Tuesday, November 24, 2020
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OKR’s – Management 3.0

”Action Without Vision Is Only Passing Time, Vision Without Action Is Merely Day Dreaming, But Vision With Action Can Change The World”

– Nelson Mandela –

Having a vision is the starting point to get things done. Actually you need a mission first and then a vision and after that you need a strategy for execution. You need to have a vision, a direction and a why you want to go in that direction. Read more about the Vision Onion in one of my previous articles.

  1. The mission is all about why a company exists.
  2. The vision is a dream with a plan.
  3. The strategy is the execution and communication of the plan which is split into:
  4. Objectives: WHAT will we be focussing on in the next term, and
  5. Key Results: HOW do we know we have achieved an Objective.

How do we communicate strategy in an effective way so that people can give their full potential to jointly achieve the desired goals? That is where OKR’s become important.

Although having a vision is important, the next important step right after having a vision that people believe in, is having OKR’s, Objectives and Key Results, a plan of action.

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More information about what OKR’s are can be read here.

Implementing OKR’s is not an easy task and requires a vision, endurance, persistence, logical thinking, putting your employees first (because if you take good care of your employees, they will take care of your clients – Richard Branson) and … an OKR cycle.

Although I have worked with OKR’s at large and medium sized companies, I have not yet seen that OKR’s have been implemented and used in a company in a beneficial way for teams and professionals so that customer added value was actually developed beyond customer expectations.

At the moment I am working for a company where I have introduced to start working with OKR’s. I am implementing OKR’s in a proper way from scratch where OKR’s will actually help the organization and the people working in it.

“Objectives are about WHAT.”

“Key Results are about HOW :

(from X to Y [by when]).”

The OKR’s cycle can be split into 5 parts (As I have learned from Bart den Haak):

  1. OKR Setting Workshop. The OKR-setting (or Goal-setting) workshop is the first in the OKR cycle. Its purpose is to create a draft OKR, aligned with one of the company’s KRs for the next OKR cycle.
  2. OKR Alignment Workshop. At the Alignment workshop you use the feedback received from other stakeholders to finalize your OKR’s before publication.
  3. OKR Kick-Off. The OKR Kick-Off is where OKR owners present their OKRs to the whole company or department. It’s also a good moment for leaders to reiterate the company’s mission, vision and strategy. After the presentations, everyone is invited to ask questions on this new set of OKRs.
  4. OKR Check-in. The OKR Check-In is the most important event of the whole OKR cycle. Check-Ins are the operating system for your OKRs. Without them, OKRs are almost certainly doomed to failure.
  5. OKR Reflection Workshop. After running weekly Check-Ins throughout the entire quarter, the OKR cycle is complete and it’s time to reflect. The Reflection Workshop is a built-in feedback moment to reflect on, adjust and pivot the OKRs to your organization’s needs and processes. Such an opportunity to look for learnings about the goals makes your organization more agile. Giving you an opportunity to change course if, for example, your competitor makes a bold move, or you see a certain strategy or tactic isn’t working.

What I have learned so far about working with OKR’s is that:

  1. Although it seems as if not everyone is goal orientated, everyone gets energy from achieving goals. I have noticed this when working for a large bank where we had to upgrade a couple of business critical applications before the year end due to SOx compliancy regulations and legislations in order to prevent being heavily penalized. I managed to facilitate a team who thought that we would not be able to achieve those highly ambitious goals in such a way that they managed to get things done. From my perspective, coaching, facilitation and listening skills were very important to help people to believe that they could do it.
  2. Working with OKR’s means saying no to things that are not helping to achieve those goals, focus is important. Unfortunately not saying no because of company politics and prestige can massively prevent goals from being achieved. I have had some frictions with people due to saying no to certain requests, but was lucky backed up by the department head.
  3. As the theory suggest, having regular check-ins were OKR progressions are being discussed is not common practice. I did implement week starts were OKR progression was discussed. People had to accommodate to this goal oriented way of starting the week, but after just a couple of sprints people started to understood the value of delivering beyond customer expectations, and that gave lots of energy and more focus.
  4. As said, implementing OKR’s is a change process and needs to be implemented as such. I have experienced that working with OKR’s is fruitful and helpful when people understand the concept of OKR’s and have a mindset that is customer and goal orientated. Having such a mindset can be developed but developing such a mindset is quite often being stepped over. Having OKR’s and believing that those OKR’s can be achieved to my experience are two different things.
  5. When I worked at this bank, I asked lots of questions about the companies mission, vision, and strategy. Unfortunately it took me almost a year to make people understand that connecting with (top level) management was important to give attention to. The OKR’s of the department should be tight up to the KR’s one level up in the company hierarchy. After I started to share the mission, vision and strategy of the entire company and why the OKR’s of the department I worked for were important for the customers, people started to engage and became energized to add value for the customers and became better motivated to achieve those OKR’s.
  6. I have noticed that working with OKR’s and expecting people to give their full intelligence, their full potential and experience to jointly achieve OKR’s means that people need to be free, feel valued and appreciated. They should always feel that hey are the smartest person in the room instead of being accidentally diminished by managers, leaders and colleagues. I have seen that diminishing behavior has resulted in lots of wasted intelligence, potential and experience.
  7. Management is the critical and key determining factor in every organization when wanting to work with OKR’s, they need to lead and show example behavior. I have not seen top and middle management having such a goal oriented mindset, especially not in large organizations where politics are “visible” and noticable.
  8. As described earlier, OKR setting have shown to me to help an entire team or department to think and reflect to clearly define OKR’s. To to this effect of working with OKR’s, setting OKR’s etc., OKR’s increase innovation, performance and accountability, motivate and energize people and unlock (full) potential and intelligence of people.

In my current role where I am hired as an Agile Coach / Scrum Master to help an entire department be more agile, I will start with creating awareness about why OKR’s are important. The next thing after awareness is that I will start to apply the OKR cycles as described above and figure out how to connect the department to the OKR’s of the company by first have everyone adopt and believe the companies mission, vision and strategy.

Good luck working with OKR’s or implementing OKR’s to achieve your company dreams or your own dreams!

Andy Joghi – Management 3.0 Facilitator

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