Manage change with OKRs

by Roger Longden | Jan 10, 2020

time icon 3 mins

“What are OKRs?” is something we hear regularly and something we’re working pretty damn hard to change. Helping businesses is something we love, and we know a lot of businesses say this, but we really mean it. Our mission is to help 5,000 more businesses become even more awesome, and change with OKRs. What you quantify as being awesome is really down to your objectives, but we work with our clients to help them along the road.

Seeing as we’ve mentioned objectives, it’s a very good place to start. Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start; when you read, you begin with A-be-see; when you sing, you begin with do-re-mi and when you plan for growth, we think you should start with OKR. Yes, we did just reference the sound of music, but it fits nicely with what we’re trying to put across – so why not?

Objectives are purposeful, qualitative descriptions of what you want to achieve. Key Results are a set of metrics which measure your progress towards an objective, and if you haven’t guessed it yet, the ‘KR’ of OKR stands for key results. The main aim of the OKR methodology is that is works to align your business and everyone in it, so everyone knows what success measure they should be working towards. What’s important is that everyone knows part of this sentence; transparency is essential for change with OKRs to be successful and ensures all employees know that they are working towards the organisations’ current end goal.

We like to think of rowing when we talk about OKRs. You may think it’s random – but bear with me. In an eight-person rowing crew, everybody understands their end goal – it’s to win the race; whether that be at the local river, in the Olympics or the University boat race. All crew members need to understand their role within the crew to ensure the race is won. If one crew member is out of sync with the other seven rowers then the cadence, speed and outcome of the race is likely to be affected. Business goals are very similar – if people are pulling or rowing in all different directions, you’re unlikely to meet your goals or win the race. And that’s where OKRs come in.

I’m already using KPIs, so how are OKRs any different?

Oh if I had a $ for every time I’ve been asked this one….

Trying thinking of KPIs as being your dashboard for your business – they are just like the instruments on your car dashboard.  You need to know if you have enough gas in the tank (or charge in your battery!) to last the journey. To bring this back to business, a pretty standard KPI might be liquidity or your average number of debtor days; both really important measures which help you understand your cash position.

But, what about the route you will take to help you reach your destination?  Your regular instruments can’t tell you that, so you need a sat nav and that’s what your OKRs are for; they should show you how (ie. the route you will take) you will achieve your business priorities (ie. your destination).  Think of your KRs as useful waypoints which help you to check you’re on the right path.

Are OKRs right for our organisation?

Don’t get me wrong – OKRs aren’t for everyone, they’re definitely not your magic wand. What they excel at, however, is providing a framework for growth and if looked after, they ensure all employees know what it is they’re supposed to be achieving. Can you say that about your business? If the answer is no, then why not give OKRs a second thought? Want to dip your toe into the magical waters of OKRs? We’ve set up a catalogue of fantastic tools for you to download and check out at your leisure, and should you have any OKR related questions or you just simply fancy a chat about your business and where to go next book a call with one of our Giants today.

Want to know more about how you can change with OKRs? Check out Giant Talk – the world’s first OKR podcast for weekly conversations between our Giants and their business heroes.