We live in a dynamic age, where things are constantly changing, especially for businesses. Companies have had to adapt to ever-increasing customer expectations, adopt new marketing channels, utilize new technologies, and compete at a global level, all in a single generation.
While you focus externally to address these challenges, you need to align people internally with your strategy to move faster. One such way to achieve internal alignment is using a framework called OKR.
OKR or Objectives and Key Results is a simple habit-forming framework for CEOs and companies to build the habit of thinking, planning and executing company objectives and strategy. Few of the benefits your company will get with OKR implementation are
- GOAL ALIGNMENT
- TRANSPARENCY AND OPEN COMMUNICATION
- MONITORING AND ACCELERATING PERFORMANCE
- EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT
With increasing diversification, employee roles are becoming more and more specialized. With such an acute division of labour, sometimes people can lose sight of what the most important goals of the company are. Employees instead focus on their individual roles within the institution, giving those tasks higher priority. With the help of OKR, setting objectives which highlight the priorities of a company, can help employees work better in pursuit of a common objective rather than compete based on their individual performance.
This also helps in team building. OKRs are more effective at uniting a company than KPIs because they combine qualitative and quantitative goals. The objectives are often aspirational and can create enthusiasm in a certain category of employees like design or customer service departments. On the other hand measurable Key Results create quantitative goals to drive people in the accounting and sales departments. Hence OKR can cause the company to unite around its primary focus so that everyone can be simultaneously working towards the same overarching goals.
2.TRANSPARENCY AND OPEN COMMUNICATION
Transparency and open communication is a very hard concept to achieve. And the challenge only grows as the company expands. Each department within a company becomes an independent unit. While this is great for intra departmental efficiency, what suffers is the realization of common goals, and effective communication. Often the goals of a company are clear, but there is no clear path to communicating these goals. Managers spend majority of their time ensuring that no one is acting on misinformation. OKRs are a great way to communicate and ensure that everyone understands the company’s goals, and how it measures strategies and success. Through OKRs Company goals can be reviewed and set, for a predetermined period of time (example: quarterly or biannually). Once these goals are set they can be percolated down from the executive to individual levels in order to ensure that everyone is working in support of the main objectives. Setting specific and quantifiable Key Results helps to communicate these objectives with even greater efficiency. Since the process is time-bound it creates transparency and eradicated confusion. Key Results also help in breaking down and highlighting small steps in order to achieve a bigger common goal.
3.MONITORING AND ACCELERATING PERFORMANCE
Each individual employee can make a massive difference in the success or failure of a company. That is why monitoring employee performance is crucial. However, there is no clear way to measure this performance or efficiently create metrics that highlight an employee’s work. Most companies simply use financial indicators to determine growth and success. However financial indicators are not enough. Using a meaningful set of rounded performance indicators that can be quantitatively measured is the solution. This is where OKR steps in. Quantifiable Key Results serve as excellent metrics to judge the progress towards achieving a company’s main objectives. These Key Results are targeted with a specific deadline, and measurable steps, hence clearly indicating the employee’s performance to whom these tasks were assigned.
However ,it is not necessary that OKR is the sole tool for deciding an employee’s value to an organization. Sometimes OKRs can be set as seemingly impossible, but rather aspirational goals to be achieved, to drive people to perform better. Such goals can tend to attract the best people and create the most exciting work environments. Furthermore, when high goals are set, even failing at them can produce substantial results. Google, which is one of the many companies successfully implementing OKR follows such a practice. In their OKR’s they set what are known as ‘stretch goals’ because their achievement is very hard, and unlikely. They then clearly communicate the nature of such goals and create vestibules for success were achieving 70% of the objectives is considered success. And achieving a 100% of these objectives is considered exceptional performance. Because OKRs are always stretch goals, they encourage employees to continually perform the best that they can.
Employee disengagement is a very detrimental problem to institutions. The full extent of its impact is only now being understood. Statistics show that 70% of the workforce remains disengaged, and that disengaged employees cost companies roughly $500 billion annually. While the common assumption of why employees are disengaged or dissatisfied is money, studies suggest that more relevant causes could be their bosses, or even not understanding their role within a company, and what their work is contributing to it’s success.
OKR can solve these problems by creating Objectives on central and individual levels, linking these objectives and creating co-dependencies. This will help employees understand their part in the machinery of the company hence creating engagement. It also helps keep executives in check,and prevents them from taking advantage of employees that they are managing by setting quantitative Key Results that measure performance.
To conclude, it is important to remember that OKR is only as good as it’s implementation. It is a flexible and dynamic framework that can provide a lot of benefits for small and big companies, however ,it’s strength lies in adapting it to your company’s needs for maximum success. To blindly follow the OKR practices of some famous companies like Facebook, Deloitte or Accenture can actually be detrimental to your institution. So the best practice would be to follow the scientific method of trial and error, combined with research to generate strategies to implement OKR that best serve your company.