We’re approaching the end of the year and that means that many leaders are either contemplating implementing OKR or rolling out OKR to other parts of their organizations. To those leaders: it’s important to note that there are different approaches to rolling out OKR. And while each approach has its pros and cons, there is one approach, in particular, that’s delivering the best results!
OKR rollout options
Regardless of the chosen approach, most companies eventually want to roll out OKR company-wide. There are different paths to getting there, here are the main ones:
This is the kind of “big-bang” rollout that organizations typically go for toward the end of a year. They have the ambition to have the entire organization working with OKR at the start of the new year. Everyone will have to be trained, set up on an OKR software, and start formulating their OKRs — all in a relatively short amount of time. The entire organization will go through this experience at more or less the same time.
While this approach is financially the most appealing for an OKR software like Perdoo, it is NOT the approach that I would recommend when your organization is quite new to OKR. Implementing OKR is change management and change is always difficult. By going for a gradual approach (see below), you’re allowing yourself to experiment, tweak, and improve your OKR program each time you involve the next group of people.
I’ve seen several companies take this approach only to revert the implementation a couple of months or quarters later. That is surely not a great first experience with OKR for your people. And when these companies revert, they typically switch to a gradual top-down rollout approach. More on that below.
In this case, you go for a gradual roll-out starting from the top. You’re first getting the top leadership fully onboarded with OKR, then you go one level down, and then another level until all employees are involved.
The major benefit here is that leadership first has the chance to figure out how they want to approach OKR for their organization. Once(middle-)management gets involved they can further support tailoring the OKR program. The fewer people are involved, the easier it’ll be to make adjustments to the OKR program. And the better you’ve adjusted the OKR framework to the needs of your business before rolling it out further, the smoother the experience will be for everyone else.
When opting for this approach, the entire organization will also see that their managers and leaders take OKR seriously and lead by example — which is another driver of adoption.
This is also a gradual rollout, but instead, you start with one (or a few) departments. This department will work with OKR for 1 or 2 quarters in a mostly isolated way. You’re first building a proof of concept with this department, before rolling it out to others. The benefit of this approach is, again, that you can tailor the OKR program to the specific needs of your organization before other teams and people get involved.
The OKR rollout best approach
Now, coming to the approach we’ve seen work best: a hybrid of the top-down and all-at-one approach. You start from the top but immediately involve the entire organization by giving them view-only access to your OKR software.
I recently discussed this approach with Ben Lamorte, OKR consultant and author of the book Objectives & Key Results, in this podcast. He has the same observations as us: this is the best approach to a successful, company-wide implementation of OKR.
This hybrid model allows everyone to observe what’s happening before they are required to play an active role. With Perdoo, we give each person with a view-only license also free access to our online OKR course. That way, they can already educate themselves on OKR, helping them better understand what’s happening on the Perdoo platform.
There are always a number of employees that are excited about OKR and would like to play an active role in your OKR program. Allow them to raise their hands and lead, for example, an Objective or Key Result. They’ll be your ambassadors later on. Such a grassroots approach can be a game-changer for your OKR program.
And, if you’re wondering what else you should keep in mind when implementing OKR, here are 7 requirements for a successful implementation.