Recently, I wrote about alignment: a term you hear often in conjunction with Objectives and Key Results. Transparency is another term often associated with OKR. Many leaders looking to get started with OKR have the ambition to make their organizations more transparent. But what does transparency mean? Is it really that important? And how can a software product help you achieve it?
What is transparency?
The word transparency has its roots in Latin. It is a combination of the word trāns (“through”) and pāreō (“be seen”). Hence, labeling something transparent means that you’re able to see through it.
In the corporate world that would translate to the ability of employees to see through the organizations. In other words: to not hide (important) information about the organization from the employees. When it comes to OKR it means that all OKRs within the organization are accessible to employees.
Does transparency matter for OKR?
Yes and no. Transparency itself is not much more than a condition for being able to achieve something more important.
A window is transparent, meaning that you are able to see through it. However, that doesn’t mean that people are actually looking through it. You can make all your OKRs accessible to all members of your staff but that doesn’t mean they will look at them.
As an executive, you are responsible for making sure everyone is aware of the company’s priorities (i.e. Company OKRs). How else can your teams make sure that their work is aligned with them? It’s the same for team leads: they need to make sure their team members are aware of the team’s priorities (i.e. Group OKRs).
As you see, for you as a leader (executive, department head, team lead, etc.) transparency is not enough. What you’re really after is awareness.
Creating transparency & awareness
Creating transparency through OKRs is relatively easy. First, you need to create OKRs of course. Second, you need to make sure these OKRs are easily accessible to your employees. You can do so with a spreadsheet, though such a sheet will quickly get cluttered which reduces transparency. Perdoo helps you put in place a good, clear structure that gives you an overview of the OKRs for each team, shows how it’s all progressing, and shows the alignment between Objectives.
Company OKRs are designed to give direction to the organization, which only works if everyone is aware of them. Creating that awareness is more difficult. This requires you to build habits and rituals as part of your OKR program.
Figuring out the right habits and rituals for your organization takes time. Here are a few ideas to get started.
Ideas for how to create awareness of Company OKRs:
- Once Company OKRs are finalized, and before teams start drafting their Group OKRs, it’s worth hosting an all-hands meeting where the CEO (or someone from the leadership team), presents and explains the new Company OKRs. Such an all-hands meeting can also include an update on how past Company OKRs have performed. Since Company OKRs are usually annual, this meeting should take place at the beginning of a new fiscal or calendar year.If you believe your organization is too big for such an all-hands meeting, then have a look at Google, who organizes a single all-hands meeting for over 60.000 employees. The meeting happens at the Google Campus in Mountain View and is streamed live so that Googlers from around the world can join as well. A recording is distributed afterward for those who weren’t able to attend.
- To make sure Company OKRs stay top of mind, and to emphasize their importance, an annual all-hands meeting is not enough. A company’s performance is usually evaluated on a quarterly basis, which perfectly matches the quarterly cadence that Group OKRs typically follow. Therefore, it also makes sense to update the entire organization on the past quarters’ progress of annual Company OKRs, at the beginning of each new quarter. This is also a great opportunity to emphasize what you need teams to focus on next.
Ideas for creating awareness of Group OKRs are similar. However, since Group OKRs usually have a shorter timeframe, Group OKRs should be revisited more frequently than Company OKRs:
- Group members should create their Group OKRs together. As they go through the drafting process, they automatically become aware of their team’s priorities without having to schedule additional meetings.
To ensure Group OKRs stay top of mind, and to emphasize how important Group OKRs are, teams should sit together at least every 2 weeks to review progress on their OKRs.