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In this article, we'll explore how to get started with OKRs and make them work for your team. Even though the OKR framework looks simple, it's not easy to implement it correctly and achieve all the benefits of OKR. Here's how to get it right in 6 steps.
OKRs help companies achieve their goals, but OKRs would be useless if team members don't know where the company is going. And it should be not only about the money, but it should also be about something good for the world. For example, "To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" (Google) or "To accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy" (Tesla). Having a higher purpose would motivate your team and allow each team member to align their efforts in the same direction.
Recommended reading: "Start with WHY", Simon Sinek
OKRs won't work unless you have a healthy culture inside the organization. Team members should trust that everyone is working towards common Objectives, and not to get the biggest piece of the pie for themselves. Healthy culture would allow team members to give and accept constructive feedback, would encourage collaboration between team members and departments to achieve higher team goals (and not just individual). Recommended reading: Google's "Project Aristotle"
Teams that don't have the top-management (Board Members and all C-level) buy-in don't stay with OKRs for a long time. The strategic OKRs and overall company direction are set by the top management. And if they don't give it enough focus and priority, the OKRs would be forgotten soon. Top management should lead with an example by setting and achieving OKRs and treating them seriously.
To set and align the first OKRs it's best to conduct strategic sessions among the company key people (up to 10 max). We also recommend to conduct it regularly every year and shorter version every cycle (quarter). During the strategic session you:
Recommended reading: HBR on Strategic meeting
When something is everyone's responsibility, it is no one's responsibility. The OKRs master would be responsible for making sure the OKRs are implemented correctly. Think about him/her as a Scrum Master for agile teams.
The role of the OKRs master is to:
Set up regular OKRs review meetings and communicate OKRs regularly. Weekly or bi-weekly meetings are just fine to sync about OKRs and resolve blockers. They should be quick and effective (like scrum stand-ups). Not all team members should be required to participate in such meetings (but recommended).
After each OKR cycle, you should share the most important achievements with all the team and announce publicly about the main focus for the next period. It will create public commitments for each team member and motivate to achieve their OKRs.
OKRs is a great methodology, that aligns your team, increases focus and engagement of employees. But it's not easy to implement from the first iteration. Invest some time to prepare and adjust, and your team would be excited about it soon!
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