So you've done some research, read a bit about OKRs and how they work, and now you want to implement them. But before you begin, have you considered these points? 

Tight vs Flexible Alignment?

What is this?

Tight alignment is where a manager or department (or value stream) sets an OKR. Their direct report (or sub team, value stream, etc.) takes one of the KRs and sets it as their objective with their own KRs. This means goals cascade down from top to bottom.

Flexible alignment is one where the above scenario can be true, but not always. Instead, you set an objective and your direct reports come up with their own objectives that feed into your objective. This flexible approach doesn't rely on objectives being set from the top down, and instead people can come up with interesting solutions to the problems you present them with, which in turn should play on their expertise. 

Our advice: 

We recommend being flexible - otherwise you run the risk of artificial cascade and a 'waterfall' type approach, which can stifle and limit innovation. 

Set new OKRs every quarter or just change the Key Results?

What is this?

Classic OKR theory advises to change OKRs every quarter.

Our advice: 

This is not always sensible or realistic. At OVO we changed some but others we extended the Objective and put in new KRs, sometimes we extended both the Objective and the Key Results, sometimes we planned to have OKRs run for 6 months or more.

Do KRs have to be metric?

What is this?

Classic OKR theory advises that key results must all be measurable but they can be metric (e.g. increase conversion to X) or milestone (e.g. deliver X project)

Our advice:

A Key Result should be a metric outcome, otherwise we run the risk of confusing outcomes (the dial that you are trying to move) with output (the initiatives, projects, bets/hypotheses or features that you believe will move the dial when delivered)

Whole OKR owned by one team or KRs aligned across multiple teams?

What is this?

Both the Objective and the Key Results can be owned by one team or the Objective by one team and Key Results by others.

Our advice: 

Be flexible! Having different teams own different KRs within the same O is a great way to align in a less formal way than the traditional cascade. The team may then want to create their own entire OKR to detail the initiatives that they are working on to achieve the first KR

Should we differentiate between aspirational and confirmed?

What is this?

OKR theory advises that whilst all Objectives should be aspirational some are more so than others and that you should mark which are ‘confirmed’  - i.e. most likely to be achieved

Our advice:

We find that this can be confusing when first introducing OKRs to an organisation. The more simple the ‘rules’ or advice, the better

Should we use the ‘70%’ rule? 

What is this?

OKR theory advises that key results should be seen as ‘achieved’ if they are 70% complete as they should be aspirational

Our advice: 

Using Just3Things you can set the tolerance level for the whole organisation so that the KR is ‘green’ at 70% or 100% - but the key is consistency. This is one of the most confusing elements when rolling out OKRs and needs to be communicated really carefully. At OVO we actually reverted back to the key result only being achieved if it was at 100%

What is a KPI vs what is an OKR and can the two live side by side?

What is this?

OKRs are specific goals that you are seeking to achieve. There are initiatives and projects designed to move the dial on the KRs

KPIs are ‘checks and balances’ on the health of the organisation - there may not be any specific initiatives associated with a KPI unless it is going off track

Our advice: 

The two can absolutely live side by side. KPIs can be included as KRs if there are programmes of work looking to impact the KPI

Should you go down to individual OKRs or stop at the team level?

Our advice: 

OKRs should be set at the team level by default and only at the individual level by exception

OKRs should not be linked to personal compensation or bonus - this leads to a lack of innovation and collaboration

Do you have time to commit to the change?

OKR roll out involves more than just training. 

Unless the senior team are committed to changing their governance structures the OKR programme will not stick. Examples of required changes. E.g.

  • Meetings should be structured around OKRs

  • Progress reporting should be structured around OKRs - e.g. we delivered X initiative and we hypothesise that it will make an impact to Y Key Result  

  • All other exec level reporting decommissioned (exception of KPIs, burn down etc)

Need more help?

If you have any questions or need further guidance around this topic, feel free to contact your J3T representative by clicking on the blue speech bubble icon to the bottom right of the page and initiating a conversation like this:

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