Published on 01.21.2019
Company-wide OKRs help align teams, ensuring all members are working toward the same goals. They provide clarity throughout the whole organization about what a company’s most important priorities are at the moment.
That might sound like a simple task, but according to Aaron Levie, CEO and founder of the enterprise cloud company Box, “At any given time, some significant percentage of people are working on the wrong things.”
Even those at the top aren’t immune to misalignment. Only one-third of 11,000 senior executives and managers could list their company’s top three priorities, revealed a 2015 survey conducted by the MIT Sloan School of Management and the London Business School. That’s a huge problem. A company can be tugged in too many separate directions overtime as departments and employees make decisions without clearly set priorities.
This is all preventable. By defining company-wide OKRs your whole organization is collectively committing to the same objectives. As OKRs cascade down an organization, departments and individuals become accountable for ensuring specific KRs are completed. However, by committing to the same goals everyone in the organization becomes responsible for supporting each other in order to accomplish them.
A company-wide OKR pulls everyone in the same direction, serving as your team’s north star.
Well-crafted company-wide OKRs are simple but pack a punch
They are short and sweet but filled with meaning like a good haiku. Again, this can be harder than it sounds. Even the WhatMatters.com Team’s first attempts at drafting company-wide OKRs weren’t perfect. We had separate OKRs covering everything we needed to accomplish.
Here are some examples of our first attempts to craft objectives:
Our co-founder, Ryan Panchadsaram, reminded us that OKRs don’t have to encompass everything, just the most important. He pointed out that what we were really trying to accomplish was to create engaging content that helps leaders reach their goals and to operate like a top-tier media company. Those have now become our guiding company-level objectives.
How are they different from to-do lists?
The difference is in the key results. They are the secret sauce of the OKR system. Each objective is completed as measured by a few KRs. Determining these KRs forces an organization to articulate what metrics it will use to measure progress on its objectives.
In the case of WhatMatters.com, our KRs let us know whether we are truly inspiring leaders and are operating like a top-tier media company. They include benchmarks on how much content we produce in a week, newsletter subscribers, and how many followers we have on social media.
KRs are versatile and can be both quantitative and qualitative providing precision and quality assurance. It's vital to recognize that the metrics you use can have ripple effects. For example, in 2012 YouTube decided to switch its focus from tracking views to tracking watch time. The reason being that longer watch times were a better indicator than more views that users were happy. As they updated the website and its algorithms with this new focus on watch time, daily view numbers went up as well. Whereas, a focus on views could have likely had an opposite effect on watch time.
OKRs require your organization to be more mindful on how it will reach its objectives. Ultimately, this removes any confusion surrounding priorities and what success means for your company.
OKRs are a powerful system that steers your whole organization in the same direction. Learn more about OKRs by reading Measure What Matters or exploring more FAQs, stories, and resources right here at WhatMatters.com.
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"OKR" stands for "objective and key result." OKRs are a goal-setting tool that helps figure out what you want your team to accomplish and how to do it.