This Will Happen If You Start With OKR

April 26, 2023 • Dr. Paul Weber

If you know the theory of OKR and are about to launch it with your team: here is what you should prepare for.

1. Questioning: Why OKR?

Change doesn’t happen by chance. People resist new things, even if the new is positive and beneficial. Expect three reactions if you announce the move to OKR.

  • What is OKR?
  • Why do we need it?
  • This is nothing new.

The best you can do is to remind your team of negative situations that actually happened and explain how OKR prevent this from ever happening again. Use commonly shared experiences, and the questions and complaints will disappear.

2. Planning: How to start?

OKR are simple, yet one can be drowned in organizational tasks and considerations. How to teach the team? When to meet? What to discuss?

If you are in that stage, don’t overcomplicate. Grab a white sheet of paper, make a vertical line to create two columns, and create lots of rows. Label them date and meeting/event. And then plan the entire quarter.

Just do it, take a guess, even if you have questions. You can always go back and refine, but for now, it is important that you create a starting point.

3. Definition: What to prioritize?

Most teams get stuck with the formulation. There is the weird assumption out there that some magic words will result in higher team performance. Don’t buy into that.

What matters is a clear and commonly shared understanding of where to go, what difficulties to expect, and what to address first. The precise formulation is then a natural result.

Organize a well-structured workshop for discussing strategy, objections, and individual perspectives. Use a template to avoid meaningless arguments, and make the most out of your time.

4. Execution: Staying focused

The only truly difficult part of OKR: putting in the work, staying committed to what you defined, and repeatedly saying no to the myriads of attractive distractions.

OKR is a framework to focus on and stay loyal to decisions that are a few weeks old. Kling to it. It’s only then that you see OKR turning your team into a production machine. Only if you manage to avoid discussions and capacity spending on the countless alternatives.

Use the check-ins to remind yourself of your agreed priorities. That’s the true purpose of the meetings.

5. Improving: How to do better?

Your first OKR cycle will most likely be chaotic and by far not as you envisioned it in the beginning. Negative and critical voices will appear and try to halt the transformation immediately. Don’t give in.

Instead, have two separate feedback and learning sessions.

  • What progress have you made toward your goals and what have you learned from the market
  • How you used OKR, what made you work efficiently, and what to do better

OKR is a journey, not a one-time event. Even if you had a good quarter: take the learning session and the next quarter will be even more efficient.

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