As important as planning and executing on your goals, ensuring your team has a way of closing out and reflecting on their OKRs at the end of the quarter helps keep your team aligned on the success or failure of their objectives. OKRs offer teams chances to grow together whether they’re a hit or not, but only if the proper attention is paid to their overall progress.
One of the biggest indicators of failure for OKRs is if a team doesn’t establish a regular cadence of reflections or check-ins on their goals. Too often, teams fall into the habit of setting their OKRs, putting them into a spreadsheet, and then only rediscovering them at the end of the quarter when it’s too late to make any changes that would have helped achieve those goals. Or, only the Owner or Department Leader is responsible for updating a shared spreadsheet, without input or context from the team that is responsible for delivering.
If a regular team-wide cadence for input doesn’t exist, there’s no mechanism in place for the team to think critically about the progress they were making towards those goals or how to better strategize or prioritize so that they see success.
We at Koan believe that teams should consistently be prompted to provide their confidence scores and updates to OKRs-- that is, take time each week to have open and honest conversations on the likelihood of hitting their key results. This helps teams better surface leading indicators of failure and find ways around them, and also serves as a reminder that OKRs are learning opportunities, that hitting or missing their targets has value. By the same token, consistent review of progress allows for celebration of successes along the way, and recognition of work well-done.
In other words, teams should live with their OKRs. But what does living with your OKRs look like?
Living with your OKRs means:
Taking time each week to assess the progress made towards them as a team
Being candid and having tough conversations on the current strategies in place
Letting team members offer assistance on others’ OKRs when they have the bandwidth
Thinking long-term and re-prioritizing work as needed
Discussing OKRs that are being led or contributed to in 1-on-1s
Celebrating wins and learning from failures
Creating a positive and proactive team culture around your OKRs helps not only with the likelihood of success, but also makes the process of closing out and having a retrospective for your OKRs easier, since the process around learning from them has already been established.
Closing out your OKRs
The process of closing out OKRs should be a team effort-- everyone worked together to deliver the results, and everyone should come together to see the results. An ideal process would be:
Have the lead on each key result score it based on the metric that was being tracked. Classically, OKRs are scored on a scale of 0.0 to 1.0 with 0.7 meaning you’ve achieved the result, and anything higher representing over achievement. This isn’t strictly tied to the metric, either -- if your team exceeded expectations, or made key learnings that will help in the future, that can improve your score even if you missed your metric.
As a team, go through each key result and have both the lead and the contributors explain what went well and what could have been better. Ask why the OKR was hit or missed, and continue drilling down into the reasons why until you’ve found the core reasons for success or failure. This makes it easier to avoid the same pitfalls or replicate the same success in the future.
If an OKR was missed, decide as a team if it should be rolled forward into the next quarter or if new OKRs should be set. If it’s being rolled forward, change the due date and adjust the metrics as needed. If it’s not, mark the OKR as complete. This can take different forms depending on the tool that you’re using, though with Koan, you’ll be able to clearly denote OKRs as closed.
Decide which closed OKRs provide worthwhile context for your new OKRs. Sometimes, seeing the progress you made in the past helps color the goals that you’ve set moving forward. For instance, the previous quarter’s revenue numbers might give you insight into why this quarter’s numbers are set as high as they are. For OKRs that don’t offer additional context, archive them so that your team can focus solely on the goals that are most relevant.
What if the KRs weren’t set correctly, or an emergency popped up that required attention and deprioritized that work? Don’t worry; this happens all the time. OKRs shouldn’t be chiseled in stone. At Koan we like to use the phrase: “We reserve the right to be smarter at any time.” Business is dynamic, and you have to be flexible in order to meet the current need. Changes do not require chastisement. Embrace the change, and re-assess if you should modify the goals going forward. Don’t forget to plan for the unexpected.
Turning the process of closing your team’s OKRs into more of a ceremony can make it into a milestone moment. Moving slowly through each key result and taking a moment to celebrate the wins and dig into the growth opportunities in an end-of-quarter meeting takes OKRs from a theoretical goal setting exercise into a way to come together and truly see all of the progress that has been made as a team.