We live in a time where everything seems possible but the path to reaching those goals can be very tricky. Old working or management paradigms reach its limits pretty soon when facing todays challenges in a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (short VUCA). OKRs offer a lightweight framework to overcome those obstacles by helping you to set goals in a transparent way and to actively working on them. CAUTION: You still need to dig for the gold yourself but you will get the best tool available today. The definition of an OKR is quite simple:
Short and qualitative description of the goal that is easy to remember. About 1-4 Objectives per team.
- Objective - Where to go? This is the WHAT.
List of quantitative indicators with a base and target value. About 2-5 Key Results per Objective.
- Key Results - Which steps are necessary to reach the goal? This is the HOW.
Most of the OKRs shall be aligned with the purpose, vision, and the values of the company. The management teams plays a central role through leading the process by defining the company OKRs. Each team follows afterwards by deriving from the company OKRs. Besides that vertical alignment there is also full transparency between the teams to synchronize horizontally.
The best goals are useless if defined once per year and then put into the drawer. Things are so dynamic today that we need to be flexible and keep a certain stability at the same time. OKRs address this by working with different time horizons. Best practices show that a year or shorter is useful for company level OKRs where the teams work with a horizon of about three months. Several short "check-in" gatherings allow the teams to track the progress and to discuss necessary initiatives to work on the goals. These check points occur multiple times per month to keep the process active and flexible.
The approach with OKRs not only changes the way we set goals but it also touches other topics related to the development of the whole organization. An important part is the new understanding of management through lateral leadership. The complexity is high and steering from the top is no longer working at all or not efficiently. OKRs are crafted by the teams guided through the company OKRs and supported by the team leader. This approach supports the intrinsic motivation and uses the full creative and intellectual potential of the whole company.
When working with OKRs one sets quite challenging goals without connection to financial reward systems. This allows to get gentle out of the comfort zone to learn and grow. The result are responsive organizations that found a recipe to deal with VUCA.