Since our launch in 2014, we have learned a lot about implementing OKR in organizations. Here are some of our learnings, based on our experience with hundreds of customers. That includes organizations across all industries, with 50 to 5.000 employees, both startups and mature enterprises.
More than 85% of our customers have already achieved a successful rollout. However, the route to success has been very different. We’ve seen companies with 50 users struggle, while others with 1.000+ employees implement it successfully in a month or two. And of course vice versa.
When analyzing the process together with our customers, we found 7 requirements for a smooth & successful organization-wide rollout of Objectives & Key Results. This is what we found.
An important benefit of OKR is increased transparency. Transparency is a powerful driver of engagement, ownership and alignment. The impact and benefits of OKR therefore increase exponentially, the more people in your organization use it.
When implementing OKR in a specific team or department, backing from your departmental or team head could be sufficient. But for rolling out OKR organization-wide, backing from senior leadership – the CEO included – is an absolute must.
OKR can be a big change for an organization, especially for the traditional, hierarchical enterprise. Without the commitment of senior leadership, OKR is likely to fail. That doesn’t mean an organization cannot start working with it if the CEO isn’t convinced yet. We have customers that had a team leader implementing OKR in his team, after which the enthusiasm quickly spread to the rest of the organization. Once the CEO saw the positive results he was soon sold on it as well and approved the organization-wide rollout. However, it’s the CEO’s and senior leadership’s commitment that is required for the organization-wide rollout. Although this route can be also successful, involving C-level right from the start can fast-track your implementation.
To ensure their backing:
When kicking-off the implementation process you will see that some people embrace OKR right from the start, where others show resistance. Most organizations have developed a healthy skepticism about company-wide changes and even though OKR professes a non-judgmental approach, it might not look like that at the start.
As with any organizational change, getting everyone enthusiastic might be difficult and it’s also not necessary. Skepticism is ok and, as said, can even be healthy. However, clearly outlining the organization’s reasons for implementing OKR is crucial. OKR can be a great improvement for every employee. After all, in a tool like Perdoo every employee will be able to see how he or she fits into the bigger picture, and see what everyone else in the organization – including his or her manager – is working on. Getting across “what’s in it for them” can smoothen and speed up the implementation.
To get buy-in from the organization:
We’ve seen 3 different options. Which options fits you best depends on the characteristics of your organization, its culture, experience with OKR, and the level of commitment from senior leadership.
The options are:
It is important to know that there is no right or wrong. You’ll have to decide what you think fits the organization best. Should you decide to go for a different approach not mentioned above: let us know in the comments below! Our team is always keen to learn from our customers.
Whatever the approach will be, we always recommend to first setup the accounts, profiles and OKRs of senior leadership and the company. This shows everyone that the organization is serious about it, and you’ll see that many people find it super exciting to look at the OKRs of the company and the CEO. From here it should go to the departmental and team heads who can then set up their groups and group OKRs, and then roll it out to their teams and departments (or squads, tribes, etc.).
Having rolled out OKR in the organization does not mean everyone is able to draft good OKRs yet, for that the organization needs a bit more time. See below under “Allow everyone some time to train their OKR ‘muscle’” for more detail.
As with any organizational change, it is important to let someone lead the project. Appoint an ambassador who is responsible for rolling out OKR and the first line of contact if questions arise within the organization. Our Success Managers will work together with your ambassador and he will ensure to transfer his knowledge to that person – so you’ll have it on the inside.
It is also important to have a clear timeline. Not just for the implementation but also for the OKR process. This ensures everyone is aware of what to expect when. On this timeline, you should show at least: – The enrollment schedule: when can each person expect to receive his Perdoo account and when should he have set his first OKRs? – Your organization’s OKR process: how frequent will you set OKRs, will you host mid-term OKR reviews and when should they be closed & graded?
The timeline ensure you won’t lose momentum and it will help you get buy-in from the
Defining good OKRs is probably one of the biggest challenges. Especially if no one in the organization has defined OKRs, or goals & milestones, for their work before. See it as a muscle: train it and you’ll quickly get better.
At the start everyone should be allowed some time to train this muscle. You’ll see that people quickly improve. To increase this learning curve it is advisable to let teams and departments sit together to review their OKRs and give feedback to each other.
Also make sure that – when defining OKRs – everyone is aware of a few simple rules that they should follow.
The reason why OKR became so popular and why organizations like Google and LinkedIn have embraced it, is because it’s simple. OKR can be explained to everyone in just a few minutes. That also means that everyone in your organization, from top to bottom, is able to work with it. When implementing OKR don’t make it complicated.
One of the key pillars of our software is also simplicity. We find it important that the simplicity of the OKR concept is reflected in your tool of choice. Simplicity encourages engagement and drives long term adoption.