OKR Adoption FAQs
The OKR method has long been an effective way for management and leadership to set achievable goals for their teams and streamline major efforts across the board. But if you’re new to the OKR method, it can seem like a significant task just to write your first OKR in the first place — and we’ve heard managers say it’s not worth the effort it takes just to figure out how to get started.
To the contrary, though it may require an initial learning phase, the OKR method is a highly effective tool for management in all industries to accomplish big and small goals. Here we will address some of the most common hurdles and questions we get about establishing the OKR method in any business and any industry.
The OKR method has been helping companies accomplish lofty, ambitious objectives since the 60s. Studies have shown that people are almost twice as likely to accomplish their goals when they have taken the steps to identify milestones that are measurable and trackable, and that’s exactly what the OKR method does.
At its core, the OKR method essentially takes an enormous objective, one that’s ambitious enough to be almost out of reach but realistic enough to push your teams to their next level, and phrases that objective in such a way that it can be quantified, tracked and delegated across multiple teams. It’s just about the best way to implement strategies to accomplish an overarching goal even when multiple teams and departments must participate.
But even more than that, it’s a way to centralize focus on a single objective, a way to streamline communication and transparency among individuals, teams and departments, and the best way to align everyone’s goals toward your organization’s overarching purpose. The implementation of OKR within your organization is a means of making meaningful connections among departments.
It’s an answer to the lament common among larger organizations: The right-hand doesn’t speak to the left. With deliberate planning and the involvement and support of leadership, OKR opens every channel among your departments. It helps everyone to understand not only what everyone is meant to do, but also why everyone is doing it in the first place.
OKRs are highly customizable and able to be tailored to just about any situation. Large or small businesses, minor or lofty objectives, general or niche markets and industries — anyone from an individual to a global corporation can make good use of OKRs in order to push progress ever forward.
If you’re looking to implement your first OKR, there are a few priorities you must address first.
To start off, before anything else progresses, you must identify your organization’s purpose. Sounds pretty obvious, but you may be surprised how many people don’t actually know what their company’s mission statement or vision is. If ever there were a waste of time, it would be to create an objective and a plan to get there that your organization can’t make use of.
Once you’ve done that, then you can identify an objective. It can be as large or small as you want it to be, but it must be both practical and ambitious, while also remaining loyal to your organization’s purpose. For example, a new small business that makes and ships out hand-crafted bouquets might identify their first objective as:
Objective: Create a Company Budget.
It’s a lofty goal for a new company that doesn’t have one, but also completely doable (and very necessary).
Once you’ve identified an objective, then the next step is to identify three to five key results (the KR in OKR). Key results are the trackable, quantifiable metrics by which you gauge progress toward the objective. It’s important to note that key results are not the same thing as tasks. Key results are, indeed, the result of tasks aimed toward the objective.
So the small business that has identified their objective to create a budget might then identify these key results:
Key Result 1: Ensure Variance to Budget is less than 25%
Key Result 2: Identify 4 Areas by Which to Save Costs.
Key Result 3: Finalize next Year’s Budget by September.
Each of those key results can be broken down further into tasks, and each of them can be quantified and tracked. Some companies choose to schedule progress reports by hard calendar dates, and others choose to generate reports after certain milestones have been reached. It’s one of the joys of the OKR method: you can tailor it to your needs. Track your progress how you see fit — but don’t employ a set-and-forget mindset.
After you have established your first objective and its key reports, well then, you can add more objectives and more underlying key results. Or you can leave your OKR right where it’s at and see how it plays out before adding on to it or creating a separate OKR for a different purpose or department. OKRs can be standalones if you want them to be, or they can be interrelated among departments and teams.
The best way to go about it when you’re just starting out is to begin with one OKR and find out what works best for you and your company. Once you’ve identified what works well for you, then you can expand to other teams and departments or build a larger OKR on your next round.
OKRs really make everyone’s life easier and centralize the focus of their roles. It’s a method designed to prevent things like duplicate work, inconsistencies among departments, poor communication among entities in your organization, and wasted time and energy. So really, it’s likely that all you’ll have to do to get your staff’s support across the board is to explain the benefits to them.
But it’s also possible you’ll get some pushback. You may see some skeptical raising of the brows and some resistance to the idea of something new. Rather than pushing back on feedback like this, open up a discourse about it among your staff and teams. It’s very likely that the skepticism you may receive will be a result of confusion or misunderstanding about the method. In reality, the OKR essentially takes existing tasks and places them into a structure that is far easier to track and maintain, and focuses the purpose of those tasks toward a specific goal.
When you first roll out OKR into your organization, that may be all you need to do to gather the support and enthusiasm of the affected teams. But if you expand to other areas, departments or teams within your organization, then the best place to start to get that support is to meet with the leadership in place. As you move into other departments, having the support of the trusted leader will make it far more likely that you’ll earn the trust and participation of the teams in place in those departments. In time, as staff members experience the benefits of clarity, focus and recognition that arise from the implementation of OKR into your organization, support and enthusiasm will come as a natural byproduct when new OKRs rollout thereafter.
Well, any time you have a new goal or objective, really, is a good time to start using OKR. And just about every business, corporation or organization has some kind of goal, right?
Whether you want to create something completely new like a product, service or department, or if you want to improve on something that already exists like tightening up the budget or increasing the efficiency of a process, or if you just want to take things in a completely new and innovative direction — the OKR method is made for any of these types of objectives and more. Unless you are 100% satisfied with where you’re at right now and see no need for change or progress, then just about any time is the right time to start on your first OKR.
In terms of a specific timeline for your OKR method, the nature of your objective and that of your organization will determine what length of time you should apply to your OKR. If you’re a small company creating its first budget, that could be a three-month OKR with monthly progress reports.
If you’re a multi-billion-dollar global corporation looking to establish its 3-year budget, that may very well be up to a year-long OKR with myriad objectives and key results spread amongst various departments within the organization, each of which would likely have their own timelines.
The OKR method can be a powerful tool for your company, and well worth the time and energy required to establish the best procedure for your business. Take the time to do the research and identify realistic and ambitious goals, and the OKR method will take it from there.