Goal Alignment in Your Organization
Two of the most common questions we get are, “How do I work with an OKR that was set by my leadership team?” and “How do I hand off OKRs to my team?”
OKRs aren’t meant to be written — or used — in a vacuum. So what happens when different sets of OKRs are all expected to work together for the greater good? Let’s look at alignment.
We look at OKRs through the lens of two different types of alignment: explicit and directional.
Explicit alignment is when you’ve been given a Key Result as an Objective. We also call this “inheriting” an Objective.
When it comes to explicit alignment, you’ll be taking a measurable benchmark and using that as your Objective, then crafting a set of Key Results to support it.
Explicit alignment tends to be a more “rigid” alignment, and it works well when an organization wants to focus or if they’re navigating a crisis.
For this SaaS team, the top level OKR is:
Taking the example above, the Marketing team develops a set of OKRs based on KR 4:
O1: NPS above 90.
- K1: Ensure every set of forms is reviewed within 12 hours.
- K2: Ensure every email is reviewed within 12 hours.
O2: Scale processes, product, and content to support 5,000 subscriptions/month.
- K1: Propose help articles that decrease the rate of questions by 50%.
- K2: Provide enough radical feedback to improve product.
- K3: Producing product only requires hiring one more content producer.
- K4: Scale customer support processes to double current capacity.
Directional alignment is when you’re using OKRs from elsewhere in the organization as a guide for developing your own individual or team OKRs.
Directional alignment tends to be more “fluid” alignment, and it works well when an organization wants to empower its teams to use their creativity and expertise to achieve organizational OKRs.
Using the example above, one example could come from the Business Development team:
__ O: Find 1-3 Additional Acquisition Channels__
- K1: Run experiments with TikTok, sustained earned media outreach, billboards, etc.
- K2: Form partnerships with 10 service providers that refer leads to our product.
Even with explicit alignment, this isn’t about writing the Key Results for your team. If you are handing entire OKRs to your team, you’re falling into a micromanagement trap.
If you’re looking to align OKRs and plan on passing an Objective to your team, use it as a jumping off point to discuss how you can craft Key Results and complete their OKRs together.
TO DO: If you’re in a position to influence OKRs across an entire organization, would explicit or directional alignment across teams help you achieve your goals? If you’re in a position to be influenced by an organization’s OKRs, is it clear what kind of alignment your OKRs should have? How does that affect how you’ll develop them?
Additional Resources & Further Reading
- Article: Turning the Ship Around: A CEO Takes Responsibility for Troubles Caused by “Bad” OKRs
- Article: Cascading Top-Down OKRs: What are Some Examples?
- Article: Bottom-Up OKRs: What are Some Examples?
- For a deeper dive on using OKRs within your organization and earn your OKR Certification in our Coursera course.