Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are a critical thinking framework and an ongoing discipline. OKRs seek to ensure employees work together, focussing their efforts on making measurable contributions that help drive the company forward. As Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” And so, to ensure that we achieve excellence throughout our OKR journey, it is crucial to create a habit of regular OKR check-ins.

The importance of a regular OKR check-in

OKR check-in meetings are simply that – checking in on your OKRs. When implementing OKRs, regular team check-ins ensure that everyone in the meeting knows that OKRs are a team effort and require employee engagement and collaboration. A positive goal-setting environment will emerge when a goal is clearly defined and team members know what is expected of them. The time allocated for the check-in will not only provide a reminder of OKRs but will also encourage individuals to plan what needs to be done in the coming week. In addition, they enable quick decision-making, effectively creating a space for shared problem solving and ensuring progress is celebrated across the team and company.

The purpose of the OKR check-in

Owing to OKRs typically being team goals, teams should discuss what is going well and the current hurdles that may endanger the achievement of the end goal. Such hurdles may include capacity or time constraints. It is important to note that an OKR check-in is not a status update meeting where a progress indicator for each team is given. That’s the starting points yes, but is a simple status update really the best use of time for a group of leaders? It is instead a time to dive slightly deeper into the plans for achieving goals and uncovering opportunities for teams to work more effectively together. It is a time to put minds together and focus on the problems that need to be tackled.

Principles for an effective OKR check-in

To ensure that a habit of effective OKR check-ins can be achieved, we recommend the following six simple principles:

  1. Keep it short and effective. Check-ins are typically combined with other team meetings to ensure that members diaries don’t become overloaded with OKR meetings.
  2. Make it a weekly commitment so that it becomes second nature to each team. If each team member commits to attending a weekly/fortnightly meeting, the timeslot will become part of OKR routine, forming a habit across the team.
  3. Have an established agenda as this will help create focus in the meeting and ensure that the time is used effectively and efficiently. A suggested agenda includes the following: Celebrate a win from last week; provide a plan on outstanding items/goals and discuss any impediments or risks
  4. Individual preparation is essential for the time to be used effectively. If OKR drivers check-in beforehand, updating progress and confidence, the check-in time can be used to discuss important blockers and important next steps.
  5. Remember that it is not a status update. It is about making decisions and brainstorming impediments. As soon as a check-in becomes a status update, the solutioning mindset is lost.
  6. Give everyone a chance to speak as this will promote a culture of team-work and an environment of accountability.

To make the most of the time spent together, a balance needs to be found between time spent addressing short-term challenges and progressing the long-term strategy. To achieve this, we use an analogy of driving a car, which is covered in Weekly OKR Check-ins – They are more than just a check-in.

“Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress”

James Clear

If you are able to adapt this guideline to implement OKRs, weekly check-ins will soon become a habit and part of the team’s routine. Creating this habit may seem challenging in the beginning, but if companies are able to combine effective leadership with team commitment and collaboration, the OKRs will provide a constant sense direction to inform a clear, measurable path of action.

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