1. Define company-level goals
Who this step is for: managing directors/C-level executives
With a clear vision and priorities for the upcoming months/years, you can go one step further and translate these priorities into company goals.
Also known as parent goals, company-level goals will inform yet another, more granular level of OKRs (see next step), following a cascading goal methodology that aligns the entire organization.
Even when working with quarterly OKRs, parent goals are often set for an entire year. Some common areas to focus on:
- Revenue Goals
- Hiring Goals
- Acquisition Goals
- Branding Goals
Discuss department-specific contributions
Who this step is for: managing directors/C-level executives and team leaders
It’s time to understand the role that each team plays in reaching your company’s parent goals. You should now engage in conversation with each department’s leader to discuss how they can push your vision forward.
For example, your marketing department could support your hiring goals by working together with People Ops to launch an improved career page and promote the employee experience across social platforms. This same department could support revenue goals by driving more leads to your product or service.
3. Set a timeframe
Although, as mentioned, it sometimes makes more sense to set a longer timeframe to reach company-level goals, we recommend working with quarterly cycles for your team-specific OKRs.
4. Choose 3-5 objectives
Who this step is for: department leaders and their teams
Between three and five objectives for each OKR period is a realistic amount to keep teams stimulated without feeling overwhelmed. With any fewer, goals may feel limiting and not quite motivating. With more, you risk focusing on too much at once and not achieving anything.
5. Break each objective into key results & assign ownership
Who this step is for: department leaders and their teams
Consider your team’s size, the complexity of your OKR system, and your objective’s scope before determining how many key results to put in place. You don’t want to set more key results because it looks more challenging. Remember that simplicity is crucial for success, and key results exist to serve you in reaching goals.
Engage your team by asking them how they can contribute to objectives, rather than assigning top-down responsibilities to your reports. Ask yourself — and your team — several questions. Is there a need or space for a special project? Does someone want to tackle a particular aspect of the objective? How can the team and individual contributors push a goal forward?
By asking employees for their input instead of presenting a fixed plan, you encourage stakeholders to take the initiative, nurturing engagement and a sense of purpose. As a result, transparency and trust in your team’s capacity give room for thriving OKRs.
And remember: OKRs need to be aligned with the company’s goals. Although the department lead and their team will scope the OKRs, they need to be approved to ensure alignment.
Optional: besides assigning ownership for team OKRs, you may also want to work with individual OKRs. Those could be, for instance, related to skills that you or a team member would like to develop and would, in turn, support your company’s growth and vision. However, we recommend individual OKRs for OKR-mature organizations only.
6. Track progress & recognize achievements
Who this step is for: all stakeholders
Keep your OKRs in shape by monitoring progress, making your goals an ongoing conversation, and recognizing every accomplishment. Praising your team for their achievements — no matter how big or small — is an excellent way to have everyone engaged and keep the potential of OKRs top of mind.
A best practice is to schedule an OKR check-in with your team every two weeks or every month. This way, you can address results and roadblocks, increase accountability, and work on solutions together.
All of these processes can be made much easier with the help of people management and goal-setting software. You and your team can be spared from manual work, easily updating and visualizing progress across your entire organization, thanks to goal dashboards, progress timelines, filters, and powerful analytics.
Follow-up best practices for OKRs
Be open to recalculating
Goals don’t always go as planned, and there’s no shame in reevaluating objectives and key results during an OKR cycle. You may realize that a set of key results was unrealistic — or not audacious enough. You may even find out that an entire set of OKRs doesn’t move the needle for company-wide goals as expected. As always, be open to learning as a team; don’t wait until the end of a cycle to ask for support or raise red flags.
Discuss results & focus on learnings
Each OKR cycle should invite questioning and curiosity. Encourage all managers and other contributors to evaluate key results when a cycle (e.g., quarter) approaches its end.
A best practice is to meet as a team to discuss results and learnings, aligning all stakeholders as they create more refined OKRs for the next period.
Involve your team members in creating the next OKRs
After agreeing upon individual and department-specific OKRs for a new cycle, schedule a retrospective and planning workshop with more stakeholders (perhaps even the entire company, depending on company size and operations) for more transparency and an even smoother alignment of cascading goals across the organization.
— Interested in learning even more about goals and OKRs? We’ve got you covered: Check out The Ultimate Guide to Objectives & Key Results: How to Set Up and Run Powerful OKR Cycles. 😉