Let's talk about OKRs
OKRs (Objective & Key Results) is a great framework for strategic alignment, preserving autonomy and innovation in the teams
It was exciting to host our first Meetup event in the UK, For the occasion we pickup up OKRs and in the interactive setting of the event we discussed:
- what they are
- why they can be crucial for strategic alignment in an organisation
- good practices for defining them
- an example of OKRs definition at multiple levels
Here follows a summary of the contents.
What are OKRs?
An example would be nice
How does and OKR look like? This is an OKR defined in Uber in 2014:
Objective: Increase drivers in the system
- Key Result 1: Increase driver base by 20% (each region)
- Key Result 2: Increase driver average session to 26 hours/weekly (all active regions)
Other characteristics of OKRs
- Ambitious and stretching, yet feasible
- Used to set the strategy and goals in an organisation
- Defined at multiple levels (company/team/individual) in a cascading fashion
- Visible and accessible by everyone in the company
- Navigational aids, they are not set in stone, they need to be discussed, reviewed and can be changed if needed
OKRs should NOT be:
- a to-do list
- completely top down
- tied to performance/bonus
- a tool to identify the “bad apple”
Being without clear goals
Many of us have experienced working in a team/company where the direction is not clear and usually, besides generating waste, creates an unpleasant feeling of being lost. We asked our participants in the Meetup event what they have experienced when they found themselves in this situation, this is the resulting word cloud:
But why OKRs and not other goal-setting frameworks?
There are many goal settings framework out there, S.M.A.R.T., KPIs and the 4 disciplines of execution, to name a few. Why have OKRs become so popular? My view is that OKRs’ mindset strongly resonates with the idea that purpose is crucial for people to be engaged, but we also want to strike a fine balance between giving a direction and allowing the teams to have autonomy, leveraging their skills and creative thinking to find the best solutions.
What drives us?
In his book “Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us” Daniel Pink says, backed by years of research data, that there are three key factors that motivate us:
- Autonomy — Our desire to be self-directed. It increases engagement over compliance
- Mastery — The urge to get better skills
- Purpose — The desire to do something that has meaning and is important
OKRs are helping organisations to increase purpose, by making the overall strategy more transparent and inclusive, so that everyone can connect their daily job to a broader impact. But they also respect the autonomy of the teams: business people will focus on the goals (the why and the what), while development teams have the freedom (and responsibility) to decide what initiatives to promote to achieve those goals. It’s a big shift from: “this is what you need to do” to “this is the needle we want to move and why”.
Defining OKRs at multiple levels
Usually, OKRs are defined at multiple levels in a cascading fashion:
- Company OKRs
- Team OKRs
- Personal OKRs
- High level, defined by business representatives
- Aligned with the company vision and mission
- Ambitious and inspiring
- Shared and visible to the whole organisation
- Annual and quarterly
- Discussed with your manager
- Reviewed regularly (usually in one-to-ones)
- Aligned to the team’s OKRs (some might/should also be related to personal growth and specific weak points or area of interest
To recap, the following image summarises the main advantages of OKRs:
This article is just a quick overview of the OKRs framework, of course having an entire organisation aligned with clear, shared goals and, at the same time, leaving autonomy to the teams, is no easy task. You will find more information and useful examples in the slides embedded in this post, also you can check out the recording of the Meetup event.
Finally, if you have any question or want help with your own organisation, don’t hesitate to talk to us.
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