Guest Blog: Navigating uncertainty with OKRs

by Jenny Bowes | Apr 08, 2020

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Last week team TBG joined our friends over at Koan for a live webinar to discuss Navigating Uncertainty with OKRs.

In our latest guest blog, Koan bring us their recap of our live webinar.

Roger Longden and Lawrence Walsh of There Be Giants were joined by our friends Matt Tucker and Scott Campbell from Koan, for a conversation about coping with unpredictability, navigating uncertainty and how OKRs can help.

“Right now, we’re finding ourselves in an isolating reality with several distractions, and as a business, the natural reaction may be to focus on the immediate needs relating to this crisis. There might even be a temptation to throw out your OKRs completely during this time of uncertainty. But if you stop using OKRs, you run the risk of losing focus and clarity with your employees, which is now more important than ever, because those teams are no longer working together in a physical office space. During this time of unpredictability, OKRs are valuable because they provide structure and intrinsic rewards to help keep your remote teams aligned and help you in navigating uncertainty.

Since everything has changed in your business, how do you transition from some of the traditional planning processes and set appropriate goals given the current situation? Here are some key steps we recommend taking with your organization as you run a remote planning cycle:

  1. Preparation is key. With remote OKR planning meetings, additional preparation leading up to the sessions is important. Start by revisiting the core business priorities and then work through ideas on what could be accomplished. Set explicit expectations and clear timelines for the group, and make sure to reference your OKR playbook (and even consider updating it so it aligns with the current remote nature of the teams).
  2. Draft Objectives. What works at an offsite or in-person whiteboard session won’t work through Zoom, and you’ll want to prepare for a more structured process, versus an ad hoc style. Come to the planning meetings with draft objectives and be prepared to discuss them. At Koan, we’ve set expectations that everyone on the team is tasked with bringing sample key results, which then helps facilitate a conversation around what OKRs we should be prioritizing.
  3. Shorter OKR cycles. Many businesses are compressing their OKR time frames, so it’s important to keep that in mind that when you’re brainstorming OKRs. Given this time of uncertainty and crisis, perhaps a shorter OKR cycle, like six weeks, could be a good fit to allow teams to move quickly and adapt if needed.
  4. Collaborative Tools. Be prepared to work with your teams using collaborative online tools, like Mural or Idea Hunt. You’ll also want to make sure that you understand how these tools work together with online conferencing tools, like Zoom or Google Hangouts, so the time spent with teams to discuss OKRs is productive.
  5. Selective inclusivity. For remote planning, you want to be inclusive to make sure you have the right people in the virtual room, but these virtual meetings are most productive when it’s the core people that are focused on these objectives.
  6. Everyone has a voice. During these initial meetings, be conscious of overlapping voices. Typically, it’s easier for the loudest voice in the (virtual) room to have their strategies and goals taken forward, but as a leader, you’ll want to make sure everyone has an opportunity to provide their feedback and input. When the loudest voice in the room gets their objectives prioritized, not all stakeholders are invested in the goals.
  7. Maintain regular communication. With remote teams, you’ll want to increase the frequency of communication with your teams and set routines for regular check-ins with work related to OKRs. Habits and routines are a hallmark of high performance in sport and business, and weekly reflections are now more important to keep teams on track.

If you’d like to watch the webinar on-demand, the recording is available here.”