A five-part series: 1. Introducing Objectives & Key Results (OKRs), 2. Preparing for the OKR Journey, 3. Crafting Great OKRs, 4. Driving OKR Alignment, and 5. Managing Effectively with OKRs.
Summarized by Bill Gelbaugh from: Objectives and Key Results by Paul R. Niven and Ben Lamorte, with additional material from Measure What Matters, Lattice OKR 101 and Perdoo.
THE PLANNING PHASE
Ready to get started with Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)? Part one of our blog series discussed why your company might want to adopt OKRs. Our second post is all about planning. As with any new venture, a little preparation goes a long way in ensuring successful implementation. It is also vital to note implementation is a journey, not an event. This guide is written to help home builders, trade contractors, suppliers, architects, engineers, and others in the housing industry adapt OKRs to your company’s culture. We are all unique, and most of us do not have a Silicon Valley mindset, so adaptation is key. There are some basic questions though that every company should begin with to get started on the right path:
Who is Going to Champion OKRs?
There must be a sponsoring executive (and team) who feels passionate about and committed to your company’s OKR strategy roll-out. It’s important to understand that no initiative will survive without first having this executive sponsorship.
What is the Most Critical First Step?
A critical first step is to have your team buy into and support any OKR program. Then comes a deeper dive into the OKR framework, philosophy, goals, and vocabulary. Note: you should have a deep enough understanding to review OKRs with your team by the end of this series.
What Matters Most?
OKRs should always solve specific critical business issues you face now. OKRs demand that you isolate the most fundamental priorities and dedicate your focus to that limited subset of variables involved in running any company.
How Will We Create Transparency?
OKRs should ideally be transparent throughout the organization, meaning everyone can see what others measure and provide feedback and input. This transparency fuels collaboration, alignment, and ultimately the execution of strategy.
How Will We Live our OKRs?
The real power of the OKR system is figuring out how to live OKRs every day as a team. OKRs are best achieved if they are baked into the company’s daily, weekly, and quarterly cadence, from initial planning, to status updates, to company dashboards.
THE DEVELOPMENT PHASE
Once you have answered these questions, here are the concrete steps you’ll take to create your first OKR or set of OKRs and review initial results. Your development plan will, of course, depend on where you decide to start initiating your OKRs. For this discussion, we’ll assume you’re going to begin with a set of OKRs at the corporate level only.
Develop or confirm the mission, vision, and strategy: Your OKRs should be translated from your annual strategy, drive the achievement of your vision, and be in alignment with your overall mission. These are critical enablers of success and, as such, should be solidly in place before you begin.
Create your corporate-level objective(s) and key results: There are several options for this step: using a small team, gathering input from employees through surveys that will later be used in a workshop, or conducting executive interviews, or simply drafting objectives during a leadership workshop.
Present OKRs to the company: We suggest using multiple media here: Share electronically, post to your intranet, and most importantly, communicate in person (perhaps at an all-hands meeting) so that you can facilitate a dialog surrounding the OKRs you chose and why.
Provide OKRs education: We’ve previously noted the seductive simplicity of OKRs, and that ease of understanding will often prompt organizations to skip this vital step. However, consider this education with a capital E, during which you’ll not only provide fundamentals on the model but share why you’re choosing to use OKRs now, success stories from other firms, and what people can expect during the journey.
Plan to monitor OKRs: You don’t “set and forget” OKRs; you must monitor them with an OKR Scorecard using a quarterly, monthly, and weekly schedule (or whatever cadence you choose).
Report results at the end of the quarter: Score your OKRs and communicate the entire organization’s results. As with everything discussed above, we’ll return to this topic with much more information later in this series.
THE STRATEGY ALIGNMENT PHASE
OKRs should never be created in a vacuum but must reflect the company’s purpose, desired long-term goals, and plan to defend market space successfully. In other words, they should translate your mission, vision, and strategy into action.
A mission statement defines the core purpose of the organization, its raison d’etre, why it exists. The mission also reflects employees’ motivations for engaging in the company’s work.
Consider your mission to be the compass by which you guide your organization.
Unlike visions and strategies that may be achieved over time, you never really fulfill your mission. It acts as a beacon for your work, constantly pursued but never quite reached. Consider your mission to be the compass by which you guide your organization. Having a clear mission and aligning OKRs—monthly, quarterly, and yearly—helps ensure that work performed in the short term meets the long-term purpose of the organization.
A powerful company mission determines your core purpose as an organization. Based on the mission, you now require a statement that defines more specifically where we want to go in the future. The vision statement does just that, signifying the critical transition from the unwavering mission to the spirited and dynamic world of strategy.
Without a clear and compelling vision to guide all employees’ actions, you may wind up with a workforce lacking direction.
A vision statement provides a word picture of what the organization intends ultimately to become—5, 10, or 15 years in the future. This statement should not be abstract—it should contain as concrete a picture of the desired state as possible and provide the basis for formulating annual strategies and OKRs. Without a clear and compelling vision to guide all employees’ actions, you may wind up with a workforce lacking direction and thus unable to profit from any strategy or OKRs you create no matter how well-conceived.
An annual strategy is critical to your OKRs as it provides the initial context for creation.
All OKRs should be directly translated from your strategy—your game plan for successfully creating or defending aggressively contested market space.
One huge benefit of OKRs is the power of, “NO.” A core strategy supplies boundaries, helping you determine what not to do when faced with a sea of opportunities, which is every bit as important as deciding what to do. It also enables you to choose viable options, remain focused, align your entire organization, and make necessary commitments to execute. Your strategy development should answer the questions: What are our preferred markets? Who are our optimal customers? What are their most critical needs? By answering these questions, you will be able to set OKRs that move your company forward in a meaningful way.
Ready to get started developing your OKRs? With your company having a clear picture of your most critical objectives, and how you will successfully adapt OKRs to fit your corporate culture, you are now ready to act! Our next post is all about crafting great OKRs.
Next up… CRAFTING GREAT OKRS!
Bill Gelbaugh is one of our Senior Partners here at Outhouse and champions our OKR efforts.