Updated: Nov 19, 2020
OKR (Objectives & Key Results) are great to align the company on what to focus on in the next quarter and how to achieve this, but actions are the main driver for your success.
For us at Asia PMO the main focus of OKRs is on actions& implementation when setting your company goals, hence the acronym OKRA©. OKRA, composed of Objectives, Key Results + Actions, focuses on “getting things done”. This is achieved via initial alignment on Objectives & Key Results, followed by proposing & implementing continuous actions from the team s to achieve the OKRs. The more actions we carry out, try & even sometimes fail at, the closer we get to achieve our results based on the agile management.
What are OKRs?
Andy Grove invented it, John Doerr evangelized it and Larry Page famously used it in Google to great success. The Objectives and Key Results management style is a relatively simple way for an organization to set goals and achieve results whilst measuring them along the way versus the actions. It has revolutionized the way an organization communicates internally in a completely transparent and open style. Furthermore it re-engineered the traditional top-to-bottom approach to management, reversing it in such a way that the goals are set by the leaders, and the rest of the organization is free to set its own OKRs. Transparency is key however, as everyone can see each other’s OKR’s from the lowest level all the way up to the CEO. Finally, when using OKRs, results are measured weekly as opposed to the traditional form, with performance reviews set up every 6 months or yearly. Plans & actions are constantly implemented to get close to, and achieve, the key results.
The benefits of Objectives, Key Results, & Action
Carsten Ley, co-founder of Asia PMO, a leader in implementing new and revolutionary project management techniques in South East Asia, focuses on OKRs on action management. OKRA was conceived based on the idea that Objectives & Key Results are planned before the quarter and will be only modified along the way if needed, but actions are the key driver of OKRs during the 3-months achievement timeline, hence OKRA.
Asia PMO has been implementing this method successfully through our consulting business for companies throughout Asia, Europe & USA for over 2 years. With an actionable final component to this goal-driven management technique it leaves no room for ambiguities. It is proven that most organizations are using the fundamentals of Objectives and Key Results to plan the quarterly goals together with their teams. But here they get stuck, because it without the clear connection of what teams or individuals are doing daily to the key results, it contains no realizable steps to take. In other words, as the name suggests, the Action in OKRA is the engine that takes the design and pumps gas into it, driving it forward.
Business Case Study 1: Tech company in Myanmar
At the beginning of 2020 we had a productive 2-days OKR Kick-off with one of our Asia PMO clients in Myanmar and it’s 40+ wider management team. The goal was to review Mission, Vision, Core Values & Company Strategy and to set 5 Objectives and define 2 - 3 Key Results (with measurable values & dates). The next step was to ask the teams to come up with actions to achieve these KRs. During the first month most teams were very motivated to report their actions and results in the tool. However, the KR achievement dashboard (see tools section below) was not communicated clearly throughout the company. Therefore, in the second and third month these updates became less and less regular and therefore the management lost sight of the achievements until the full review at the end of the quarter. The OKRs were perfect, but communication by the management to keep the teams motivated to report and verify their actions versus the OKRs needed to be improved for the next quarter.
Challenges with OKRA:
Objectives & Key results can only be achieved if the actions are reported and measured on a weekly basis and conducted on time. Key challenges are:
Teams are excited about Objectives & Key Results at the start but lose focus and motivation on reporting their weekly actions and measuring against the results
Central unit to collect the actions results and their impact on KRs is usually missing
Teams do not agree how to measure the action results towards the KRs
Not all actions in the company are towards the KRs
While OKRs give the framework to operate at the beginning of each quarter, we realized with our clients that action reporting, and action tracking is the key driver to get tangible achievements. This in turn is measured week by week in route to achieve 70% or 100% of Key Results. Organizations tend to lose momentum when tracking and reporting, and the OKR dashboard gets out of date. This can in turn lead to the teams becoming demotivated and lose focus. Tools can help in this regard, but the priority is to assure consistent reporting from the teams.
Business Case 2: Start-up in Vietnam
We spent 4 weeks in various online & offline meetings to bring a true agile cycle to define Objectives in a local Vietnamese startup. We did this together with the teams through brainstorming sessions and ideation so everybody was aligned and committed to the Objectives & Key Results. We even broke down the KRs on a monthly basis to have shorter goals. The team was committed from day 1; they tried, completed and adjusted actions and pushed for weekly updates of the KRs through their actions. We realized that people get motivated by the achievements of their daily work (actions) and how these connect to the overall company (Objectives & key results), rather than being just focused on the team OKRs.
Tools to align actions & measure their result impact
The internet is packed with productivity monitoring tools used through various industries, from monday.com to Trello. Weekdone and GTMHub are some of those tools for a company that uses OKRs to set and track goals. These tools are based on:
Weekly Planning & Tracking of Actions
Open discussions among employees and managers
If your are interested to apply OKRs as goal-setting technique the first time or got stuck with your OKRs on the communication and implementation stage, please feel free to reach out to us on the chat or via okrasia.com/contact