Why are regular OKR review meetings so important?
Recently, in the BBC One comedy show, “Would I Lie to You?”, viewers were left shocked at one of the truths revealed by actor Joe Swash. He admitted that a few years ago, he set his mother’s sat nav intended for a journey to Lakeside Shopping Centre in Essex. After typing the first few letters of Lakeside, the Sat Nav automatically filled the rest of the destination, he confirmed it and off she went.
Six hours later, as evening fell, he received a very upset and anxious phone call from his mother...who was in the Lake District! The sat nav had populated the remainder of ‘Lakeside’ with ‘Lake Windermere’ in Cumbria.
The questions came flooding in:
Q: Didn’t they think to double check their destination!?
Q: Why didn’t they ask for directions!?
Q: How on earth could they continue driving for six hours, without stopping to find out where they were going!?
The truth is that we’re all guilty of doing this from time to time—professionally speaking. Often we’ll begin a task or project and single-mindedly see it through till the end, even if a part of us suspects it’s not going to work or prove worthwhile.
It’s for this very reason that “fail-fast” Agile delivery methods exist. But the same principle applies to OKRs. We need to make time to stop and re-check that we’re ‘driving’ towards the correct destination. And if we’re not, it’s time to reprogram, pivot or re-set for a new destination that better suits our needs (and our customers’ needs).
How should you review OKRs?
How often should you set new OKRs? The answer is ‘it depends’. Some companies set new OKRs every quarter, but this isn’t always practical or necessary. You may need to extend an existing OKR, or create new Key Results for the current Objective.
How will you know which approach is best for your team? This is where regular review meetings can help - they’ll help you look at the progress and performance of your current OKRs, so you can determine whether to reset, tweak or extend them.
Specifically, you’ll need to understand:
- Your progress against your targets
- What worked well and what didn’t
- Any impact your OKRs had against the wider company goals
- The learnings you can take forward in your own team
- Insight you can share that would benefit other teams
- Pitfalls to avoid in the future
Often called a ‘retrospective’ or ‘retro’, regular review meetings provide teams with a chance to stop, assess and re-set the vision before moving forward.
In some workplace cultures, teams may be afraid to admit their mistakes or failures. If this sounds like your team, then there’s a bigger piece of work and mindset change needed before you can confidently and successfully implement regular review meetings.
What about psychological safety?
We’ve talked before about psychological safety at work. Quite simply, a workplace that is psychologically safe presents an environment in which team members can express themselves without fear of judgment, and experiment without fear of failure.
For your regular review meetings to be effective, everyone needs to be honest and feel psychologically safe. Nobody should feel afraid to speak up, admit mistakes or suggest things that could be improved on for the future.
If your regular review meetings are characterised by one or two people doing all the talking, whilst the rest of the team stays quiet, it’s worth exploring how you can make yours a more psychologically safe work environment.
Following a two year study, Google has revealed that:
The highest-performing teams have one thing in common: Psychological Safety. The belief that you won't be punished when you make a mistake.
What’s the best format for regular OKR review meetings?
The answer to this question really depends on your team, location and company culture. If your team is working remotely, then naturally your review meetings will take place via video call. This is preferable to an audio-only call because it creates a more informal and personable atmosphere for the session.
At Just3Things, we tend to keep our review meetings pretty casual. This is a conscious choice and a reflection of our overarching company culture. Everyone feels safe to speak up and we eagerly share learnings and celebrate success as a team.
- We report on our OKRs cross-functionally by asking relevant people from different departments to contribute to the review meeting. This works better than sticking to fixed departments or functions eg. marketing, tech, sales.
- As a team, we record our learnings and share insight, so we can keep improving and help other teams improve based on our insight.
- We always review against our wider company vision to ensure we are all aligned and heading in the right direction.
- It’s vital that we use data from our OKRs and the learnings to identify if and where we need to pivot.
- Our OKRs are transparent, so we're able to come to meetings armed with the latest information beforehand and get straight into the nitty gritty!
Most importantly, we’re not afraid to stop if something isn’t working. It’s important to be able to change our OKRs if our customers’ needs change, the landscape shifts or we gain new insight and understanding that indicates what we’re doing won’t work.
When and where should you review OKRs?
It’s useful to have regular review meetings every couple of weeks, in addition to your quarterly OKRs planning sessions.
It sounds trivial, but the time of day you choose for your review meetings can impact their success. For example, we’d suggest you keep Friday afternoons aside for fun team activities and find another day and time when the team tends to be their most positive and energetic.
You’ll need energy and enthusiasm to bring your review meetings to life. If you find that members of the team don’t seem engaged as you begin, stop and have a more general chat about how everyone is doing—it’s important that everyone is in the right mindset for sharing.
We suggest scheduling your OKRs planning meetings every quarter. This gives you time to reflect on the previous quarter, work through your Initiatives and share learnings regularly, so you can apply these to your plans for the following quarter. It’s also useful to schedule your review meetings in advance so everyone has time to update and share their progress before the meeting. This means you can share insights and learnings from the start, instead of spending half the meeting updating each other!
Prioritise these meetings and try not to let other things get in the way—they’re equally as important as external meetings and client calls!
How should you plan for the future?
Whilst the practice of review meetings focuses on what has already happened, their ultimate goal is to help you plan for the future.
As David McCullough famously said: “History is who we are and why we are the way we are.”
If we don’t look back at how we’ve done against our targets, we won’t obtain the insight needed to do better in the future.
At Just3Things, we know how powerful OKRs are because our entire business exists because of them. This successful startup was born from within one of the UK’s fastest growth Unicorn companies. Our mission is to provide the transparency, focus, and alignment required to successfully track and drive progress wherever you are.
Get in touch to arrange a FREE TRIAL of our OKR software so you can assess the value for yourself, with no obligation or commitment to sign up.