The OKR methodology is both a critical thinking framework, as well as an ongoing discipline. Setting OKRs once-off is not enough; instead, after each OKR cycle (we usually suggest following a quarterly cadence) you should have a ‘reflect and reset’ session. In the ‘reflect and reset session’, you typically reflect on the past OKR cycle and reset OKRs for the cycle ahead.
The reflection element allows your team to celebrate the successes, unpack what didn’t work too well and think through how to adapt the methodology and business habits going forward to create a better foundation for success for the team.
The resetting element allows your team to take time out of the day-to-day tasks to lift their heads and reset OKRs for the cycle ahead, to ensure they continue progressing on their strategy and continue working on the right focus areas. Resetting OKRs is a balancing act that is not always easy. You need to balance focusing on past OKRs so that your team reaps the rewards of compounding efforts, while also ensuring that you’re not continuing to work on something that has become business-as-usual (BAU) or is no longer relevant. To ensure that you get this balancing act right, we’ve provided three pointers below to help guide you.
Avoid ‘Shiny Object’ Syndrome
‘Shiny Object’ Syndrome is a term used to describe instances when people continuously focus on new trends, ideas, or opportunities. This is often done without fully evaluating the possible benefits or value of the new idea, and often proves to be a distraction from the important focus areas that need to be pursued.
When resetting OKRs, we need to be wary of disregarding all past thinking and decisions made about what to focus on rather going after the new shiny object or trend. Often teams reset OKRs using a new blank page, rather than keeping or modifying an OKR that hasn’t yet been achieved or thinking about what the next potential phase is when going after the same objective. The result of this is a lack of focus, not realising the benefits of compounding projects and often fewer tangible results.
Avoid climbing up the wrong wall
Stephen R. Covey once said “If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster”. We should remember this when resetting OKRs. We don’t want to continue working on something when it is not getting us any closer to our ambition and goals, or when it is clear that there is something more important that needs to get prioritised.
Reflecting on each OKR at the end of the cycle, logging learnings and asking key questions will help you decide whether this is something to continue focusing on, or whether it needs to be removed or even delegated. In addition to this, teams also need to ask themselves what else they should be focusing on and not just sticking to the current areas of focus from the last OKR cycle, as they are more comfortable in this space. OKRs are meant to be ambitious and at times, push teams out of their comfort zones to help shift the needle and take the team or business to new heights.
So how do we reset OKRs?
- For each OKR from the last quarter, insert the final score and log learnings with regards to each Key Result. [For example, if the Key Result is “Run 3 user studies focused on first user experience”, when it comes to scoring, it would be how many studies you managed to run. And so the score could read: “Managed to run 3 user studies”]
- For each OKR, or more specifically each Key Result, decide whether you should:
- Keep it: The OKR is still a key focus area that we need to continue pursuing
- Modify it: Although you have worked hard and can potentially celebrate the progress made towards the OKR, there are still certain focus areas for us to reach the intended outcome
- Remove it: The OKR has either been successfully achieved or has become BAU and so is no longer an important focus area to help us achieve our strategy
- Ask yourselves what else is missing. Take time to zoom out, revisit your purpose, ambition and strategic themes and review any notes from past strategy sessions. Also assess any changes in the operating environment. Add new OKRs if necessary.
- Reassess whether focus still exists now that you’ve potentially added new OKRs and removed some. Have you prioritised based on your current capacity, and do you realistically think you can achieve your OKRs? If not, perform another prioritisation exercise.
This unfortunately isn’t an exact science, and these questions don’t need to be asked in this exact order. At the end of the day, your OKRs should represent the most important things that you need to focus on to progress your strategy in the next OKR cycle. Sometimes it might be clear what you need to focus on, and so resetting OKRs will be quick. But sometimes you also need to spend hours resetting OKRs for the next OKR cycle as the environment may have changed, your strategy may have changed, there’s too much to do and you’re struggling to prioritise, the team isn’t aligned amongst many other reasons. No matter what the reason may be, make sure to invest the time required to reset your OKRs so that the benefits of the overall OKR journey are not lost.