OKRs from home - Experts list best practice tips for remote OKRs
With many companies choosing to keep remote/hybrid working arrangements, you might wonder how that will change your OKR processes. To help keep your OKRs on track, we asked 20+ experts their top tips for smashing OKRs in the remote world!
5 top tips for perfecting remote OKRs
- Conduct the OKR definition and OKR reflection in an interactive workshop format to start
- Pre-set meeting agendas, listing the specific OKRs to be covered and the time allotted for each
- Establish clear roles and responsibilities by updating cadences and meeting times
- Really double down on those weekly check-ins to connect with your team(s) and see what’s going on
- Block time in agendas for Retrospectives (in between two cycles), OKR definitions (before each cycle) & Alignment (to refine OKR definition)
Bonus - Have a common OKR repository that is accessible to every employee (OKR Tool) to track progress against goals
Madeleine Silva, OKR Coach & Trainer
Since 2020, I have been helping teams set, align OKRs, and complete check-ins. Fortunately, we have many tools that can help us to do this in a way that is fun and where people are open to using it. Here is some advice and tools that will assist the remote process:
Setting and Creating OKR
Integrate the entire team. Ensure each person has the chance to express his or her ideas.
Prepare a Mural or Miro that shows all the steps during the process. If you want to save time, you can invite the team to submit their brainstorming objectives in advance. Begin the workshop with an icebreaker to energize the team, then set the rules of the workshop - this is important.
Some of the rules that I use:
- Camera on
- Microphone off
- Active participation
- Request permission to interrupt - What does it mean? If someone takes much time stating their opinion, ask them to close their idea. It might seem impolite, but it is worth it because we are working in a timed meeting
Check-in and Retrospective
Start the meeting with an icebreaker to raise the meeting’s energy. Use remote whiteboards to promote team participation. For example, as an OKR coach, I've created a Mural template that helps participants follow up on their initiatives. You can find these Murals below here.
For the follow-up meeting, it is important for each team to have its agenda. Ask the team and the KR owner to complete the dashboard or the OKR program. This meeting won't take more than one hour.
Sienam Lulla, OKR Coach, OKR Edge
At this point, I should be saying click on “Get Started” at Just3Things :)
My biggest advice is “Don’t choke the energy in remote sessions by making OKRs transactional. They are not meant to become work about work”
Replicate the steps that would have made the in-person process collaborative, spirited, efficient, and problem-solving.
Successful OKRs are produced and managed by using the tools that the teams are comfortable with and limiting them. Agree on 1 tool for meetings and 1 for persistent collaboration, then abide by it.
Often I see OKR conversations flowing from zoom to docs/powerpoint to slack/ teams to whatsapp messages, emails, and then to OKR software ….add to this the linking of OKRs to daily work in the workflow tools! Then you have a new problem on hand - sheer chaos and confusion in what should be an alignment framework.
And add OKR check-ins on top of your weekly meetings, not add more meetings about OKRs.
Allan Kelly, Agile OKR Coach & Author
Is it too much to ask the team to come together for OKR setting? Working remotely goes better when you have drunk beer (or coffee!) with colleagues so maybe OKR setting is the time to come together.
Either way, make sure someone, or someones, is ahead of the setting and has a handle on what customers and stakeholders want - in an agile team this is likely to be a product owner type person. Their findings will get the ball rolling on what the OKRs should be. You don’t want to spend half the OKR setting arguing about what customers want.
You might then split people into pairs to have a deep conversation about what OKRs could be written and then compare the results of different pairings. One advantage of online is that it is easier to be anonymous so you could see if people will suggest ideas anonymously that they might shy away from otherwise.
Natalija Hellesoe, Organisational Dev Coach & OKR Expert
Working with OKRs is a great way for remote teams to reach better alignment - however, it can be challenging to facilitate the process in a meaningful way.
I would always recommend conducting the OKR Definition and OKR Reflection in an interactive workshop format and making use of the great facilitation tools out there to integrate everyone and their perspective.
Speaking of facilitation: I find it crucial to have one (or more) designated person(s) take care of facilitating the process, preparing collaboration boards, collecting necessary data etc, to leave enough room for the team in the workshop to concentrate on the OKR Definition process. And make sure you structure the workshop with enough time for breaks, playful elements, and catering to different styles, and the needs of the team members (visualisation, recording, etc.). Also keep an eye on necessary prerequisites: Good know-how of remote collaboration of all team members, being familiar with the tools used in the process, having access to information up front etc can be a game-changer to make the time worthwhile.
Lastly, when working with OKRs remotely, it is even more important to critically think about which parts of each OKR event need to be done synchronously - so which parts really bring additional value when discussed together to reach common understanding and clarity - and which can be done asynchronously as well, to create a good balance of effort and value.
Tomek Dabrowski, OKR & Agile Coach
- General advice: Have one common OKR repository that is accessible to every employee
- Drafting advice: Do it in an iterative way - max 3 times, start at least 2 weeks before a new OKR cycle. Get early feedback on your proposals from the Exec team
- Check-in advice: Discuss changes in progress and confidence levels from the last check-in. Do it together with planning. Treat it as an alignment, not an update meeting
- Grading advice: Focus on insights and learnings, present one metric that you are proud of. Share good practices that other teams can adapt
Felix Handler, OKR & Sustainability Coach
Have a clear (virtual) dashboard for your results (at the beginning manually filled) make sure that the check-in points include learnings, results, and ideas for the next cycle. Keep it brief and to the point. Then collect ideas and possibly follow-up conversations. Demos help if they are few, meaningful for the customer, and easy to understand. Run little spikes in a quarter already to see which numbers are realistic and meaningful for the next KRs. Also include some OKR for your own team - stress level, social interactions, etc, to keep the team spirit, energy level, and yourselves connected to the framework!
Monica Batsleer, Senior Partner of OKR Matrix
Being remote is not working alone. Even remote work has become recurrent.
It is necessary to provide tools and techniques that promote exchanges between people, especially during the Setting Phase, such as virtual meetings and platforms that simulate collaboration rooms to facilitate everyone's participation.
OKR management platforms can help to make the vision transparent with easier follow-up.
Establish clear roles and responsibilities by updating cadences and meeting times.
Working remotely is part of our reality.
Nikhil Maini, Global OKR Coach, OKR International
Communication is key. Especially for the first few cycles where you will be learning and making way more mistakes. Learn nuances of virtual communication and virtual team management. Remember, the softer aspects like the right leadership mindset, trust, and psychological safety and a constructive culture pretty much dictate how you plan and deploy your OKRs.
Andreea Havrișciuc, Head of Agile, METRO.digital
- Use a collaborative tool to help the team actively contribute to planning (eg. Miro)
- Have a goal management space where you can ensure transparency intra and inter teams, be it as simple as Excel, or more customisable
Christina Lange, OKR Coach & Speaker
Use your creativity and the tools available to make it happen. In the end, a remote situation is not making a difference if you know and have experienced how OKR can help you to motivate your team.
Richard Russell, OKR & Leadership Coach
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
No software or methodology can replace the need for human-to-human communication. Get on Zoom, Teams, or a plane. Talk about them. Frequently. Use software to record the outcomes of your conversations, or to augment them with more frequent communication, not to replace them. The whole purpose of OKRs is to create good conversations about what you're really trying to accomplish and how best to achieve it.
Cansel Sörgens, OKR Coach & Trainer
To be honest there is not much difference between remote teams doing OKR or a team located at the same place. Both types of teams need to make sure they have a (virtual) room to brainstorm and define collaboratively their OKR every 3-4 months. Good facilitation is needed either both for remote and co-located teams. Both need a “place”, where they can visualise their OKR and related initiatives and activities. A wall, an (online) whiteboard for example, a spreadsheet, or a specific tool in scaled environments.
The most important criteria when choosing a place/tool is that the team should be able to use it every day to capture current happenings easily, so that everyone in team can easily understand where they’re at currently. The chosen medium should become the “place” the team gathers to talk about their work, initiatives, experiments, who does what, till when, what works well, what is blocked, through which initiatives do they see progress towards their OKR, etc.
Nevertheless, one important difference between remote and co-located teams, is the quality of how they spend the time together. One of the many advantages of remote teams is that everyone can work in their own preferred times. In order to make the best out of it, remote teams need to get better at working asynchronously and use the precious time they have together for types of conversation that is done best face-to-face in a video call.
Sandra Pretzer, OKR Trainer & Coach
Of course, the organisation needs to make sure their teams have all the equipment they need to work remotely in the first place.
Apart from that, there’s some advice I want to give to OKR Masters in the organisation:
- Preparation is key: OKR plannings, reviews, retrospectives, check-ins - thorough prep for these events is crucial, even more so in a remote environment. Use collaborative tools like Miro for visualisation and always have a plan B at hand, when technical issues occur.
- Really double down on those weekly check-ins to connect with your team(s) and see what’s going on. Maybe even offer additional Q&A sessions or 1:1 meetings.
- Incorporate some sort of regular celebration. Find a cadence that works for your team(s), e.g. every Friday, every two weeks, once a month etc. to just come together and celebrate what you achieved and learned.
- Help your team(s) to find experiments to improve remote working together on their OKRs. The OKR retrospective is a great tool for that. Foster a common learning environment - some people might be new to remote work whereas others have years of experience.
- Recognise each team’s individual needs and preferences, yet encourage them to learn from each other. In the end, it’s another inspect and adapt cycle every team will go through.
Elie Casamitjana, Founder & CEO, OKRmentors
The OKR method thrives in a remote environment. By providing both Qualitative Objective and Quantitative Key Results, it leaves very little room for miscommunication and misunderstanding. Nevertheless, successful strategic execution requires good alignment as well as an ongoing awareness and dialogue on priorities and progress. So, the most critical is to set and block time in agendas for Retrospective (in between two cycles), OKR definition (before each cycle), Alignment (to refine OKR definition) & Check-in (during the cycle, every week or two). Besides, to facilitate remote collaboration they can use digital tools. An organisation's OKR stack can include one or several of the following: Google Sheet, Miro boards, OKR software, Typeform, Wiki, Slack, etc. In any case, it is key to make OKR a topic of the day-to-day discussions, it should also be integrated into current processes and tools. For example, if a tech team uses JIRA, OKR may be integrated into their current ways of working.
Thomaz Ribas, OKR Trainer
Visual facilitation is a crucial aspect when working remotely and leading remote teams. Tools like Miro and Mural are already becoming cornerstones of remote teams. This is important in a virtual environment where people are digitally connected but personally more disconnected. However, don’t fall into the trap of using such tools and reduce conversations.
OKR is not a "goal-setting tool". This definition says very little about OKR (almost nothing). We can understand OKR as a verb, an action... It's about having conversations through questions and dialog. It is a critical thinking framework, an ongoing discipline in which we ask a series of questions over a time cycle, seeking to focus efforts and make measurable progress, while working together collaboratively. Without powerful questions and conversations, the OKR practice becomes a useless bureaucratic exercise.
Carsten Ley, OKR Coach
For remote OKRs we would highly advise starting immediately with an OKR tool that facilitates the set-up and tracking of OKRs, furthermore all preparation and workshop documentation needs to be interactive (e.g. Mural) or shareable (e.g. shared drives and chats) to enable alignment and transparency.
Bart Den Haak, OKR Consultant & OKR Author
OKRs is a great tool to empower remote teams. However, you need to put some effort in making it work. Fast internet connection, good video/sound equipment for everyone. All major video conferencing platforms work fine. An online collaboration tool like Miro or Mural are my personal favourite. But I’ve seen teams using Google Docs, Google Sheets, or Office 365 as well. If you keep OKRs lean, you don’t need anything more.
Jean-Luc Koning, OKR & Systemic Coach
When rolling out OKRs, you might be tempted to look for the right tool first. This happens a lot with clients who’ve never deployed OKRs before (and even with clients who’ve tried with mild success).
This might also look like the solution for remote teams: “If only we had the right tool we could store and monitor all our OKRs in one place”.
Not a bad idea. Except that when you first experiment with OKRs it is best to focus on learning how to come up with the right ones rather than exploring the intricacies of a piece of software.
In the case of remote teams, if you don’t have full proficiency with a particular tool, my advice would be to go the easy way. Just make use of a simple shared Word-like document. That would do the trick. Only when your teams are acquainted with the mechanic of OKRs would you devote time and effort to master a specific tool.
Brett Knowles, Global OKR Coach & Consultant
We have found that WFH (work from home), and any other form of remote or multi-location situations have become irrelevant they're both sitting and using OKRs. This, of course, has been rooted in necessity caused by covid. Every organisation has its meeting standards, technology, and expectations well-established by now. That said, here are a few guidelines that we recommend to our clients:
- Set a time well in advance when the OKR Performance Meeting occurs.
- You may want to meet this the same day and time for every meeting, or you may want to rotate the time in order to accommodate the multiple time zones that your team works in. (i.e. week 1 is for 9 a.m. in Europe, week 2 is for 9 a.m. in Asia, week 3 is for 9 a.m. in North America, etc.)
- Set and maintain rules for the meeting, such as every meeting starts on time, and if you arrive late we do not recap what you missed. You can (or cannot) send it delegates.
- Preset the agenda, listing the specific OKRs to be covered and the time allotted for each, at least 1 business day before the meeting. Stick to those allocated times and do not allow any additional topics to be inserted in the agenda since that does not allow people to adequately prepare and have meaningful conversations
- Add to the beginning of every meeting review the assigned tasks from the previous meeting to make sure they have been completed.
Walter G Ferrer, Transformation Expert
Remote or on-site, it’s about making a difference and what we are trying to achieve across the communities we serve and represent, customers and partners, and ensuring our aspirations and ambitions are fueled.
Nora Pfützenreuter, Agile Coach
For me, it’s quite similar to an onsite setting.
1. Come prepared for the OKR planning! Have all the input at hand that you need to create meaningful OKRs, for example, your product’s strategy, your company’s goals, a good knowledge of your customer etc.
2. Condense the planning time. My experience shows that it works very well to put the OKR planning and alignment for example into one week with all the teams of a department, with a kick-off and closing.
3. VISUALISE your work with a whiteboard tool.
4. During Checking In and in the Review at the end of the cycle: not only discuss your results but also the learnings you found along the way and how you want to use them in the current or upcoming cycle.
Ellen Duwe, OKR Coach
Work work work with your vision! If you don't have a common vision - get one now. Repeat the vision and your moal picture / annual goals at the beginning of each OKR Weekly. Challenge each other on the vision’s meaning and implications.
Ronaldo Menezes, OKR Coach
Think about having one common place to see, create, check, and set your OKRs to make it easier. Reinforce the fundamentals, as the knowledge about OKRs is good enough for the people feel comfortable in remote sessions with collaborative tools. Focus on training your team to think in solutions of when to use OKRs remotely and, after that, go ahead and use collaborative tools!