How OKR Can Help Organisations Improve Their Performance and Grow Rapidly

How OKR Can Help Organisations Improve Their Performance and Grow Rapidly 

Thought Leadership

By Omid Akhavan, Founder of Lucid Outcomes & Global OKR Coach

In today’s competitive business landscape and fast-evolving markets, organisations are constantly seeking effective strategies to grow rapidly and capture more market share. Yet, as they start to grow, they face many challenges, including:

  • Confusion about strategy, directions, priorities, goals, targets, and what to focus on.

  • Misalignment among departments and between founders, leadership, and staff.

  • Lack of accountability, ownership, purpose, engagement, and clarity among people.

  • Everything is priority #1, yet nothing gets done properly, and teams are always behind.

  • Growth is not scaling up; teams are conservative, and the targets are not ambitious.

  • Performance is not measured or tracked; no review/retro is done on the results.

  • Teams cannot collaborate effectively with each other and have become silos

  • Priorities/goals keep changing, and it’s not clear why or how they should be achieved.

  • Focus is on actions, not outcomes, so a lot gets done but success is still not achieved.

  • Teams are overloaded; important things don’t get done, targets are missed, resources are not allocated based on priorities, and there are various capacity issues.

Definition, Anatomy, and Benefits of OKR

OKR is an agile prioritisation and goal-setting framework that helps organisations with strategy execution, outcome thinking, performance improvement, and rapid growth. Invented at Intel, adopted by Google, and extended to Silicon Valley startups, it gradually found its way to companies of all sizes and industries worldwide, becoming a key driver of growth and success.

OKRs are typically set quarterly and follow a specific process, timeline, and tracking system, making them very agile compared to traditional goal-setting systems. It is worth mentioning that they do not replace KPIs and strategy; they simply complement each other.

OKR consists of three key components:

  1. Objectives. Ambitious, qualitative goals that set the direction. They should be clear, inspiring, actionable, and linked to the organisation’s strategies and top priorities.

  2. Key Results. Measurable outcomes and specific metrics that indicate progress towards the objective and define how it is achieved. Each objective includes a few key results.

  3. Action Plans. A set of actions (or initiatives, projects, etc.) that define how key results should be achieved. Typically, each key result has several or more action items.

Once implemented effectively, OKR can realise many benefits, including:

  • Focus on the common goals that matter the most in each cycle.

  • Set clear measurable targets and track performance toward achieving them.

  • Create alignment between departments and strategy, and also between teams.

  • Adopt an agile and adaptive goal-setting, execution, and review/retro rhythm.

  • Enable cross-functional collaboration and bottom-up/collaborative goal setting.

  • Improve the sense of purpose, accountability, engagement, and clarity of staff.

  • Set ambitious (stretch) targets to scale growth beyond what seems comfortable.

  • Shift from an output-based (things to do) mindset to an outcome-based (results) one.

  • Enhance teamwork and continuously improve performance based on learnings.

  • Allocate resources based on priorities and manage internal dependencies.

How to Implement OKR?

First off, it is important to note that the above benefits will not be realised overnight. It will take time and effort to gradually get there, so be patient. In fact, the first phase is often called a learning cycle and it typically takes at least 2-3 cycles to master OKR. 

Although OKR seems very simple, implementing it effectively and getting it right is actually very complex. Hence, it requires prior experience, careful planning, and excellent execution, which is why seeking help from internal or external experienced OKR experts is recommended. 

Still, here are three important tips to consider before implementing:

  • Executive commitment: Prior to implementation, it is crucial to secure executive commitment and buy-in. Leaders should champion the change and emphasise its importance. Also, engage key stakeholders early on to shape how OKR is customised, implemented, and managed. Remember that customisation of the framework is critical to OKR success and should be done masterfully before implementation.

  • Change management: Like any other change, it is essential to take change management seriously for a smooth implementation. Clearly communicate the reasons for adopting OKR and how it will benefit the company and employees. Conduct training workshops, provide ongoing coaching, and develop support materials such as playbooks and FAQs to effectively onboard the staff who will be involved in OKR.

  • Pilot and phased implementation: To begin, establish a pilot program and start with a small group. Then, gather feedback, collect lessons learned, and make the necessary adjustments before rolling it out company-wide. In big organisations, it is recommended to have a multi-phase roll-out. Remember that a crawl-walk-run approach typically yields the best results in the long run.

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