OKRs: A secret ingredient for post COVID-19 business model
The COVID-19 pandemic may have permanently disrupted “Work” as we know it. Great leaders of course “never let a serious crisis to go waste” - CXOs have realized the valuable lessons taught by this forced experiment of “ Mass Work From Home (WFH)”. Several business leaders in the US and India have announced that they will redesign their ‘Post COVID-19’ organizations to take full advantage of the WFH possibilities. This has also been confirmed by a recent Garner survey of over 317 CFOs.
The ‘Post COVID-19’ business climate will be significantly reshaped with continued expected disruptions to huge sectors of the economy like Travel, Tourism, Entertainment, and Advertising. Historically these moments of economic uncertainties create opportunities for companies that can set stretch goals and execute them with focus through teams, that are aligned completely towards the corporate goals.
A key challenge for CXOs during these demanding times is to translate the shared corporate objectives into meaningful functional and departmental goals – This will enable employees to work with a shared purpose too.
OKRs, a goal setting, and management system developed by Intel’s Andy Grove is becoming the answer to the above requirements. Widely used by successful tech companies like Google, Linkedin, Oracle, Dropbox, Uber, and Twitter, OKRs are fast becoming the desired management structure for companies that intend to disrupt and lead their market categories.
Objectives (the O in OKR) are qualitative and inspirational, time-bound (typically in a quarter), and executable by a team (say, Recruitment)
An example of a good objective - “Recruit an analytics team this quarter with “A- Players”.
Key Results (KR) quantify the objectives and break it down to specific deliverables for teams and individuals.
The objective in the above example can be broken down to Key Results like –
“Hire 10 new employees for the Analytics team”
“Maintain a 6:1, Interview to Hire ratio"
The structure and discipline of OKRs help the company to harvest 5 key benefits according to John Doerr, the celebrated VC who popularized the OKR framework.
- Focus: Companies should define not more than 3-7 Objectives and less than 5 Key Results per Objective. Objectives also need to fit in a single line. These limits force organizations and teams to focus on their most important goals and targets.
- Alignment: Alignment is translating the quarterly OKRs into day to day activities to the company vision, this is where the execution of OKRs begins. Weekly reviews of the OKRs and celebrating the wins reinforce the alignment.
- Commitment: Commitments are OKRs that will be achieved 100% – Teams will track their OKRs transparently using tools like Profit. This keeps everyone aware of the scoreboard and facilitates members helping those who need help in completing their commitments by sharing resources and expertise as required.
- Tracking: OKRs should be tracked on a weekly basis – The metrics for the various Key Results should have been established in the beginning and will be used for tracking. This ensures that the team stays aligned and marches in tandem towards the goals.
- Stretching: OKRs should help the team to elevate their performance beyond what they thought “was possible”. So the goals are ambitious and a 70% achievement is considered as “strong performance”. A good way to encourage “Stretch Goals” is to delink the achievement of “stretch goals” from “compensation discussions” and instead make compensation decisions based on the “efforts”.
- Culture, the secret ingredient: From our observation across tens of our OKR implementations, the “secret ingredient” behind all successful implementations is the Culture of the organization. The culture should enable “Self Driven employees”, encourage risk-taking through “stretch goals”, be transparent with their results through the “scoreboard” and encourage “teams” that look out for each other and celebrate “team achievements”.
To summarize, it is clear that OKRs implemented with the right technology, in an enabling environment will be a great way to thrive in the post COVID 19 environment. OKRs will help companies to distance themselves from the competition with an energized team that will execute in alignment, with focus.