Sunday 16 July 2023

Making OKRs Actually Work

As a goal setting methodology, Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) have increased in popularity. Super successful companies like Intel and Google have credited OKRs as being central to their growth. Whilst these companies were certainly in the right place at the right time, there were other companies with similar ideas who did not do so well. Both Intel and Google excelled at using OKRs to focus their staff’s efforts on their most important objectives. Which I guess makes the idea worth a try.

But now that OKRs are relatively well known, why do some companies still struggle to make them work? To quote John Doerr, “Ideas are easy. Execution is everything.”

Just like ideas, the objective is only half the work. Key results, that is the execution half of the OKR, is all about figuring out how to measure progress, and putting effective communication tools in place. It’s arguably the more powerful half of the OKR. 

John Doerr also says that when Andy Grove used OKRs at Intel, he “demanded rigor, commitment, clear thinking, and intentional communication.” Of course, not every manager can be an Andy Grove or Sergey Brin. What John Doerr is telling us is that any manager can follow the OKR recipe to improve results. That recipe is something like:

  • Apply rigor in figuring out what data you need to get the best results.
  • Be committed to use that data to measure, monitor, and analyse what’s happening.
  • Find a way to intentionally communicate. Make the results and analysis highly visible, and allow everyone to have input into why things are going well or going badly.

Clear thinking sounds trickier, but actually improves by following the other steps.

I can think of many companies where managers play lip service to whatever goal-setting framework they are using. They set objectives, then forget about them almost as quickly. “Set and forget” is the very opposite of what OKRs require to actually work in practice. 

Are you using OKRs? Or another goal setting framework? Is your company guilty of “setting and forgetting”? Or are you benefitting from intentional communication?

No comments:

Post a Comment