How to roll out OKRs for the first time
Once you have your company’s purpose and at least one superpower decided, there are many approaches and options for rolling out OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). While some companies and organizations may put the framework into effect across the entire organization in a one-month time period, others have found it beneficial to execute a gradual roll-out, choosing to pilot the OKR methodology within a single team before implementing it across the full organization.
In both cases, the key to moving anything forward in the work environment is commitment from the leadership team. Therefore, what better team to pilot OKRs before they’re implemented across the organization than the leadership team? As John Doerr says in Measure What Matters “Alongside focus, commitment is a core element of our first superpower. In implementing OKRs, leaders must publicly commit to their objectives and stay steadfast.” High-level OKRs among the leadership unit allows the organization’s decision-makers to build a foundation of understanding OKRs prior to asking other teams to do the same with setting goals.
However, even if you are not part of a leadership or executive team, you can begin building and setting OKRs from your particular department or team. In introducing and eventually piloting OKRs within a team, it is important to:
Present the framework clearly and comprehensively and share success stories of other companies that use OKRs. Express not only the benefits of a company-wide OKR framework, but also include how it will specifically meet the unique needs, demands, and challenges of your team.
Develop a maximum of 5-7 objectives with 3-5 key results. In the book “Measure What Matters”, John Doerr wrote, “We must realize—and act on the realization—that if we try to focus on everything, we focus on nothing.” Prioritization and simplicity are at the core of the Objectives and Key Results framework. Although it can be a rigorous prioritization process in the face of many goals and challenges needed to be met, the OKR process will help leaders better direct focus and resources to sweet spots with the greatest potential for impact with company goals.
Decide how OKRs will be cascaded throughout the team or organization. As there are many approaches to goal management, it is important to plan ahead and think critically about your implementation plan for the framework. With the structure, demands, and challenges of your organization in mind ask yourself the following questions:
Will OKRs be reviewed on a quarterly or annual basis?
If/when we’ve adopted OKRs, will there be three layers for the organization, department and individual team members or just one organization-wide layer everyone is expected to follow? In trainings, Coach Ryan strongly encourages teams to focus on the skill of crafting great company-wide OKRs before rolling them out to the next layer of the organization.
- Take advantage of the many OKR resources available! Goal setting and scaling a framework across an organization is no small feat but your team is not alone in wanting OKR success. There are several resources out there that can help guide your OKR implementation process. Audacious by Measure What Matters is a regular newsletter that tackles common challenges and questions ranging from how many OKR layers to implement to the best ways to grade and evaluate OKRs. Additionally, as a way to better commit to OKR tracking, many companies and organizations take advantage of free tools and paid software to get started.
As mentioned before, there are several strategies for piloting OKRs. With the goals and size of your organization in mind, it’s imperative to explore what approach will work best for your team. The following are two real-world examples of how different organizations piloted OKRs:
MASS Design Group: MASS Design group first piloted OKRs within their operations unit before unrolling it to the rest of the organization the following year. This allowed the team to determine what the challenges and benefits were and build advocates of the framework among its most senior team members when setting objectives. Learn more about the MASS approach here.
Thaddeus Ferber of the Forum for Youth Investment piloted OKRs among the small policy team he leads as a way to prioritize goals and better measure impact. Impressed with the results of the process, the Forum’s leadership team decided to implement company OKRs the next year.
In addition to building objectives and key results into every regular meeting whether one-on-one or team meetings, Possible Health and Nepal’s Nyaya Health utilized custom software tools such as Asana to help manage their process. The framework was eventually spread to their operations, clinical, shared service, and community teams.
Have an OKR advocate
No matter your rollout strategy, having a champion is key. As people are often skeptical and reluctant towards organizational change, piloting is a great way to build advocates and champions for applying OKRs within your organization. For future reference, be sure to continuously note areas of success in your implementation as well as areas of weakness in order to be the best resource possible to other teams.
Where can I get more information?
If you decide to pilot OKRs to better guide your overall implementation process, let us know how it goes by emailing us here. You can also learn more about OKRs by reading “Measure What Matters” or exploring more FAQs, Resources, and Stories, right here at WhatMatters.com.
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