SPAR Adopts the OKR Methodology to Achieve Alignment

July 2020


South Africa





SPAR Adopts the OKR Methodology to Achieve Alignment

SPAR South Africa began in the 1960s and represents and supports over 1,000 independently owned and operated grocery stores in South Africa. SPAR operates under a “voluntary trading” approach and views its store owners as entrepreneurs.

The SPAR Central Office Logistics Team, responsible for providing Logistics guidance and support to SPAR’s distribution centers, was using an inefficient paper-based system to track their goal achievement. The team had challenges communicating goals and tracking outcomes. The team sought to improve workflows and after doing research, they discovered that the OKR methodology could do just that. 

Finding the Right OKR Tool 

Solly Engelbrecht, SPAR’s Logistics Executive, began exploring tools to help with OKR implementation, but struggled to find a tool that was simple and intuitive to use. He was looking for a tool that would save his team time and money by increasing the efficiency of goal management and reporting. 

“I was looking for a very easy and straightforward way of applying OKRs, but most of the tools were either outrageously expensive or incredibly complex,” Engelbrecht explained, “I must have looked at about 10 different software packages, and then I came across Koan. Koan makes the OKR process simple, straightforward, and elegant.”

In addition to liking Koan because of its simplicity, the SPAR team was also looking for an OKR tool that would be flexible around their unique needs and wouldn’t limit them to a specific timeline. They found Koan’s ability to adapt to simultaneous planning cycles to be especially valuable because their OKR process operates on annual objectives that are supported by quarterly key results. 

Gaining Value with a Software-Based Platform

Once beginning to use Koan, the team immediately took to the platform because of its ability to facilitate purposeful work. Engelbrecht especially found value in Koan’s Company Homepage that allowed the team to tie their objectives to the Central Office Logistics Team’s ‘Why’ Statement. The team found this feature to be a useful jumping-off point when creating their OKRs and would use their ‘Why’ Statement to provide overall focus and drive to create high-level objectives. 

After developing their OKRs, the team developed a routine through Koan’s Reflections feature that enabled them to quickly update, track, and report on progress. The team found the most value in Koan’s unique Confidence Ratings feature, which provides a comprehensive overview of goals and allows teams to see beyond the contextual limits of a metric. 

“Confidence ratings give us a nice and concise way to see how we are actually doing,” says Engelbrecht. He and his team sort their key results by confidence rating before their meetings, allowing them to prioritize their goals and create a meeting agenda within seconds. Engelbrecht explains the benefits of this time-saving feature, “Sorting key results by confidence rating is a very powerful feature. In one view, we can see what these goals actually look like.” 

After sorting their key results by confidence rating, the team uses Koan’s automated goal reporting feature, Presentation Mode, to facilitate their OKR discussions at their goal review meetings.

Every week you get into the habit of reviewing your goals, giving them a score, commenting on them, and moving on. You aren’t going to spend hours on this. It is two minutes and then it is done. 

Driving Achievement In or Out of the Office

The Central Office Logistics team also found that these benefits of Koan held true, even when working remotely during the COVID-19 crisis. Because SPAR is an essential business, the team continued to work. The team split into two groups and would rotate working from home and working from the office to allow for social distancing in the workplace. Engelbrecht and his teammates found that their OKR process remained consistent during this time, despite partially working from home, because of Koan’s asynchronous functionality. 

“Some people will update their reflections on a Friday afternoon and I may update mine on a Monday morning, and then it is accessible to everyone to review” explains Engelbrecht. Because reviewing and reporting on goals in Koan is already designed with efficiency and flexibility in mind, Koan could support the Central Office Logistics Team’s OKR process regardless of whether the team was in the office or at home. 

We have always been using it as a remote tool. Whether you are remote or in the office, it is the same principle. It is a tool that you can use anywhere; it is actually irrelevant where you are.

Since using Koan, the SPAR Central Office Logistics team has seen significant improvements in goal achievement due to an overall increase in the team’s alignment and focus. Engelbrecht attributes this to Koan’s enablement of teamwide accountability through frequent communication and transparency. “We have all agreed on our objectives and everybody works towards them,” says Engelbrecht, “Every person reports back on their goals and it just keeps goals at the front of mind. It is a quick and easy way to keep yourself on track.” 

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