Blog: Implement OKR to deliver business outcomes: Part 1

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Implement OKR to deliver business outcomes: Part 1

If CEO & management team can sense what’s coming in future and remain radically open-minded, they will be able to come up with the better bets. In management jargon, these bets are called strategic goals or company objectives.
Implement OKR to deliver business outcomes: Part 1

Most companies today are running on practices & principles defined around 50 years back, invented & promoted by Ford and GE. But many new age companies like Google, Amazon and Netflix have adopted new practices and principles that enables them to execute with speed to grow faster. Google, Amazon and Netflix are todays Fords and GEs. These new-age giants might have different products, services or business model, but if you look at their new-age practices and principles, they can be applied & adopted in any kind of organization. 

Few of these new-age agile practices and principles are: 

  1. How they can learn fast about what customers need and deliver the same with speed and agility.
  2. How to organize teams & company that leads to less bureaucratic and hierarchical organization.
  3. And how to enable their people & teams to think, plan, execute & course correct expected business “outcome” to promote “distributed ownership & accountability”. 

Adopting these new-age agile management practices are imperative because new entrants and companies are arriving on the scene way faster than in past and challenging existing dominant players. These new-age companies are able to achieve outcomes at much faster pace with less effort. Further the technology sector companies are moving into all industries and increasing the speed at which competitors need to respond. Let’s look at a few statistics that illustrate these changes:

  1. A third of fortune 500 companies in 1970 were gone by 1983
  2. Many of the top ten companies in 2015, were just born around 1995
  3. Leadership attrition is all time high. 
  4. And new generation workforce is not staying in a company for more than 2 to 3 years and constantly looking to learn and grow faster.

Understanding outcomes and effort

Outcomes are the results you want to achieve, “efforts” are what will lead to those outcomes. To give you a sports analogy, if you are a coach, and want to win a cricket championship, your “effort” will be “how you recruit your players”, “conduct player training sessions”, and “enhance effectiveness of different coaches”. 

Similarly, when you want to grow your company & revenue 10x, your “effort” will be “your plans to recruit your people”, “your plans to achieve your annual or 3 year strategic plan”, “your plans to achieve sales & marketing numbers”, “your plans to enhance customer satisfaction”, and “plans to launch & test new products”.

When a company wants to grow & scale its business, the CEO and leadership makes educated bets to achieve the desired growth. If CEO & management team can sense what’s coming in future and remain radically open-minded, they will be able to come up with the better bets. In management jargon, these bets are called strategic goals or company objectives.  

But where most companies fail is, to get execution done against those company objectives. Execution fails or moves slow in most companies because they don’t have a recipe (a.k.a process) in place to.

  1. Link the Outcomes (Key KPIs) and Effort (Action Plan) with company objectives (strategic goals).
  2. Enable people to think quality outcomes & action plans.
  3. Set the cadence of review to keep people focused on Outcomes and Efforts to achieve.

Few examples of the outcome and effort are:

Every year, most of the organizations spend much of their time in discussing their sales targets and strategic bets (i.e company objectives or company goals or strategic priorities). This is followed by sales targets cascaded to each region and sales manager. Only few companies go beyond discussing the sales targets and put plans for achieving execution on these strategic bets. And even if companies put these strategic bets in PowerPoint presentations or excel sheets, they die a slow death after 2 to 3 months.

The main reason why those strategic bets & plans die:

  • The plans are not designed for delivery & execution. 
  • Hardly few people beyond leadership can relate with them in actionable way & act on them.
  • The recipe (read as simple-repeatable-process) of creating these plans for delivery doesn’t existing in most of the companies.
  • And even if the recipe exists, it’s not flexible and agile enough to adjust to the changes in external market condition or internal company changes.

And this is what OKR framework helps you to achieve. It enables your teams to define few key KPIs (Outcomes) & related action plans (Effort) linked with company objectives(a.k.a company goals) which can help the company to accelerate growth. 

OKR Stands for Objective and Key Results. 

An Objective defines “What I should achieve”

And Key Result defines how we will achieve our objective. Within an objective, we can have multiple key results; each Key Result is either an outcome (Key KPI) or an effort that will help us to achieve that Objective.

Here are few examples of OKR’s:

Why you want to implement OKR’s?

We have seen the two primary reasons why CEOs & companies what to implement OKR’s:

  1. To make things happen & get execution done on company objectives and support growth. 
  2. To do goal-setting exercise 4 time in a year.

Most of the CEO’s who hear the concept of OKR’s, want to implement it because they know that it can help in making things happen on the outcomes teams and people should achieve with speed.

But most of the time, CEO’s are unable to drive the implementation of OKR’s in their company. And the people who end up getting the responsibility for implementation, implements it in a way that its perceived and implemented as goal-setting exercise; now done 4 times an year. And after few months, people start felling it as another monkey on their head. 

In the sense, much of this 3-series blog post is about implementing OKR in a way to help in making things happen & support growth for the company. OKR is a framework for CEOs and companies to build the habit of thinking, planning and achieving outcomes with speed.

As Jim Collins author of Good to Great says “Every company would like to be the best, but most companies are unable to create a culture of discipline where people across the teams can figure out with egoless clarity WHAT OUTCOMES they can achieve. And the will to do whatever it takes to achieve the WHAT”.

Key Learnings:

  • OKR is a framework for CEO’s & companies to link Outcomes (Key KPIs) and Effort (action plan) with company objectives. And build the habit of thinking, planning and achieving those outcomes within their teams.
  • OKR implementation should be about how it can help in making things happen to achieve desired outcomes.
  • There are high chances of OKR implementation failure if your people perceive it as another goal- setting exercise now done 4 times a year.


In the part-2 and part-3 of this 3-blog series, I have detailed out the steps and ways to implement the OKR successfully in your company. Stay tuned...


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Topics: Life @ Work, #GuestArticle

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