Objectives and Key Results (OKRs for short) are changing how companies define and communicate success. Why not have a read through our free beginners guide to OKRs to get more information on how you can align and grow your company.
Chances are if you’re reading this, you’ve already read a few of my other blogs on the great things you can do with OKRs and where to start with them. If not, then why not check them out?
What I really love about OKRs is that they have a lot in common with the agile approach to project management, even though they are designed for managing growth and not projects. Agile has become the de facto approach for developing systems and software. It is credited with bringing down development costs, improving timescales and being able to flex with the volatility and pace of the digital sector.
A major element of agile is “sprinting.”
Sprint cycles represent a chunk of time (typically a week or two) when the team focuses on progressing specific tasks from a backlog made up of the work needing to be done. Actually, I prefer to call them “deliverables” rather than tasks. This keeps the focus on what the outcome needs to be, rather than just what needs to be done.
The team sets up the sprint. They then hold regular meetings (called “scrums”) to check on progress and any potential barriers that may have to be overcome to get everything across the line. At the end of the sprint cycle, there’s a wash u. This looks at how things went and what could be improved in the next sprint.
It’s the reflection at the end of the sprint cycles that makes all the difference. This is when you have the chance to make changes to how the next sprint is run – it’s genuine continuous improvement!
So what have sprint cycles got to do with OKRs?
OKRs work on a cyclical basis too, so you have the chance to reflect and continually improve the way you run them. This is another reason I love them! I would place a bet that continuous improvement has never been a feature of any traditional appraisal process. If it had been, there might not be such a high level of dissatisfaction with appraisals today (92%, according to our research).
The key to making sure this reflection happens is to build it into part of your cyclical routine. This is especially suited to the end of a quarter, and overall at the end of the year. Some teams may even decide to “chunk” their OKRs and run them as weekly or fortnightly sprints. In this case, you could include them in that.
I find the best prompts for a reflective conversation are:
What would I stop doing?
What would I start doing?
What would I keep doing?
This simple structure has been my go-to for many years now. It comes from my days of running continuous improvement programmes in IT engineering.
So, why not give sprint cycles a try? Put these three questions onto the agenda for the next end-of-quarter OKR review.
OKRs represent a performance management methodology which connects the work of individual employees to your company’s overall strategy. Looking to learn more? Read our blog ‘What are OKRS and how can they help my business?’