Your manager will make OR break your company

The benefit of having good managers in a company is oft debated. In 2002 Google simply eliminated all their managers, because they believed they were unnecessary.

That step was a disaster, so Google conducted a research project named the “Oxygen Project” to determine the qualities that make a great manager. Their finding highlighted that the qualities that make a manager great are:

  1. Form a clear strategy based on the company’s vision
  2. Ability to communicate
  3. Be a good coach and guide to the team
  4. Help employees grow and develop their careers
  5. Enable team members and not micromanage them.
  6. Care about employee’s well being
  7. Be productive and focused on results
  8. Possess key technical skills that benefit everyone on the team

But all these findings seem very obvious. The real use of the research was that statistical findings directly correlated these qualities to employee performance, customer satisfaction, revenue, and turnover etc. But what do these qualities can these be implemented and executed, rather than simply theorized?

The answer perhaps lies in Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), a tool that Google itself implements along with other big companies like Amazon, Deloitte, Samsung as not just goal-setting framework but perhaps the way to enhance their managers effectiveness.

Setting Team Goals

One of the most important roles of the manager is to set goals or objectives for the team. These objectives need to align the manager’s strategy to achieve the company’s vision. Such objectives can help establish a culture of execution in the company. Further setting aspirational goals can cause the employees to be inspired, strive to perform better, and grow in the process. Using Objectives and Key Results to set a few key objectives quarterly for their teams in alignment with the company’s vision is the best way to ensure productive teamwork.

Ability to Communicate and Coach

The importance of teamwork is not lost on anyone. However, a manager’s individual relation with every team member is equally important.  Statistics show that 69% of managers are uncomfortable communicating with employees. Sometimes it is hard to communicate to individuals the work that is expected of them. Using OKRs to set goals will enable better communication between the team member and the manager. Further doing quarterly OKR reviews will enable all the team members working under the manager to communicate better with one another and see what others are doing and how they can contribute to the progress to achieve company objectives.

 Being Execution and Result Focused.

This is the single most important aspect of management. A company that isn’t execution oriented is definitely one that will fail. As the Harvard Business Review States, visions, revolutionary ideas, and the best of strategies are only as good as their execution. And OKRs are one of the best ways to convert strategies into actionable plans. Setting specific, well-defined objectives, and monitoring the executing based on Key Results, can cause managers to effectively lead their teams to excel.

The role of a manager is indispensable however the attributes that a manager must process to successfully carry out his responsibilities are of even more significance. While training, guidance and support help them perform better, what truly makes them great is the ability to enable their teams to execute aspirational objectives into reality. This can only be possible through a strict discipline of goal setting, execution, and performance reviews.  All these processes are better achieved by technical skills, and adaptation of tools and services. OKRs happen to be one of the best tools to assist managers through this entire process. Managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement and are easily the makers or breakers of a company.  Building great managers with the right tools for success is the only path forward for any company seeking to be not just good, but great.

Is OKR a New Management FAD ?

Photo by bonneval sebastien on Unsplash

In the last 30 years, many concepts were introduced in the companies claiming to have been that final solution that it will accelerate business growth. As part of these, concepts like Enterprise Performance Management, Business Process Management, Balanced Scorecard, and Knowledge Management where introduced in the market and promoted by consulting companies & leading business schools of the world. But they had a low impact on revenue growth, enhancing customer satisfaction and launching new products faster. And have only increased the revenue of consultants & consulting companies.

Nowadays OKR (a goal-setting framework for CEO and companies to get execution done) seems to be the hot topic. And every CEO is talking about implementing the same in their company. OKR is a part of the debate that companies need to adopt agile management practices; so that companies can respond to changing market dynamics faster.

New entrants, especially from developing markets and technology sector companies are moving into traditional companies and leveraging the power of Software+Hardware to disrupt the existing business models. And this is happening right now.

Let’s look at a few statistics that illustrate these changes:

  • A third of Fortune 500-companies in 1970 were gone by 1983. And many of those that were in the top-10 in 2015, didn’t even exist ten years before that.
  • The attrition in leadership positions in big companies has more than doubled in the past 10 years.
  • Google, Microsoft, Amazon, NetFlix, Uber and AriBnB are replacing the Coca-Cola, Big Retail, Media House and Established Hospitality industry Companies as most valuable companies.

Though these 20 year old new-age organizations are leveraging technology to deliver the product/services, they are also challenging the traditional management practices. They are adopting new agile principles and practices that enable them to remain closer to their customers, build a more transparent company and build a culture of thinking, planning and execution in their teams which enable them to move faster than existing traditional mindset companies.

But does this mean that every organization must adopt agile management practices and implement goal-setting frameworks like OKR. To answer this, we must under from where the “agile” as a concept came from.

The agile as a concept was first introduced around 2001 to better deliver the software. Before the agile practice came to picture, software’s were delivered to customers using the waterfall model of development. With the waterfall model, customers used to get the working software after 9 to 12 months. And by the time, they have received the software, customer requirement and business process to which the software was catering has changed. At the end, customer end up paying millions of dollars for something which was not near to what is required.

Then came the Agile way of delivering the software, in which software was delivered every 2 weeks. The customer gets the working software every 2 weeks. And the software developers adjusted to the evolving needs of customers. This resulted in customer end up spending less money and is more satisfied with something tangible for what he is paying for.

I have personally developed the software under the waterfall model and agile models. Frankly, adopting agile mindset was very difficult and was a change. People resisted it because it forced them to be on their toes, be more focused & accountable and forced then to be more collaborative across various teams. And you are clearly able to identify who is not performing within 2 weeks.

Now let’s look at the organizational age-old practice like “annual practices of budgeting & planning” and how it gets delivered by people in the company. Leadership team meets before the start of the financial year, sales targets are negotiated, CEO and management pushed for higher numbers and sales heads push back the numbers given and tried to freeze targets which can be achieved. New initiatives that needs to be completed are decided and everyone goes back happily to the workplace next day.

Think of your annual budget and planning process as software. Currently most companies are trying to deliver the budget & planning by following the waterfall model. A better way is to follow the agile way of quarterly process which is aligned with the company annual budgets & initiatives to be completed. Objectives (a.k.a goal) & Key Results(a.k.a milestones or action plan) to achieve the annual plan are created executed, reviewed & updated every quarter.

Frankly, achieving business results (sales plan, marketing plan, strategic initiatives) are different from programming a software. Unlike software programming, you might or might not achieve result (0 or 1) in a day, week or 2 week. But creating the OKR plan at the start of every quarter and reviewing it every month, will help you understand that will the outcome be achieved or not. Or enable you to understand that if you are all this time, trying to achieve the wrong outcome. The current execution design followed in companies leads people to focus on outcome rather then focusing on input that will lead to that outcome.

If I connect the dots, I have no doubt that adopting the agile management practices and frameworks like OKR(Objectives & Key Results) are much better approach to deliver the required business outcomes. What you think?

 

Benefits of OKR

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

  1. GOAL ALIGNMENT
  2. TRANSPARENCY AND OPEN COMMUNICATION
  3. MONITORING AND ACCELERATING PERFORMANCE
  4. EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT

1.GOAL ALIGNMENT

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.

4.EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT

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.

10 Principles of Strategy Execution

The Brightline™ Initiative is a coalition led by the Project Management Institute together with leading global organizations dedicated to helping executives bridge the expensive and unproductive gap between strategy design and delivery.

Like the Agile principle which helps in delivering the Software, Brightline has listed the 10 principles that can help in achieving the Strategy.

Those who are not from a software background might not know that before the Agile practices of developing the software came to picture, the software was developed using the model called “Waterfall model”, where software was delivered taking 9 to 12 months. And by the time the software was shown and delivered to the customer, customer requirements and expectations from the software have been changed.  Then came the Agile principles, where software was delivered to customers every 2 weeks. This has lead to a better understanding of what the customer wants out of software and reduced the overall cost in developing the same.

Now think of Strategy deliver in your company. Being from the Software background, I can clearly see the Strategy a.k.a the business plans a.k.a growth goals are still getting delivered in the waterfall model.  Many Strategy Heads, CEO offices and PMO offices are living in “Waterfall model” age, where the focus is on Governance, following the same old processes that cause the delay in the actual execution. But I feel with Brightline initiative, the thing might change, and it will bring the Agile like principles in delivering the Strategy.

Here is the brief summary of Brightline 10 principles :

Principle #1 – Acknowledge that strategy delivery is just as important as strategy design: Strategy is not just a fancy word for the business plan. Bringing your strategy a.k.a business plan needs more than just annual offsite. The implementation plan to get execution done needs to be created in a way that it actually leads to the getting execution done.

Principle #2 – Accept that you’re accountable for delivering the strategy you designed: Once you have defined the strategy, your focus should shift to overseeing the progress of implementation so that the strategy delivers results and achieves its goals. You need to know what is your company execution velocity and how the program managers are performing on the identified growth goals and the people who are moving slow on the execution.

Principle #3 – Dedicate and mobilize the right resources: Strategy deliver is a team game. To achieve your strategy to get executed, you need to enable your program managers to easily identify & build the team that will help you achieve the growth goals/objectives which will ultimately help in achieving your strategy.

Principle #4 – Leverage insight on customers and competitors:  No plan survives contact with the enemy. To course correct your growth goals and objectives, keep talking and listening to your customers and leverage insights from your competitors. Otherwise, you will end up executing a plan which might not be relevant to current market conditions.

Principle #5 – Be bold, stay focused and keep it as simple as possible:  Your team may end up losing focus on the growth goals and objectives which will help you achieve your strategy because of day-to-day operational urgencies. By keeping the plans simple at the same time bold will help bring back the focus on execution.

Principle #6 – Promote team engagement and effective cross-business cooperation: To gain the buy-in on executing the growth goals you need to involve the people who will be actually doing the execution. As a leader, CEO and Strategy head, you need to communicate with them, engagement them in the process of creating the plan and keep explaining to them why we are doing what we are doing.

Principle #7 – Demonstrate bias toward decision-making and own the decisions you make:  Many plans fail and keep the pace with changing business conditions. At qilo, while implementing our solution across different companies, we have seen that it’s far difficult to update those metrics and milestones that help the team to achieve the growth goals. And this happens because the process of making these updates are complex and bureaucratic. By keeping the governance process simple, you can always empower your people to change/adjust the plans per the internal and external business conditions.

Principle #8 – Check ongoing initiatives before committing to new ones:  Strategy is delivered by identifying few strategic initiatives and then linking the growth goals that will help you to achieve those strategic initiatives. Many times leaders end up starting the new strategic initiatives before the previous initiatives see the light of the day. Avoid committing to new things before you finish the previous one.

Principle #9 – Develop robust plans but allow for missteps — fail fast to learn fast:  Even the best people and teams fail to deliver. It’s up to the CEO and CEO office, Strategy head to create the environment where failures are acceptable and seen as learnings.

Principle #10 – Celebrate success and recognize those who have done good work:  This is where most companies fail. CEO office, Strategy Heads and Program managers fail to recognize the people who are actually executing the growth goals and demonstrating the habits that are leading to execution. People who are involved in the execution of strategic plans are doing those in addition to their day-to-day operations, recognizing them is crucial for the success of achieving your growth goals.

qilo wins 2019 Raising Star & Premium Usability Award from FinancesOnline!

We’re all incredibly proud of what we accomplished at qilo in the last 3 years, and our latest honor gives us even more reason to celebrate.

qilo has earned the prestigious 2019 Raising Star and Premium Usability Award from FinancesOnline, a popular B2B software review platform. This recognition is given out annually to products that provide outstanding solutions for B2B companies across a number of categories.

With an overall review score of 8.0 out of 10, and a user satisfaction score of 100% at the time of this writing, qilo was also honored in FinancesOnline’s new list of the Top 500 OKR Software market leaders and list of best 20 best project management software for enterprises

In evaluating qilo for the 2019 Raising Star and Premium Usability Award, FinancesOnline’s team of software experts examined and compared qilo against its competitors in various scenarios. Some of the specific criteria that their review team took into account were:

  • qilo range of “key OKR functionalities,” combined with a simple and intuitive interface
  • The collaborative nature of qilo’s ability to create team-based OKR’s
  • The capacity to forecast execution against defined Key Results
  • Email integration from multiple apps and services
  • The ability of 1-on-1 guidance and quarterly OKR progress reviews
  • Cascade Annual Operating Plan and Strategic Projects using 1 software
  • Business Vision and Organization Values Alignment
  • Continuous feedback execution loops

According to a FinancesOnline statement released to qilo, “Experts have seen qilo OKR perform impeccably for mid-size to large teams. It is an awesome product that a CEO can implement to Driving results on company objectives.”

We’re delighted to have a shiny new award to put on the qilo mantle, but more importantly, the 2019 Raising Star and Premium Usability Award is another confirmation that at qilo we are committed to help CEO’s and companies drive execution on company strategic objectives and help them accelerate growth.

Please visit FinancesOnline.com to post your own review of qilo, and thanks for your support through another amazing year.

About the industry awards received

FinancesOnline recognized qilo with two industry awards in the top enterprise project management software space for its exceptional usability as well as its consistent market growth and customer reception. The review platform noted a highly positive user feedback through its Customer Satisfaction Algorithm, with Qilo garnering 141 positive social mentions and no negative social mentions at all. This allowed us to win the Rising Star award for 2019. Furthermore, the software experts found all available Qilo features to be quite user-friendly and intuitive, thus allowing us to be distinguished with the Premium Usability title.

Keep visiting qilotech.com to check what’s in store for 2019!

Building the Execution Culture!

When we started qilo’s journey, we had one single focus and agenda. How can we help companies perform better! During this journey, we met hundreds of leaders across industries and geographies. Did research with over 5000 people – Here are some learning’s from the experiences we got;

Execution Accountability

One theme, which clearly emerged as inputs from the leaders, was execution accountability. On an average a management team invests thousands of critical man-hours in boardroom/ meeting rooms, the question to be asked, are they genuinely productive?

Over 90% of the respondents we asked this question said no. So what could be the reason?

  • Lack of belief/ Clarity in the Vision
  • Limited say in creating the plan
  • Fear of conflicts
  • Yes Minister Syndrome
  • PTB- Passing the buck
  • Limited know how

Recently there has been a trend in companies that divide the workforce into 2 buckets – Planners and Doers. In some companies, they work as a team and in some still hierarchal. Depending on their culture, I have categories them as following types

  • The Houdini’sType – This team pops up while creating an annual plan and asks for data from across functions and post creation of the plan does a vanishing act. And to be seen during the review meeting sometimes. These type of companies build 2 classes amongst team (unknowingly) the corporate and rest of others.
  • Living on the edge Type– these are a set of companies, who do not believe in strategic planning or vision and find it a waste of time. (Believe me, they do exist and in masses.) These companies focus on a month-to-month plan with no strategic vision. Some of them pretend to be non-conformist (Strategy Atheist) but deep inside they lack know how at a leadership level.
  • King with the golden robe Type– These are set of companies where decision making resides in one corner office. Whether the company is doing well, bad is decided upon which side of the bed the king woke up from. The companies are highly perception and ego driven. The single focus for the teams is to please the king.
  • The Change Makers– they are a group of people closely aligned with the purpose and leaders vision. They fail together and succeed together. These companies align their teams with their purpose first and the drive execution accountability. They work in a network of teams and the leadership team rolls us the sleeve whenever required and run the shop floor.

Globally, the shelf lives of companies are getting shorter and shorter. Product Power and Proprietary Power will not just be enough. The key differentiator of a company will be the way you work and get the Strategy Execution done.

Always remember the pace and the quality of execution will decide if your team is working for you or your competitor!