4 min read

10 Ways to Optimize Your 2024 OKRs

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Let's skip the part where the basics of OKRs are shared and debates over definitions are had. Let's get right to the useful stuff. The clock is ticking, and it's time to level up the conversation.

The second half of the year is here, and 2024 is coming fast. So many promising OKR programs are potentially starting to lose momentum in the dog days of summer, so let's focus on reigniting them in actionable ways.

Here are 10 ways to optimize your OKR program and improve effectiveness.

  1. Reduce the Number of Objectives - You don't need 10 company Objectives, 20 Sub-Objectives for teams, and another 250 individual Objectives. This is obviously an exaggeration, but too often operational leaders get trapped in the Oprah meme of 'Everyone gets an Objective!' Less is more, folks.

  2. Prioritize the right Key Results - Once again, less is more. Finding a combination of 3-5 volume, quality, or health-based outcomes which are leading indicators is the best way to go. Remember, Key Results are metrics you can influence but not control. These are not to-do lists or vague statements like "improve everything by 10%." Ensure you have baseline data. Lock in a start value. Lock in a target value. Then track over time and focus on execution.

  3. Emphasize execution, experimentation, and exploration with Initiatives - 80% of your results will come from 20% of your effort, so logic would tell us that to really move the needle on one Key Result, there need to be about five big Initiatives in flight. It's easy to write an OKR. It's hard to execute against it, especially with so many competing priorities.

  4. Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize. - This is the holy grail of... everything? If you prioritize the right things, you'll unlock more opportunities. It's that simple. Pick any of the off-the-shelf prioritization rubrics and use them. Time block your calendar for critical focus time. The key is to execute against the biggest things and avoid false senses of productivity such as meeting overload.

  5. Reset the Cadence of Communication - Weekly is ideal. Bi-weekly is sufficient. Anything beyond this and you're likely to be misaligned or the impact of your OKR program is diluted. The point of OKRs is visibility, so if nobody is reviewing or talking about it, it's a moot point.

  6. Celebrate Wins (and Failures) - Everyone wants to win and those wins should be celebrated (beyond just the big deal closing), but it's very powerful to celebrate failures and let others see that is okay. Failure is just another step towards succeeding. If teams are encouraged to try more, it will be transformative to your culture.

  7. Re-explain the 'Why' to People with Training - Dust off the training deck, or set a refresher. It's good to remind people WHY you are doing OKRs in the first place. Sure, growth is great and the primary reason why executives and board members want OKRs to succeed, but for everyone else they need to connect to a bigger purpose. Help team members understand how they fit into the equation. Using customer data tends to work best.

  8. Simplify Your Spreadsheets or Generic Tools - For cross-functional teams to engage with a tool, it absolutely has to be simple and departmentally agnostic. To get any sort of engagement you need to reduce the levels of friction. If everything is automated that's great, but you still want to hear from you people how things are going, what's being learned, and why it matters. Getting those inputs requires simplicity, not a bunch of steps and reminders to get there.

  9. Upgrade to Purpose-Built OKR Software - Cue the consultants saying you don't need OKR software, and that is true in some situations, but for most operational leaders going a purpose-built route can save a lot of headaches. To quote Chris Farley from Tommy Boy, "You can take a good look at a T-bone by sticking your head up a bull's ass, but wouldn't you rather take the butcher's word for it?" Keep your head where it's supposed to be, focused on driving success for your business.

  10. Create Your Own Acronym - OKRs are flexible. You don't need to adhere to all the rules. You don't even need to use the acronym if you don't want. Recognize if certain wording just doesn't work for your culture and change it. Don't like Objectives? Call them Missions. Are Key Results vs. KPIs confusing everyone? Call them Metrics or Outcomes. Don't like Initiatives and want them to be Projects or Ginormous Rocks to Lift Up the Hill? Go for it. The key here is to establish the system, stick to it, and optimize it over time. OKRs may not be for all teams, so why not BYOB (Bring Your Own Buzzword) and make it your own? This might be the best way to drive alignment. If you need guidance with this, we can help ;)

At the end of the day, OKRs or any system are only successful when there's leadership buy-in, operational commitment, and cultural engagement. It's not easy, but it's possible and really necessary to scale up. Google is often associated with OKRs, but people forget that this was the system they picked very early on. So start early, get the right resources in place, conduct the right activities, and drive the right outcomes. If you systematize it properly, you'll be delivering impactful value to customers, partners, and stakeholders in no time.





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