (analysis, project set-up, etc.), development and roll-out. Check out our services for strategy and OKR workshops.
3. Question your OKRs versus your North Star, Strategy & Values
Quarterly OKR reviews and set-ups can become very operational and project related by looking on what we have achieved in the last quarter and what we need to take over into the next quarter without looking at the overall end goal anymore. We advise to make everybody aware of your long term targets while deciding on the new quarters priorities and doublecheck them if they are still in line or we just got caught up in 'busywork' which does not create the real value. E.g. Tesla's long term vision was to electrify the entire automobile sector by moving fast from high-value cars to mid-range segments, but they got caught up to overdo their high-value segment too perfect and almost run out of cash. Be sure that your company creates the long term value and work environment you envisioned in every quarterly planning and execution.
4. Check your strategy and values yearly
Going from the fourth quarter to your first quarter of the new fiscal year, we normally run strategy workshop with our clients to make sure that the long term targets are still up to date and that the company culture and values are reflected in the daily work. As described in No. 2 we would than break down the strategy into a rough four quarter planning and distribute the Key Results among this quarters or sequence them by project dependencies (e.g. Planning, Development, Roll-out) with estimations how many quarters these deliverables need. This a is great health check for every organization and gives you a chance to connect your operation company and team OKRs to the overall strategy of the company.
Interesting in getting your Mission, Vision or North Star aligned with your strategy and short term OKR set-up? Contact us at OKR Asia.