Setting and completing goals inspires commitment, accountability, and follow-through. OKR—or management by objectives, as Andy Grove coined them at Intel before passing the concept on to John Doerr—is a popular goal-setting framework.
The guiding principles of OKRs are clear: they create focus and clarity, connect employees to the company mission, improve continuous learning, and boost accountability.
Achieving goals requires a clear understanding of what you want to achieve, and how your work contributes to the outcome. This kind of thinking takes a bit of practice and coaching.
OKR is designed to support this learning process by encouraging continuous improvement and frequent check-ins. This is especially helpful for teams that are working remote because it enables them to share work and get feedback on a regular basis.
Ideally, each department or group should have a few shared objectives that they can align to at the company level. These objectives should be ambitious yet realistic and encourage teams to stretch outside of their comfort zone, while also being aligned to business as usual. Each objective should be measurable and have one or more key results. Each key result should have a quarter label, a division or CEO scoped label, and for Product & Engineering teams, section, stage and group labels. This helps everyone understand how their goals contribute to the company’s overarching goals.
When OKR is implemented successfully, employees are aligned with the goals of the company. This focuses their work, increases productivity and creates accountability. OKR is an iterative process. Managers should regularly check in with their teams to discuss progress, clarify expectations and make sure everyone understands what’s expected of them.
A key result is a quantitative goal that explains how you will achieve your objective. It has the same attributes as a SMART goal, but it’s more specific and concrete. For example, if your company objective is to increase sales revenue, each key result would be a specific number that represents a milestone in reaching this objective.
The key difference between KPIs and OKRs is that KPIs manage ongoing processes and performance, while OKRs help you accomplish big, transformational objectives. This is why OKRs are better than a typical task list. They should include value-based objectives, not tasks. OKRs should be aspirational and challenging, but not impossible. They can also be a little bit subjective, and can contain internal slang or even profanity.
Creating meaningfully framed Objectives and tracking them with Key Results is a powerful way to improve team performance. However, it’s also a process that requires discipline and a change in culture. The best tool to help you navigate this transition is Datalligence.
A big yearly goal is inspirational and gives purpose, but it’s the actions you take each quarter that will lead to success. And those action steps should be tightly aligned to a larger company-wide strategy.
Getting your team comfortable with OKR requires everyone to be on the same page and willing to speak openly about their work. And to do this, they need a safe space for these conversations. Weekly OKR check-ins are an important part of this process, ensuring that goals are anchored in everyday work and resulting in real accountability. The right OKR tool can make the whole process smoother and easier, by reducing manual processes and creating transparency across teams.
The OKR framework helps teams align and focus on the things that matter most. It creates accountability and transparency, and drives strategic alignment across the organization. The framework uses aspirational Objectives and measurable Key Results to make growth a team sport.
To ensure a productive and inclusive retrospective, it’s important that the meeting facilitators promote discussion and dialogue. They should make sure that all voices are heard and that loud or dominant personalities don’t dominate the discussion at the expense of more introverted team members.
It’s also helpful to mix up the retrospective activities from time to time. This can help to uncover insights that the team hasn’t considered before, and can make the process more engaging for everyone involved. Turning these insights into action items is another good way to ensure that they don’t get lost. This can be done during or after the retrospective meeting, but preferably before moving on to the next sprint.