5 min read

[Blog] Why a Vision for OKRs is Critical

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OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) have been around for decades, and with so many companies working remotely, they are now more popular than ever. To ensure an effective roll-out to your OKR program, focus upfront on your mission & vision.

Setting the Stage

The OKR movement is very real right now. OKR technology companies are getting funding left and right. Google Trends shows more interest in the OKR framework now than ever before. And businesses in need of a better way to manage strategy remotely are jumping on the OKR train left and right, and seeing varying degrees of success. Remote work was the catalyst for this change. Still, for OKRs to be a sustained part of our new remote work cultures as we enter into the “better normal,” leaders need to implement methodically, purposely, and effectively – not haphazardly. There are many components of a strong OKR program, but we will focus on one aspect: to create your OKR mission and vision.

Unique Examples

When we think about missions and visions, we think of grandiose statements which stir up emotions that lead to action. Outlining these statements is extremely valuable if done correctly because it can become a sustainable rallying cry for people, both today and tomorrow.

A great non-business mission was outlined by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 when he discussed going to the moon.

What’s great about this mission for space exploration is it’s specific, simple, timebound, and verifiable (assuming you don’t believe in conspiracy theories). He made this speech in 1961.

Here is a similar speech just a year later in 1962.

This is a homerun quote right here.

“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and returned safely to earth in July of 1969, six months before the decade ended. Mission accomplished.

Practical Application

Creating an OKR mission and vision is similar but different. The ideal scenario is your normal vision and mission statements are already baked into the fabric of your culture, so when you introduce (or try and improve) your OKR program and its mission and vision, this can be a nice compliment to it. The purpose of documenting these statements is to explain why your organization is doing this, where the organization is going, and how OKRs will help you (the employee) get the business there.

The reason this is important is when we consume anything or participate in any work-related activity (or otherwise), we constantly ask ourselves, “what’s in it for me?” If we see something we like, we engage. If we see something we don’t like, we disengage. Thus, your mission is to make OKRs attractive. It’s pretty basic. When it’s shared that OKRs will be rolled out, realize 99.9% of your people will think, “what’s in this for me?” either consciously or subconsciously. This is where it’s critical to explain how OKR will benefit them and not the business.

Examples You Can Workshop

Mission and vision statements can be confusing and convoluted, and rightfully so. They tend to be vague and interchangeable, but the main difference between a vision and a mission is a vision is forever ongoing. It’s never fully finished. It’s always a moving mark. It’s a future state that you want to strive for. Missions, on the other hand, are more specific, tangible, achievable, and constantly changing. Here are some examples of an OKR vision.

  • “OKRs enable us to stay at the forefront of innovation continuously.”
  • “OKRs empower and inspire each employee to do their best work.”
  • “OKRs inspire people to do quality work which benefits others.”

You can also come up with your own mission for OKRs, and here are some examples of what that could look like.

“We are committing to OKRs because if we do this effectively we can….

  • Establish a strategic rhythm that reduces chaos, distractions, and burnout.”
  • Measure the business in a way that equally values quality, quantity, and well-being.”
  • Create a thriving work culture that puts the ultimate trust in employees to drive business results.”
  • Focus on the priorities and consistently hold ourselves accountable to them.”

What can be equally powerful is specifying a future that you wish to stay away from. This operationalizes your fear, putting it behind you so to propel you forward. Here are some examples of that.

“We are committing to OKRs because if we don’t do this effectively we will….

  • Our customers will be unable to effectively diagnosis patients
  • Lose 20% market share.
  • Become even more complacent, resulting in a 50% decrease in headcount.

There is no right or wrong answer here. Vision creation is a messy process, but it’s worth it. Take the time to clearly create a mission and vision for OKRs and share it effectively with the entire organization. They need to understand “why” the company is doing this and “how” it’s going to get done. They need to know this isn’t just another flavor of the week acronym. Your OKR program could very well determine the success of your business’s future state.

Evolve or Perish

Many companies woke up one day to find the competition has passed them by, and they were no longer relevant. To truly sustain your competitive advantage and remain agile, it all starts with your people. You can write the world’s best OKRs and have the best OKR platform to manage them, but if you don’t explain to the “boots on the ground” folks and get them excited and bought in, then it doesn’t matter.

Sure, you can still survive on the old ways that got you where you are today, but one day that approach will run its course. Forward-thinking organizations know this, so they continuously learn and improve. Now more than ever, OKRs can be the ultimate catalyst to rally around, but only if you do it right. Create and communicate your mission and vision for OKRs. Your people will appreciate it. And if they don’t, maybe your first mission is to move on from them completely.


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