In order for a company to be successful with OKRs, you want to make sure that OKRs are implemented in a strategic way. The most successful groups take time to prepare and follow a detailed implementation plan, building the implementation team, providing the right training, following change management best practices, and having a strategy for capturing and tracking OKRs. Using the right approach to implementing OKRs involves ensuring that the process is seen as valuable—from executives all the way down to individual contributors.
OKR Implementation consists of several key steps that will lead to the first OKR cycle. Let’s take a look at each step:
Step 1: Establish Vision and Build a Playbook
OKRs are a framework and an ongoing discipline – not just a set of rules. In order to make sure that everyone is on the same page across the organization, establishing leadership support and a program owner is essential. The OKR program owner will also want todevelop a playbook so that everyone understands how they’re being implemented.
Step 2: Rally the Team
Many organizations prefer to pilot the OKR framework before rolling it out to everyone. This ensures that the team piloting the OKR methodology is committed to the process, and it gives them the opportunity to work out issues and train the OKR champions across the company. When piloting OKRs, three groups are natural candidates: the executive team, individual departments, or a strategic initiative. Whichever pilot option you choose, it will help you discover best practices within your organization and work out the kinks before involving the entire company.
Step 3: Enablement
Conducting training at various levels of the company before the start of the first OKR cycle will help to ensure that it succeeds. To make sure everyone is educated and on the same page, you’ll want to host a variety of educational meetings, including OKR facilitator workshops and OKR writing workshops.
Step 4: Execute the OKR Cycle
The OKR Cycle encompasses an ongoing discipline with four key steps.
Rollout OKRs - Communicate company OKRs, then departments and teams develop their own OKRs and share them with each other.
Create Action Plans - Once OKRs are created, it’s time to develop action plans that provide details around how the team will achieve these OKRs.
Regular Check-Ins - Throughout the quarter, employees measure and share their progress, checking in regularly with their own and adjacent teams.
Score and Reflect - At the end of the quarter, teams give their OKRs a final score and complete retrospectives on what they have accomplished.
Step 5: Quarterly Reflection
Before starting a new quarterly OKR cycle, it’s important to reflect on the previous cycle and make necessary adjustments. This is a great time to look at actual scores, determine where changes need to be made at the company level, and incorporate lessons learned into planning for the cycle ahead. No one gets OKRs right the first time, focus on learning and improving.
Step 6: Repeat the OKR Cycle
Now you’re ready to start the OKR cycle over again! Each time you go through the process, OKRs will get easier and you’ll become more efficient as a company. Shepherding the process during the first OKRs cycle will be challenging, but after two or three cycles, the process will become a familiar routine.
For teams new to OKRs, expert consultants can help make sure you’re setting effective goals. It is often better to have a trusted advisor from outside the organization to impartially guide, train, enable, and tune your process. OKR consultants can provide objective guidance on change management and getting your organization completely bought into the process.
When you work with a consultant, OKRs are tailor-made to your organization. Understanding the ins and outs of what you’re trying to achieve and helping you to foster a culture where OKRs are accepted and can prosper. A consultant can help to blend your culture with skills, technology, and practice so you get the results you want.
Implementing the OKR methodology using ad-hoc tools like spreadsheets or wiki pages (or worse, with no tools at all!) is the first sign that the implementation will struggle. Spreadsheets don’t scale; beyond a group of collaborators, they’re simply another way for strategies, goals, and progress to disappear. They also prevent teams from deeply aligning their goals, missing one of the key organizational benefits of OKRs - alignment. Simply put, managing OKRs in spreadsheets (or other ad-hoc tools) doesn’t work.
An ideal OKR tool will build and reinforce great practices while fitting in seamlessly with the way your team already works. Software simply supports great practices and cross-functional collaboration—crucial to the success of an OKR implementation at scale.
The OKR framework is a powerful and flexible way to align your business strategy and help employees to work with purpose. Many companies have achieved amazing results with OKRs, but less attention is paid to the vastly better working environment an effective OKR implementation will create. If everyone knows how their work adds value to the organization, motivation goes up.