How to Align OKRs

How to Align OKR's: Webinar by OKR Internationals

Why use OKRs?

In a recent survey within Gen Z and Y, they were asked to define an engaging performance management system, and what they really expect it to help them achieve.

It was found that they want to move from Performance Management to Performance Enablement.

While these overlapping ideas may seem congruent, they have remarkable differences.

The reason for this shift suggests the following:
  1. They don’t want repetitive feedback. Instead, they seek constructive and goal-oriented feedback. Questions such as ‘How does this feedback impact their long-term career?’ are what come to their mind.
  2. They look for alignment and engagement of their ideas and personal goals with company goals. This just reassures a sense of purpose. How are they contributing to the company’s growth and how is it contributing to their growth? This is often seen alongside the existence of an Entrepreneurial mindset, which emphasizes the need for momentum in growth. It also makes them want to be the owners of their respective functions.
  3. They want feedback to be real-time, interactive and as quick as possible so that they can immediately act on it without further ado.

A recent research by Caplan and Norton(*) published in Harvard Business Review stated that 95% employees cannot name the top objectives of a company. When people don’t know what they are doing or why they are doing what they are, they don’t see how and where their efforts are going. What are they contributing towards?

The down side to this conundrum is that over time, it dampens their spirit and stands as an obstacle in aligning everyone’s collective efforts to meet the goal. 

You might be wondering what role a Performance Management System has to play in this. What happens to it when you also use OKRs?

For many organizations, Performance Management is a priority. The reasons could be perfectly valid- it may be mandatory for most companies to rate individual employee performance and pay them accordingly, which becomes challenging in the absence of a performance management system.

However, it is both interesting and important to note that your OKRs are not a part of your Performance Management System. OKR is essentially a business process or framework that helps manage goals. These goals are transparent and aligned, one quarter after another.

So when you have a Performance Management System in place that seems to be working well for you, why should you consider using OKRs?

For the following reasons!

  1. Immediate Employee Engagement
    OKRs contribute towards the entire organization’s movement. When OKRs are set in both, top-down and bottom-up order, they help provide maximum and immediate Employee Engagement. This is simply because such a situation involves everyone within the organization to collectively contribute towards and achieve success.
  2. It translates Strategy into Action.
    OKRs, on account of being transparent, help you act on your plans. Anybody using OKRs can closely look at how they, their immediate team, their department and the business unit as a whole, contributes towards the fulfillment of organizational objectives.
  3. Alignment of Efforts.
    When you use OKRs, deciding when to begin your work largely depends on someone else’s, to end. This just further ensures strategic alignment and constructive collaboration. With time, it introduces added benefits of time management and efficiency. The truth of the matter is that outcomes and end results motivate people a lot! When employees have a clear line of sight and actively comprehend how their efforts are being paid off in business results, market growth, brand loyalty, and so on, they further encourage continued alignment of efforts.
  4. Clarity of Direction
    Setting an OKR is all about focus and measuring what matters. Needless to say, OKRs help you assign more focus to work on the most important things. It helps keep ‘the main thing, the main thing’!

The question now is, can you use OKRs?

When we look at success at the workplace, we can’t help but overlook something as important as culture. It is natural for first-time OKR users to question whether you should place Culture before OKRs or vice-versa. The truth of the matter is, you can do it both ways. Either you can wait for the right culture and do OKRs, OR, you can begin using OKRs and observe your culture shape up.

Another important thing to ensure when using OKRs is that they don’t really work when the environment does not harbor respectful leaders. In order to practice leadership, there needs to be a thorough understanding of what their vision is, and how employees can contribute to it. For instance, if the middle-layer, i.e. managers, are unable to go ahead with their leaders’ vision and engage people for a cause, then OKRs do not work. Hence, management potential and leadership excellence is key.

When introducing and implementing OKRs, it is crucial to identify the A team: those players in your company who can be defined as early adopters, quick starters and initiators. They will help your OKRs thrive!

Once you see OKRs working, there is no going back. 

When employees exhibit high dependency on their leaders, this takes away the ability for them to think by themselves. If that happens, it is very likely that OKRs may not work at all. An organization’s culture that supports OKRs must promote give and take.

When employees exhibit high dependency on their leaders, this takes away the ability for them to think by themselves. If that happens, it is very likely that OKRs may not work at all. An organization’s culture that supports OKRs must promote give and take. \
What’s interesting to note is that this forms the very principle for Agile- a way of working that promotes failing fast and learning quickly. When you use OKRs and set them for a quarter-cycle, you are free to learn and experiment your way to success.

A very common misunderstanding, especially amongst first-time OKR users who are inspired by success stories such as Intel and Google, is that your OKRs should look like that of these companies. However, that’s really untrue. This is because every organization’s culture impels them to introspect and identify a deployment that is best suited to the organization. Hence, the more tailor-made your OKRs are according to your personalized goals, the better it is. 

Now that you must’ve gained a fairly clear understanding of how to align OKRs, go ahead and give them a try! You can access our resources in order to learn more about OKRs.

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