You would expect the OKR processes for two similar companies, both part of the same group of companies with several shared team members, to be the same. This is not the case for two closely linked companies that we have worked with. Through recent discussions with their respective internal OKR leads, each of their OKR processes have evolved over their ~2-year journeys with OKRs and have been adapted to suit them. And they’re working.
How the OKR processes can differ
There are a number of elements of the process that differ between organisations. The most common elements are the length of the OKR cycles, the timing of the OKR cycles (i.e. when a new cycle starts), the level that OKRs are rolled down to, and the cadence and timing of check-ins. These factors often depend on the type of business, the timing of the different ‘seasons’ of a business, the rate of change in a business, and the way the business leaders operate.
Interestingly, through discussions with the OKR leads, another key difference was the scope of the OKRs being set. One company used them solely for strategy implementation, keeping the focus within the executive team and ensuring they were constantly making traction on their chosen strategic path. The other company used them in a broader sense, choosing to ask the question ‘What are the most important things to move our business forward over the next quarter?’. This meant that more business-of-today objectives were incorporated (although they were mostly ‘change’ metrics).
The power of designing the system as a team
During discussions with both OKR leads, two things became clear:
1. There is very little chance that you will find the right system for you from the start.
You need to start, and learn, adapt, learn, and adapt, etc. to find what works for your team and organisation.
2. The team needs to design the system together.
When the team gives input and can control the changes in the system, there is more buy-in. And more buy-in means more chance of entrenching OKRs in the longer term.
There is no right way to do OKRs, only the right way for your organisation. Finding the right way together, as a team, means that the team takes ownership of the system, and not just the actual OKRs.
“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself”