Many companies struggle to roll out OKRs for the 1st time. It takes a few OKR cycles to feel like you really hit your stride. So, it’s probably not going to go perfectly when you are just getting started with OKRs, and that’s OK. Here are a few tips to help smooth the path and make it a little easier.
Before you even think about rolling out OKRs make sure your leadership team is truly bought in to the idea. If they aren’t, do the work to get aligned first. Consider reading a book as a team, and sequestering away for a few hours to discuss and plan how you will use OKRs.
Run a test quarter with leadership.
Consider using OKRs only for your leadership team (Perhaps even directors and above) for the 1st quarter so you can work out the kinks together and get your feet under you before rolling them out to staff. A little experience with OKRs will help improve the outcomes.
Decide on your framework.
What’s your OKR cadence going to be? Ideally, quarterly, but you may have annual or half-year OKRs you want to roll out as well. Will you use an online OKR tool to manage them? Select your tool. Who will have OKRs? Company? Departments? Teams? Individuals? There’s no wrong answer, it’s just what is right for you. Who will determine OKRs? Managers? Directors? Executives? Individuals? When you decide who will have OKRs you need to also determine who creates the OKRs at each level and what type of review process there will be.
Decide on these important fundamentals before you move forward. You can (and will) adjust after a couple of quarters once you have learned more about what works well and what needs to be tweaked. But don’t roll out OKRs without a framework you can communicate to staff.
Plan your roll out.
You can’t dump a bunch of OKRs on staff and expect them to just buy in and embrace them. Even if some of your team has used OKRs in the past, every company has their own nuances to how they use them. The 1st time you roll out OKRs you need to really plan how you bring it to your staff.
I’d say socialize the idea at least 6-8 weeks in advance and consider:
- Start with a brief introduction to OKRs at an all-hands. Just a 10 minute primer that covers what they are, why you are going to adopt them and what your goals are.
- Conduct a book club. If your company is small you can have everyone read a book on OKRs. For a larger team, I think that is harder to coordinate a full book club and expect everyone’s participation. Instead you can curate 3-4 articles and videos for everyone to read to get them more familiar with the concept.
- Hold an orientation. Hold a meeting for staff explaining how you be rolling out and using OKRs, provide a glimpse into company OKRs (even if they are still in draft format), and answer questions ahead of time.
- Document your company OKR framework in your internal knowledge base so staff can refer to it as needed. You do have a place to document things right? 🙂
OK, it’s time!
Deploy OKRs using the framework you determined above. Remember that OKRs aren’t set it and forget it. You should be updating progress on the key results every week or two, keeping them visible across the organization, using them in coaching and 1-on-1 sessions, and indoctrinating them into your culture.
As you roll into the next OKR cycle gather feedback from your staff about what went well and what can be improved. Make adjustments as needed and begin again!