Author:
Sam Prince

Most meetings lack a clear purpose. We’ve all been there. The round-robin of department updates, one person talking, people half-listening, or checking out on their phone. Companies lose a lot of productivity bogged down in meetings, and statistically, not many people like them. A 2015 survey by collaboration software company Clarizen found that nearly 50% of people would prefer to go to the DMV than attend a status update meeting. One reason is that often meetings feel like they only exist to fill a designated time slot. Versus what we expect them to do

When OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are implemented well, they can change how an organization operates—especially its meetings.

The OKR structure is a stethoscope, amplifying the heartbeat of an organization’s most important efforts. A meeting with OKRs makes it clear what the priorities are compared to the broader individual or departmental updates.

“We stop doing all of the things that we independently think are important, and we come together and say, no, actually… where we need to be great is here, here and here,” says Maven’s Julie Binder, who has used OKRs successfully with a few growth-stage companies.

When a meeting is focused on common priorities and clearly-defined benchmarks of progress, we’re more likely to walk away with a shared understanding of why a meeting was important, and what’s important to do before the next one.

Focus on collective problem-solving

Setting and discussing OKRs regularly unearths questions like, Why have we not made as much progress as we committed to by now? If these Key Results are lagging, do we have the right plan in place to get back on track and meet our goals? Or, conversely, if we have this much success at this stage already, can we stretch even more?

These metrics-based questions encourage conversations to alignand remind stakeholders why they are meeting. Because our key results were collectively decided, they fuel discussion and teamwork.

Outcome, not activity

Without OKRs, meetings often center on activities rather than on the amount of progress relative to the goal. When enough progress isn’t being made on an OKR, it prompts stakeholders to ask, “Why?” As OKRs shift the team mindset from activity to outcome, you can expect an upgrade in the dialog.

Kavin Mittal, CEO of Hike Messenger, one of the world’s largest messaging apps, uses OKRs to help refine their meeting agendas and focus conversations on the important things.

More focused meetings mean fewer (or shorter) meetings

Eventually, having OKRs allowed Hike to do away with 80% of meetings altogether. Instead of status meetings, they use OKR tools to keep a pulse on projects, combining them with other software to help with managing people. More importantly, it allowed them to decentralize their management processes nearly entirely.

Mittal tweeted, “The Result? It has significantly increased productivity. Very few agenda-less meetings. A lot less context switching. This gives teams more room to focus on ‘Real Work’ and be ‘In the Zone’ more often.”

OKR Coach Peter Kappus gives another, real-world example of how to “get in the zone.” After a few months of using OKRs, one client’s senior leadership team discovered that they could do away with their weekly two-hour ‘status meeting’ and replace it with “a highly focused 15-minute conversation about their OKRs. Specifically, about their level of confidence in achieving each Key Result.” Instead of hashing through an exhaustive “laundry list” of agenda items, they would quickly acknowledge what was progressing well, and spend the rest of the time making important decisions to get less confident outcomes back on track.

“Recovering this much time each week was a huge relief,” recalls Kappus, ‘They felt both a greater sense of control over their work and a realistic outlook about whether they would be able to deliver on their most important outcomes.”

A best practice is to dedicate the beginning of every meeting to your OKRs. This sets up the meeting and provides a visual and reference to what matters as a group.

Where can I get more information?

If you have questions, email us here or learn more by exploring our FAQs, Resources, Stories, or our free OKRs 101 online course right here on WhatMatters.com.

Or, if you’re looking for an OKR coach, check this out.