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Suppose you want to transform your team into high-performing excellence. In that case, you’ll find it a lot easier if you’re using the O.K.R. framework.
O.K.R.s (Objectives, Key Results) are a system for setting measurable goals and tracking progress against them. They provide a clear guide for everyone on the team regarding what they need to do to contribute to the organization’s success.
When setting up an O.K.R. system, it is essential to keep the following in mind:
- Objectives should be specific, achievable, and relevant.
- Key results should be quantifiable (measurable and time-bound) and aligned with the objectives.
- Progress should be tracked regularly and reported to the entire team
Setting O.K.R.s that Focus and Inspire the Team.
All of the components you know from S.M.A.R.T goals are found inside the OBJECTIVES and KEY RESULTS of OKRs. When you’re setting Objectives, it’s important to keep them specific, achievable, and relevant, while the Key Results must be measurable and time-bound. This ensures that everyone on the team knows exactly what they need to do to contribute to the team’s success in reaching the organization’s larger goals.
It can be helpful to think of objectives as a North Star that everyone on the team can align their work efforts towards. Clear objectives give the team a sense of purpose and direction, which is crucial for high performance.
Some tips for using S.M.A.R.T goal steps to build effective Objectives that will focus and inspire the team:
Make the Goal Specific.
The first step is to make sure the Objective is specific. It should be clear what needs to be achieved and why it is important. For example, rather than setting an objective of “increase sales,” it would be more specific to set an objective of “increase sales by 10% in the next quarter”. This clarifies what needs to be done and gives the team a concrete goal to work towards.
High-performing teams need specificity to align their efforts and optimize their processes. When the goal is vague, then confusion arises, and cross-team collaboration suffers. In addition, the lack of specificity will lead to divergent priorities, which undercuts performance.
Make it Achievable. If you can’t reach the Objective, then what’s the point?
The second step is to make sure the Objective is achievable. This may seem like common sense, but it is often overlooked. An objective that is impossible to achieve is not only frustrating but can also lead to a loss of motivation. For example, the “increase client satisfaction by 100% in the next quarter” objective is probably not achievable for the Customer Service Team alone. But an objective of “improve N.P.S. score by 10% in the next quarter” is more aligned to their sphere of influence as it relates directly to how support tickets are managed.
It is vital to set objectives that are challenging but still achievable. If 10% improvement would be likely with just a bit more effort, then that is not challenging enough. Set the goal high enough that there is a chance of failure if the entire team doesn’t pull together. This will keep the team motivated and focused on reaching the goal. If the Objective is too easy, the team may become complacent and not put forth their best effort.
Make the Objective Relevant.
The third step is ensuring the Objective is relevant to the business. It should be aligned with the company’s strategy and contribute to its overall success. For example, an objective of “increase customer satisfaction” would be more relevant to a company that values customer service than a company that focuses on price.
It is also essential to ensure the Objective is relevant to the team. It should be something that the team can be realistically expected to influence, given their resources and expertise. For example, a sales team would not be able to achieve an objective to “improve product quality” because they likely have little influence on the quality of the product.
Great Key Results are Always Measurable.
The first step is to make sure the Key Result can be measured. This may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked. If a Key Result cannot be measured, it is impossible to tell if it has been achieved. For example, a result of “improve customer satisfaction” cannot be measured, but “increase customer satisfaction scores by 5 points” can be.
Key Results must be quantifiable to be effective, so progress can be tracked. Without this, it becomes difficult for the team to identify what is working and what is not. Measuring Key Results also allows teams to course-correct if they are off track.
The Constraint of Time is Where the Magic Happens.
The most important step is to make sure the Key Result is time-bound. This means that it has a precise end date for measuring success. For example, “increase sales by 10% in the next quarter” is more time-bound than “increase sales by 10%”.
When the target Key Result is time-bound, the team feels a sense of urgency to optimize the process and constrain their efforts in favor of efficiency. In addition, the ticking clock helps the team focus only on the strategies and processes most likely to work.
A time-bound Key Result also allows the team to celebrate their success when they reach the goal. This is important for maintaining motivation and momentum because there is a “finish line” they can focus on.
The bottom line is that great Objectives are specific, relevant, and achievable while being supported by Key Results that are measurable and time-bound. By following these steps, you can be sure that your team is high-performing as they are focused on the right things and have a clear path to success.
Key Results Tell the Truth About Progress and Success.
When using the O.K.R. framework, it is not enough to set an Objective and hope for the best. The real magic of the process happens when that Objective is tied to Key Results that serve as progress and success measuring sticks. This is because, as the name implies, key results should be quantifiable. They should also be aligned with the objectives they are supposed to help achieve. In other words, key results should tell the truth about progress and success.
Quantifiable Key Results Show Progress.
When progress is based on data, there can be no confusion or debate about whether the team is moving closer to the Objective. The numbers don’t lie. This also makes it easier to identify where efficiencies can be gained. After all, if something isn’t working, the key results will make that abundantly clear.
Relying on quantifiable key results also takes the emotion out of measurement. This can be a good thing, especially when individual egos are involved. When the team’s success is more important than any one person’s feelings, quantifiable key results are a valuable tool.
Of course, setting effective key results is not always easy. They must also be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). But when done correctly, key results can help any team achieve its objectives.
Key Results Must Always Align to the Company Mission.
While key results must be S.M.A.R.T., they must always align with the company’s mission. Without this alignment, it would be all too easy for a team to achieve its key results while actually pushing the company further away from its overall mission.
For example, imagine a company whose mission is to “change the world.” A team whose key result is to “sell 1,000 units of product” may not be aligned with this mission. However, if the key result is to “raise awareness about our cause by 25% among women 25-44,” it’s much better aligned when that awareness comes from an increase in total units sold.
The bottom line is that key results must always be aligned with the company’s vision and mission to be effective. Otherwise, the team might achieve its key results while unintentionally harming the company’s reason for being.
Aligning key results with the company mission can be a challenge. Still, it is essential for the success of the O.K.R. framework. Without this alignment, the process cannot work as intended.
Tracking O.K.R. Progress Publicly and Transparently.
Successful O.K.R. implementation means tracking progress regularly and providing that tracking data to the team so they can adapt, pivot, and innovate their efforts towards success. One way to do this is by making progress tracking public and transparent. This allows everyone on the team to see how things are progressing and where improvements need to be made.
Charts, Tables, Checklists, and Scores – Track Your Progress.
There are many ways to track progress against O.K.R.s. You can use something as simple as a tally board or a shared spreadsheet. Whatever you use, just make sure it’s something everyone on the team can see and update regularly. Set expectations with your team that they will update the tracking information daily or weekly.
Tracking progress publicly and transparently has many benefits. First, it allows everyone on the team to see how things are progressing and where improvements need to be made. It also holds team members accountable and makes it easier to identify when someone falls behind.
Progress Reporting and Realign Efforts Often.
The key to successful O.K.R. management is regular and consistent alignment with the team based on tracked progress. This ensures everyone is always on the same page and working towards the same objectives. Regular check-ins with the team are essential to effective O.K.R. management. This is the time to review the progress, identify any issues or roadblocks, and reset expectations for the future.
Check-ins should be held at least monthly, but more often is better. You can do them in person, by video conference, or even over the phone. Just make sure everyone on the team knows when they are and can be prepared with updates.
At the end of each check-in, take some time to realign your team’s efforts. This may mean changing priorities, tasks, or deadlines. It may also mean reiterating the measurement standards for the Key Results and recommitting to the outcomes. Whatever it is, ensure you always keep your team’s efforts focused on the most important things.
High-Performing Teams are Built on OKRs.
When it comes to building a high-performing team, there’s one key ingredient that can’t be overlooked: O.K.R.s.
O.K.R.s (Objectives, Key Results) provide a framework for setting and measuring progress against specific goals. By aligning everyone on the team around a shared set of objectives and tracking progress against those objectives, you can ensure that everyone is rowing in the same direction. But, more importantly, everyone knows exactly how their individual efforts contribute to the team’s success.
A high-performing team can achieve more when everyone is on the same page and knows exactly what they need to do to contribute to the company’s growth. The Objectives should be SMART, Key Results should be quantifiable and aligned with the objectives, and progress should be tracked and reported to the team regularly.
When everyone on the team knows the objectives, their key results, and how their individual efforts contribute to the team’s success, you can be confident that you have a high-performing team that is poised for success.