Most leadership teams meet weekly. Or at least it’s recommended to do so. The discussion should include an OKR check-in, solving pertinent issues, responding to crises, etc. Unfortunately, meeting frequency has increased during the past two years, and meeting decision-making has decreased. Because of this, it’s more important than ever to understand the importance of the regular leadership meeting and ensure that this time is effective.
The OKR check-in meeting
Every OKR practitioner, coach or trainer (or at least those worth their salt) would purport that OKRs are not set once; much more important is the habit of regular OKR check-in meetings. Therefore, teams must develop a cadence that makes sense for them and create that as a habit. Without it, the methodology will fail.
However, when we work with leadership teams, they often push back initially, saying there are too many meetings in their diaries already. We fully understand this and empathise with it – we see it not only in every team we work with but also in our business. Our response is that we don’t need more meetings. Instead, we need more effective meetings.
To make the most of the time the leadership team spends together, they need to find a healthy balance between time spent addressing short-term challenges and progressing the long-term strategy. To run these meetings, we use the analogy of driving a car, and the different controls you see when at the steering wheel. Firstly, there’s a dashboard to tell you whether the engine is running well; then a GPS to tell you if you’re going in the right direction; and lastly, a windscreen to tell you if you need to be concerned with anything in front of you. Let’s expand on this.
We don’t need more meetings. Instead, we need more effective meetings.
Integrating OKR Check-in meetings with leadership meetings
Running an organisation, or any department or team, is a complex challenge. You have to focus on the short-term ability to do your job (e.g. to bring in revenue), as well as the long-term ability to progress the company or department. Too much focus on the short term will lead to long-term irrelevance; too much focus on the long term will lead to short-term failure.
Okay, so back to our analogy. The leadership meeting should consist of three parts – the windscreen, the dashboard, and the GPS.
These are the things burning – something has hit the windscreen and needs to be addressed. Otherwise, we will spin out of control. It consists of, broadly speaking, three elements:
- Every week, actions should be noted, assigned and captured. This week’s meeting will kick off with the actions captured last week. In every part of the meeting, some actions will arise. Note them, assign someone to each, and then capture it where everyone can access it.
- People are the lifeblood of any organisation. So the leadership team must spend time discussing any team concerns – talking about the individuals and deciding what needs to be done to get everyone in a good place where they are contributing.
- Operations (including clients)
- This part of the meeting could cover various concerns, depending on your business model. For most companies, an element of client or customers will fall under operations. Sometimes it might be finances – cash flow concerns or tax issues. The point is not to delve deep but rather raise it to ensure awareness and action.
Spend 5 min on each of the above.
The dashboard shows the organisation’s heartbeat metrics – often referred to as business as usual. We typically understand what metrics drive our organisations or teams and the acceptable range of those metrics. If you don’t understand this, spend time crafting the 10-15 metrics most important for your organisation. And then set up a dashboard that can be easily updated every week.
Don’t track the world of metrics. Instead, find the few metrics that will move your world. Those metrics will highlight a problem if it exists, which can be interrogated where the need arises. We give a RAG status to each metric and only focus on those that are Red.
Spend 5 min on the dashboard. If there are more significant concerns that need more than 5 minutes, log them.
Don’t track the world of metrics. Instead, find the few metrics that will move your world.
These are your OKRs. There’s a lot of guidance on the OKR Check-in meeting – we won’t go into too much depth here. But, in short, use the following guidelines:
- It’s not a status update (only). A status update is necessary to understand whether we’re in a good place or not but resist the urge to report back on tasks. OKRs are about outcomes, not tasks.
- Actively participate. The OKRs are for the team, not for the individuals. If an OKR is discussed that is not relevant, we should ask why that OKR exists for that team.
- Prepare. Team members should know what they must report back on and check in on those OKRs before the meeting. If they can’t attend, send a note to a proxy or the team with an update.
In each of the above sections (the windscreen, dashboard or GPS), impediments might arise. These are significant issues that we can’t solve in 5 minutes. For example, If an OKR driver or accountable party hasn’t progressed that OKR far enough, we should rally together as a team to help that person. Either with additional resources or with innovative ideas. How do we facilitate this discussion?
We’ve learnt from EOS’s Level 10 meeting (which follows the same structure as our windscreen, dashboard, GPS approach). They make a case for keeping the above three elements to the minimal discussion – open the relevant element and provide feedback. If the business faces a significant challenge, log it on an issues list. If you are disciplined, you should complete the above three elements within 20 minutes.
Then, spend the rest of the meeting solving 1 or 2 of these issues. They recommend a weekly 90-minute meeting, which gives the team about an hour to solve issues. Start by prioritising the list of issues, and tackle the top priority ones first. And then make peace that you won’t get to all of them. There will always be balls that drop; it’s essential to know which ones you need to keep in the air.
We’ve seen this approach create continuous traction within multiple teams. In our own business, we’ve arrived at a place where we can’t imagine life without a regular OKR check-in meeting (which goes beyond OKRs!). The approach might seem complicated at first. However, as it becomes a regular practice, and you get templates, structures and tools to work for you, habits will start forming, and you’ll quickly reap the rewards.