OKR – Strategy planning, communication and execution method

Objectives and key results

What is the OKR (Objective and Key Results) method? 

OKR is a strategy planning, communication and implementation method.  

What problem does the OKR address?

The documents that result from corporate strategic planning are on the one hand long and difficult to communicate to the organisation's employees, and on the other hand they usually do not contain a breakdown of objectives for the different departments. In the absence of organisational objectives, it is difficult for the lower levels of the company to link their day-to-day activities to the company's objectives. The OKR system creates a link between the top-level strategy of the company and the objectives of each department.

What are the main steps of the OKR method? 

The fundamental point of the OKR system is that effectiveness is achieved by setting objectives, not activities. Based on the objectives, staff at their own level can plan, design and adjust the activities needed to achieve them, based on their experience. In this way, the OKR system enables an agile organisation that is not only empowered, but also more responsive to change. The OKR system plans with annual targets and quarterly review cycles.

After strategic analysis (4 Lighthouses, BMC, other strategy planning tools), the company management creates the preliminary corporate OKRs. This is recommended to consist of up to 4 objectives and 4 key results per objective.

On the basis of the corporate OKRs, each department prepares its own team-level preliminary OKR.

The corporate and team level OKRs are aligned in a joint planning event - big room planning. Here, management presents the corporate objectives and their background. Each team then presents its own OKR in 2-3 rounds (max. 10 minutes) and receives feedback from the other teams. The feedback can make recommendations to refine the goals and results, ask questions or address areas of collaboration between the teams (I can help with this, that's what I need). Based on the feedback, the team will improve its OKRs. It is important that the team OKRs are not a 1:1 mapping of the corporate OKRs, but rather a statement of the team's goals to contribute to one or more corporate goals.

Once the OKRs have been developed, it is worth reviewing the progress of the key results on a monthly basis, or quarterly - check whether the goals are good, whether the expected results are good, what conclusions can we see, either because we lagged behind the objectives or  because we have reached them. 

What results can we expect from the OKR method?

The company's employees can work on the basis of a more comprehensible strategy that is more present and guiding in their daily activities, resulting in a more efficient strategy implementation overall.

Typical questions: 

  • Who determines the OKRs of a team? 
    Define a team's OKR is the task of the teamleader, who can involve in the process the entire team, or keymembers of it. The team's OKR is accepted either by the superior or by the superior's team. 
  • What is the advantage of thinking in objectives and key results for the leadership? 
    Objectives and key results force employees to think not only in activities, but in terms of the activities needed to achieve the objectives. This forces the team to think in a more focused way, which leads to more efficient work and faster reactions.
  • Which is the most difficult part of planning the OKR?
  • The structure of the OKRs (4 objectives, 4 key results) forces organisations to prioritise and focus. In addition, teams tend to have difficulty in assigning activities to achieve a goal, the results of which need to be expressed as key results, usually requiring 2-3 rounds of refinement.

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