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The Ultimate Guide To Objectives and Key Results – OKRs

11. OKR Tracking

Tracking OKRs

In this section we’re going to share how you can approach OKR tracking and the day-to-day, week-to-week, and quarter-to-quarter management of OKRs.

The desirable end-state we’re heading to with OKR tracking is to make regular goal setting, measurement, alignment, accountability, transparency, teamwork, ambition, and agile working, every-day behaviours and habits.

There are a number of factors that contribute towards decisions on which tracking tools and templates should be used. The more you understand about these factors the more obvious it becomes that OKR tracking via spreadsheets and documents can actually hinder OKR roll-outs and goal achievement, even though you may save a few dollars a month.

We’d encourage you to consider your options and the ROI of creating great OKRs that are engaged with, discussed and delivered systematically with minimal update and reporting overheads.

What is being tracked in OKR updates?

Once you’ve set your OKRs you need to agree what is going to be tracked, when and by whom, and when key discussion about performance, plans and problems happen. Here is a list of what is usually tracked:

  • Key Result States – Key Result states range include Proposed, Not Started, Active, Slow, Stuck, Completed and even Abandoned. They tell colleagues whether a Key result is actively being worked towards or not.
  • Key Result Progress – the % progress towards the desired end-state specified what you created the Key Result. These for most are metrics with target values, but can also include other Key Result types like Milestones.
  • Key Result Confidence – If progress looks backwards, confidence looks forwards towards the end of the period which is usually a quarter and communicates your confidence of making a good level of progress.
  • Blockers / Dependencies – There are always things that are holding people back from making OKR progress. Perhaps it’s time, resources or you’re waiting for work to be completed. Sharing these along with good news in a structured way is a good way of capturing and keeping the narrative of the OKR. This is especially useful for the end-of-quarter retrospective.

Because OKRs are tracking outcomes on activities it is common to align the work being done with OKRs. This separation follows best-practices and stops a common failure point which is to set activities as Key results.

Depending on the team you are in, the software being used to manage and track Projects and Tasks. You might share the aligned work as:

  • Kanban – You might align a whole Kanban board with the delivery of an OKR. This might be managed in Jira, Trello or ZOKRI. The backlog, active and completed work is visible.
  • Sprints / Epics – If you’re using Sprints and Epics you may align these with OKRs as well, showing the work that you plan to execute every N weeks to drive OKR progress
  • Initiatives or to-dos – for some aligning work means managing a to-do list or list of initiatives against an OKR. Again these might be entered and managed in ZOKRI.

If you are using tools like Jira, Trello, Asana, Monday and To-doist, ZOKRI makes is easy to connect work to OKRs so you can track both what you are trying to accomplish in OKR format and how you are going about achieving the OKR, without manually updating ZOKRI.

Tracking KPIs and OKRs

Every organization and team has a set of KPIs. These Key Performance Indicators tell everyone what is healthy and what needs improving. When improvements are being targeted, health metrics often become part of Key Results.

Tracking both together and making both KPIs and OKRs part of tracking updates in OKR tracking software like ZOKRI allows teams to take ownership for performance in a more complete way that OKRs would in isolation.

ZOKRI allows for KPIs and OKRs to be blended seamlessly and added to dashboards, check-in cadences and meeting agendas.

Who does the tracking updates?

An OKR always has one owner. This owner can belong to one or more teams and the selection of the team allows the OKR to be assigned to a team.

OKRs can also have collaborators that are helping out on the OKR. Even Key Results might have their own owners and collaborators in some instances.

So in terms of who does the updates, typically, the Owners are the people who update State, Progress and Confidence along with sharing blockers, dependencies and good news.

Who gets to see the updates?

The OKR framework encourages transparency as a means of aligning teams and individuals, breaking down silos, solving problems and sharing good news as it happens. This is why the OKR tracking cadence matters. Not only do updates need to be regular, they need to happen. Irregular and inconsistent updates stop you having a single point of truth on goal, role and plan progress.

OKR software like ZOKRI systemizes updates based on communications preferences. Some like to see a stream of updates as they happen in their teams, some people want to be kept in the loop as OKRs are updated across the organization. Of course, you can always log-in a see OKRs for the company, teams, and owners at any point as well.

How often are tracking updates happening?

The update cadence depends on the organization, team and the entities being updated.

KPIs are mostly on weekly and monthly update cadences. OKRs are typically checked in weekly. Executional alignment meetings range from and include a range that includes: daily stand-ups, weekly priority setting meetings, fortnightly sprint planning and monthly deep dive meetings.

Setting up the rules and expectations around OKR updates is part of what makes OKR planning such an important step in an OKR implementation, as does ensuring the updates are actually happening and being discussed.

Asynchronous OKR tracking

As remote and distributed working becomes more popular, and teams are often distributed across time-zones, having the ability to have everyone on a call becomes harder. This is where asynchronous updates are a great way of tracking OKRs, sharing information and aligning work efforts, without meetings being needed. In fact, OKR software like ZOKRI has been built to support asynchronous working as a core use case.

That does not mean that OKR meetings do not happen. They do happen, they just happen less frequently and tend to have well structured agenda and are well prepared for. ZOKRI supports the creation of meeting agenda and creates slides for meetings without the need for software like PowerPoint or Google Slides. These slide elements include OKRs, KPIs, Recurring Questions, Priorities, Proposed Agenda Items and more.

OKR tracking tools and templates

ZOKRI is obviously an OKR tracking tool that has been built from the ground up to offer everything your teams will need to succeed with OKRs and performance management. Other tools can be used as well with many using OKR tracking spreadsheets as a means of keeping track of OKRs.

Hopefully you’ve already seen the limitations of using documents and OKR spreadsheets. Unlike software Excel, Google Sheet, Document or Slide based OKRs are not optimal in:

  • Encouraging OKR best practices to be followed
  • Visualizing the inputs, data and relationships between OKRs in hierarchies and cascades
  • Capturing and visualizing history and trends
  • Ensuring ongoing engagement at agreed cadences – set and forget is almost inevitable when these tracking templates are used
  • Aligning OKRs, KPIs and execution planning and making it all visible
  • Capturing retrospective knowledge is a central place that does not get lost in a see of documents
  • Providing key notifications and alerts in a timely way
  • Connecting a wide variety of team tools
  • Combining long-term planning e.g. strategy with shorter OKR and execution cadences

The aim of an OKR implementation is to embed OKRs consistently across a company in order to achieve alignment and provide goal, role and plan clarity. OKRs are connecting the work being done everyday with measurable outcomes and allowing teams to work together in a more autonomous manner.

How OKRs are created, the data fiends that are entered, the types of measurements that are supported, how updates happen and what happens after updates happen is all part of what helps teams and individuals achieve and work with purpose. You don’t want to hack a tracking solution together and work out two quarters in that the hack is holding you back. Getting people re-energised is harder second-time around.

The ROI on setting aligned OKRs that are engaged with on a continuous basis is really high. Not choosing the right or best tracking tools has the potential to throttle both engagement and performance. We invite you to try ZOKRI for free, explore our simple and advanced features, learn how to write OKRs and see what great OKR tracking looks like.