Building Your Performance Early Warning System

by Roger Longden | Feb 07, 2017

time icon 3 mins

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.

One of the things I find refreshing about OKRs is that – when managed well – they promote open, honest and constructive conversation, both between individuals and within (and perhaps even across) teams. This is in stark contrast to the “traditional” objectives-based annual appraisal approach, which is still common in many organisations.

There are many advantages to this change, but I believe one of the biggest is that it brings to a surface a level of confidence about completing an objective and achieving the key results set in an agreed timeframe.

The clients I work with make sure that checking in on confidence levels happens as part of their weekly rhythm – usually in the set-up meeting for the week ahead on Monday mornings. As this is a team conversation, the person responsible has the chance to share their confidence levels. If they are strong, then great. If they feel they are behind, then the conversation can move into coaching, collaborating or supporting. This will never happen if performance is only discussed on a one-to-one basis.

As a leader, there are things you need to do for confidence tracking to happen and to work well.

First, you need to be clear (through your language and behaviour) that it’s ok to say if confidence is taking a hit, and that you won’t be beating people up for it. This is all about giving permission to people to be honest, something they may need to work on if they’ve been burnt and berated by managers in the past. You set the tone, so it’s down to you to take the lead on this. I’m not suggesting you go easy on people at all, they still need to take responsibility. There is a difference between them having a moan, or offering an honest opinion followed by a constructive suggestion.

It really is in your best interests to work on building this dialogue with the team. After all, wouldn’t you rather know if something was going off track when you still had time to bring it back?

Secondly, confidence tracking works best when you don’t just talk about confidence levels, but also track them. This could be achieved by monitoring the expected degree of task completion by the end of a given period. I believe this is just as important as tracking actual progress.

All the systems I use to help clients manage and track their OKRs have the ability to forecast confidence levels in some way. 15Five & 7Geese both have a traffic light function against each objective. MyObjectives goes a little further by providing you with a number of customisable levels of completion (six actually) which you can define with what works best for you (i.e. percentages, description, numerical). This then feeds into an points forecast for the quarter.

Remember, you’re using OKRs to drive high performance. They themselves will not do that alone.  You need to wrap OKRs around the right culture and habits. When you do, you’ll start to enjoy more honest, constructive and focused conversations, and hopefully see improved results.

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?’

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