As we approach a new quarter, it’s time to wrap up your OKRs from the current quarter and start thinking about your upcoming priorities. The first, and most important, part of this process is closing your current OKRs.
This article contains everything you need to know to get the most out of this valuable and rewarding exercise.
Why close OKRs?
Closing your OKRs forces you to pause and reflect. It enables you to collect and share your learnings before you start focusing on something new.
Taking a moment to step back allows your entire organization to lift their heads up, observe what’s been going on and collect new learnings and insights. This helps them make informed decisions on where to go next. In the heat of battle, soldiers are also encouraged to stop, pause, and reflect before they engage.
Pausing to reflect means you get to choose your next move. Without this short period of reflection, you’re doomed to constantly react instead of act. It’s also a great opportunity for leadership to give recognition and praise to those who deserve it.
When to close OKRs
Generally, you should close an OKR when you stop working on it. So if you stop working on an OKR mid-quarter (for example because you achieved it or because it became irrelevant), it’s best to close it right at that moment. The OKR and its context are still fresh, so it will be easier to capture your learnings and write up your closing notes.
Since you’ll start working on new OKRs in the next quarter, the OKRs of the current quarter should all be closed in the first week of a new quarter — at the latest.
I often see that people use the last weeks of a quarter to give their OKRs a final push. Sometimes they even need the first few days of a new quarter to wrap them up. That’s perfectly fine and that is also why I recommend everyone to close the OKRs during the first week of a new quarter. That way, you can be sure the final results are in and that the efforts to drive progress for this OKR have come to an end. You want to avoid situations where people say “Yes, progress is only at 40%, but maybe I still manage to get this deal through which will increase progress to 60%”.
Can it be ok to close OKRs at a later point?
Yes, under certain circumstances it can be ok to close your OKRs at a later point. This should be allowed when:
- You have lagging Key Results.
- Your Key Results need to collect more data so you can be sure they’ve really been accomplished.
- You need a bit more to complete all of its Initiatives.
These special circumstances are further explained in this article.
Who should close OKRs
The OKR should be closed by the person who is end-responsible for that OKR. At Perdoo, we call this person the (Objective) lead.
How best to close OKRs
You want to be systematic about closing OKRs and make sure that each individual and all teams follow the same process. This ensures the right information surfaces and makes it easy for everyone to digest the gathered intelligence.
When the OKR lead closes their OKR, they should write up their closing notes. This is why — when you close an OKR in Perdoo — you’ll be prompted to add a closing note. At Perdoo, we always want the OKR lead to capture the following info on closing:
- How would you rate your execution?
If the OKR wasn’t achieved and execution was rated with 2 stars or less, it may have not been achieved because of poor execution — which means you’d have to start all over again (if the OKR is still important). If the OKR wasn’t achieved and execution was rated with 4 stars or more, you may have an entirely different issue.
- Closing status
The closing status enables everyone to see at a glance what happened with past OKRs. The closing status is really useful for visualizations and reporting. Use the following closing statuses:
- Accomplished — When the stretch (70%) or committed (100%) outcome has been achieved.
- Missed — When the desired outcome has not been achieved.
- Postponed — When the OKR is delayed and will be pushed to sometime in the future.
Whether the OKR was achieved or not, there are always important learnings that you don’t want to get lost. You want these learnings to be easily accessible to others so they can build on top of them. Hence, it’s critical that the OKR lead always collects all learnings and stores them on the OKR.
- Decisions / Next steps
Regardless of the OKR’s progress, a good OKR should always lead to a good (business) decision. And a good decision equals progress. Use your learnings to come to the right decision for your team or company. Store these on the OKR so that they won’t go lost and are easy to surface in the future.
The questions that you want to ask during the closing process can vary from organization to organization. This is why we’ve created customizable Closing templates in Perdoo. Everyone closing an OKR will of course be confronted with the same template to ensure a standardized process.
Quarterly (all-hands) meeting
To promote transparency and awareness, you should consider hosting a quarterly meeting. For smaller organizations, this can be an all-hands. Larger organizations may want to consider having this meeting on the department-level.
In this meeting, team leads can briefly present the closing notes of the OKRs that his or her team has been working on. It’s also a great moment to share how the KPIs have performed, and what the teams will be working on next.
(As you see, I recommend team leads to provide this update—and not OKR leads. You simply don’t want to have too many different speakers during these types of meetings.)
If you decide to have this quarterly (all-hands) meeting, you should do it right. That primarily means:
- Plan ahead
Don’t wait until the end of the quarter to schedule a meeting like this. Add it to everyone’s calendar well in advance and set clear expectations. Make sure all attendees understand the purpose of this meeting.
- Budget enough time for the meeting
As the Head of Marketing of one of our customers said: “When everybody walked in, we were all in a rush-mindset. We wanted to get this over with ASAP because we all have dozens of other things to do. That mindset immediately made the meeting feel like an annoyance, a burden—instead of a valuable exercise.” You have to force yourself out of this mindset, and the only way to do that is to block enough time for this meeting.
- Make sure everyone comes prepared
All OKRs should be closed prior to the meeting and all closing notes must be stored in Perdoo. Team leads must have reviewed the closing notes of the OKRs for their team and be ready to present this information to the rest of the organization. If you decide to also present the new OKRs during this meeting, make sure they’re ready and have already been approved by leadership.
Don’t forget to celebrate success! Recognize the contributions of everyone involved. It requires a lot of focus and dedication to execute an OKR. Everyone’s hard work deserves to be celebrated.