Dear Andy: The Finer Points of OKR Ownership
Is it typical for associates to own main organizational OKRs when their supervisors don’t own any? It seems strange for me to cascade my OKRs where I own the Objective and my supervisors have one or a few of the key results - because this implies that I am responsible for overseeing their work. How am I supposed to get direction and guidance from my supervisors when I am the owner of the OKR?
Thank you, Elisa
Hi Elisa, thanks for writing in and for your great question!
Although your particular situation isn’t common, it does happen. Anyone in an organization can own an OKR, O, or KR—it’s not dependent on hierarchy or title. Generally speaking, the highest layer of OKRs are owned by people with correspondingly broad authority—but those same people sometimes own Key Results deeper in the organization, too.
As owner of the OKR, you are not solely responsible for its success or failure. The OKR owner is responsible for getting mutual commitment for what matters, how it will be measured, and who is “driving” momentum for each KR. Even though an individual owns an OKR, the whole team is responsible for achieving it. You, as owner, are the driving force behind coordination and communication. That means if an OKR is behind or failing, the team shares the responsibility for developing the solution - including the parts your supervisor is responsible for.
I understand how you may feel like you’ve landed in some sort of corporate remake of Freaky Friday. Rest assured that you and your supervisor did not completely switch jobs (or bodies) and you should absolutely still go to them for guidance and overall direction. After all, you may be ‘the boss’ of this specific project, but your supervisors have a strong investment in its overall success too. Remind them of that if you need to. You can be the best person for the overall O, and still need leadership or expertise from your supervisor to complete one of the KRs.
Lastly, OKR ownership should happen voluntarily and enthusiastically. If you are uncomfortable owning this OKR or feel this somewhat unorthodox setup will be detrimental to its success, explore if there’s a better way to organize things. If your company utilizes CFRs (and we highly recommend you do) that is a great opportunity to communicate your thoughts to your supervisors. Getting the right people to own the right parts of the OKR is a crucial step, and needs to be given proper time and consideration. Communication is key!
Well Elisa, I hope I’ve been able to assuage some of your concerns. Thanks again for writing in, and best of luck to you on your OKR journey. You’ve got this!
Sincerely, Billy from the What Matters Team
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