Picture this scenario that many teams we work with find themselves in year after year: Leaders spend dozens of hours setting their strategy and thinking about goals to achieve said strategy. They put this together in a PowerPoint deck or on a page in November and December and then share it more widely at the beginning of the year, spurring excitement and buy-in for the year ahead.
What tends to follow is that strategy gets lost in the shuffle of the day-to-day tasks that inevitably arise, creating a ripple effect of problems down the road where work isn’t aligned or doesn’t contribute to the overarching strategy.
Here’s where Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) come in. OKRs have emerged as a widely adopted framework for teams seeking to plan, measure, and achieve success in their work — and make sure it's directly related to the organization’s strategy and priorities.
This powerful system empowers leaders at all levels of an organization to define ambitious, qualitative goals known as "objectives," and determine measurable outcomes, called "key results," to assess progress and success. With OKRs, leaders can inspire their teams to foster a culture of achievement, setting the stage for organizational growth and continuous improvement.
At the heart of the OKR framework is defining challenging and inspirational objectives. These objectives serve as guiding principles that motivate teams and align their efforts toward a common purpose. Leaders play a pivotal role in crafting these objectives, ensuring they are ambitious, yet attainable, and resonate with the organization's overall vision.
In addition to establishing objectives, leaders must identify the end-users or consumers of their team's work. By understanding who will benefit from their efforts, leaders can define the desired behavioral changes in consumers that serve as indicators of success. These quantifiable outcomes are the key results that allow teams to measure their progress and determine how effectively they are achieving their high-level objectives.
The power of OKRs lies in their ability to provide teams with a clear roadmap for success and a means to track their progress. Ideally, OKRs exist as the foundational underpinnings of the work being performed, so teams almost can't avoid measuring progress along their strategy.
With knowledge of how OKRs work, leaders can empower their teams by providing guidance and support throughout the OKR cycle. They can encourage their teams to think big, challenge the status quo, and push the boundaries of what is possible.
Common Mistakes When Creating OKRs
Writing OKRs is a skill that takes practice and time to develop. Every set of OKRs should incorporate feedback from within the organization and undergo multiple checks and drafts to ensure they are aligned with the strategy. And of course, they won't be perfect the first time you implement them. As with improving on objective results, OKRs are an iterative process for teams. Through coaching and experience, your team will improve their OKRs. Based on our work with organizations of all sizes, here are a few common mistakes we’ve to avoid when creating OKRs for your team:
Avoid Business as Usual: OKRs should aim for change and growth instead of maintaining the status quo.
OKR vs. KPI: OKRs are more than just KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). They’re measures for change, whereas KPIs are measures of status and ongoing health.
Aiming Low: OKRs are meant to stretch a team, and their success shouldn’t be given. Don’t fall into the trap of lowering the bar. If you don’t know a good target to start because you’ve never measured the metric before, baseline and measure that metric for a quarter and aim to beat that result the next quarter.
Implementing OKRs With Your Team
Our collaborative end-to-end strategic planning approach provides organizations with a shared vision, cascading objectives, and action plans with buy-in across stakeholders. Capturing the outcomes and activities in the same clear, concise format prevents duplicative efforts and keeps stakeholders locked in on the group’s common purpose, desired results, and shared accountabilities.
Effective leaders use OKRs as a catalyst for collaboration and continuous improvement. Leaders foster a sense of shared purpose and collective accountability by aligning individual and team goals with the broader organizational objectives. This collaboration creates a positive feedback loop, where teams can leverage each other's strengths and expertise to achieve greater success.
To further enhance the OKR culture, leaders can leverage an automated tool, like Microsoft's Viva Goals, to have progress and achievements documented automatically in real time.
This integrated solution integrates with popular Microsoft tools, providing leaders with a comprehensive platform to create, communicate, and track OKRs. Through Viva Goals, leaders can harness the capabilities of all of Microsoft to facilitate a seamless OKR implementation.
Microsoft Teams is a central hub for teams to collaborate and track progress. Leaders can utilize this platform to update OKRs, share achievements, and foster transparent communication. The integration with Outlook enables leaders to schedule regular check-ins and progress reviews, offering timely feedback and guidance to ensure teams stay on track. Additionally, SharePoint's document management features allow leaders to create a centralized repository for OKR-related resources, promoting knowledge sharing and best practices.
This holistic approach ensures that OKRs become ingrained in the organizational DNA, driving growth and achievement at every level. Further, these tools bring transparency and visibility across the organization. Anytime, day or night, somebody can click and see where the organization sits along with its objectives.
Leaders play a critical role in inspiring a culture of achievement by defining compelling objectives and aligning them with measurable key results. By leveraging the power of OKRs and utilizing tools like Microsoft's Viva Goals, leaders can empower their teams to embrace the OKR culture and unlock new levels of success. With a shared vision, collaborative spirit, and the right tools, organizations can embark on a journey of growth and continuous improvement by implementing OKRs.