Goal setting starts with a vision. Where should you be heading? Does your organization have a weakness to address or a strength to reinforce? A turnover that is too high? Some processes to streamline? You've found a company-wide OKR for the year!
For the year? I thought OKRs shouldn't last more than a quarter! Yes: it's actually quite common to have company-wide OKRs lasting longer - sometimes up to a year - than team or individual OKRs.
You'll see this is a recurring theme with OKRs: they're very flexible and should adapt to the needs of your organization. Let's see an example of a typical goal cycle and next we'll tweak it.
Most companies organize goals in cycles. There are three steps to these cycles: goal-setting, execution, and finally the often forgotten retrospective which coincides with the beginning of the next cycle.
This can last anywhere from a day to 2 weeks depending on the number of goals and people involved. Subsequent times are definitely faster than the first.
Company-wide objectives should be the first step because they set the direction of all other goals.
They often stem from a long-term strategy such as entering a new market or adopting core values but can also be operational such as hitting a revenue target, or delivering a product. An OKR lasting longer than a year can be motivating but very hard to concretely contribute to.
Company goals should be set by the organization leadership. Trying to come up with a consensus company objective often leads to chaos and paralysis.
If you do not use individual goals, the process is greatly simplified as you just need to agree on a few team OKRs as a group.
Otherwise, here are a few ways to set goals collaboratively. They all involve formal or informal manager approval:
While this may sound rigid, in practice, it's a conversation. Let each team decide what works for them.
After a series of meetings, all OKRs are ready. What do you do with them? You announce them!
Teams should communicate their final OKRs. Sometimes it's only within the team, sometimes it's to a broader audience. A few things to talk about:
If you use an OKR management tool, use it as a reference. You can continue the conversation online.
Individual contributors check in their goals regularly - ideally every week - by updating how each key results has evolved.
Managers keep track of individual OKRs and mentor/help employees who may be behind. In all likelihood, managers already have something in place - weekly meetings or one on ones. There's no need to introduce another meeting but make sure that OKRs are addressed at that time.
Some teams find weekly routines overwhelming. Leave some latitude but make sure that goals are reviewed a few times during the goal period.
Every few weeks, the company leadership should monitor a few key elements during a goal period:
Progress: this is obvious but worth mentioning. Progress by company-wide goal should tell you if things are going according to plan.
Progress by team: Helping individuals is the job of the line manager. Spotting bottlenecks at the organization level is the job of the leadership and it's harder to do by reading reports. We find progress by team to be a good (but not the only one!) indicator of organizational issues.
Employee engagement: make sure that employees update and work with their goals. If half-way through the period, employees haven't had any activity, future updates are unlikely. Check that goals are specific and actionable.
If you cannot monitor progress, it's a sign that goals were not specific enough.
After the end of the goal, teams get together and discuss what has worked and what hasn't. Individual OKRs are often discussed in a group as there's lessons to be learned for everyone.
Finally, a rating is assigned with three purposes:
If results are great, celebrate. If the outcome is disappointing, don't point fingers, be as honest as possible to avoid cognitive dissonance. Employees will appreciate the honesty and it'll show that execution matters.
Company-wide goals can also be rated. If you do so, we recommend doing it publicly (email, all hands meeting...) at the same time you present the next company-wide OKRs.
Rinse and repeat.