Often there’s excitement when embarking on something new — a honeymoon phase. And, like any long-term relationship, OKR requires commitment and care. While there are early signs that predict when an OKR program will be successful, it’s also critical to continue to nurture your OKR program to promote ongoing engagement and participation.
As an OKR coach who has been helping clients implement OKRs for 3 years, I’ve seen what it takes to keep an OKR program strong and healthy. Here are 6 best practices that will help you boost engagement and get your OKR program to the next level.
1. Set clear expectations
Everyone is on the same page when they know what is expected of them and when to deliver what is expected of them. Don’t assume that everyone will remember the details of your OKR program that were shared via email or a presentation. Instead, create a living document that details when OKRs need to be created, updated, presented and closed. Having this timeline accessible will help everyone meet the expectations. Here’s a template you can use when determining the rhythm of your program.
When it comes to goal setting and updating progress, Check-ins are a great way to communicate those expectations. Check-ins are a simple way for everyone in your organization to update all their goals at once. In Perdoo you can customize the frequency of your Check-ins to ensure that everyone’s goals are front and center and regularly top of mind. Additionally, in Perdoo you can set up a reminder to set goals before every new quarter. To provide additional reinforcement, we add calendar invitations for important cyclical milestones. For example, our Ambassador sends a calendar invitation for the first week of a quarter that says, “Close Q2 OKRs, Draft Q3 OKRs.”
2. Distribute ownership
It’s important that a single person, rather than a group of people, leads a goal: Objective, Key Result, Initiative or KPI. The adagium goes: if multiple people are responsible, no one is. Having a single person lead creates a sense of ownership and responsibility, motivating the lead to organize all the efforts to drive that goal to success. To be clear: the lead doesn’t have to be the only person working on that goal — they may need to help of contributors to achieve the goal.
A natural impulse I often see is that the team lead owns all of the team goals. Alternatively, consider having other team members lead an Objective or Key Result — this instills a sense of trust, pride and ownership. Your team members will feel more invested if they can lead an Objective or Key Result themself Also, as the team lead, do you really have the time to lead all those goals?
If you’re not ready to distribute this ownership, then make sure that your team members can participate through creating and leading their own Initiatives.
3. Integrate OKR into existing meetings
We already have (too many) meetings. Avoid adding friction by creating more meetings for OKRs. Instead, insert OKRs as a topic in existing meetings. This applies to all types of meetings: 1:1s, team meetings, leadership meetings, all hands meetings, etc. Set out a clear agenda of what should be discussed to ensure standardization. For example, celebrate wins, share key learnings and surface roadblocks.
The level of detail will vary by the audience. You’ll be the most granular in 1:1s, speaking to Initiatives and what you did the previous week. Whereas in leadership meetings you’ll be more high-level, speaking to key information only that needs to be shared.
4. Lead by example
Often leadership makes the decision to start working with the OKR framework, but their involvement shouldn’t stop there. Their continued participation is key to its success. Leadership needs to demonstrate the behavior and commitment that they expect from the rest of the organization. This includes creating company goals (OKRs and KPIs) and updating everyone on those goals.
It’s also important that leadership follows up progress of the team goals. Leadership sets the example — if they care, everyone else is likely to follow.
5. Identify Co-Ambassadors in each department
In many situations, there’s strength in numbers and OKR is no different. OKR programs generally have an Ambassador, the person responsible for managing the education, rollout and ongoing operations of the OKR program.
A strong Ambassador is critical to success, but there is only so much a single person can do. Identify those people who see the value of OKR and want to be experts. You can then have a Co-Ambassador for each department or team who will make sure everyone is creating high-quality OKRs, updating on time and taking the time to thoughtfully reflect and record learnings during the closing exercise. The more people that are invested in the process, the higher the odds of success.
6. Celebrate wins
While it’s important to surface those goals that are off track or need attention, it’s also important to celebrate the positives. When an Objective or Key Result is achieved, or significant progress is made, take the opportunity to celebrate these accomplishments. It’s these outcomes that you’re working towards and ultimately want to realize. Managers should celebrate these in 1:1s with their direct reports, team leads should celebrate these in team meetings, leadership should celebrate these in leadership meetings and in company-wide all hands meetings.
To conclude, your OKR program will likely not operate like a well-oiled machine from the start. You need to embed the process into your existing workflow and establish a routine. I’ve offered 6 best practices above, but don’t be afraid to experiment yourself to find the right opportunities for your organization to further improve your OKR program.