Updated: Sep 16
Setting Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is an effective way to maximise results and set the tone for your organisation at the beginning of every year. This helps to get your team to hit the ground running, and gives them the energy needed to get a natural rhythm of work going. When done correctly, OKRs give your team a concrete framework to work on, and a bigger picture of success that they can look forward to.
However, they can also cause a company to fail, mainly because of mistakes committed during the drafting. This is actually normal, especially for new organisations that may not have enough experience in goal setting.
In the articles, we will share a breakdown of four of the most common mistakes and how to remedy them:
1. Emphasising only top-down objectives
While charting the way to the future is primarily a job for executive leadership, your OKRs should also reserve space for goals and suggestions from your rank and file employees. This allows the management to get a grip on the needs of their employees, as well as give them enough autonomy to care about your company on a personal level. This autonomy will encourage independent and often creative thinking that will only serve the whole organisation well.
One way to encourage this is to have a clear voice when setting your OKRs to provide guidance, but allow enough wiggle room for collaboration at the same time.
2. Using OKRs as a to-do list
OKRs are goals, not merely tasks. Furthermore, effective OKRs outline positive outcomes, not the steps to achieve them. Using them this way means that all the decision making is coming from the top. They are a way for upper management to set goals while harnessing the raw talent of the other members to come up with ways to achieve these goals. This delegation is an excellent way for your employees to exercise control over their own operations and makes them realise how much is at stake. Because of this, they will be held accountable and will feel that their contributions truly matter to the growth of the company.
3. Creating vague objectives
The S.M.A.R.T. method is commonly used when it comes to goal setting. It means that every goal you put in your OKRs should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound. They should not merely state “to increase sales,” but rather “to increase sales of our services by at least 25% in the first quarter of the fiscal year.” This gives your team fixed numbers to work with, which will ensure an efficiently calibrated response. As a result, this takes care of having specific, measurable and time-bound objectives.
However, the management should also have the capacity to determine how to make your goals attainable and relevant. This will take some critical thinking, as no two organisations will define which goals are attainable and relevant the same way. Nevertheless, it is best to instil collaboration because clever ideas may sprout from anywhere, not just the management.
4. Failing to track your progress efficiently
The whole purpose of setting OKRs is to have a measurable standard to keep your progress in check. Not keeping track of your progress negates the whole concept of goal-setting, and will cause your organisation to fall back to inefficient practices. Once your goal is set, begin tracking your progress weekly to spot potential issues along the way and begin addressing them quickly.
Encourage department leaders to set goals among themselves and create their own timeline for achieving these goals. Once these mechanisms are in place, the upper management should also be keeping them in check to ensure that the whole organisation is moving at the same pace.
Mistakes are a common occurrence in every organisation. Oftentimes, it is the only way to achieve improvement because that’s how you learn. However, having a solid OKR will enable you to potentially spot those mistakes earlier in the timeline, and achieve strategic agility that is characteristic of a thriving organisation.
SKILLFIRE specialises in helping bold companies in Australia achieve organisational alignment by embracing powerful change management practices.
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