OKRs: It's not about getting everyone on the same page
Jessica Braun Gervais
Let’s stop using the metaphor “getting your team on the same page.”
And while we’re at it, let’s stop assuming that teams are even using the same work software. According to research by Qatalog and Cornell, 58% of people report that they’re not certain all departments use the same online apps. So how do we get our team on the “same page” while they’re recording goals in different tools?
OKRs are a goal framework that a majority of the business world is aware of, but communicating and creating them in an accessible way has always been a challenge.
OKRs aren't just about making and achieving goals. They're about bringing teams together and helping everyone understand the "why" behind their work. And once a team understands the importance of what they're doing, they'll be more focused and motivated to work each day. We just have to get everyone on the same page, sorry, same work hub.
Everything you need to know about writing OKRs
If you've written OKRs in the past, you know how important they are to keeping your team focused and motivated. With the recent shift to more distributed teams, you also may have experienced new roadblocks in collaborating on your goals. And if you're new to OKRs, you probably have questions about what they are and why they matter. Whatever your experience level is with OKRs, here's everything you need to know to get started:
What is an OKR?
OKR stands for objectives and key results. It's a popular framework for planning and executing goals. Objectives are ambitious, high-level goals. You want your objectives to be achievable but not too easy. Some examples of objectives include:
- Reach 10,000 new customers by the end of the quarter
- Build a program to train a compassionate and effective sales team
- Create a better work-life balance for remote employees
The key results are the deliverables for each objective. They need to be measurable so you can gauge the progress toward each OKR. For example, if you want key results for the objective "Reach 10,000 new customers by the end of the quarter,” you need to think of what measurable actions your team can complete to complete the goal. Example key results are:
- Source 50,000 new leads by June 14
- Start an outreach campaign with a 40% conversion to demo rate by July 20
- Convert 50% of those who completed a demo into a sale by the end of the quarter
You can create as many OKRs as you like, but most companies aim for two to three objectives per quarter with three to five key results per objective.
OKR planning with a distributed team
OKRs work best when all team members understand why they're important and how they're contributing. You can get your team on board with OKRs by involving them in the planning.
A work hub can be a great way to connect, share ideas, and foster community with distributed teams. Using a work hub also allows you to create and assign goals, so everyone knows expectations. Work hubs also allow you and your team to track and measure progress easily.
Define your objective type
The first step to writing OKRs is to define your objective type. There are two main types of objectives:
- Strategic: Strategic objectives tend to focus on long-term goals or big picture goals. They are typically a type of performance goal.
- Tactical: Tactical goals tend to have a shorter timeline and are the steps or actions needed to reach your strategic objectives.
Your strategic and tactical objects should work together. Depending on the size of your company, executive leadership may develop strategic OKRs to guide the company on big-picture goals. Then each team develops tactical OKRs to drive those strategic goals. If you're working with a smaller group, the company OKRs may mix strategic and tactical OKRs.
Look at KPIs to pick the right objective
One way to begin writing your OKR objectives is to start with KPIs. KPI stands for key performance indicators. They are the specific measurement within your key result used to monitor OKR progress.
If you're stuck on writing an objective, start by identifying the current KPIs you and your team already do. KPIs could be the number of quailed leads in the sales funnel, inventory turnover, number of retained customers, order fulfillment, or website traffic.
Once you and your team identify KPIs, think about why those KPIs are essential? What's the underlying goal? As you start to answer these questions, you should trace your KPIs to an overall company goal or mission. Once you understand what your KPIs are trying to achieve, group your KPIs and write a goal that explains the importance of these KPIs. This goal gives you your objective. From there, you can turn your KPIs into key results by attaching goals.
Identify the scope of your goal
The scope of a goal looks at all aspects of the plan. It helps you and your team agree on precisely what needs to happen to achieve your goals. It also gives you space to identify any potential blockers or missing pieces you'll need before you get started. When thinking about the scope of your goals, ask yourself:
- Are there people outside of this team who need to be informed or consulted to achieve this goal?
- If we achieve every KPI listed, will it result in the completion of the objective?
- Does the team need additional resources to complete the goal?
You can also break down the scope of the goal by identifying what the group needs to do as a whole and what each individual needs to do. Providing both scopes gives everyone an understanding of their specific role and their contributions to the team goal.
OKR writing tips
Whether you're writing OKRs for the first or hundredth time, it's natural to run into challenges. But with the practice, collaboration, and a few OKR writing tips, you'll find ORKs to find an excellent structure for helping you and your team achieve your goals.
Look at your mission and overall company vision
Companies develop mission statements to guide all the work that the company does. Team OKRs should align with your company’s mission and values. When you're reviewing your OKRs, ask yourself how the OKR is contributing to the company mission. If you're unable to connect how an OKR contributes to the company's overall goals, you may need to revisit that OKR.
Collaborate with other teams
Your team OKRs should work with other team goals to propel your company's mission. To make sure all team OKRs are working together, collaborate with other teams. Look for overlap in which both teams are working on the same project. Figure out ways to work together to complete OKRs quicker and more efficiently. If there are overlapping goals, statically think about splitting the work so each team works toward their strengths.
Define ownership of OKRs
Once you've outlined the OKRs, define the ownership of each OKR. There should be one person responsible for making sure the OKR gets completed. Defining ownership also keeps the team focused and breaks down responsibilities. And when every team member knows what they're responsible for, team members can hold each other accountable.
Wrap up: Editing your OKRs
Company goals change, and it's okay to revisit your OKRs throughout their lifecycle to make edits. Scheduling async check-ins during the week will create a hybrid-friendly avenue for transparent progress reports, and allows your team to get to updating their goals on their own time.
It's also possible your company pivots what's important for them, and you'll need to revisit your OKRs to keep everyone aligned. We saw this happen a lot in 2020 during the global pandemic. Suddenly business goals and how we all were interacting and working with each other changed, which meant many of us needed to rethink how we achieve our goals.
Whatever the case, if your OKRs are no longer serving a purpose to the company's mission or vision, it's okay to edit them as you go. You want your OKRs to keep teams focused and motivated, so do your best to keep them aspirational and achievable.
Putting your OKRs into a discoverable, transparent format will also help encourage your team to identify progress and roadblocks. Using a work hub, goals and progress updates are visible to everyone in the organization, making it easy to build a cross-functional team.
→ Need a template to get your started? See our OKR template & examples here.
Jessica Braun Gervais
Outside of writing about tech trends and remote work, Jessica Braun is a competitive Muay Thai Kickboxer and fitness trainer.