How to empower teams to reach higher productivity using OKRs

by Jenny Bowes | Jun 21, 2021

time icon 3 mins

Learn about ways that OKRs help to create a positive culture with happy, motivated employees

The past year has been chaos for many organisations and shifted perspectives for many leaders and employees. Managers have been challenged to navigate a remote work setting while maintaining productivity, leaving employees feeling disconnected, misaligned, and ultimately burnt out. 

Matt Tucker, CEO of Koan, recently sat down with, Roger Longden and Georgia Parker of There Be Giants, and Tim Meinhardt of Atruity, for an in-depth discussion about key learnings from the pandemic and best practices on how to leverage OKRs for optimal productivity. This conversation was a great opportunity to hear from leading OKR experts around the world for some interesting perspectives about ways to create and maintain a positive goals culture within the organisation. 

A global pandemic and the massive side effects

The pandemic has created a lot of challenges for organisations of all sizes and across all industries and locations. With the trend shift to remote work, one of the biggest realizations was that some companies were thrown a massive curveball when the pandemic hit if they were not organised and aligned on strategy. The shift to remote work created the imperative for alignment and to get clear about how you’re using OKRs. 

The pandemic also elevated the importance of adaptability and making sure you have the right foundation in place. If you’re organised, when strategy changes, it makes it very easy for teams to execute based on the adjusted strategy and create the results you want. Having the constructs in place, creating a foundation where you can adapt quickly, even on shorter timelines, is really helpful to running successful organisations. 

Returning to work: the cultural impact after the pandemic 

At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a burst of energy, where none of us knew exactly what the impact would be, there were shortened planning cycles, everything changed in an instant. Now, here we are, so many months later, and the feeling is very different. 

With the pandemic winding down, many organisations are now trying to understand the best ways to return to the office, or set up a hybrid approach. The reality is that a one size fits all policy is not going to work. Individuals have discovered different preferences for how they work and manage their lifestyles. Some have really missed the office for a variety of reasons, while others really like the value and flexibility of working remotely. The key is to maximize the use of the office and retain that flexibility in a way that works for everybody, including the business.

The benefits of OKRs post-pandemic

The best way of using OKRs is to keep them at the team level, where they can work cross-functionally with other teams. In a knowledge-based environment, OKRs can give employees the chance to collaborate and work cross-functionally with other teams, ultimately allowing teams to define their strategy that connects back to the company strategy. 

With the move to a hybrid workplace, OKRs should act as the connective tissue between teams and the key priorities of the business, providing the focal point for communication, progress, and connection with co-workers. By acting as the nucleus that everyone rallies around, it creates regular conversations around progress through the period.

OKRs are not only a way to drive productivity but actually foster a culture, providing for employee well-being, and the positive aspects of how you work together. Empowering individuals the ability to choose what they work on not only leads to increased accountability and motivation, but it also helps employees cope with the burnout and stress and uncertainty, by helping employees feel psychologically safe and feel like they can be successful in an effective organisation, 

Sustainable OKR programmes and build lasting change

Implementing OKRs requires a cultural shift, but in order to ensure OKRs have a lasting impact, you want to maintain the positive foundation that was built. While each organisation is different, there are some key takeaways that you can do to continue on the right path:

  • Education and buy-in – take the time to make sure everyone is on the same page, is bought into the programme, understands the purpose of OKRs and how they will be used moving forward. 
  • Communication and collaboration – OKRs are best done when they’re worked on collaboratively, and transparent in nature. 
  • Empower champions – Leverage the champions and evangelists to advocate for the benefits of the program and rally the team
  • Consistent management – Build out consistent practices and habits related to OKRs, and make sure the process of running OKRs should be part of the regular business processes.  
  • Reward and recognition – when things go well, celebrate them and acknowledge those who have contributed to the success. And conversely, when things aren’t going well, have honest conversations and collaboratively figure out the best way to move forward. 

To hear the entire podcast episode, here’s the link you need. Or, listen via your preferred podcast platform.