5 tips for getting started with OKRs

5 tips for getting started with OKRs

Here we share some 5 tips for those of you getting started with OKRs and thinking of introducing them into your business.

Do any of these problems sound familiar?

There's a few reasons why introducing OKRs to your business can fail. But, reassuringly there are even more reasons why it will succeed!

Here we’ll share some tips for getting started with OKRs and successfully introducing them to your business.

1. Mindset: influence from the top down

Managers looking at laptop

Your leadership team needs to be on board before you begin introducing OKRs to your business. This doesn’t mean they’ll need to understand the specific ins and outs of how OKRs work. But they do need to have a feeling of optimism and open-mindedness about the idea.

As with any sort of cultural change in the workplace, the mindset and attitude towards OKRs at the top will influence how more junior members of staff perceive them. It’s not the practice or processes of OKRs that are challenging, it’s the cultural and mindset shift that’s the one to master.

If your senior leadership team is vocal and visible in their support for testing out OKRs, it makes a difference. If you’re a Director thinking of introducing OKRs to your business, you’ll need to work on a bit of internal PR first.

Share case studies about other businesses who have benefited from introducing OKRs. Some high profile examples include Google, Facebook and Uber (name-dropping can help!) Closer to home, UK firms like Deloitte and OVO Energy have transformed their businesses through our OKRs software. Discuss the benefits and how OKRs will help your employees’ every day. Give tangible examples, explore opportunities and listen to your team’s opinions and points of view. 

2. Scale: start small, minimise risk

Writing out user goals

Introducing OKRs to your business doesn’t mean introducing risk. Start with a pilot scheme in a department or group of teams and go from there.

A good way to start with that is to focus on a couple of low-risk Initiatives to begin with. For example, if one of your company Objectives is to grow your customer base, you might create some Key Results that focus on internal process improvements before you test any Initiatives with clients. 

This could include

  • digitising some of your internal processes
  • improving your customer service system
  • finding ways to help your staff work more efficiently

This approach will allow you to test out your OKRs approach in a low risk way. Improving your internal processes will benefit your output to customers. So even though the effort isn’t focused directly on customers, it will have indirect value. Critically, improving your internal processes can help you work towards achieving your company objectives, so you’ll stay true to the OKRs framework. 

This is just one example but the premise is to focus on a few small, low-risk initiatives as you get to grips with OKRs. Once your teams see the value and understand the methodology, you can begin tackling bigger and more high profile OKRs.

3. Timing: don’t let a pandemic (or anything else) stop you

Employees on zoom call

Perhaps you were thinking about introducing OKRs to your business and then COVID hit. You can’t possibly introduce something new to your team at the moment, especially when they’re all working remotely!

This perspective makes a lot of sense. It’s not the best idea to introduce lots of new processes and systems in such great times of uncertainty. But, by introducing OKRs to your business in a small scale, low pressure way, you might actually make your teams’ lives a little easier and more certain than they are now.

The key is to take your team on the same journey, so everyone is aligned. You’ll need to assess the current mindsets of your staff in light of COVID-19 to test the idea of introducing something new. It’s also helpful to discuss their current pain points. 

These might include:

  • Too many meetings (Zoom overload!)
  • A lack of transparency about company objectives
  • Constantly changing priorities due to COVID
  • A fear of failure and reluctance to try anything new
  • Isolation or a lack of cohesion due to remote working

If you can present OKRs as a solution to many of their current frustrations, you may be surprised at their positive response!

COVID-19 is putting unprecedented pressure on businesses around the world, but in our experience, those who have implemented OKRs are finding the change and uncertainty a little easier to deal with.

"We've been using OKRs for the past couple of years.

The first year was a bit of a test, and we learned a lot, like how to minimise the amount of Key Results and communicate where the Objectives are stretch targets.

We found OKRs incredibly useful to all stay aligned when the world got turned upside down!"

Matthew Jackson, Head of Partner Development, EMEA at PPRO
Matthew Jackson

4. Experiment: learn as you go

Spoiler alert: There’s a reason we’ve written this article - getting started with OKRs isn’t easy! Your teams will need to practice writing them, they’ll need to get to grips with the OKR software, and they’ll need regular retrospectives to check how things have been working.

This might seem negative, but it’s all about mindset again. The experience will bring you closer to getting it right. And just like any nurturing environment, if you persevere, you’ll begin to see growth. Once your team ‘gets it’, OKRs will become inherent in their daily activities. 

The best way to implement OKRs successfully is to plan for failure AND for success. Discuss openly what’s likely to go wrong and where you all might struggle. Then come up with simple strategies to mitigate these risks and deal with them if they happen. If you manage an agile workforce, you’ll find introducing OKRs to your business a little easier. If you don’t, you’ll simply need to borrow some agile ways of working.

Test some Initiatives, “fail fast”, and then learn from each experience. This is a great time to improve your communication as a business. Encourage people to be really open and honest about what they’re struggling with and what’s annoying them in their role. These are the little golden nuggets of truth that will help you use OKRs to deliver real value to your employees and clients.

5. Confidence: this works for brands around the world, enjoy the ride!

Companies using OKRs

You’re introducing a proven framework that has transformed some of the biggest brands in the world. This is a time for positivity and optimism, even if you’re still getting your head around the idea of OKRs. If you approach the process with an open mind and a willingness to learn, you will succeed.

It sounds simple and as long as your employees feel confident that OKRs will make their lives easier, they’ll no doubt embrace the process with open arms! 

Be an advocate, admit any fears and share the experience. There’s no place for hierarchy when introducing OKRs to your business - you’re all in this together and you’ll succeed as a team.

Try our OKR software for free

If you like the idea of OKRs but don’t want to commit upfront, you can try our market-leading OKRs software free of charge! 

At the end of the trial, if you’re not keen, you can simply walk away. But we have a feeling you’ll be eager to continue on your OKRs journey. We’ll be right behind you cheering from the sidelines as you achieve better transparency, efficiency and alignment within your business.

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