No one wants to go to the trouble of implementing an OKR framework within their organization just to fall at the first hurdle. To avoid that, you need an OKR plan that matches your company vision, aligns your team, and keeps you moving forward.
OKR planning takes a lot more than just one session, though. Ideally, you should schedule reviews on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. And for all those meetings to be effective, having a complete overview of your OKR planning process is essential.
That’s why we’ve written this article — to describe what each stage of OKR planning entails, who should be involved, and what questions to ask.
What is OKR planning?
OKR planning is the process of creating and organizing your company’s objectives and key results.
Key steps involved in OKR planning are:
- Mapping out the stages of your organization’s OKR process
- Creating guidelines to help you decide on your quarterly OKRs
- Scheduling meetings, reviews, and brainstorming sessions
- Sharing your plans with everyone involved in the OKR process
Effective OKR planning lets you streamline your OKR process by moving you seamlessly from one quarter to the next. When reviewing your quarterly progress, you can decide to carry over objectives you haven’t achieved into the next quarter. And when you plan your OKRs with intention, you create alignment within your company through shared goals.
Why set quarterly OKRs?
Quarterly OKRs help you stay on target by breaking down larger annual objectives into more manageable chunks. These smaller goals are easier to wrap your head around and illustrate the steps you need to take to make your longer-term objectives a reality.
Quarterly OKRs also make it easier to create team objectives. It can be challenging to translate lofty company goals like making $5 million in revenue into actionable steps for your people. Quarterly OKRs provide a stepping-stone between broad organizational objectives and your departments’ week-to-week tasks.
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A nine-step guide to the OKR planning process
Here’s our nine-step guide to planning your OKRs. It’s a comprehensive, high-level overview of what goes into OKR planning, so think of it as a set of suggestions rather than rigid instructions.
Read through it, choose the steps that align with your business, and tailor each to your specific needs.
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1. Choose resources to support your OKR planning
This step is essential when introducing the OKR framework to your company for the first time. Decide on the resources you’ll use to support your OKR planning process before creating your first objective.
The first resource to consider is training for all your people, so they understand the OKR system — including an in-depth explanation of OKRs and what they involve. Your OKR planning process will run more smoothly if everyone knows what to expect, as well as their roles and responsibilities.
Your second resource is the specific tool you’ll use for your OKR planning. If you want a basic solution, consider an OKR framework template for Excel or Google Docs. OKR templates are straightforward, cost-effective, and can be handy for brainstorming objectives and key results before publishing them to an OKR software solution.
If you’re an organization that’s well-established or growing quickly, consider OKR software like Leapsome. An effective OKR management platform lets you centralize your planning processes, collaborate with other team members, and access data reports to help you make informed decisions. Workflow automation and reminders reduce your administrative work, so you have more time and energy to put into planning and supporting your people.
2. Clarify your company’s annual objectives
This step isn’t mandatory for every quarter. Perform it when introducing the OKR framework to your company for the first time or approaching the end of the year.
Review your overarching company objectives, which are the ambitious, long-term yet achievable goals your organization is striving towards. For example, your business might aim to offer the most competitive salaries in your industry by 2025.
Your annual company OKR should inspire your quarterly OKRs and trickle down to your team and individual OKRs.
3. Agree on your company’s priorities for the coming quarter
Step three is essential to the OKR planning process — identify your company’s top priorities a month before a new quarter begins.
Align with team leads and managers on what’s most important for your company to achieve within the next quarter. If you’ve already been using OKRs, let them inform your discussion.
Where you’ve met your targets, figure out the next logical steps. And if you’ve fallen short of meeting certain goals, assess your OKRs and decide whether to change your objectives or the initiatives you’ve taken to achieve them.
Let’s say you decided that learning and development (L&D) was a priority last quarter. You smashed your targets and launched career development frameworks for 80% of your employees. Your new focus might be to use that framework to facilitate internal employee promotions.
4. Create provisional OKRs
Around the same time as step three, draft your OKRs for the upcoming quarter. You don’t need to involve all team leads and managers in this step, as you should already have lots of feedback from them.
The OKRs you establish here are provisional because you won’t have concluded the current quarter yet. With a month to go, many things can change. Technological advances, market shifts, and world events could alter your business environment and force you to reconsider your priorities.
So, why not just leave all your OKR planning until the end of the quarter? Because by identifying your objectives in advance, you give yourself sufficient time to collect feedback from your staff and decide how to implement their ideas.
5. Get feedback from your team
Once you’ve drafted your quarterly OKRs, share them with team leads and managers. Aim to hold the meeting at least two weeks before the start of the new quarter.
This step serves two purposes:
- Follow up with your team after the planning session in step three. They’ll be interested in seeing how their ideas have been put into action and may feel more invested in the OKR planning process if they see its impact.
- Get your team’s feedback on your provisional OKRs. You won’t use their input to change much at this stage, but you can integrate it when you amend your OKRs in step six.
6. Check your progress & amend your OKRs
Before the end of the quarter, conduct one final review and make any necessary adjustments to your OKRs for the next quarter. You can use the feedback from step five and any data from your last OKR cycle to guide your decisions.
If your planning sessions were effective, you won’t need to make any significant changes. You will have collected all relevant information from your teams and the previous quarter and used it to determine what you should work on next. But you might tweak a few numbers or deadlines based on changes that happened at the end of the quarter or your team’s input in step five.
For instance, you might have set the objective of increasing your website visitors by 10% in the next quarter. But if you experienced a surge in visitors at the end of the current quarter, you could adjust that percentage accordingly.
Once you’ve confirmed your organizational OKRs, publish them somewhere your entire team can access them easily. Make your decision-making and planning processes as transparent as possible.
7. Finalize your team OKRs
Now that you have your company-level OKRs, you can begin trickling them down to your teams and departments. Start by helping managers plan team OKRs that align with your organization’s objectives. And because you included management in your OKR planning and feedback sessions, they should already have a good idea of the process to come.
Once you’ve completed your team OKRs, managers can work with their reports to create individual objectives. That way, you’ll keep your team aligned and give your employees inspiration for their personal goals.
Bonus: Setting goals can increase your employees’ sense of purpose and motivate them to perform better.
8. Plan how you’ll execute your OKRs
You might think you’ve made your way through the planning process, and now your work is over. Not quite: You also need to decide how to carry out your OKRs, so everyone’s ready to fulfill their objectives.
By now, your teams should all have their OKRs in place, but they may not have decided on the initiatives they’ll take to achieve them.
For instance, your finance team might have the objective of cutting $20,000 from the company budget, and one of their key results could be reducing supply costs by 20%. You could help your team put initiatives in place to help them reach those goals, like getting quotes from other suppliers or negotiating discounts for bulk orders.
And to support your people, you’ll also need a way to track individuals’ progress and ensure you’re hitting your predicted targets. Many companies make OKR review meetings a regular feature of their quarterly cycle. You and your team members can use these opportunities to score and track OKRs to determine your chances of reaching each key result and measure the success of each objective.
9. Conduct a quarterly review
Stage nine overlaps with stage three of your next quarter’s OKR planning process. So once you’ve reviewed how you progressed in the current quarter, use those reflections to make decisions about the next one.
Use your quarterly reflections to re-evaluate your strategy and get feedback from your team. This process should give you crucial insights into what’s worked well and what hasn’t — including ideas about fine-tuning your OKR planning process.
Quarterly reviews are also great opportunities to check your team’s performance. Identifying team members’ strengths and areas for improvement can show you where to focus your energy in the coming months.
Guiding questions to ask when planning your OKRs
Having guidelines for every stage of the OKR planning process will keep everyone moving in the right direction. We recommend phrasing those guidelines as questions and have listed some of the best queries you can ask to keep OKR planning sessions focused and efficient.
We’ve categorized the questions by their position in the OKR framework: objectives, key results, and initiatives.
Everything else follows from your objectives, so they should be the subject of your first questions.
- What changes can we make to move our organization forward? As OKRs aim to target areas for improvement and growth, this is a natural place to start. Pinpoint the changes you need to make at the company level to progress in the long term.
- Why are these changes important now? This question helps you evaluate the urgency and relevance of your goals. If you can’t explain the importance of an objective, it’s probably not a priority.
- What challenges are preventing us from achieving our mission? Identify every obstacle in your way to assess how realistic your objectives are. Remember, they need to be ambitious, but not impossible to achieve.
- What’s our team’s role in helping achieve this objective? Ask this question to start breaking down your company objectives into team and individual ones.
Once you’ve decided on your objectives, you can start asking questions to pin down your key results and establish the best way to measure your progress.
- How will we know if we’re improving? This question ensures you create key results that are measurable. If you can’t answer it, review your key result.
- What factors can we measure on a weekly/monthly/quarterly basis? Decide which metrics to measure and which scores show you’ve made progress. For example, will you measure customer satisfaction by average or median rating? Which overall rating means you’ve met your target?
- What factors indicate we need to change our strategy? Answering this will help you decide which milestones highlight progress and which show your objective is at risk.
Initiatives & tasks
This last set of questions relates to the actions your people should take to meet your company’s goals. These questions help you keep the focus on the objectives while giving your employees some autonomy over their work.
- What’s our starting point? When you have a list of several objectives, you may need to decide which to tackle first. You can do so based on importance or what’s most doable.
- Which are our highest priority initiatives? Consider which areas deserve more attention than others. You might want to focus on one objective because it’s more challenging than the others or requires fewer resources.
- What’s each team member responsible for? Ask this question to help your team organize its initiatives and break down team objectives into individual ones.
How to use Leapsome to set & monitor your OKRs
When you’re trying to manage and align employees across different departments, the success of your OKR planning process hinges on collaboration.
Leapsome’s OKR management platform makes collaboration easy. There’s a centralized dashboard for all software features. From there, you can request feedback, share results, and read comments from your team members.
You can also receive reminders about your meetings and use powerful data analytics to evaluate progress and inform your discussions. With Leapsome, you ensure that everyone is on the same page.
🚀 Keep your people focused on the bigger picture
Leapsome’s OKR management tool promotes total alignment through its communication and reporting features.
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