We have recently embarked on the process of implementing OKR’s in to our organisation. It is already clear to me that, of all the things that we have done, this is the process which I wish I had been aware of and followed rigorously for myself and for the business since our inception 9 years ago.
Having become a bit of an evangelist for the OKR technique, I wanted to begin to share a regular review of our learning’s so far so that other people and businesses who do not know about it can get on board and enjoy the benefits. We are in the early days of our programme but the impact is already clear.
I have outlined below a description of my translation of OKR’s, what they mean to our business and why we have embraced this. Part of the beauty of OKR’s is that so long as you maintain the discipline around the objective and key result definition, you can adapt the model to suit your business. This flexibility is great but it does mean that you need to get very clear on the “why” and the “how” otherwise I could see the programme failing before it got off the ground. (Other commentators you will find on youtube do a brilliant job of explaining this programme but this is my own translation – search John Doerr in particular).
WHAT DO OKR’s MEAN TO OUR BUSINESS:
For us, OKR’s are a focused tool to enable our business and it’s component parts (divisions, teams, individuals) to set ambitious objectives which contribute to the short, medium and long term company strategy and which align individuals and teams to that strategy. It is about creating collective engagement in the overall strategy and accountability to deliver on the results that will get us there.
The magic happens both in the collective analysis and understanding of what a great objective looks like and then in particular in the shaping of quality key results which are defined amongst the relevant people to achieve that objective. Through this we are able to ensure that we are all aligned in the results that we need to deliver in order to achieve our short, medium and long term strategic goals. The additional output of this is that every single person understands clearly how their work contributes to the overall strategy and where they need to raise their accountability.
The critical underlying component of the OKR process is the measurable nature of the key results enabling a focused, engaged and productive team and an ongoing feedback loop.
Our reasons for implementing OKR’s was as follows:
1. I passionately believe in our team and the value that our business can bring to our customers. With our business growing quickly it is critical that the intense levels of quality, focus, innovation and CARE that got us to this point of success continue to be developed. Yes, we can rely to some extent on the culture that we have built but I believe that it is essential to constantly reinforce the values that originally defined that culture whilst complementing this with new positive behaviours as we learn. This way we don’t just stand still, we constantly improve and raise our levels of performance and quality. The OKR operating system enables this through its transparency and accountability. From this, everybody benefits – the individual, the team, the customers, our industry.
2. We need to be able to very effectively measure our performance in all aspects of our work and analyse how we drive our future growth. OKR’s aligned with our own management reporting give us that clear data.
3. The use of OKR’s provides a clarity and consistency of message across our organisation, where the chance of that message being misunderstood is massively reduced. By enabling regular reviews of group, team and individual OKR’s we ensure that our ambitious objectives and our mission are a continual theme of conversation. The measurable nature of the OKR means that everybody can see the results of the work that is being done and how they contribute. In effect we are embedding a language of high performance whose foundation is in the real data.
4. The executive search industry is not always famed for it’s focus on process but in my opinion it is an essential part of building a great recruitment business and delivering an excellent service to our customer. However, that process must be harnessed with the right level of creativity and solution mindset alongside the greatest of respect for the human aspect of what we do. I believe that OKR’s can be a critical tool in enabling both the right processes and the right behaviours in all of our work.
For all of the positives, I want to caveat that it is very clear to me that there are inherent risks in rushing in to this programme without doing your research and without creating a platform for success in your organisation. Having the right people and the right levels of commitment to become excellent at this process are essential. It needs time for everybody involved to adjust and learn to become competent before becoming excellent at the technique. Without these, I imagine it could easily lead to either a complete waste of time and money or worst case, it could be destructive to a group dynamic.
This is early days and there will be plenty more to follow in the coming months as we develop our use of the programme and chart our learnings. We would love to hear about any learnings from others who have launched this system so please reach out.