The world is competitive and getting more so. If you are not using every asset you have effectively then you are going to be at a disadvantage, with people often being the best and most expensive asset you have.
Do the math! Every full-time employee is going to have about 1,700 hours to offer. Multiply 1,700 the number of people in your company. What’s the answer? Now imagine not directing all of that productivity where it could have the greatest impact. This is what happens in most companies daily.
What if you could make how you direct productivity one of your advantages? Not only that, what if employees were even more motivated and energized? It’s not as hard or as out of reach as you would think. So I would like to share with you how you can unlock productivity in your company.
Give more than direction, empower achievement
A business without goals is a business without direction, focus, priorities and a future. How companies choose to provide that direction and focus is usually via budgets, KPIs, SMART Goals, and assigned projects and tasks. But there is another way that’s used by the fastest-growing companies – Google, Apple, Microsoft, Spotify, and most of the others you could name. It’s also used by most start-ups that are disrupting the established players. It’s called Objectives and Key Results or OKRs, and it’s a little bit special.
OKRs are a goal-setting system that looks to unite and align a company. How it does this is by planning and top-down, bottom-up conversations. These conversations start with the company leadership team creating a few aspirational OKRs for the year and/or quarter. Conversations happen across the company. The questions that need answering are:
- How could we achieve this or these goals?
- Where are the areas of greatest need or opportunity?
- What should we focus on during the next quarter and what can wait?
- What would success look like and how can we measure it?
- What targets would be slightly uncomfortable have the potential to stimulate innovation and collaboration?
Based on the answers, teams are then formed from existing departments, or cross-functional teams are formed. The whole company should have clarity on what ‘priority’ goals are committed to during the coming quarter and if asked to contribute, it’s a drop everything moment and help out. To the side of these OKRs you have business-as-usual running with KPIs being tracked to keep an eye on what is not the focus of the committed to OKRs.
Here are some OKR examples in action so you can see how they work and how they align. What you should notice is they are very measurement-centric. As mentioned above, what is not so obvious is that the targets are set to be hard by default. But that’s not all that good about OKRs.
OKRs are more than a set-and-forget way of setting high-priority goals. They work because of the planning cadence that goes with them. The OKRs themselves are set in quarters as it’s long enough to prolong focus and allow achievement to happen, it’s short enough to allow for agility and re-alignment around what priorities are. If you need an OKR to extend beyond a quarter, just carry it forward.
The executional cadence is also really important. Teams usually meet weekly to discuss their executional priorities and problems. The aim is to keep focused on the outcome – the OKR, and to optimize the inputs – initiatives, projects, tasks. Removing any blockers as soon as possible. In essence, being agile. Setting up to-do’s or experiments, executing and learning.
Do you need to take a fresh look at goal setting?
Having described what really good goal setting looks like. How would you know whether there’s scope for improvement in your company? Here are questions you might want to ask yourself:
- Are you spread thinly as you’ve too many goals?
- Do you know what the most important goal for the coming quarter is?
- Are your goals measurable and a stretch?
- Do you know how your goals support other goals in your business?
- Can you see how all other goals and teams are progressing?
- Are you setting and forgetting your goals?
- Do you plan priorities for the coming week around goals?
- Are your goals to complete work as opposed to reaching a measurable outcome?
If you’ve looked at those and think there’s scope for improvement then take a look at OKRs. There are some new skills to learn, but it’s not rocket science. It will take a few months for the new ways of thinking and learning to embed, but once you’ve got it, OKRs are the gift that keeps giving. You will be unlocking that human potential and your new advantage.
Bio: Martin Armstrong helps companies to evolve goal setting and deploy OKRs with the minimum of fuss at ZOKRI.