This line might just as well have been “How to climb the Kilimanjaro in 4 days?”, or “how to lose 25 lbs in 3 months?”. Admitted, that sounds a bit misleading, because this article is actually less about the realization of a super ambitious target than it is about creating some new and simple working habits to gain in efficiency and contribution.
For this reason, we won’t start with the end in mind. When rolling out OKR’s, you shouldn’t care about the top-of-the-mountain-view as much as you should secure your climbing routes with pitons and bolts...
When kicking off with the OKR goal setting framework, the same rule applies. Your Objectives can be stargazingly inspiring, if you are able to adopt some simple & sticky working habits, you will be far better off at hitting them than when you are looking for the 3 most important moves that will guarantee you success and eternal fame 🤔.
As Seth Godin 🤓 once claimed: “a small thing, repeated, is not a small thing”. It got the guy straight into the Marketing Hall of Fame (this and many other big little qualities).
So let us guide you through a few first meaningful OKR steps. Just to get you going.
Step 1: Define which goal setting habits are relevant for your organisation
So yes, size matters. You will want some goals, rituals and habits that are tailored to fit your company size, corporate culture and strategic ambitions.
Objectives and Key Results come in a pretty tight framework: you could unleash your wildest dreams in them, or decide to be more “Old World” (aka pragmatic) in your goal setting approach. The higher up the tree you go, the more time you will need to confer. Strategic OKR’s are very useful for internal alignment and coherence, or when you’re facing some major strategic movements, but they definitely take some executive time and effort to define.
When looking for a shorter path to success, you could choose to hit the road with some tactical OKR’s for your team, they offer a quarterly perspective on the team’s key activities and bring prioritising virtues to the table.
A quarter’s really nice, it’s not too short to get some really inspiring goals up there and not too long so it doesn’t feel like you’re trying to impact global climate change. They have just the right task tension ratio to get all that booties on the workfloor!
Step 2: One habit change at a time
We should start to accept that we’re not all members of the Avengers Team and that our brains are wired pretty much the same. Our human Operating Framework can’t handle many habit changes simultaneously, even though we are told otherwise by many a business guru. So unless you want to stick to this belief and go from deception to frustration, you might want to change the paradigm and start being less hard on yourself.
So chunking is the key concept. Breaking the big elephant in a thousand smaller pieces so you can get your head and hands round them. Once you’ve defined 1 nice quarterly Objective for your team, the first step is to get together and talk about how everyone will contribute to nail the score.
The core articulation of the process is doing frequent follow-up loops. The adjective “frequent” is somewhat relative, but in any case referring to short intervals. We advise to do them on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, anything above that will unravel the dynamic tension that is necessary to adopt new habits and to stretch your game.
The “Monday Commitments-Friday Wins” tempo Christina Wodtke prones in her much acclaimed “Radical Focus” (considered as the new testament for OKR believers), are a very good way to start. Straightforward framework, collective drive and idiot-proof control mechanisms, just the way we like things. Not necessarily painless, though…
Step 3: Start low before raising the bar (aka revert the Limbo dance)
Just like for the infamous dance, you should set off without deploying much effort. When addressing your weekly OKR rituals, you might want to set the bar very low to get into the mood gently.
The first couple of weeks, showing up in the meetups and committing to some topics is more important than actually realising them. Our brains need some time to rewire. People should start to feel more comfortable about the new expectations before we can start raising the temperature and adding more metrics and stakes to the interactions.
Use some proper decorum to create an “OKR environment”: dedicate a nice space to it, book slots in the agenda and stick to them, visualize your progressions, celebrate the winning moments,...
It comes down to preparing everything for when the stakes will rise (inevitably) and with it the rhythm will go up. At that point you will be happy to rely on some newly acquired automatisms and you don’t have to worry about booking any meetings rooms anymore...
Step 4: Use a tool to track your activities & progression
Please note that we didn’t start with this one 😉 which would have been the easy way into digital culture and OKR management. You can’t get around it, i you want to embed, share, track, correct, celebrate anything at a large scale, you will need your little virtual helper.
When interviewing team members who already transitioned to OKR’s, the most valuable asset for them would be any support that gives a daily oversight of priorities, actions, task distribution and progression towards the main Objectives. No overshooting features here. The level-headed virtue of the shared to-do lists that allow anyone to measure their personal contribution, combined with the underestimated power of well aligned objectives is about the ground condition for meaningful work. And you can add some foosball tables later…
Don’t wait anymore and get started with OKR thanks to Achieved today! Add an objective, set a title, a description, define sub-elements (Key Results), and you're good to go. Now let your team do the rest and link your daily activities to these objectives.