Nowadays, companies are facing more and more complexity, rapid change and economic instability. A lot of companies put in place new ways of working to stay innovative, profitable and flexible. One commonly used approach is OKRs (Objective and Key Results).
OKRs benefit you with the following:
set regular goals which adapt in short periods
have specific and measurable goals
have ambitious and innovative goals
increase transparency and alignment within the whole company
increase motivation since the goals are created top-down but also bottom-up
OKRs can be very beneficial for companies. Yet, consider these five aspects before you implement them:
1. OKRs need time and effort – especially in the beginning
OKRs derive from your company's vision, mission and strategy. It might be necessary to review and rework them. That can be a time-consuming first step. Furthermore, the company's and team's OKRs need planning and alignment on a regular (quarterly) basis. Additional meetings such as check-ins, plannings, alignments, reviews and retrospectives are necessary. If your employees already struggle with too many meetings, the implementation of OKRs can become overwhelming and demotivating.
Keep in mind that it can take a few months until a routine is established and the teams have the proper practice to write clear and measurable OKRs.
2. An OKR implementation requires proper consideration - in particular, the purpose
OKRs without a useful purpose become a confusing measurement tool. It requires effort without much meaning. Ask yourself the following questions before you put them in place:
What do you want to measure with OKRs? Daily tasks, KPIs, operative work, team backlogs, innovative ideas or everything together?
How should the goals be tracked that you don't want to include in the OKRs?
Should projects be part of the OKRs?
How should projects across teams be handled?
How many measurement tools and approaches do you already have, and is it realistic to add another one?
3. OKRs need transparency and trust – are you ready for it?
OKRs are visible and accessible by every employee within the company. This fact increases transparency and fosters alignment between teams. The upside but also the downside is that everyone can see how particular teams perform. That can lead to fear, uncertainty and demotivation in your staff, especially when the company has transparency and trust issues.
In such cases, employees worry that the management can use OKRs to gain more control and power or use the results in salary talks. They threaten with consequences if ambiguous goals cannot be reached or increase the pressure between teams by comparing the results. If you do not reduce such issues, the teams will start to be dishonest with the goals and results.
4. OKRs do not fix your culture – improve your culture before you start
If your employees have trust issues, keep information to themselves, lack motivation and your management has a strong command and control behaviour, OKRs will not change things for the better. Employees will behave in the same way, with or without OKRs. Focus your time and effort on improving the culture. Start by having 1:1 talks and adequately listening to the things your employees are telling you. Work together with them to find ways and solutions to change the situation.
5. Don't use OKRs if you only want to be "modern" and "trendy"
OKRs can be a tempting approach to label your company as modern. If you are not serious about using OKRs properly and do not have time to spend effort on the points mentioned in this article, don't implement them. Half-hearted implementations demoralise and frustrate your employees. Additionally, they will be reluctant to support future changes due to bad experiences.
If you consider those points you are as good to go with this approach. Just be patient and everything will fall back where it belongs!