Whether you are just getting started with OKRs or have a few quarters under your belt, most likely, you fall into one of two categories when it comes to the overall success of your OKR Program. You are either 1) trending in the right direction or 2) trending in the wrong direction. It’s that simple.
The Problem with Not Measuring Your OKR Program
The lack of consistent measurement, improvement, and optimization with the OKR Program itself is why it often ends up entirely on one side of the spectrum or the other. The reason it’s probably not clear which category you are associated with because you do not have a way to measure the success of your OKR Program. You are purely going on gut instincts or based on the quarterly achievements (or failures) of your OKRs, which can be a problem.
Not Treating OKRs as Cultural Change
One of the main problem areas associated with this approach is not recognizing that the true purpose of OKRs is to make a cultural impact on your people and the way your employees approach goals. Just using OKRs as a means to reach your business metrics means you are missing a big piece of the equation here.
Changes and improvements to the long-term cultural dynamics such as employee empowerment, motivation, alignment, and purpose make an OKR Program great, not just arbitrary achievement.
Wrong Reasons to Implement OKRs:
- “OKRs will help us hit the “metrics that matter.”
- “We need to improve the return on investment for our stakeholders using OKRs.”
- “By implementing OKRs, we will increase synergy in cross-departmental collaboration and optimize internal efficiencies while driving operational profitability of the bottom-line.”
Right Reasons to Implement OKRs:
- “We want to build a better, more engaging, and dynamic work culture.”
- “OKRs will ensure employees are excited about our business and proactively contributing every day.”
- “Our focus is to reduce the corporate mumbo jumbo and ambiguity and start solving real business problems for customers with OKRs.”
These “right” types of Objectives should be the goals of OKRs because that’s where the true magic of OKRs happens. When there’s compounding energy and momentum from a collection of aligned and self-motivated individuals to achieve the business’s vision. If you are approaching it with the wrong reasons, you might find some short-term success, but it will not be sustainable in the long run.
Not Knowing When You Are Failing
Another issue with not having a way to measure your OKR Program is you don’t know if you are failing until it’s too late. What will be a leading indicator you are failing using the methodology? You don’t make the course corrections necessary and end up giving up, and this is why so many OKR implementations fail. You don’t effectively measure the OKR Program itself and just go through the motions, which causes an inconsistent and lackadaisical mindset. You skip your check-ins, don’t make your updates, don’t talk about the OKRs themselves, the OKR Program becomes stagnant. It becomes homework. If you have reached a boiling point and thought about saying, “eff this, we’re going back to our old way of doing things,” perhaps it’s time to rethink how you are approaching OKRs and measuring success. Don’t give up, though, because, like any positive change, it’s not easy.
Not Doubling Down On Successes
In addition to the challenges above, a lack of measurement with your OKR Program can mean you don’t double down on your successes and leave growth opportunities on the table. Not celebrating wins within your company related to your OKR Program is a missed opportunity to build credibility, especially with the doubters and haters. Recognizing and even rewarding individuals and teams when something directly related to their OKR efforts produces significant change, and replicating that success, is what can make a good OKR Program a great one. So even if you’ve jumped over some of the common pitfalls and challenges with implementing OKRs, without precise measurement of the OKR Program itself, you won’t recognize how you are improving and changing your business culture.
So how can all these options be mitigated? How will you look back over the last year and know without a shadow of a doubt it was a success (or, in the worst-case scenario, a failure)?
The answer is simple. Define an OKR for your OKR Program.
Define an OKR for your OKR Program
When a specific OKR tracks the success of your OKR Program, it can provide a lot of clarity around progress. It is an often overlooked (if not wholly ignored or unknown) way to keep your fingers on the pulse of how you are doing with OKRs, but it can be beneficial.
Measure the OKR Program, Not Business Growth
This OKR shouldn’t be tied to metrics such as revenue growth, customer churn, or profitability. Just thinking that the success of the OKR program is based on how much you grow, for example, would be a big misstep. If you succeed, you might think it was just because of your default operating mode and not as a direct result of the program. Growth metrics also only tell one part of the story in that you can always grow a business faster and higher, but at what cost? Thinking about the success of your OKR Program in unique ways will yield excellent results. So measure the OKR Program precisely, not vanity metrics.
Sharing is Caring
We’ve discussed before the importance of outlining and communicating a vision for OKRs. Everyone understands “why” you are doing this, but pairing that vision with the qualitative measurement of an OKR can be transformative. It provides insights into how the OKR Program will be evaluated. It enables employees to get involved and share ideas. It allows everyone to understand what they need to do to contribute clearly.
Pair Internal Metrics Together
When defining OKR One, make sure you don’t pick a singular or arbitrary form of success measurement. Pairing metrics together in a complimentary way gives you balance, so you can always keep yourself in check. Looking at alternative forms of measurement of your OKR Program such as usage, adoption, engagement, or employee satisfaction are great ways to measure and track success over time.
Here are some other examples you can refine:
- % of teams using OKRs in a quarter
- # of employees creating an OKRs
- % achievement on committed, stretch, or moonshot OKRs
- Satisfaction rate with OKRs above 90% (survey-driven)
- Increase in OKR Certifications from x to y
There are plenty of great ways to measure the effectiveness of your OKR Program, even if you are already up and running. So take the time to figure out what success looks like for your business. It will pay off in the long run.
Not only should you do this for your internal OKR Program, but start doing it with your new customers as well! This way, you can mutually understand and track what success looks like and gauge how you are doing along the way. If you documented what a customer wants to achieve with your product in 12 months, and it’s established, measurable, and verifiable (and you hit all the marks), it’ll make that upcoming renewal a lot easier.