15 minute read – Posted by – February 8, 2018

How-to Kickstart 2020 Using OKRs

Are you looking to align employee priorities within teams and your overall company? The OKR methodology might be your solution.

The OKR methodology (or Objectives and Key Results) is a great system for managers and employees to set, cascade and communicate goals throughout your company.

There’s no doubt how important it is for managers to align employee objectives with their departments and overall company.

The concept sounds simple enough, but we want to make sure you find success using OKRs for the first time.

In the following article, we’ll be covering…

  • Fundamentals of OKRs
  • Customization of OKRs process
  • Implementation of OKRs in organizations
  • OKR Examples

What is the OKR methodology?

The OKRs methodology is a system for setting, cascading and communicating goals throughout your company.

It brings focus because they make it easy for companies, departments, and teams to recognize what the current priorities are, and to align them with employees personal objectives.

Overall, there are 4 key reasons OKR users find success…

From our experience of using OKRs at 7Geese, they’ve proven to be valuable by saving time and resources on tracking performance as well as building a transparent culture where everyone feels informed.

How to write OKRs

Now that you know the benefits of the OKR methodology, it’s time to get a grasp of how to create your own.

Simply put, objectives are outcomes that reflect current company, department or personal priorities.

For every objective, you might have up to 5 corresponding key results that…

  • Answers the question, “How do I know if I have achieved my outcome?”
  • Is the end result of a series of tasks, but not the tasks themselves
  • Is Measurable

If it’s not quite clear yet, don’t worry.

Have a look at the following OKR example…

As you can see, the objective sounds challenging, and that’s how it should be.

The key results indicate essential milestones that need to happen before this your objective or outcome can be achieved. This should effectively break down the actions you need to take to make it happen.

Beware of confusing key results with tasks. Tasks should be generated based on key results.

For more OKR examples, check out the following guides…

Selecting an OKR alignment model that fits your company

One of the benefits of using OKRs is the alignment of objectives to high-level company objectives, to drive focus and understanding of why an objective is important to the organization as a whole.

So to see the full benefits of the OKR methodology, you’ll need to select the appropriate alignment model for your company.

In the following section, you’ll learn about two of the most common OKR alignment models.

The Full Alignment Model

The full alignment model usually appeals to corporations and large departments, integrating well with established management processes that are usually top-down.

It’s also more manageable to establish cascading OKRs in this way because employees can clearly see how goals are being aligned.

As you can see in the example above, on the top level of the company, we have the CEO or senior leadership.

On the next level of the company, we have the Director of Product and Director of Marketing. In this top-down model, their objectives will be taken directly from the key results of the CEO.

The Flexible Alignment Model

The flexible alignment model usually appeals to startups and smaller teams.

The nature of this OKR alignment inspires companies that have flexible cultures which promote agile changes and growth. While all objectives are ultimately aligned with higher level OKRs, there is no strict alignment that prevents individuals from setting personal growth OKRs.

As you can see in the example above, on the top level, the CEO has the same OKR as in the Full Alignment Model.

However, the change lies in how the OKRs are being cascaded to the next level.

Rather than creating objectives from a superior’s key results, managers can set their own department OKRs with
their own aspirations in mind as long as it aligns with the company OKRs.

Selecting a cadence for setting OKRs

OKRs are time-boxed and run for a predetermined amount of time. It’s your decision as to how long that span is.

Most organizations use a quarterly cadence, meaning every OKR runs for a three-month span. This is often seen as short-term enough that every week counts, but long enough that real progress can be made.

Selecting a cadence for updating OKRs

The OKR methodology is most successful when there is a rhythmic process attached to it.

While most organizations put in time and resources around creating OKRs, leaders should also focus on internal processes such as check-ins, 1-on-1s, and feedback loops in between to receive real-time updates as well as to provide proactive support.

How to roll-out OKRs to your company

As a leader, your job doesn’t end with selecting the OKR methodology. Communication and training are key because managers and department heads play a huge role in making the implementation of OKRs successful.

Any company that leads from the top will find manager buy-in to be extremely beneficial to the OKR roll-out process because it’s demonstrating by example.

Your managers or department heads are the best people to run your annual objectives by. Task them with drafting alternative objectives that fit the company, keeping in mind they have different departmental priorities.

At 7Geese, we recommend rolling out before a new year or quarterly cycle within your company.

Here is a quick overview of the steps you’ll need to take to roll-out OKRs for the first time…

  1. Brainstorm company OKRs with an annual plan in mind
  2. Collaborate with managers to draft their first set of department OKRs
  3. Communicate the OKR methodology to the entire company
  4. Employee draft their own OKRs
  5. Finalize OKR alignment company-wide
  6. Review individual OKRs and continue to monitor performance

We’ve included our complete checklist with explanations in our popular OKR ebook! Just click down below to get it for free.

We’ve also collected sample OKRs to help you get going! Please see below:

Human Resources

Objective : Successfully implement OKR methodology

Key results:

  1. 100% participation in OKR implementation training
  2. 70%+ positive employee feedback after 3 months of implementation
  3. Shorten OKR training process for new hires by 1 week

Objective: Improve employee engagement

Key results:

  1. Increase employee satisfaction by 20% as reflected in quarterly engagement survey
  2. Implement 20% additional employee engagement activities
  3. Managers double positive feedback received from employees

Objective: Improve employee retention

Key results:

  1. Reduce voluntary employee termination by 20%
  2. Conduct exit interviews with 100% of voluntary termination employees
  3. Identify 10% of at risk employees during performance review process

Objective: Improve recruiting process

Key results:

  1. Reduce average time to fill job vacancy by 7 days
  2. Increase competency interview questions by 10%
  3. Decrease cost per hire by 10%

Objective: Boost staff career development

Key results:

  1. 20% increase participation in voluntary career mapping exercise
  2. Boost internal promotion rate by 5% over the quarter
  3. Complete implementation of new career mentoring initiative

Objective: Improve salary competitiveness

Key results:

  1. Have clear salary levels for 70% of employees
  2. Use of 3 additional industry salary reports for comparison
  3. 70% of employees have salaries on par with industry rates

Objective: Increase benefits satisfaction

Key results:

  1. 50% improvement in ‘benefits’ category of employee satisfaction survey
  2. Benchmark current employee benefits with current industry standards
  3. Reduce employee health care expenses by 10%

Sales

Objective: Increase recurring revenue by 10% from last quarter

Key results:

  1. Increase sales qualified leads by 5%
  2. Lead to close rate increases by 2.5%
  3. Target of $300,000 new sales

Objective: Dominate sales like a rockstar

Key results:

  1. Increase upsell revenue by 5%
  2. Be a demo champion (100 demos/month)
  3. Close $75k in new sales
  4. Define sales-success customer journey map process using new personas

Marketing

Objective : Increase inbound marketing leads

Key results:

  1. 20% increase of demo requests via PPC landing pages
  2. 10% boost in conversions from webinar attendees
  3. 2x eBook downloads over last month

Objective: Drive more traffic to product landing page

Key results:

  1. Double visitors to marketing website via organic search
  2. 20% click-through to landing page via newsletter
  3. 5% increase in time spent on landing page

Objective: Improve blog content quality

Key results:

  1. 25% increase in blog subscribers
  2. 20% increase in time spent on page
  3. 10% increase in blog content shares on average

Objective: Engage with industry thought leaders for press

Key results:

  1. 5 interviews with industry influencers
  2. 3 of 5 interviews published on recognized publications like Forbes, Inc etc.
  3. 2 joint webinars with industry thought leaders

Objective: Increase company brand recognition

Key results:

  1. 3 positive reviews from industry thought leaders
  2. 10% increase of marketing prospects from sponsored industry events
  3. 20% increase in PPC ad click-through demo request conversions

Objective: Improve email marketing efforts

Key results:

  1. 2x webinar registrants through email invitation
  2. 25% increase in e-book download via email click-through
  3. 10% increase in demo requests referred to email content

Objective: Create weekly newsletters for marketing leads

Key results:

  1. 40% click through rate on average for every newsletter
  2. 20% of newsletter readers convert to demo requests
  3. 10% customer conversion rates for newsletter referred demo requests

Product

Objective: Improve overall product usability

Key results:

  1. Release 2 product updates that improve core feature adoption by 5%
  2. X-feature retention increases to over 50%

Objective: Improve first user experience

Key results:

  1. Identify and implement core metrics that measure new user success
  2. Run 3 user studies focused on first user experience
  3. Improve desirable outcome rates by 50%

Engineering

Objective: Build a high performing engineering team

Key results:

  1. Increase performance capacity by 25% (Task: Hire 5 new back-end developers)
  2. Develop and document performance metrics for engineering team
  3. Attend 2 additional industry recognized conferences over last quarter

Objective: Improve quality of development process

Key results:

  1. Implement process to assess development tools being used
  2. Reduce the number of customers reported bugs by 25%
  3. Increase mandatory educational development time to 1 week each quarter

Objective: Increase data security

Key results:

  1. Reduce occurrences of data breach to zero
  2. Increase data recovery rate to 100%
  3. 50% decrease in data migration and backup time

Objective: Improve company security

Key results:

  1. 100% attendance of security awareness staff training
  2. 50% increase in security using new protocol for addressing product security issues
  3. Implement a new antivirus system across company

Objective: Improve quality of product releases

Key results:

  1. Reduce bugs found during development process by 20%
  2. Improve unit testing coverage from 50% to 70%
  3. Increase sprint capacity from 85 to 100 SP
  4. Individual developers contribute 20% more code reviews by the end of every sprint

Objective: Improve speed of feature releases

Key results:

  1. Increase length of QA testing phase before entering user testing phase by 2 weeks
  2. Reduce reported bugs by 50% a week prior to feature release
  3. Decrease of reported issues during development process by 25%

Objective: Improve front-end speed

Key results:

  1. Ship X additional story points over last quarter
  2. Reduce average lead time to X
  3. Increase unit test coverage by X%

Objective: Contribute to product quality

Key results:

  1. Increase code review time by 20 minutes each day
  2. Increase time spent on learning new languages to 1 week each quarter
  3. Ship 2 additional new front-end features this quarter

Objective: Improve software application performance

Key results:

  1. Reduce API response time to 4s
  2. Reduce average application response time to <450ms
  3. Decrease code review times by half

Objective: Hire top backend talent

Key results:

  1. Attend 2 additional technology meetups over last quarter
  2. Improve recruiting process with new screening processes

May Chau

May is a Content Strategist contributing to the improvement of modern performance management at 7Geese. Connect with her via may@7geese.com