We know that any change in an organisation can be intimidating. But we also know that only the ones who change will be able to survive. The aim is to change as often as necessary, but absolutely no more.
Introducing a new strategy implementation tool or framework is often a necessary change as our professional environment evolves. When it comes to introducing and implementing OKRs, don’t try and do it all at once.
”One small step for man
You have to commit to making the change, but our recommendation would be to start small. In this document, we’ve provided a simple checklist to help guide you in a direction.
OKR: Your tool for strategy implementation
There’s a lot of elements of the OKR framework that are extremely useful for all sorts of productivity and execution hacks. As a holistic framework though, its value is unlocked when used as a tool for strategy implementation.
We would argue strongly (admittedly, we won’t win every time) that you need to understand your strategy and strategic themes before you start with OKRs.
And then, because it’s a tool for executing on your long-term strategy, remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. If you do it quickly, you’re probably doing it wrong.
Your first (short) checklist for OKR implementation
There’s no single acceptable way, no single process to always adopt. However, there are a few things that are helpful to think about before you start. We’ve listed a few below.
Agree on “the why”
Be very clear on why OKRs are necessary – articulate it, and then write it down. Again, there’s no right answer, but it’s important to understand why you’re embarking on this journey – is it to create alignment? Or to create focus? Or about getting into a quarterly cycle? Or about implementing a business model shift?
All are good reasons, but they have different implications.
Assign the team
Although theoretically possible, we’d beg you not to try and implement it across the organisation from the start. Choose a team – the beta team, if you will. How you choose the team (horizontal, vertical, functional, squads, chapters, doesn’t really matter) is not as important as why you choose the team – they should be resilient, willing to explore and iterate.
The framework is highly adaptable, so adapt it. This teams needs to do that and ensure that it’s tailored before you roll it out to the rest of your organisation.
Agree to focus
Your OKRs should cover the few things you need to do, not everything you should do. Christina Wodtke, one of the thought leaders on OKRs and author of Radical Focus, says exactly that – focus, radically. If you have one OKR, it’s simple, clean and abundantly clear what your top priority is. This will also allow the team to align behind one goal. If you focus on everything, you focus on nothing.
Have a maximum or 5, but there’s nothing wrong with having only 1 either.
Aim for a regular cadence
OKR is a critical thinking framework and an ongoing discipline – don’t forget about the second part. Set up your ceremonies at the start of the cycle – regular checkins, a mid-cycle review, an end of cycle reflection session, and then rinse and repeat for the next cycle.
This is where most implementation efforts fail – because of a lack of tracking and regular follow ups. Don’t neglect this. Especially at the end of the quarter, pause, reflect, adapt, reset and then go again.
Some other tips
Every team implementing OKR will be faced with some complexities and challenges – there are myriads to list and to learn from. The best way is through experience. Here are a few more things to think about:
- Don’t worry about a formal tool or fancy platform initially – first figure out how you want to implement the framework and what you’re looking for in a tool. Use Google Sheets or something similar in the meantime.
- Even though you can implement it for any team, executive buy in really helps. This is because you want to align to the company strategy and gaining buy in from the senior leadership team will enable this.
- Ensure that you focus on results, and not tasks. We’ll talk about best practice when writing OKRs elsewhere – for now, be sure that it’s hard to change to a results mindset. But it’s an absolute must. Key results are key and they are results, not tasks.
- Be clear on who is accountability for which OKR – even better, who is accountable for each key result. If feels like stating the obvious, but sometimes stating the obvious is required.
Lastly, do it, or don’t. But don’t choose halfway, that’ll hurt.
We hope these four simple steps provide some direction to start your OKR journey. Take comfort that it will be that – a journey, of discovery and growth, and much more.
We’d love to explore it with you. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.