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The Ultimate Guide To Objectives and Key Results – OKRs

03. OKR Planning

An OKR implementation plan that succeeds

The best way to succeed with OKRs is to create an OKR implementation plan. The content here and in our other resource sections are designed to help you create that plan. We also have coaching staff that have implemented OKRs many times across the globe to help as well. There really is no need to struggle or risk your implementation not being a huge success.

Commitment to the plan

Perhaps the most important thing to ensure you have from the outset is commitment to using OKRs to set goals from quarter to quarter. There should not be any questions as to whether OKRs work. They do. The plan we want to help you create is one that gets OKRs to work for you in the shortest time possible. This means we need key stakeholders to be aligned. Typically stakeholders include:

  • Executive sponsor – the person who has the authority to make decisions on budget and resources, and if necessary resolve any issues or conflicts.
  • HR Lead – OKRs and KPIs are part of the wider Performance Management picture and there may be specific HR policies and approaches to be adapted.
  • Project coordinator – By treating this as a project we are accepting that rolling out OKRs requires a level of coordination.
  • OKR Lead – We are advocates of up-skilling internal leads or champions to be both expert in OKRs and management solutions like ZOKRI so that existing and new employees have a go-to expert close by at all times. 

Plan for correct, consistent and scalable OKR usage

You will want to use OKRs correctly and also adapt them to ‘your way’ of using them. There are aways subtle differences between companies and teams, and none of them are wrong.

To help you will see that we have created a number sections on key areas of discussion that should form part of your learning and planning. These include:

  • How you approach measurement and OKR grading
  • How you set and manage your OKR cycles
  • How you propose to track OKRs
  • How you run OKR meetings
  • How you roll-out OKRs across the company
  • How you ensure new starters learn OKRs easily and quickly

We also have a team that can help you work through all of this and also get you up and running in ZOKRI if required.

Plan for more clarity as less confusion

OKRs are not meant to be used to describe all of your metrics, targets, BAU activities, projects, and tasks. OKRs are how you make what matters most a goal, propose to measure the goals success, and then align other goals and your executional plans.

As such, OKRs are complementary to Strategy and KPI Tracking. In fact, it’s common for KPIs that are priorities for improvement to become Key Results, and To-dos that are planned to become Projects.

Planning bottom-up OKRs

OKR is a top-down, bottom-up and horizontally aligned way of setting goals. The framework gives employees more freedom to create their own goals and have an input into other teams and colleagues goals, which creates alignment, improves transparency and collaboration.

This is why the most important aspects of OKR planning to get right is the ‘planning meeting’ whereby priorities, Objectives, measurement (Key Results) and execution (To-dos) are shared, discussed and agreed upon.

OKRs are not for everyone though. The framework is for those that want to share strategies and priorities, guiding and inspiring teams and employees towards the outcomes you want. OKRs require you to trust and empower your people to work out how to deliver the results you want.

Are you ready to trust your teams to deliver your strategy?

Trust, for the avoidance of doubt, does not mean you are not in control – you will be, you just won’t need managers to be overly controlling.

What is also important from an employee’s perspective is that the OKR is not the only reference point used to define an individual’s contribution or achievements. Depending on roles and responsibilities, employees contribute in a wide range of valuable areas, in a variety of ways. If you over-index on recognition by OKR, expect OKRs to be used sub-optimally.

Planning OKRs vs Business-As-Usual (BAU)

As you will see in upcoming sections, OKR are an obvious fit for teams that can control and apply their time where value is identified. Teams like Sales, Marketing, and Engineering for example. These teams have KPIs, are already re-assessing goals and priorities frequently, and often already working in an agile way.

There are also teams in companies that are more service orientated, with much of what they do being geared towards following established prescribed processes, business-as-usual (BAU) activities, and maintaining existing levels of performance.

For example, some teams have roles that exist in a constant state of workload uncertainty, and deal with what happens and is given to them each day, like Customer Service with in-bound support needs, and Legal with Contracts requests.

Other teams work hard, follow processes, but have unpredictable outcomes, like research based teams that are in a constant state of experimentation and never know when break-throughs will happen.

How can we make sure OKRs work for the more BAU orientated teams and teams where outcomes are harder to measure and less certain? It’s much easier than you think.

These teams can and should firstly use get clarity on what these systems, processes, and jobs-to-be-done are. Then assign what are sometimes called ‘health metrics’ or KPIs to track their performance levels.

Obviously, you need to keep the BAU that’s performing well on-track. Where you think there are improvements to be made, your OKR planning focuses on these areas. For example:

Customer Service: We can’t predict the number of calls will come in, but how could we ensure we solve customer needs faster and create better results for customers?

Legal: We can’t target the number of contracts we will create, but how could we capture what’s needed and deliver the final signed agreement more efficiently?

Research: We can’t predict the number of discoveries we will have, but how can we get better at creating hypotheses for experiments, running the experiment, capturing and sharing the results?

Specific role orientated processes and jobs-to-be-done are also a possibility for consideration, but the outcome could be:

Payroll: This is running really smoothly, there are payroll delays or errors – no OKR is needed.

ZOKRI is the leader at recognising the diversity of roles and responsibilities in an organisation. The software allows Health Metrics or KPIs, and To-dos to be tracked and have owners and collaborators, as well as OKRs.

This provides you with a way of valuing BAU work and providing the same level of transparency present with OKR. This way you will avoid a two tier system of employees that are highly visible via OKRs and those who work hard in the background.

OKR Squads or Cross-functional OKR teams

It is OKR best practice to involve other teams in your OKR planning conversations. It’s common when you’re having cross-functional discussions to identify challenges or opportunities that require a cross-functional team or OKR squad to capture the value.

For example, if there’s a KPIs that need big improvements you might create a Retention Team that needs to get churn from 5% to 2%.

If you plan OKRs in silos the chances of spotting these opportunities is greatly reduced.

OKR vs BAU time allocation

How much of a teams or an individuals time is spend working towards achieving OKRs? Hopefully you can see that the answer is, it depends on you team, roles, responsibilities, and the quarter itself.

It’s totally fine to have one OKR in a BAU biased team. Perhaps to improve a process whilst working hard on maintaining a range of team Health Metrics / KPIs.

It is also fine to have a cascade of related OKRs that are supporting each other. OKRs are flexible and work for all organizations and team types as long as you recognize that a one-rule approach for everyone won’t work.

Regardless of what team you’re in, or your seniority, ZOKRI allows everyone to be seen and participate in helping a company succeed. The people that are often ‘invisible heroes’ doing the BAU processes and maintaining already great KPIs, and the agents for change that are focused at helping to fight the battles you’re trying to win. ZOKRI sees them all, and everyone belongs and participates.