Introduction to OKRs

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” - Peter Drucker

Organisations in their Growth phase set-up inspiring, ambitious, unrealistic goals for their businesses, teams and individuals during the Annual/Quarterly Planning. However, most organisations quote the goal-setting process as time-consuming & ineffective. About 2/3rds of these goals lack one/more of clearly defined metrics, the timeline, strategic alignment or desired resources, and do not see the light of the day.

The OKR methodology - Objective & Key Results, is a collaborative, goal-setting framework that helps teams and organisations reach their goals through identifiable and measurable results. 

Objectives are a strategic theme, a qualitative statement of what is to be achieved. They are characterised as significant, concrete, clear, inspiring, easy to comprehend and action oriented, designed to propel the organisation in the desired direction.

Key Results assist in measuring the progress of Objectives set by the organisation. They are characterised as measurable and verifiable.

According to a recent survey, the Goal-Setting process, if implemented properly, can help improve employee engagement in a way that elevates performance and benefits overall organisations. Applying OKRs in the organisations streamlines the goal-setting process & reduces the probability of failure or abandonment of the Big-Hairy-Audacious-Goals

Benefits Of OKRs

Unlike other Goal Management Tools like MBOs, KPIs or S.M.A.R.T, OKRs are Agile Goal Setting Solution enabling organisations to break planning into small, result-oriented focused sub-objectives. It takes the best of features from all other performance management tools to create an Outcome Management environment focusing on the Big Picture, propelling the organisation to achieve the results and grow.

Understanding why an organisation must adopt OKRs, the motivation lies in addressing one/more of the challenges detailed below.

1. Strategy-Execution Gaps

Strategy yields Results only when Implementation is done right. The most acknowledged strategy-execution problems include:

a) Lack of Focus: One of the common organisational challenges while executing their strategy is unifying its entire workforce around the strategic goal & connecting their work towards achieving it. This is followed by typical prioritisation issues wherein individuals tend to focus on non-strategic routine tasks that are easy to attain & provide instant results. 

b) No Alignment: The most alarming issue is cross-collaboration conflicts. Executing strategic goals requires commitment & collaborations across different departmental or functional units. However, only 9% of managers say they can rely on colleagues in other  functions and units all the time for reliable commitments & promises resulting in a host of dysfunctional behaviours that undermine  execution like duplicate efforts, delay in deliverables, or pass up attractive opportunities.

Surveys reveal that 90% of organisations fail to effectively execute their strategic plans. OKR Platforms are gaining popularity because:

a) OKRs addresses questions, such as, “What are we working on?”, “Do we know where we are going & why are we going there?”, “Have  we taken the best path to reach there?”, “Are these committed goals or any of these aspirational ones?” and so on, thus acting as a way to get collective commitment by bringing each team member on the same page with all energies focused on the set goal.

b) OKRs are created through a bottom-up and top-down manner, rather than the typical top-down process of cascading goals, resulting in better employee involvement. It forces people to think beyond their daily work issues to solve organisational-level problems.

c) Lastly, OKRs promote transparency and trust, as the organisation’s goals (the strategic OKRs) are open to everybody in the organisation.

2. Lack of Insights & Analytics

A key mistake which organisations make while chasing their goals, other than not focusing on right measures or not setting action-oriented goals, is having a set-it-and-forget-it mentality.

As much as the static planning approach and lack of actionable data produce poor outcomes, the lack of visibility results in an ineffective change management system leading to resistance, lack of commitment, no buy-in, and untimely or not actions.  

OKRs comes with an advantage wherein the Objectives are qualitative and aspirational, and the key results are quantitative (and guided by actionable analytics). Setting OKRs is not just an exercise but they act as a guiding path to the way employees work in the organisation by focusing on things with the biggest impact. It creates a bird’s eye view of the progress of each objective & contributions made by different departments thus creating cross-functional visibility, tracking OKRs in real-time & acting on lagging gaps between the employee’s actions & their support to the overall goals laid by the organisation. OKR promotes application of shorter goal setting cycles (quarter, monthly, weekly) too, allowing for dynamic planning and faster change adoption.

3. Achieving the desired Value Impact

Some businesses struggle to turn their beautiful strategy slide deck into something real that team leaders can deliver. They fail to translate the vision or ideas into a set of clear, understandable, value-driven projects that makes them real, tangible, executable & trackable.

The next challenge is to communicate the tangible value-plan to the rest of the organisation. Situations occur when communication with the lower organisation levels is too vague, too late, too early, too much, too little, to the wrong people, or otherwise ineffective resulting in poor strategy execution.

In the end, the workforce needs to be empowered to deliver projects bestowed on them. The team members may not have the required capabilities and contribute to the overall Value Plan.

OKR methodology creates a great clarity by helping individuals, teams and departments find the answer to “‘Why’ they do what they do?”
For example, all of Google’s products and services like Search, Gmail, Earth, Android, etc, correspond with their mission statement which, according to Google co-founder Larry Page, is “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

To direct focus & alignment towards the overall objectives, the organisations must organise Regular Meetings to ensure everyone understands goals and roadmaps & how they contribute to their personal as well as professional growth. The clear communication of the goals can be carried out by following the “SPEM” process —for strategic, planning, executing, metrics—and it comprises four steps

                    *  Make sure everyone understands the high-level, strategic goals

                    *  Embrace tactical planning that relates goals to the team’s everyday work

                    *  Make everyone accountable for executing their assigned tasks

                    *  Closely monitor achievements through metrics

Lastly, our quest to enable organisations to champion their goals has resulted in Greyamp launching the most complete OKR tool, called GALE: Grow, Adapt, Learn, Engage.  GALE enables organisations to bridge the gap between strategy, execution and results, and achieve the desired Value Impact.

In addition to creating visibility on strategy execution and value outcomes, GALE helps organisations resolve issues of talent resourcing & capability building by mapping right talent to demand using the skills and agility data.

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