Dear Andy,

I oversee a diverse group of individuals scattered throughout the US. Because they essentially work as a team of one, I have asked my direct reports to embrace OKRs as well. Most of my team are on board with their individual OKRs (O: Become the Quality Leader that my site needs), but I have one employee who is extremely reluctant to participate. She does use the departmental OKRs to some extent, but she thinks having individual OKRs are “fluff” even though we have discussed that they will drive our CFRs during our one-on-ones. Do you have any suggestions on how I can get her on board? (OKRs are not company driven; only my department uses them.)

Sincerely,
Nora

dear-andy-spacer-2

Hi Nora! Thanks for writing in and for your great question.

It’s perfectly natural (and very common) for folks to feel hesitant when first starting off with OKRs. Let’s see what we can do to help assuage resistance.

A person who calls OKRs “fluff” sounds like, if I may, someone who doesn’t feel connected to the system’s many benefits. OKRs can seem overwhelming at first, so it’s important your team knows why you’re adopting them, what you hope to get out of it, and what will be expected of them as team members and individuals. I don’t know anyone who objects to teams being more focused or aligned, and most want to track progress. Does your training clearly link these benefits to OKRs? Does this team member want to improve her work in any of these areas? Do you want her to improve her work in any of these areas? If so, OKRs are a terrific way to frame ongoing conversations about what success looks like and how to get there.

In general, we see that people adopt OKRs willingly as soon as they really see the benefits in their own work. That often starts at the departmental level before individual level. Once your team is using OKRs successfully, try showing your reluctant team member examples of stellar individual OKRs and explain how they’ve helped others achieve their goals. It could be a great way for her to see more of herself in the process.

Alternatively, consider using the team OKRs to improve the work she’s already doing on a department level. Is she an owner of any of the team’s Key Results? How do you discuss progress in your 1:1 meetings? If she doesn’t own one of those, what are her top priorities? Those are usually the foundations for great Objectives. She’s probably already setting goals for herself—OKRs establish a common language for progress. From there, as she reports on her activities, ask her what the outcome she’s seeking looks like. When you agree on a priority or a benchmark that matters, write it down as a Key Result. Make it a ritual to start meetings by checking on them for the first five or 10 minutes. Your instincts not to force the process are likely spot on—but you can always emphasize the value in having a shared process and language for success.

Lastly, highlight the difference between CFRs and performance reviews. Make sure she knows that her OKR scores won’t necessarily be seen as a reflection of her effectiveness in the company, and they will not affect her salary, bonuses, or position. I bet she’ll be less hesitant if she knows her job isn’t at stake, and that OKRs are a process to help you both succeed.

Well, Nora, I hope this has been helpful for you! Thanks for writing in and best of luck to you and your team.

Sincerely,
Billy from the What Matters Team