It’s Not as Easy as it Sounds. It involves your OKR champion. And The Karate Kid.
Picture it, you’re Chief of Staff, Chief of Strategy, Chief Operation Officer or another Executive.
Now, what is the most challenging, frustrating, important, and rewarding challenge you face? How about the quarterly or yearly planning offsite? Think about the amount of work that went into it and the clarity the executive team feels coming out of it. But now you face the daunting task of turning all of that into an actionable plan...which the whole company will align around and execute on.
How do you do that?
And what are the steps?
Let’s take a look.
But first this: while we often see a small team of champions who hold an organization accountable to high-level objectives and ensuring the OKR process is spread throughout an organization, it is very often the Chief of Staff, Chief of Strategy, Chief Operation Officer or another C-level executive who facilitates the strategic planning process. That’s hard enough. Then, it’s their responsibility to turn that strategy into a Plan, and then turn that Plan into Action through goals. All that in addition to preparing staff meeting agendas, developing board communications and ensuring that everyone’s goals are aligned. Which is to say, your champion has a lot of challenges, but if you want to ensure that strategy is turned into action you need to ensure they have ownership of that process
Strategy to Action
So, how do you turn that strategy into action?
How the Process Normally Works
You’ve probably seen the process go like this: You document the company goals and the department leaders (hopefully) share those goals down to their direct reports plus create aligned departmental goals. You establish a loosely-defined process for reporting on progress. Two weeks go by and no-one can find the shared documents with the Mission/Plan/Goals. Team meetings are held, but no one trusts the progress updates. Goals are marked considered to be on track unless someone fires up a red flare. Something disrupts the process and management goes back to focusing on whatever short-term emergency requires attention. At the end of the quarter, the original goals are ignored (except for Revenue, of course!), or discredited by saying they were not set correctly in the first place. Rinse, repeat.
Does that sound familiar?
Of course it does, but it doesn’t have to be this way. You can be better. We promise. We want to show you how, but we first want to take a moment to define Mission, Vision, Strategy, Goals and Plan:
Mission - This is a general statement, and the guiding light, on how you plan to achieve your Vision.
Vision - Vision is the big picture in terms of what you intend to achieve.
Strategy - A plan for the future which is important to achieve your Mission.
Goal - This is a statement about what needs to happen to achieve a Strategy (and your Strategy, or strategies, are what help you use the Mission to achieve your Vision);
Plan - This is how you intend to achieve your Objectives (with Objectives being the identified milestones for achieving your Goals).
Confusing? Absolutely. Let’s not get wrapped around the axle on this, we’ll tackle that in a future post. Let’s simply get that Strategy into Action for your organization.
How The Process Can Work
The OKR methodology, (popularized by Intel, Google, and Facebook),offers organizations a great framework for structuring measurable goals that will help you achieve your Mission. Koan provides a way to create these goals, disseminate them to teams within your organization, and report on the current status in an easy to use interface. And the key to be being better involves executing the following steps:
Translate your strategy into top level company objectives. This may also be obvious by now, but this is where you ensure the difference between success and failure. You want to bring clarity to the process and establish cross-functional objectives if your teams have separate goals.
Cascade objectives to your department leaders, i.e., Engineering, Marketing, Sales, Operations, Product, and so on. However, don’t cascadeyour objectives all the way down! The process will take too long, and is too rigid. Instead:
Facilitate the process of having teams develop their goals, aligning to the higher level objectives. Make sure to involve the people doing the work.
Carve out time to review the goals across the organization to ensure alignment. Goal crafting may not be as easy as it sounds. You can use our OKR playbook to help.
Engage in ongoing team reviews and check-ins, and note that breakdowns tend to occur as you move from organization levels two and three.
Reserve the right to be smarter at any time. In other words, modern business demands agility. If you need to change a goal mid-quarter, that’s OK. Blindly tackling goals that are no longer relevant or need to be pushed out is following process for process-sake.
Organizational Traits that Contribute to Success:
Be transparent - Ensure the goals are visible to everyone. When employees know what the organization’s goals are, they are more likely to work on the right things, know how their work fits into the overall picture, and leads to better satisfaction;
Enable alignment - You’ve hired smart people who know how to do their jobs well. By being clear with expectations, teams will be able to build their own goals, which align with the company’s objectives. Instead of bureaucracy, this develops autonomy.
Establish accountability - You need a process for regular updating of goal progress. Setting expectations is critical to ensuring that the smart people you’ve hired know how to consistently update the organization on progress; and
Empower your Champion - We’re going to keep coming back to this, the Chief of Staff, Chief of Strategy, or Chief Operating Officer needs to own the Strategic business planning process.
Got it? Good. Let’s drill down further.
Make the Execution Last
So, you have to align objectives, plan, involve your direct reports, focus on enablement and engage in ongoing team reviews.
How do you make that last?
First, make the continuous updating of goal rating and metrics a part of your weekly operational cadence. This is where companies are most likely to fall down because they fail to establish business goals as part of the ongoing business process. The result is achieving goals by accident. At best. However, you can make business goals part of your ongoing business process and you can ensure the process is implemented by ensuring your champion has ownership of that process (and yes, we’re returning to this point).
And second, master the process through doing the process. Queue The Karate Kid. You don’t learn karate from a book, you learn it through repeated small habits. And so, the execution of a series of small, positive behaviors, which take fifteen to twenty minutes per week to complete across your organization can add up to amazing results and insights.
Warning: Where the Process Falls Down
We’ve already spoken to our concerns around failing to continuously update rating and metrics (see above, really), but this isn’t the only place the process can fall down. Frankly, there are so many ways the process can fall down, that we’re going to write a post on this topic alone. But for now, some additional high-level points for you to consider:
The lack of a comprehensive enablement plan for the OKR methodology. This is about ongoing education. While OKRs are intuitive, it’s easy for people to forget best practices. As you hire you’ll want to make sure new employees understand the methodology. It’s also about reinforcement and crafting a thoughtful process.
We mentioned this above, but not involving the people who do the work in the goal creation process doesn’t bode well. Don’t cascade your goals all the way down.
Also, the lack of continual review of goals to make sure they’re appropriate.
Failing to set clear expectations for regular OKR team review and how to do it effectively. There needs to be a review process for high-level objectives.
Not using a modern OKR management tool, i.e. spreadsheets don’t scale. Look, this is a shameless plug, we know that. But we also believe it. We believe that teams who use Koan have better alignment and work together with purpose. By having purpose-built software for the job of goal tracking, you’ll avoid a TON of time spent running around and getting updates.
Ultimately we want nothing more than for your organization to be the best version of itself it can be and so, be patient, it’s going to take you two to three quarters to get it right, ensure your champion takes ownership of the process. Feel free to sign up for Koan (it's free forever!) or schedule a demo today to see how we can help get your team on the same page.