Execute Agile Strategy with OKR

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How-To: Execute Agile Strategy With OKRs

Companies across the world realize that agility can enhance the performance of teams and departments across a given organization. Agility is the ability to realign the organization towards promising opportunities quickly.

When properly implemented, an OKR framework enables organizations to execute strategy with agility. Following an iterative, cascading approach to goal setting, OKRs empower teams and individuals to make timely, strategic choices that lead to better business outcomes. Let’s learn more about executing agile strategy with OKR.

Focus Only on Your Top 2 to 3 Priorities

Fewer objectives help teams align and prioritize

To succeed as an organization, it is essential to have no more than two to three to level priorities. Setting too many strategic priorities not only becomes difficult to manage, but it also becomes problematic as teams become more agile and make more strategic decisions when compared to non-agile teams.

If an organization is trying to focus on too many priorities, departments and teams will lack clarity and focus, and will likely be unable to deliver significant improvements in any single area.

OKRs should provide employees with clarity, not overload them

Once the C-Suite has clarity on the organization’s strategic priorities, the same should be done by all employees so they can create and align contributing objectives throughout the organization. It is essential to communicate only the strategic priorities that are essential for the company and not overload them with an array of tasks that are not directly related to your set OKRs.  For this reason, we recommend no more than two to three Objectives per department, team or individual and only two to three Key Results per Objective.

Create clear, specific objectives at all levels of the organization

Defining clear OKRs at all levels of the organization keeps all the teams on the same page. For this reason, OKRs should not be set in a top-down fashion. Instead, employees at each level should be encouraged to make changes to the proposed OKRs, and define what success looks like (Key Results) for themselves or their team.

People Stretch recommends setting 2-3 Objectives per level (company, department, team, individual).  They should be written to be both inspirational and aspirational, reaching as many teams as possible.  Below are some best practices for writing effective Objectives.

Leverage Accelerated Planning Cycles to Prioritize Resources

The OKR cycle helps you prioritize resources by defining the goals that are to be accomplished every quarter.

The OKR Cycle

The quarterly OKR cycle consists of three phases: Strategic Planning, Execution, and Retrospective.  Strategic Planning is a two-week period at the beginning of the quarter where executives identify top-level objectives that are of highest priority to the organization. The set goals are then cascaded down to the individual level through a series of pre-determined meetings.  Leadership and managers then engage direct reports and their teams around OKRs on a regular cadence through the Execution phase. At the end of the quarter, the whole organization should come together in a week long Retrospective to celebrate successes and addressing any obstacles to achieving OKRs in the past or future.

OKR Meeting Planning

Managers now have an efficient way to prepare for meetings and keep individuals or teams on track throughout.  By leveraging OKRs, managers have already identified the key topics of conversation for their team or direct reports and have data on their progress.

OKR Team Reviews and 1-On-1s

Striking the right balance between team reviews and 1-on-1’s is difficult but necessary to implement a successful OKR framework. People Stretch recommends conducting weekly 1-on-1’s and bi-weekly team reviews. If this sounds too aggressive for your teams, aim for at least bi-weekly 1-on-1’s and monthly team reviews. If you stick with anything less than this proposed model, you will risk losing the effectiveness of OKR, and all your efforts so far may prove futile.

Empower Teams For Success

OKRs are agile strategy execution and make teams committed to growth by enhancing organizational focus and transparency.

OKR Creates Commitment To Growth Outcomes

The Strategic Planning phase of the OKR cycle ends when leaders conduct an OKR team share meeting to finalize OKRs and commit to each other what they will be working on for the quarter as a department, team, or individual basis. Individuals cannot be accountable unless they commit to the outcomes the organization desires. PSS recommends this approach to align teams and cultivate awareness around how everyone is contributing. The team should make a final public commitment to the leader and team by sharing their OKRs with them and enlisting any support needed.

OKR Creates Transparency Across Teams and Departments

OKRs involve the active participation of all employees in the form of brainstorming sessions. It embeds transparency within teams and departments. Top management quickly identifies if any teams or departments are lagging or facing challenges or need immediate assistance. As a result, all the involved teams and departments are well-aware of the set goals and the direction they need to work.

The Team Share Session mentioned above nurtures peer accountability as teams and departments have a better understanding of how each department or team is impacting the outcomes the company is working towards. The final benefit of this session is to transition the focus of leaders and below from planning into execution mode.

OKR Gets Teams To Stretch For Big Goals

If implemented correctly, OKRs can make way for remarkable transformation that might seem like magic at first look. Setting aggressive targets make employees work smarter and innovate new ways of doing things.

At first, the set goals might seem impossible, but eventually, the teams work hard to accomplish them, making seemingly impossible goals possible.

The Team Share Session mentioned above nurtures peer accountability as teams and departments have a better understanding of how each department or team is impacting the outcomes the company is working towards. The final benefit of this session is to transition the focus of leaders and below from planning into execution mode.

Contributing Objectives Create Cross-Departmental Alignment

Make way for cross-departmental alignment by cascading objectives such that every department is clear of their set goal and works in unison to meet the defined targets.

Reduce Double Work

OKRs eliminate guesswork by keeping the communication open across teams and departments. Every team member becomes aware of the set goals, thus ruling out any confusion and double work.  Reducing double work can save organizations thousands to millions a year depending on the size of the business.

Increased Visibility Allows Collaboration Across Departments and Teams

OKRs provide visibility and clarity on the goals to be achieved. This makes way for active collaboration between departments and teams and ensures progress is made efficiently.  To make sure everyone has access to OKR information, it is recommended to use a software tool for tracking, reporting, and analytics.

Teams Meet to Identify Needs and Barriers to Success

Conduct weekly or bi-weekly team-meets to recognize the needs of your team and any barriers to success. This should be done at ALL levels of an organization, ensuring that as many teams and departments, and ultimately the organization, hit their objectives for the given quarter or year.

Conclusion

OKRs are agile by approach. Each OKR cycle consists of three phases: Strategic Planning, Execution, and The Retrospective. OKR allows organizations to review their performance each quarter and set their goals accordingly for the next quarter. Implementing a regular cadence for meetings and check-ins ensure that everything is going as planned.

Do you want to create a more agile organization by leveraging OKRs? People Stretch Solutions is here to help. Contact us to learn more.

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