Blog: How to implement OKR to deliver business outcomes: Part 2

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How to implement OKR to deliver business outcomes: Part 2

Once the OKR framework makes sense to you, the next step is to define the core team for implementing OKR successfully across the teams.
How to implement OKR to deliver business outcomes: Part 2

In the part-1 of this blog series, we understood the basics of implementing OKR. In part-2 of this post, we will look at 

  • How we can build the core OKR implementation team
  • Defining your big-arrow and company strategic objectives
  • How to get buy-in from your business heads & beyond

Building the Core OKR implementation team

Once the OKR framework makes sense to you, the next step is to define the core team for implementing OKR successfully across the teams. You must create a team whose responsibility is to make sure that OKR implementation is a success. The ideal core team should have 2 members:

  • OKR Program Management Head: Responsible for the adoption of the OKR initiative in the company.
  • OKR Program Management Manager: Responsible for executing plans of action for OKR implementation under the guidance of the program head.

An OKR Program Management Head should be someone who understands company business, operations and challenges horizontally and have enough authority to get work done across the company. A program head can either be the Strategy Head or Chief-of-Staff or CHRO. 

The mistake to avoid here is, if your company is growing at a rapid pace & your HR head is day-in and day-out busy in closing the hiring positions, don’t nominate your HR to head the OKR implementation. Hiring right should be the 1st priority for HR and she should be completely focused on it. Creating a culture of discipline starts with hiring the right people.

An OKR Program Management Manager can be a team member under the program head who execute the plans to implement OKRs successfully. This person should possess leadership qualities, should be assertive, be an excellent executer and articulator.

As a company, if you don’t have the strategy head or business performance team, it’s time to hire one. The Strategy Head or Chief-of-Staff will work closely with the CEO to drive “business performance” horizontally. And the OKR framework can help them in driving this performance. 

Pro tip: Unless you don’t put a person, who is accountable for making OKR a success but expect it to run on auto-pilot on its own or by a software tool, your implementation will never succeed.

Drafting your Big-Arrow & Company Objectives

Once you have finalized your core OKR team, it’s time to draft the big arrow & the objectives to be achieved in the next 12 months. The big-arrow is the ultimate company goal that you want to achieve. And the company objectives are the high-level strategic themes to achieve that big-arrow.

In our experience, most companies struggle to get the company objectives right the first time. When we ask most companies what their Company Objectives are, all they have is - their revenue projection and sales target plan. 

A typical sales & financial budget plan looks something like below. The problem with just preparing those sales target plans is that it does not provide enough guidance to the team beyond sales on how they can achieve these targets. 

On another side, your company objectives (also called strategic themes) should not be a long laundry list like below. The problem with this is: 

  1. It’s too long and theoretical.
  2. Beyond leadership team, people cannot understand this easily.
  3. You are trying to define too many things at the same time.

source: Tokoiamarinehd.com

And the Company Objective should also not to be a detailed 5 to 10-year plan. Because no plan survives by the time you go to the market and try to execute that.

The value of your company objectives is inversely proportional to the number of pages required to express it. Your Company Objectives should be based on your 

  • The strategic bets you are chasing
  • Your competitive landscape, 
  • Technological & market condition changes.
  • And above all, what all it will take to enhance your product/service & company to be more customer-centric.

Many companies call their company objectives as strategic priorities or strategic objectives or areas of focus or strategic themes. Regardless of which term you are comfortable with, the intent is to come up with 3 to 5 Company Objectives that can give the entire company the guiding force and focus. And those company objectives should help your people to define the kind of outcome(Key KPIs) they should chase in the next 12 months. All your OKRs will be aligned with these company objectives.

Let’s look at below screenshots and see which company objectives are more effective and are clearly understandable.

Source: Developing a Strategy for Execution-MIT Sloan School of Management

And here are the general guidelines to draft your big-arrow & company objectives

CEO defines the big-arrow & create a list of all possible company objectives that will help you to achieve that big-arrow. A big-arrow is always a “big sales target” to be achieved in most cases and company objectives are statements that will help you to achieve that big-arrow.

  1. All the company objectives should be mutually exclusive.
  2. Drafting and putting company objectives is about choices. You must do trade-offs when drafting them.
  3. Once CEO drafts them, block the calendar of all of your functional heads for at least 2 hours and discuss your big-arrow and company objectives. This will lead to buy-in from your functional heads.

Mistakes to avoid while drafting your company strategic objectives/priorities:

  1. Avoid putting company objective that if you remove your company logo and put-in your competitor logo, the statements still make sense.
  2. Your company objective statement should not be complex to understand and relate with.
  3. Don’t define more than 3 to 4 company objectives.
  4. Don’t define the key results to achieve your company objectives. These are the ultimate company goals that you want to achieve in the next 12 months. 
  5. As a CEO, don’t just tell everyone these are our company objectives, brainstorm it with your leadership team before that.

For further understanding of how to define your company objective, there is a great video from MIT you can watch.

Getting buy-in from your business heads & beyond on OKRs

Once you have built your core OKR team and drafted the big-arrow & company objectives, it’s time to get buy-in from your business head on

  • Your big-arrow & Company Objectives
  • OKR implementation initiative. 
  • Marrying your review cadence & OKRs

As a company, the CEO must schedule & lead an “OKR workshop with business heads” explaining, discussing and getting buy-in on 

  • Big-arrow, 
  • Company objectives & 
  • How OKRs can help them in achieving it. 

The buy-in is required as business heads (the humans) will inherently resist change. Once the business heads understand the importance of OKR’s implementation and why we are doing what we are doing, they will take the process of getting buy-in further within their teams.

During qilo implementation, we see many engaging & heated debates among the leadership team about what should the company achieve in the next 12 months. It’s a strange thing for us to observe that even as old as 15-year-old companies struggle to put this simple process, where leadership comes together and discuss open-mindedly what needs to be achieved as a company.   

Post this session, the business heads should take a similar session within their teams on “What is OKR” and “Why we are doing why we are doing”. You can take help of an external coach if required to get buy-in on the OKRs across teams.

All organization(whether fast-growing start-up, mid-size SMB or a business conglomerate) need a framework to enable their teams to think, plan and execute fast with an eye always towards the larger objective. OKR is one such framework and if implemented right, can contribute immensely towards accelerating the business growth. It will specifically help companies where the HR want the managers beyond the leadership team to be groomed for next-level and to be more engaged with company priorities.

In the part-3 of this 3-part blog series, we will discuss what are the key principles that can be applied for success OKR implementation. And common questions people come up with when they implement the OKR.

Key Learning: 

  • Defining your core OKR team is the first step towards successful OKR implementation.
  • Your big-arrow & company objectives define your company and leadership priorities for the next 12 months. All outcomes (Key KPIs) and efforts (action plans) should help you to achieve your company objectives.
  • Getting the buy-in from your business heads & teams beyond them is the 2nd step towards successful implementation of OKR.

Topics: #GuestArticle, Life @ Work

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