We all know that OKRs are great for creating an environment where employees can work with purpose. OKRs focus priorities, build alignment, maintain accountability, and help organizations deliver amazing results. But more often than not, when organizations are implementing OKRs for the first time, a common stumbling block can be limited cross-functional communication. When OKRs are confined to each department, there is no collaboration across departments, so teams become disjointed on what they are working towards. The reality is that most work, especially toward important goals, requires cross-functional collaboration.
What are cross-team OKRs?
Cross-team OKRs (or shared OKRs) is an advanced technique in the OKR methodology that helps to create alignment across different teams within an organization. With shared OKRs, multiple teams share the same OKR, but each team will have various initiatives that contribute to reaching that goal.
What are the benefits of cross-team OKRs?
Cross-team OKRs can be beneficial for your organization in a variety of ways:
- Reduce silos. Sometimes, OKRs can be challenging to report on because there are dependencies on other team’s work. A common example of this is when a marketing campaign is dependent on a new feature or product delivery. As the OKR cycle progresses, these teams fail to align, are flying blind, and can’t support each other's work. Cross-team OKRs allow teams to identify how to reach goals collectively, gather buy-in from all contributors upfront, which then reduces the likelihood of bottlenecks or last-minute scrambles to achieve goals.
- Increase collaboration. With shared OKRs, executives identify the real priorities, involve contributors from the start, allocate resources, and then use everyone’s skill set to achieve the goal. Skills match the objective and not the other way around.
- Map to the actual work. Many leaders assume that your OKRs must map to your organizational chart, which starts at the top executives and then cascades down throughout the organization. OKRs and strategic goals or initiatives are rarely limited to only one part of the organization. Having the ability to represent cross-team goals in your OKRs and effectively report on progress gives leaders a better view of the progress (or lack thereof) towards goals.
- Reduce the number of OKRs needed. One of the common issues with OKRs is the overwhelming number of them over time. Often, teams are working in isolation without any knowledge or collaboration with other teams and likely attempting to achieve the same goal. Cross-team OKRs help to simplify and minimize the number of OKRs for organizations.
- Enable better decision making. Leveraging the collective intelligence of people at all levels of the organization would allow leaders to have a better understanding of goal progress and ultimately make more informed, strategic decisions.
What are some best practices to implement cross-team OKRs?
- Think about outcomes first, then skillsets. When implementing OKRs, many leaders start with the organizational chart and then prioritize objectives. With shared OKRs, you’ll want to start by thinking about the most critical outcomes for the organization, then think about what needs to happen to support this outcome, followed by what teams and individuals need to support these goals. This way, the focus is on the outcome, not who is leading the objective.
- Start with a pilot. Like OKRs, it takes time to feel comfortable. Start by testing out cross-team OKRs in a pilot setting, focused on a specific strategic initiative or product launch that has been established by executives. This is a great way to monitor progress towards a big goal that includes multiple functions across the organizations.
- Remember, less is more. When thinking about cross-team OKRs, make sure you reduce the net number of OKRs. Each team that supports the OKR may have their specialties, but they’re ultimately trying to get to the same key result.
- Communication is key. When OKRs are not visible or transparent, and there is no communication across teams about the progress of OKRs, this can often lead to last-minute scrambles and misalignment. Make sure you are discussing progress regularly so you can uncover bottlenecks and resolve them quickly.
- Maintain accountability. Once you have a plan in place, gain commitment from all contributors, and hold them accountable to those agreements. Setting expectations up front will help to keep things on track and prioritized.
An ideal OKR tool like Koan can help to provide a centralized place to track goals, reinforce excellent practices, and support cross-functional collaboration. Schedule a demo today to see how Koan can get your team on the same page.