Getting started with OKR’s – our experience so far..

colleagues cooperation fist bump fists

Photo by on

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).


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.





If you took time out over the summer, here is my recommendation for how to get your head back in the game fast and with purpose…

When people have taken time out, it is essential that you can focus yourself as quickly as possible on return to build your momentum and productivity. I have suggested below a model that works for me, drawn from my studies and experience of what I find most effective. I hope that some of this might be useful to you.

GRATITUDE – Take the time to acknowledge and internalize the great memories, adventures and learnings that you have been able to experience in the last few weeks and the year to date.

VISION – Re-affirm your vision for your future. Where do you want to be in 5 years’ time personally and professionally. Document it and be acutely aware of the major steps you need to take.

CONSEQUENCE – Get real about the impact of inaction. Connect with how you will feel if you do not achieve your dreams, what will that mean to you. Feel the disappointment and use it positively.

ROAD MAP – Define a clear road map to execute your vision. Set your annual objectives then pull this back to the month then the week to define the key deliverables you need to achieve to meet your objectives. Record your progress on a weekly basis.

COMMIT, DELIVER  – You now have a clear plan and purpose. Embrace the challenge and get on with it.

MEASURE, REVIEW, REPEAT  – Take this opportunity to build the habit of reviewing your weekly and monthly progress against your primary objectives. (This has been the most impactful tool that I have realised for personal development. Enjoy the learning and the increase in motivation.)

I guarantee that the more regularly you follow this process, the greater your level of clarity and focus. With this focus comes increased motivation, energy, productivity and self belief. All of these components require commitment. Take this opportunity to build a great habit and own the direction that you take in your life and your career.

Learn to Thrive in Ambiguity; a Career Skill and an Essential Life Skill

In today’s workplace the ability to manage ambiguity and operate effectively in a forever changing environment is critical. As a Head Hunter, this theme is discussed as a critical competency requirement in virtually every mandate that we take on.

Companies do not create change without good reason but so often the pursuit of the right strategy requires change, to the extent that it can feel like change is permanent.

There are many positives in the dimension of change for human and team performance. We only begin to reach our potential when we put ourselves in a position when we can really be tested. Change can do this, especially when we can set our minds to embrace the challenge and learn to thrive on it. Excess predictability will breed staleness and an overall lowering of pace. When that decline sets in, in any group or team, it can be hard to change. If it is recognised too late, it is game over.

As John F Kennedy said: “Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.”

Building a business requires a pace and momentum alongside a need to stretch yourself and the people around you. In my opinion this is one of the central components of leadership.

The balance between pressure and creating an environment that can thrive in these dynamics is a fascinating one. My experience is that when good people are being pushed too far they will let you know. If nobody ever tells you that they are under pressure then arguably you should be worried. You are not pushing hard enough.

What is certain is that these are skills that we need to develop in today’s working environments. The sooner you develop them the better. The huge upside is that these skills contribute to our lives. A mindset that is based around challenging ourselves, learning about our boundaries and being able to thrive under pressure can only improve our ability to contribute and express ourselves.

The more that we can embrace this and incorporate this in to who we are, the more engaged we become. Through this, we can shift away from the dialogue of work-life balance and begin to see that work contributes and is a part of who we are.

This Spirit of Adventure

This Spirit of AdventureWe learn more and more about psychology and neuroscience year on year which enriches out understanding about ourselves, how we can successfully interact with each other, our behaviours and so much more. However, some concepts about attitude, behaviour and character can stand the test of time. To that end, I wanted to share a letter which was written by my Great Grand Father to my Grand Father in 1923. The simplicity and power of the message is brilliant.

This Spirit of the Future 

I look upon each minute as precious and to be exchanged only for it’s full equivalent in progress.

To develop, continually, every faculty which helps to build greater judgement, energy, determination, imagination with a good cheer, for each is necessary to the happy individual. To look upon work during the working hours of the day as a privilege, as a game, as a requisite of the full & complete life.

To look upon idleness with disrespect, as a waste of time, the only commodity of which everyone has an equal amount.

To feel that the waking hours after the day’s work is over are best spent in study, in agreeable companionship, in recreation, in those acts which build happier, stronger character & better health.

To strive for higher standards and ideals. To look upon the bright side of things and be an optimist in the best meaning of the word. To act quickly and avoid procrastination. To think broad mindedly and to scorn meanness and jealousy.

To punish dishonesty with the utmost effort. To appreciate fully intelligence, originality, loyalty, recognising merit only as the door to advancement.

To acknowledge no obstacles as unsurmountable which stand in the way of splendid progress.

Ever your affectionate, Dad