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As a manager, you not only want to make sure that the people that report to you…
Running effective team meetings is hard: attendees often drift off topic, waste time arguing about things with little importance or end meetings without clear action items or decisions.
The problem described is backed by research. According to researchers at Harvard, 71% of managers said their meetings are unproductive and inefficient, and 62% said meetings fail to bring the team closer together. Bain found that 15% of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings, and according to Atlassian, employees consider 50% of meetings wasted time.
All in all, unproductive meetings cost businesses $37 Billion each year, in the US alone. That’s a problem worth fixing, and OKR can help.
Most teams sit together every one or two weeks. Instead of introducing a new meeting just for checking in with your OKRs, use OKR to keep your existing team meetings focused and on track.
Framing meetings around OKRs and reviewing progress on a regular basis has 3 major benefits that will help teams run effective meetings and hit their OKRs consistently.
1. Team goals stay top of mind
Everyone’s working day can be hectic. Throughout a quarter there can be many interruptions, such as fires that need to be put out or new opportunities that arise. If you sat together with your team at the beginning of the quarter to define what is most important for the coming 12 weeks, it is crucial that you keep coming back to it.
2. Motivation remains high
Making progress, even minor steps forward, has the most prominent positive effect on employees’ motivation, as research at Harvard Business School found. Sitting together regularly to review progress gained in the past one or two weeks feeds this need for progress and boosts motivation. If your goal is to lose 10 kg next year, won’t you also weigh yourself regularly to see if you’re moving forward, and isn’t even the first kilo you lose a small motivation boost?
3. You can adjust course
You don’t work on OKR directly. Instead, you’ll be working on Initiatives which are all the things you’ll do achieve your OKRs. Initiatives are hypotheses, and your hypotheses might be incorrect. To see if your Initiatives are creating the desired results, you need to review progress on your OKRs regularly. Are you progressing well on your Initiatives but your OKRs are lagging? Perhaps you should try something else. If you wait until the end of the quarter, time is up, and there won’t be anything left for you to fix.
Based on our own experience and what companies we work with shared with us, we came up with the following 5 rules for regular team meetings:
1. Always meet early in the week
At Perdoo, we have our OKR-powered meetings every Monday afternoon. We believe it makes the most sense for each team to start the week by first reviewing the progress gained in the past week and then deciding what we need to focus on this week. This way everyone is focused during the week and still has plenty of time to work on the Initiatives that drive progress.
2. Meet frequently to stay on top of your OKRs
What meeting frequently means depends on how fast you’re moving in general. If you are a startup and things move rapidly, it’s probably best to sit together every week. For small teams, these meetings shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes anyway.
In larger, more mature organizations, bi-weekly meetings can be just as fine as weeklies are for startups. It’s up to you to decide what works best for your team, but you should at least meet every other week to stay on top of your OKRs.
3. Come prepared to the meeting and update OKRs in advance
Don’t waste time in your meetings updating progress on OKRs. Instead, make sure the people responsible for updating OKRs have done this before the meeting. The time spent in meetings is best used to discuss information, not to go through it.
4. Have a clear agenda
Especially for recurring meetings, it’s important to have a clear and simple agenda, so everyone knows what is expected of them. The agenda should cover the following items: (1) review the last meeting’s action items; (2) discuss the progress on OKRs; (3) set the focus until the next meeting; (4) cover ad-hoc agenda items if needed; (5) summarize decisions and agree on action items.
You will an find a detailed meeting agenda and how we use Perdoo for our OKR-powered meetings in the following section of this article.
5. Don’t rush the meeting
Many people who have a lot of things on their plate feel that meetings are preventing them from finishing the things they need to deliver. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy, as people will try to rush through the meeting and, as a consequence, won’t derive any value from it.
If you block enough time for the meeting and don’t rush through it, you’ll actually be able to derive value from it, and people will quickly understand the purpose of the meeting. 1 hour should be enough for a 5-10 people team, and spending 1 hour every one or two weeks shouldn’t be a problem for anyone.
At Perdoo, we use the following agenda for our OKR-powered team meetings:
1. Review the last meeting’s action items
At the beginning of the meeting, we simply check if all previous action items have been completed or why they haven’t.
2. Discuss the progress on OKRs
We first look at our overall progress, the average progress of all OKRs, to get a good feeling of whether we are on track. We then look at how many Objectives and Key Results already have more than 70% progress to further estimate whether we are heading in the right direction.
After that, we zoom in on each OKR. Each Objective Lead walks us through their Objective, Key Results, and Initiatives. If things are going well, this doesn’t require much time. If things are off track, however, we take a closer look at which Key Results are lagging, which Initiatives have been deployed so far, analyze why they haven’t generated the desired results yet, and brainstorm about what else we can do to get progress on track again.
Progress isn’t always linear, so it’s not always a problem when you’re halfway through a quarter and progress is only 20%. If Objectives are at risk, we tag them so everyone has this on their radar.
Any useful information regarding the Objective, its Key Results, or Initiatives is logged on their timeline in Perdoo.
3. Set the focus until the next meeting
Everyone shares what they have on their plate for this week, and we check how that ties in with the OKRs that are at risk. Sometimes that means someone will have to drop something in order to secure a successful completion of all our OKRs.
We always reorder both our Key Result and Initiatives on each Objective based on its priority, meaning that the Key Result and Initiatives that are in focus for each week will be moved to the top.
4. Other agenda items
Every team member has the opportunity to add agenda items prior to the meeting. This is completely open and not subject to any rules, other than no one being allowed to add agenda items during the meeting, which ties in with our rule that everyone should come prepared to the meeting.
5. Actions items & Decisions
At the end of the meeting, we log all the new action items and decisions made to make sure that the meeting has an impact.
OKRs are not another point you have to put on your meeting agenda. If done right, OKRs are the framework that makes your regular team meetings more focused, effective, and meaningful.
If you run regular OKR-powered team meetings, following a few simple rules and using a clear agenda, everyone in your team will know where they stand and what to focus on.
On your way to running more effective team meetings, here’s what your next steps could be:
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