A Typical OKR Cycle
What does it look like?
As we already discussed in our last post, Objective and Key Results (OKR) is a goal-setting framework that helps companies implement a solid strategy to meet their strategic objectives.
The ultimate goal of OKR is to make every member of the organization – from the leaders and stakeholders to the team members – understand the company’s key objectives through measurable actions.
The OKR Cycle
An OKR cycle aims to improve teamwork and communication and meet strategic goals. We break it down into the following three phases, which all have a unique set of meeting cadences:
- Strategic Planning
The OKR Cycle: Strategic Planning
Setting of high-level strategic OKRs at the beginning of the year, with the help of inputs extracted from the team
It is essential to mention here that top-level Objectives should not be set up by stakeholders and top executives in isolation – they need input from the whole team.
OKR Development & Validation
Teams and individuals develop their tactical OKRs using a two-way approach. Once the objectives have been set up, it is necessary to get them validated by the executive team by collecting appropriate team feedback. This is a time for executives to ensure alignment and find cross-departmental strategies that are a result of the OKR framework.
Learn more about OKR Strategic Planning here.
The OKR Cycle: Execution
Once the OKRs are developed, map interdependencies between the teams and ensure that all teams are aligned on the work they must complete for a successful quarter. Alignment is an ongoing process and should also occur in the strategic planning of the OKR cycle.
Track & Repeat
Every OKR owner is responsible for tracking and updating their Key Results progress every week. Teams should conduct weekly reviews to track progress, roadblocks, and solutions to OKR progress. If your company uses quarterly OKR, you must review the OKR halfway quarterly during a mid-term OKR review.
Learn more about OKR Execution here.
The OKR Cycle: Retrospective
Towards the end of the cycle, you should have a Retrospective session to ‘reset and rinse.’ This is an excellent time to celebrate the wins and review where you may have fallen short the previous quarter. Retrospectives typically take place in the last two weeks of the quarter and should involve all OKR participants.
Learn more about OKR Retrospectives here.
An Example OKR Cycle
4 to 6 Weeks Before Quarter
Start brainstorming the annual and Q1 OKRs for the company. The first phase of the OKR cycle begins with senior leaders brainstorming the top-line company OKRs.
Typically, most companies define the OKRs for Q1. However, it is always the best practice to set your annual plan to steer your company goals in the right direction.
2 Weeks at Start of Quarter
This is when you should be communicating OKRs for the upcoming year and Q1 with all the top-leaders, stakeholders, and team members. Communication is necessary to keep everyone on the same page and make them aware of the common goal they are working on.
Beginning of Quarter
Once the company’s common goals are communicated, it is the time for teams to develop their respective OKRs in line with the company-wide OKRs and propose them at the meetings.
1 Week after Start of Quarter
One week into the quarter is the right time to share the OKRs of different contributors. This process works best when there is proper communication and negotiation between contributors and managers.
During the quarter, the employees must measure and share their process. Managers are also encouraged to check the progress status with their team members. To ensure that all teams are working in the right direction to achieve the goals, contributors should assess the OKRs’ status and how likely it is to achieve the set OKRs. If it is anticipated that it is tough to achieve the set goals, you may need to recalibrate.
Towards the End Of Quarter
When you are nearing the end of the quarter, it is the time for the employees to reflect ad grade their OKRs. Employees need to self-assess themselves and analyze their achievements so far.
It is highly likely that you have OKRs from the previous cycle that were not achieved. In such a case, they are included in the next quarter or discarded entirely if they are no longer necessary.
Various companies use the Vision of their company as an Objective that teams pursue quarter after quarter. For instance, delivering value to your customers is a vision you might want to roll over from one quarter to the next. Here, the company might want to keep the objective same for various quarters, creating new Key Results for each OKR cycle.
Companies can also establish the same Key Results, only changing the targets. For instance, think of metrics like Net Promoter Score and Revenue. You can choose to change the targets over quarters, keeping the Key Results the same.
Best Practices for using OKRs
- Companies tend to skip individual objectives, as, more often than not, they don’t work. However, if some of your employees prefer setting up individual OKRs, you might conduct another session for them.
- Smaller tactical periods often work fine. We suggest using 3-month tactical OKR periods. If you are a small-to-medium company and setting up OKRs for the first time, you might prefer going for 6 or 8 weeks.
- Re-evaluate OKRs if they are not achieved in the set timeframe. If needed, you can also choose to add them to the next quarter. However, if you see that a Key Result was missed for more than two tactical cycles, it will be best to skip it as you don’t need it anymore.
- It is okay even if some of your Key Results remain the same and only target value changes. There even might be Key Results and target values that remain constant, like profit or NPS. In that case, the things that will change are the team’s activities and projects that will drive the change and associated metrics.
As you can see, it is crucial to set the right OKR cycle to meet the set goals and take the company in the right direction. You might even like to stick to specific approaches depending on your industry and team, based on the main OKR principles.
For more information on the OKR cycle – strategy, execution, and retrospection – stay tuned for the next posts.