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                                      6 min read

                                      12 Ways to Use OKRs Better

                                      Featured Image

                                      Anyone can do OKRs and keep track of them anywhere. But to get REALLY great at OKRs, it takes more than just the average. Here we’ll outline 12 ways you can strengthen your OKR strategy.

                                       

                                      #1 – Establish your core mission, vision & values

                                      With so many groups working remotely, people need to feel a sense of purpose to the overall mission & vision. If it’s not documented or painted on your walls (unlikely if everyone is working remote) then these important components will become an afterthought.

                                      One Question to Ask

                                      • What are you REALLY trying to achieve with OKRs?

                                      Actions To Take

                                      • Establish (or re-inforce) these parts of your business
                                      • Share them consistently and make them visible
                                      • Tag your OKRs to them if applicable

                                      #2 – Align to the problem you’re solving

                                      OKRs can solve a lot of problems, but do an analysis to understand the primary problems you’d really like to solve.

                                      One Question to Ask

                                      • Why OKRs, and why now? 

                                      Actions To Take

                                      • Stack Rank the following common problems so you can continuously focus on utilizing OKRs in a way which focuses on that problem.
                                        • Visibility
                                        • Alignment
                                        • Prioritization
                                        • Accountability
                                        • Execution
                                        • Engagement

                                      #3 – Prioritize your objectives effectively.

                                      If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. And it’s easy to prioritize when you know the priorities. People who are involved in making a decision are more likely to be on board with it!

                                      One Question to Ask

                                      • What keeps you up at night? 

                                      Actions To Take

                                      • Create a prioritization rubric
                                      • Get all your ideas in the open
                                      • Select the top ones, revist the rest

                                      #4 – Provide visibility to your employees.

                                      Involve as many as you can. Be open, be visible. When people who are involved in making a decision are more likely to be on board with it!

                                      One Question to Ask

                                      •  How can I ensure my employees know this is important consistently?

                                      Actions To Take

                                      • Conduct surveys
                                      • Establish small “committee” like teams

                                      #5 – Explain the “why” to your employees.

                                      Don’t make this another acronym and thing they have to update. Tell them the benefits. Just throwing other things into the mix can be frustrating for employees, so it’s important for them to know how it helps them. OKRs can create accountability across the board, including leadership. OKRs can help employees “defend their ground.” Over time, OKRs get more valuable, especially when referenced and benchmarked historically. 

                                      One Question to Ask

                                      •  Do my employees really care?

                                      Actions To Take

                                      •  Establish a schedule of consistent communication

                                      #6 – Approach your roll-out in a holistic way.

                                      Departmental OKRs naturally create silos. So be aware, and try and keep it holistic. Ask yourself what you “core pillars” are and rally around those. Examples of “core pillars” are your customer experience/journey, products, services, memberships, culture, operations, communities, and more.

                                      One Question to Ask

                                      •  What are my core business pillars?

                                      Actions To Take

                                      • Define your company’s non-departmental “core pillars”
                                      • Chart the journey, phases or stages of the pillar(s)

                                      #7 – Establish a system to manage your OKRs.

                                      Paper and spreadsheets won’t cut it. You can manage OKRs in your head, on paper, in a spreadsheet, or on slides, but it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Strategic software should be part of your technology stack, so think strategically, not economically.

                                      One Question to Ask

                                      •  Is this approach scalable and will it provide ongoing value?

                                      Actions To Take

                                      • Demo multiple purpose-built OKR products
                                      • Allocate budget
                                      • Commit to long-term usage

                                      #8 – Be disciplined around the # of OKRs created.

                                      Strategize big rocks, not pebbles and sand. Most companies create about 3-5x more OKRs than they need to. Don’t be afraid to limit your OKRs to 1-2 per team, per quarter. So relentlessly prioritize, start small, don’t try and do it all, and find your healthy balance.

                                      One Question to Ask

                                      •  Can you realistically work on all these OKRs?

                                      Actions To Take

                                      • Start with one, maybe two OKRs
                                      • Execute, learn, refine going into the following quarter

                                      #9 – Categorize your Key Results.

                                      Don’t mix up your “actions” with your “outcomes.” Provide clarity and context by putting the Key Results in the right buckets. Actions are things within your control. Outcomes are human behaviors which are changed. It’s important to know the difference.

                                      One Question to Ask

                                      •  Is this something you can control, or just influence?

                                      Actions To Take

                                      •  Tag each Key Result as either an “action” or an “outcome.”

                                      #10 – Raise the bar high, but not too high or too low.

                                      Don’t try and hit a homerun every time, but also don’t bunt. Hit consistent singles and doubles. You don’t want to burn out your team but you don’t want to make it too easy for them. Find the happy medium.

                                      One Question to Ask

                                      •  Is this a committed OKR, or a stretch?

                                      Actions To Take

                                      • Define your OKRs as either “committed” or “stretches.”
                                      • Ensure day-to-day work isn’t included

                                      #11 – Name your internal OKR commander(s).

                                      If the company doesn’t have a source to go to with questions, comments, or concerns, buy-in will be a struggle.

                                      One Question to Ask

                                      • Who are my highest performers or influencers?

                                      Actions To Take

                                      • Establish “OKR gatekeeper(s)” to QA your OKRs
                                      • Go thru an initial review process before going live
                                      • Certify your OKR commander(s) with external programs

                                      #12 – Really commit to OKRs, but be flexible.

                                      Consistency is key. Trust the process. There are numerous stories around how initially OKRs can be difficult. But give it time, commit to it, the results will follow. It’s like going to the gym or starting a diet – be consistent! Help each other be accountable. OKRs are guardrails, not chains. Business happens fast, so be flexible and adaptable. Don’t be stubborn if things aren’t progressing as expected. Be flexible in your actions more than your outcomes. Don’t be afraid to pivot.

                                      One Question to Ask

                                      •  Are you/we really committed, or is this just a “flavor of the week” tactic?

                                      Actions To Take

                                      • Make OKRs your “shared strategic language”
                                      • Schedule recurring check-ins
                                      • Plan, review ahead of schedule
                                      • Review and learning continuously 

                                      Conclusion

                                      At the end of the day, people, consistency, accountability, and effort are what make executing an OKR strategy successful. You can’t just read a book and be a master of OKRs. You can’t just do them for a quarter and see some success and think you’re a rock star, just like you can miss the mark and think things were a failure. It takes time. It takes experience. It takes repetition. So as long as there’s a commitment to change and achievement, OKRs will take you to where you need to go, and at a minimum, you’ll learn a lot along the way.

                                       

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