I’m a small-business owner who’s used OKRs for a couple years now. Things have been going really well, and I’m looking to expand to two more locations this year. However, I’m unsure how to utilize OKRs as we grow. I’m used to having a say in all aspects of my company, and I’m concerned about keeping brand consistency while my business functions under someone else’s eye. Should we have one set of OKRs for the entire company, or should each location write their own set?
Thanks for writing in and congratulations on all of your success!
Keeping multiple branches of a business aligned is tricky, indeed. The bigger your company grows, the more important alignment becomes. Expansion usually means fewer opportunities to interact directly with all of your employees, so it’s incredibly important to make your priorities crystal clear and visible to all. This is where OKRs come in.
Do you have a North Star OKR set in place? This is a single top-level OKR that sets the organization’s direction for the entire year. It can guide each team (or location) when writing their shorter-term OKRs. Even if you’re not there to directly guide them, team members should be able to look at the North Star OKR and, when making decisions, ask themselves, “Does this align with our overall vision?” A solid North Star OKR keeps everyone rowing in the same direction.
For small teams, one North Star Objective is often enough to work with. However, each location will inevitably need to solve for different challenges: one may need to focus on financial growth, another operating efficiency, maybe even how to optimize a new process. They’ll also likely be utilizing different store layouts, or heck, maybe even experiencing different weather. Be open to the fact that a one-size-fits-all OKR might not help them create the most value. When creating these, you may choose to directly assign the Objectives or have them write their own. Either way, though, leave the KRs up to the teams. They are the ones in the stores — they have great insights into the challenges they face. OKRs are a wonderful way for those insights to be shared across your whole team — and to you.
It also might be a good idea to set a company-wide OKR as a roadmap for a successful expansion. It sounds like consistency is a priority to you — perhaps your Objective could be something like: “Customer experience is consistent across three locations,” with KRs revolving around staff training, keeping inventory stocked, or customer reviews.
Well, Carla, that’s all I have for you. Thanks for writing in and best of luck to you on both your OKR journey and expansion.
Billy from the What Matters Team