On the 3 October 2019, our CEO spoke at the OKR Forum in Amsterdam about the theory vs. reality in OKR.
Here’s a recording of his talk. Below the video, you’ll find a summarized transcript.
One thing you should keep in mind is that an OKR implementation will never be an overnight success. The theory is simple, but when you start rolling it out to your organization, it’s natural to run into some obstacles.
Over the years having worked with several companies implementing OKRs, I’ve been able to identify the main challenges organizations face. Here are my 7 tips to help you make your OKR program a success:
Introduce OKR as a vegetable
OKRs are usually introduced as a silver bullet, a program that will magically solve all your organization’s issues. This leads to the high expectations throughout the organization and then ends up failing. Instead, OKRs should be introduced as a vegetable—they may not taste great, but it’s good for the organization and will help keep it healthy.
Take time to figure out what matters
Rushing the process of setting OKRs is a very common issue. For me, 90% of the value of setting OKRs, is taking the time to understand the problems that need tackling and the ambitions that need to be realized. If you skip this step, you not only miss out on identifying what matters most to you, but you also lose the entire benefit of OKR.
Use OKRs to build, improve, and innovate
I see people on the internet talking about switching from KPIs to OKRs, which is complete nonsense. To successfully implement your strategy and translate it into short-term goals individuals can work on, you need both OKRs and KPIs.
OKRs are used to break out of the status quo and accelerate growth, while KPIs measure your business as usual, that need continuous monitoring. Don’t use OKRs as your business as usual, otherwise you’ll have the same OKRs all the time.
Don’t put HR in charge
Don’t get me wrong, HR is great to run the OKR program—educating employees, making sure OKRs are set at the right time and the list goes on. But the person that has the most to benefit from OKR is the CEO of a company. CEOs are responsible for business growth and for that to happen, the CEO needs a strategy, which needs to be designed and implemented. OKRs do just that by helping you map out your path to success, and this is something that cannot be outsourced to HR.
Keep it simple
Introducing OKR is essentially change management, and if there’s one thing you want to do with change, it is to introduce it gradually and simply.
The essence of OKR is simple. You begin the quarter by taking out some time to think about what is most important for the upcoming period. Once your goals have been defined you need to make someone responsible for looking after those goals. That doesn’t mean that the goal will be completed by one person alone, but that they will be accountable for its success.
To maintain such accountability, managers should have regular 1on1s with those reporting to them, discussing the status of their goals and efforts to keep them healthy.
Ditch stretch OKRs (if you’re new to OKR)
People usually associate OKR with stretch goals. The truth is that people tend to hate ambitious targets. If that works for you, that’s great. If not, ditch them. It’s already difficult enough identifying what to work on at the beginning of the journey with OKRs, and stretch OKRs only add more complexity.
Tailor framework to your organization
OKRs are said to be too rigid. OKRs aren’t rigid, it’s how you implement it that makes it rigid.
Over the years we’ve learnt what works and what doesn’t. In fact, I look at OKR as a collection of best practices that you can pick out and tailor to best fit your organization and its needs.