The Tension Between OKR and Project Management

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The Tension Between OKR and Project Management

Many organizations want to integrate OKRs with their project management workflow. However, there is often confusion between OKR and project management. So, what is the tension between these two critical aspects of productivity? And how can you integrate project management into your OKR framework?


In this article, we will explore both OKR and project management in detail. We will also understand the difference between them. Let’s get started.

What is OKR?

OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results.  OKR (Objectives and Key Results) is a strategic goal-setting framework that empowers individuals at all levels of the organization to attain better business outcomes.

Setting top-level Objectives quarterly allow departments, teams, and individuals to commit and align their own Objectives to them. In a series of dedicated workshops, individuals get excited about their work, become aware of how they contribute to organizational strategy and increase cross-departmental collaboration.

Objectives

An Objective is your goal – something that you would like to accomplish soon. For instance, you might want to achieve record revenues while increasing profitability or simplify product messaging to bring clarity across the user experience. An Objective doesn’t have to be technical. Instead, it should be clear so that all employees in the organization can understand it effortlessly.

Key Results

A Key Result is a measurable outcome that tracks your progress towards the Objective. For instance, if achieving record revenues is the Objective for this quarter, a 30% increase in recurring revenue may be an excellent place to start. It ensures that you are heading in the right direction and will most likely achieve your Objective.

The Typical OKR Cycle

To ensure the successful implementation of OKR, it is necessary to adopt a three-part quarterly meeting cadence known as the OKR Cycle.

Part 1: Strategic Planning

Implementing a successful OKR begins with Strategic Planning. This comprises of brainstorming sessions led by the company’s top management, which involve all the teams and departments. This phase involves the inputs of all associated stakeholders of the organization. This keeps the entire company invested in the goal from the get-go.

Learn more about Strategic Planning here.

Part 2: Execution

Once strategic planning is done, and an Objective is set, the next step is to execute it well. It is essential to conduct check-ins and one-on-ones to ensure that you are moving on the right track. It helps highlight any crucial struggles and challenges that your employees might be facing early on in the process.

Learn more about Execution here.

OKR Check-ins

Conduct OKR check-ins and evaluate the performance of employees. Identify the areas where the employees fell short. Create a framework to deal with the challenges to accomplish the objectives for the quarter.

Team Reviews

OKRs are successful only when they are tracked regularly, as frequently as every week. Teams should conduct weekly reviews to keep a tab on progress, identify any roadblocks, and propose solutions related to OKR progress.

Part 3: Retrospective

After the Execution phase, it is time to reflect on progress—retrospect as to what went wrong. Analyze the good and not-so-good points about the OKR, and encourage your employees to perform even better moving ahead.

Learn more about completing Retrospectives here.

Why Should I Use OKR?

OKR is a strategic approach to focus, align, and commit your employees around top-level strategic Objectives. This is accomplished by cascading Objectives throughout the organization and a dedicated meeting cadence to ensure employees stay on track.

What is Project Management?

Project management coordinates a team to accomplish a set objective on time and within budget. The main constraints to focus on in  project management include time, cost, and resources to allocate

Project Initiation

This is the first stage of the project management cycle to analyze whether the project is valuable and feasible. This stage involves creating a business case to study and justify the need of the project.

Project Planning

Once the project is approved, it is essential to understand the requirements to accomplish the project, including costs you will incur, the time you will need, and the resources you require.

Project Monitoring and Control

This stage works simultaneously with the third stage. It involves monitoring the progress and performance of the budget to ensure that it progresses as planned.

Project Closure

This is the last stage in which the final deliverables are handed over to the client. This also the time to finalize reporting and the project punch list.

Why should I use Project Management?

Project management is necessary to ensure the feasibility and profitability of the project. It ensures that you have the required resources in hand to complete the project within the stipulated time to achieve the expected outcomes.

Leveraging OKR and Project Management Together

Don’t turn OKRs into a project task list

Do not confuse between OKRs and project management tasks. While OKRs are long-term goals, projects are temporary endeavors divided into a series of specific tasks.

Key Result vs Task

While OKRs use Key Results to analyze if you have achieved a specific Objective, a project uses temporary tasks to bring individual projects or initiatives to completion.

Motivate Your Project Teams with OKR

OKRs help you motivate your project teams by keeping them focused, understanding their concerns, and providing them with a framework to stay aligned with the company’s Objectives.

Why combine OKR with Project Management?

Integrate OKR with project management to focus on the bigger picture while completing short-term projects and tasks. An OKR keeps your team engaged, focused, and determined. It ensures that all the employees are aware of the company’s long-term goals and work in unison to achieve them.

Some tools, like Asana, natively integrate project management into your OKR framework to provide clarity across these two domains and streamline your tech stack.

Conclusion

As you can see, both OKR and project management walk hand in hand. Typically, an OKR focuses on the bigger picture that most project managers talk about. Thus, it makes sense to streamline your workflow by keeping things organized and sorted. To learn more on how you can integrate project management with OKR, consult our OKR experts today.

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