Experiences of startups and digital agency
Katherine Sakovich · Follow
Micromanagement, undertow, the silo effect and lack of trust can happen with any organization. It does not matter if the organization is small and growing or is stable and experienced. There is always a possibility for these inefficiencies. Miscommunication in projects is the most common factor of failures according to founder’s feedback. In the past several years, a system of goal setting and achievement has become more apparent.
Due to this, OKR is becoming more and more popular. It helps synchronize how every team member understands their business’s purpose and realize their role’s contribution in those processes. The pain point for many managers is management and coordination. A clear system that defines how to distribute tasks and prioritize them saves many hours and nerve cells.
Approach for organizational management OKR (Objectives and Key Results) was introduced first time in Intel. From 1999, when Google started to use it, many companies in different fields and scales such as LinkedIn, GE, Salesforce, Netflix, GoPro, Facebook, Amazon, Walmart, Target, The Guardian, Dun and Bradstreet and ING Bank also implemented it.
The main OKR’s idea is a structural goal setting in a company. Like the hierarchical nature of pyramid structures, OKR starts from an ambitious and big pictured objective. This objective is measured by several metrics, called Key Results. They should help answer the question: Is the goal achieved or not? The same approach cascades to all departments, teams, and specific specialists at the bottom of the pyramid. The idea is to organize all management logic in a transparent way that everyone can understand their role in the achievement of a common goal and will be motivated by this challenge.
To stretch a goal is significant to OKR philosophy. It creates healthy tension for growing all aspects of an organization. Setting such ambitions goals allows to focus on main objective and achieve more. At the same time, goals should still be realistic, otherwise no one will believe that the goals were possible. Key Results input measures success criteria for employees and teams.
An annual goal can be split into months or quarters based on how long the goal will take to complete. This is done for better control and perception of dynamics in long-term, even long-distance, business relationships. Also, smaller time periods are effective regarding realistic calibration of Objectives and KR during continuous progress. Employees, teams, and departments plan their strategy to achieve OKR independently. They can chunk common period into smaller pieces for easier self-control and build a transparent and specific schedule. The recommended numbers of Key Results to Objective is no more than 3 to 1.
Good example: Strengthen the position in a premium segment.
Bad: To maintain the position on a market.
Formula: I achieve (Objective), what can be measured by (Key Results)
OKR teaches how to extract a key result and prioritize. According to Paretto rules, 20% of our activity brings 80% of results, it is better to focus particularly on that 20% and leave or delegate the remaining 80%. It also minimizes the risk that someone accidentally strays from the main goal. This is important because you do not want an employee to put all effort and resources in something that can look important but actually does not correlate with the main agreed objective.
To check how clear and cohesive the OKR is in every part of an organization, you can follow a goal that a random employee is tasked with. Ask yourself, “Does the employee maintain consistent logic from the bottom to top and does this employees work correlate with the organizational objective. This is easier said than done, as contradictions appear between employees, departments, and top-managers all the time. This is especially apparent if the segment in question was guided before by their own expectations and ideas. The most difficult part of prioritization is to say no. Even in 80% of cases, it is required to refuse good ideas to save time for the objectives and key results.
OKR helps to solve this problem and prioritize without conflict. This framework makes all goals public and transparent. You should be able to call a top goal and ask an employee how they think their goals correlates with the organizational goals. Transparency increases motivation by directly attributing personal contribution to the big success. Meanwhile, control of task completing is decentralizing because the quality of everyone commitment is evident on a peer level.
OKR IMPLEMENTATION CHECKLIST:
• Are the goals of departments/individuals connected with the company’s goals?
• Are key results (metrics) directly linked to priorities?
• Does everyone on the team have three priorities or less?
• Are all objectives agreed upon and clearly defined?
- Are all employees aware of their metricsand understand them?
How we approach OKR framework in a digital agency
At the end of 2017, I read Christina R Wodtke’s book, “Radical Focus.” This business novel explains how to deal with a crisis in a start-up team. Many ideas were similar to the situations in our company and reflect my questions. For example, when you announce a common goal in a meeting, but in a few days, forgets the common goal and, instead, works towards their own individual goal. Before the start of the new year, we decided to start implementing this framework. First of all, our expectation was to sync effort in order of common understanding, specific role, and personal commitment. Secondly, we want to make planning and outcome control transparent and clear.
The getbob agency has around 20 people working for it. This agency has a range of teams that have a few projects for every client. We do not have a single product, which is why we had to adapt the system to better suit our needs. As this year’s goal and strategy were outlined, we started to assign quarter tasks and KPI’s (financial results, productivity, quality of production based on clients’ feedback). The OKR framework was announced during the first company meeting of the year as an experiment. We explained that we decided to take this path because it shows great outcomes in inspiring companies like Uber, Google, … etc. We created a shared Google Spreadsheet for cascading weekly focus tasks and projects, highlighting important work for every member of the team. In the same columns, we added a block for short reports (you can find out more about OKR structure in handbook).
The employee had to formulate their priorities and add them in the file for coordination with the team lead. The most difficult issue that we have ran into is how to get team members to laser their focus. OKR isn’t a to-do list, it’s an identification of the main things. It is very hard to keep a list of 5–6 tasks without losing focus. The panic of time pressure as well can make it very difficult to make a quick decision, figure out what to do first and figure out what needs time (the same idea is translated in one of the most inspiring and modern time-management book “Make time”). We try to implement a rule that states, “no more than 3 focuses for a week.” We did this because people tended to add many focuses that were not the most important for the business. The second part of OKR is a focus defining. It should be aligned with the company’s goals instead of just highlighting process.For example, “Continue to do great design,” instead of, “Creating 3 pics for social media that should get more than 1000 likes.”, which is more clear and relevant.
To exchange information, we initiated regular “briefings” — a 30-minute general meeting held on Mondays to set the company’s priorities for the current week and check them against the goals of individual employees. Initially, the CEO analyzed the tasks coming from below and outlined goals, but that did not involve the staff very much. That’s why we came to a joint discussion, each project team stated its priorities, and they were then recorded on the board. Besides that, we organized voting, a rating on a 1 to 10 scale, on how much we believe that we willachieve our quarter Key Results. Also, every team member shows a card with red, yellow and green color regarding three topics — team mood, level of utilization and clients’ mood. This helps to manage rapidly grab potential threats.
One more OKR element is the celebration of achievements on every Friday. The advertising sphere is quite stressful. Projects sometimes are being prepared for six months before the launch and there is a problem of professional burnout as well. Micro-tracking of one’s achievements (i.e. fixation of the way to the goal step by step) helps to encourage the corporate spirit and self-esteem on the way to campaign launch. We tried to spend these 30–40 minutes at the end of the week in a totally informal way. For example, we’ve ordered pizza to the office, provided beer, and got to share a meal with co-workers while chatting and joking.
We had kept using the experimental modefor several quarters and decided to make this system permanent. Metrics for the next period were adjusted on a basis of the previous results. The management and employeeswere gradually learning to choose the most essential ones, building personal development plans based on OKR.
Because of OKR efficiency, it became more evident for a manager, what team is doing.We attained a structural framework for sharing information, projects’ status and new traditions through the process of implementing OKR.An annual anonymous surveyof employee satisfaction shows that employees who understand how their contribution influences on the main goal, we increased the potentially considered period of work for the company has increased as well as the desire to grow professionally. With an understanding of priorities, conflicts are going to be resolved easily especially regarding the allocation of resources between projects.
ANTON TATARINOVICH, marketing manager at SplitMetrics:
We have integrated the OKR system to plan quarterly goals for both the company as a whole and for each department — from development and support to sales and marketing ones. The goals were presented at the general meeting — they are transparent and available to all employees on the corporate intranet. The system implies a strict prioritization of tasks, and such prioritization has become one of the difficulties. The thing is that each department processes a large number of requests — both planned and spontaneous — in each unit of time, and every request seems important and essential. It was not an easy task to identify the directions of activities that gave the maximum “spin-off” and refuse a large number of other activities, and mainly — to bring this approach to every employee.
We now hold weekly meetings with management to discuss progress towards achieving OKR and current issues. We have decided to move in stages, so we are now trying to gather as much feedback as possible to make the next quarter more structured and efficient.
Despite the difficulties, with the integration of OKR we became more focused on prioritizing tasks and discarding all the unnecessary.
We have also brought transparency into the work of all departments. OKR became a point of synchronization of this work — now all our employees have a better understanding of what we are working on, who is involved in the work and what tasks they are engaged in.
Advices that I can provide for teams that plan to implement OKRs:
1. Prioritize goalsl sharply. It’s challenging to choose 1 or 2 main goals, but strongly recommended. Otherwise you will spread attention.
2. Engage all members of setting OKRs. If not you can face a situation when only CEO is interested in implementation, but heads of departments don’t understand why they need this and continue to work as before.
3. Track process transparently. Don’t make it complicated. It’s enough to organize meetings weekly or bi-weekly.
4. Split to phases. It’s OK that your first try to set OKR can fail. By this practice you can start to think what is really important and learn how to maintain focus and grow your business results.
ANNA USOVA, content-manager at actiTIME:
In the recent past, I worked as a marketing specialist at Wrike. This company was established in 2006 and has more than 500 specialists all over the world. Wrike integrated the OKR method in 2016. As the company was growing very actively at this time, we needed to coordinate the work of individual teams and groups better and thus to accelerate product development and market expansion. At the end of the year, the company’s top management set forth from 3 to 5 annual goals and the key metrics to measure them. These goals were discussed at the final all-hands meeting at the end of the year, so that all employees had an understanding where the company was going and how their current work was related to strategic objectives. Basing on these general objectives, the head of each department formulated more specific goals for the department.
Of course, those goals weren’t 100% in line. For example, if on the global level the main company’s goal was growth of new clients, specific objectives of technical support were different. Then, at the beginning of the year, separate teams held internal meetings to determine their own team’s and individual annual objectives and metrics. Thus every team and employee decided independently on tactic level how and with a help of which tools they will achieve global goal. Such approach leaves space for proactivity and initiatives from the bottom. Teams that work closely with each other (i.e. content marketing and acquisition) used to discuss and synchronize their OKRs. Quarter goals were set using the same work process.
Regarding reporting, Wrike uses agile-methodology with weekly meetings. On those we discussed pipeline of tasks and aligned results with OKRs usually once a month. In the end of quarter, results were presented on a final all-hands meeting. Taking in account that objectives should be highly ambitious and rarely can be achieved fully, we were satisfied with result of 70–80%. OKR’s tracking was organized in our own product — Wrike project management software. We created a hierarchy of tasks and subtasks from global level to specific teams and positions. It’s easy to understand priorities of colleges when you can surf from high overview to individuals. In those tickets we posted final results and marked the percentages of performance.
The most difficult part of setting OKRs was to set objectives and key results the right way. There are specific requirements that not every goal can fit. Someone created goals within their routine tasks whereas OKR assumes achievement of radically new results. Some folks set sleek goals without measured results (i.e. increase brand awareness). We needed one year to learn how to execute framework properly. In my opinion, the OKR system helps to reach a proper balance between the coordination of the company’s global priorities and a personal initiative. Every employee is involved in the planning process; they are not just waiting for some tasks from the management. Another positive thing — it increases transparency. It becomes clear what tasks the colleagues are working on this quarter and what basis they use to prioritize their tasks (if there is a conflict among several tasks from different people).
OKRs also make visible what was achieved quarterly or annually apart from the usual routine, and it increases satisfaction from the work.
Some tips for establishing the OKR process:
1. Find the right tracking tools that make your OKRs accessible for every employee. These can be task or project management systems or Google Spreadsheets.
2. Organize a briefing for department’s heads and explain how to formulate OKR. They should share this knowledge further with their team. Otherwise people might not get the idea behind the OKRs right.
3. Don’t forget to track performance and discuss results. If some goals weren’t achieved, learn why without blaming anyone.
4. Encourage personal initiative. Sometimes employee can’t understand what a manager wants from them. If goals are created only by team leaders without team engagement, all game becomes a pure formality.
How to achieve results in organization with OKR (objective, key results framework)? ›
OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) is a performance management framework designed to encourage companies to set, communicate and monitor broad organizational goals and results. The framework is meant to be transparent and to align business, team and individual objectives in a hierarchal, measurable way.What is the OKR framework for objectives and key results? ›
OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) is a performance management framework designed to encourage companies to set, communicate and monitor broad organizational goals and results. The framework is meant to be transparent and to align business, team and individual objectives in a hierarchal, measurable way.How do you measure key results in OKR? ›
To calculate a score, you have to divide the target set by the final result. Using the example above, if your team's KR was to “get 100 customers” but they only got 50, their final score would be 0.5, but if they got 20, the score would be 0.2. Having this score we can assign a grade to the Key Result.
Outcomes are the human behaviors that drive business results. For example, a leader may want to reduce cost. That's an impact. An execution team may understand that support costs are high because customers call tech support at a high rate.What are two of the most important things you can do in managing OKRs effectively? ›
- Objectives must be Big and Motivating. ...
- KRs must be measurable. ...
- Use binary KRs sparingly. ...
- All Key Results must have dashboards. ...
- Key Results must be exhaustive. ...
- Pair Metrics with Counter-Metrics. ...
- Distinguish between Committed and Aspirational OKRs. ...
- Cascade OKRs up, down, and laterally.
Both KPIs and OKRs have three elements i.e. goals, metrics and targets that aid functioning.Does OKR measure output or outcome? ›
OKRs help organizations operationalize outcomes and become more results-oriented. Outcomes are defined measurably within the framework (in the form of an objective and several key results) and achieved through the direct results of activities or initiatives (output) that are also defined in advance.What is the major benefit of using OKR framework? ›
It can help achieve mission and vision, aid in employee engagement, and bring to the surface the top priorities of a company. OKR's five key benefits include focus, alignment, commitment, tracking, and stretching — or as John Doerr likes to call them, “the five superpowers” of OKRs.What is the OKR measure of success? ›
OKR measurement is the process by which specific Key Results success criteria are set or graded to create success thresholds for the Objective. Frequent OKR updates then ensure that OKR progress measurements and other related reporting metrics can be reported.How do you track objectives and key results? ›
- Write qualitative Objectives and quantitative Key Results. ...
- Assign percentage benchmarks for each Key Result. ...
- Set responsibilities and accountability for Key Results. ...
- Share OKRs with your team. ...
- Track results on a regular schedule (with calendar reminders). ...
- Discuss key learnings along the way.
What are key results examples? ›
Key Results are the tasks that you complete to achieve the larger objectives. The key results should be significant and measurable by a particular parameter. For example, Increase customer retention by 80-90%.How would you explain what the OKR method is in one sentence? ›
OKRs stand for Objectives and Key Results, a collaborative goal-setting methodology used by teams and individuals to set challenging, ambitious goals with measurable results. OKRs are how you track progress, create alignment, and encourage engagement around measurable goals.How do you write a good key result? ›
Key results should express measurable milestones that describe “how” the objective can be achieved. Cross-check them against these criteria to make sure they are defined correctly: Describe outcomes and not activities.What are examples of outcomes and objectives? ›
For example, if you want to lose weight, your objective should be clear – like dropping 10 pounds in a week or maintaining your current weight for six months – while your outcome could be dropping 10 pounds in a week or maintaining your current weight for six months.How do you present an OKR to a team? ›
- Brainstorm Company OKRs with an Annual Plan in Mind.
- Collaborate with Managers to Draft Their First Set of Department OKRs.
- Communicate the OKR Methodology to the Entire Company.
- How Paycor Helps.
OKRs is a great tool to make your organization grow and maintain clear goals as to where you would like to go. The main objective of OKRs is to create discipline that will generate bold results in performance and efficiency. The name itself stands for its main purpose: Objectives and Key Results.What are the 5 elements of OKR? ›
- OKRS Require Strategic Direction. OKRs are a great means to align an organisation towards a set of ambitious common objectives. ...
- OKRs Need to be Bidirectional. ...
- OKRs Require Defined Cadences. ...
- Key Results Must not be Binary. ...
- Outcomes Need a Feedback Loop.
OKRs provide your business with five important elements: focus, accountability, engagement, transparency and visibility.What is the difference between OKR key results and tasks? ›
A task is something you do! It is not a result—it is not an outcome at the end of the quarter that you want to achieve. In fact goals (i.e. OKR goals) are results and outcomes unlike tasks. So at the most basic level, a task is just an action—you need to do many tasks or actions to complete a project.What is the difference between key results and outcomes? ›
Outcomes become the success indicators for all your Outputs. The Objective defines the direction and the focus while the Key Results help you to understand what you are looking to achieve. Key Results acts as a measure the success to when you have achieved your Objective.
What is the difference between OKR key results and KPI? ›
OKR is the acronym for objective and key results—more specifically, an objective is tied to key results. OKR is a strategic framework, whereas KPIs are measurements that exist within a framework. OKR is a simplistic, black-and-white approach that uses specific metrics to track the achievement of a goal.What are the 2 components of OKR? ›
OKRs have two important parts: The objective you want to achieve and the key results, which are the way you measure achieving the objective.What are the different types of key results in OKR? ›
3 Types of Key Results
Your Key Results will usually fit into one of three categories: Inputs, Outputs & Outcomes. One technique we've found helpful is to be able to think of Key Results in each of these ways, then select the best one for your current needs.
- Make OKRs a part of your regular review meetings. ...
- Define easy-to-measure key results. ...
- Reflect on what was done to continuously improve. ...
- Track results when needed. ...
- Use OKR software that supports tracking and reflecting on goals.
- Meaningfully improve your operating excellence in the next hour. kr1. ...
- Win the World Cup. Average scored goals rate of 2.0 throughout the tournament. ...
- Generate 700-meters-per-game passing attack. Pass completion rate of 85%. ...
- Launch website for freelance consulting.
- They are specific and time-bound.
- They are aggressive, yet realistic.
- They are measurable and verifiable.
Setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) objectives is a good way to plan the steps to meet the long-term goals in your grant.What is an example of an OKR in operations? ›
Office Operations OKR Examples
Reduce spending on office supplies by 10%. Zero double booked conference rooms. Develop an excellent company culture. Increase employee retention to 90%.
Key Results are the deliverables that you define for each objective so that you can measure your progress toward achieving that goal. Each objective should have two to five key results. And all key results need to be measurable.What is an example of key result areas in organization? ›
Examples of Key Result Areas for Organization Leaders
Customer Satisfaction: Details and metrics that measure customer satisfaction. Employee Engagement: Details about employee satisfaction, turnover rates, and other measures that reflect how your employees feel about their work and your organization.
What words should Key Results not contain? ›
Key Result should not measure the output (number of emails, number of articles, etc.), but the outcome (revenue, increased referrals, client/team satisfaction, etc.). Controllable. As with Objectives, you need to have to be able to make an impact on the Key Results you set.What are the 5 examples of objective? ›
- Education. Passing an exam is an objective that is necessary to achieve the goal of graduating from a university with a degree.
- Career. Gaining public speaking experience is an objective on the path to becoming a senior manager.
- Small Business. ...
- Sales. ...
- Customer Service. ...
Example of a SMART process objective: By (month/year), (X%) of providers who reported incorrect gonorrhea treatment in County Z will be contacted within 1 month. end result of a program. The outcome objective focuses on what your target population(s) will know or will be able to do as a result of your program/activity.What is the difference between an outcome and an objective? ›
Learning goals and objectives generally describe what an instructor, program, or institution aims to do, whereas, a learning outcome describes in observable and measurable terms what a student is able to do as a result of completing a learning experience (e.g., course, project, or unit).What is the key to successful implementation of management by objectives? ›
The following four major components of the MBO process are believed to contribute to its effectiveness: (1) setting specific goals; (2) setting realistic and acceptable goals; (3) joint participation in goal setting, planning, and controlling; and (4) feedback.How achievable should OKRs be? ›
Ideally, OKRs are achievable at a 60-70% confidence level. If performance appraisal depends on OKR success, employees may understate their potential when setting goals.What do OKRs primarily help an organization do? ›
OKRs communicate the top company objectives more clearly, accurately and consistently. Focus everyone's effort on priorities & what really moves the needle. Align goals throughout the organization towards the key top goals. Give employees meaning & purpose (they see their contribution)How do you facilitate an OKR planning session? ›
Setting goals and topics
Explain what everyone will do and add supporting materials to get your point across. The more visual you can be, the better. Add some statistics about last quarter's OKRs, insights, or other information to help people reflect when planning their OKR for the next period.
- Score previous quarter and discuss outcomes (20 minutes)
- Retrospective on lessons learned (20 minutes)
- Break – 15 minutes.
- OKR setting for the next cycle – 2 - 3 hours. Discuss strategic priorities - 30 minutes. ...
- Communications plan – 20 minutes.
- Close & retrospective on the day – 20 minutes.
OKR's five key benefits include focus, alignment, commitment, tracking, and stretching — or as John Doerr likes to call them, “the five superpowers” of OKRs.
What is an example of MBO in an organization? ›
Examples of MBO
The HR department typically uses MBO to set specific goals. Here's an example: Teller and Co.'s human resources department set a goal of maintaining an employee satisfaction index of 85%. Once HR has created a plan to reach that goal, the leaders explain that goal to their employees.
The four phases of strategic management are formulation, implementation, evaluation and modification.What are the four steps involved in implementing key success factors? ›
- Use specialized knowledge management software. ...
- Establish processes and routines. ...
- Agree on a common goal and intended benefits. ...
- Have a customer-centric mindset.
Specific: Write down your goal with as much detail as possible. Measurable: Identify quantitative targets for tracking your progress and results. Attainable: Make sure it's possible to achieve the desired result. Realistic: Acknowledge the practical requirements necessary to accomplish the goal.