Successful Change Execution with the OKR Framework
Using the OKR Framework for Change Execution provides leaders with clarity on their priorities and employees with a better sense of where the organisation is headed and why. It can also make transitional changes smoother and help determine what it takes to effectively lead change management internally.
There are many types of changes that organisations face today. Besides the “transformational” changes like Digitalisation, Work-from-Anywhere, Strategy Execution, etc. there are the “business-as-usual” changes such as layoffs, reorganisations, rebrands, and directional changes. The common denominators with all these changes are – people and culture!
When these changes happen singly, they can be chaotic and disruptive. But, when they’re happening simultaneously and are integrated and interrelated, the amount of chaos and disruption grows exponentially. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The OKR Framework can help leaders and employees get through disruptive changes.
What is Change Management?
The answer to that question depends on who you ask. IT might say it’s introducing a new technology. Marketing might say it’s introducing a new product. HR might say it’s managing the people side and driving the acceptance, readiness, and adoption of the change.
This might work when change is linear and happening one at a time.
But, with change so prevalent and pervasive in the workplace today, we need a different approach to change. We need to lay a foundation for dealing with organisational changes before they actually happen? We need a robust and repeatable approach to how we manage change— one that allows us to respond and adapt quickly.
“Change is Prevalent and Pervasive in the Workplace today”
A broader definition of Change Management from Harvard Business School is “the process of guiding organisational change to fruition, from the earliest stages of conception and preparation, through implementation and, finally, to resolution.”
What this tells us is, we need to view change more holistically, and Change Management needs to not just be about the “people” side of change.
If you need to “manage” today’s Complex, Continuous, Interrelated and Transformational change, the OKR Framework is the best, and the most popular, way to execute it.
The OKR Framework and Change Management Models
There are a number of Change Management Models used by organisations to “manage” the people side of change. They consist of concepts, theories, and methodologies that provide a specific approach to organisational change. They all focus on the people side of change and aim to provide a guide to making changes, navigating the transformation process, and ensuring that changes are accepted and put into practice. The most popular models are:
- ADKAR Model – which consists of “goals” to be achieved by the organisation – Awareness (of the need to change), Desire (to participate in and support the change), Knowledge (on how to change), Ability (to implement required skills and behaviours), Reinforcement (to sustain the change) – puts the focus on the people behind the change.
- Three-phase model from Kurt Lewin – which consists of 3 stages of change – Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze – and allows organisations to adapt quickly to changing environments.
- Five-phase model from Wilfried Krüger – which consists of 5 stages of change – Initialisation, Conception, Mobilisation, Implementation, Stabilisation – that gives more transparency and flexibility in process design, and built in adjustments and the ability to step backwards as needed.
- Eight-step model from John P. Kotter – which consists of eights steps of change – Create a sense of urgency, Build the change team, Form a strategic vision, Communicate the vision, Remove barriers to change, Focus on short-term wins, Maintain momentum, Institute change – allows for adjustments at each stage with the opportunity to revisit goals if not achieved at 100%.
- McKinsey 7-S Model – consists of 3 elements that need to be considered – Strategy, Structure, Systems, Shared Values, Style, Staff, Skills – that makes is useful for complicated organisation-wide changes.
- Kübler-Ross Change Curve – based on the five stages of grief – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance – that acknowledges employee’s emotions throughout the journey towards acceptance.
- Nudge theory – which is based on 7 “principles” – Define changes, Consider employee point of view, Provide evidence to show the best options, Present change as a choice, Listen to employee feedback, Limit options, Solidify change with short-term wins – relies on subtle, indirect suggestions, backed up by evidence, so employees will be nudged in the direction of change.
Many organisations use a combination of more than one of these models.
The good news is, the OKR Framework can work with any of these models!
Why Change Management fails – despite these models
There are several reasons why change management projects might fail:
- Not agile enough – Today’s changes are anything but linear. Most are Complex, Continuous, Interrelated and Transformational, but most change management methods presume an A to B to C model – known as the Waterfall model. Without the ability to shift, pivot or backtrack, success can be limited, and we end up with Change Fatigue and/or Burnout.
- Fixed end point – Most models determine an end point, the goal of the project, at the beginning. But … what if things change – and they usually do? Acknowledging that your future state might not be what you outlined originally, could risk disrupting the model entirely.
- Top down – Employee buy-in is critical! If the only people on board are management, change will be a losing battle. And, using a model to “drive” acceptance, just doesn’t work today.
Whatever change management model you adopt, it will be helpful to complement it with an effective objective-tracking process – the OKR Framework.
How the OKR Framework makes Change Management more Effective
The OKR Framework provides the best blueprint to articulate objectives and outline a roadmap to achieving them.
It shifts organisational culture from an activities-based mindset to aligning around shared outcomes – an especially useful complement to change management processes.
Using the OKR Framework does more than just objective tracking. It aligns from an organisation-wide perspective, as well as a vertical perspective. Alignment and focus reduce wasted effort caused by different teams pulling in too many different directions – a common problem with Complex, Continuous, Interrelated, Transformational Changes.
Each of the different “models” has “objectives” to be achieved along a specific timeline.
With the OKR Framework the timeline is broken down into “what needs to be accomplished” in this quarter. The OKRs are established and agreed, and then tracked and measured on a weekly and monthly basis. This is to ensure that the outcomes are being accomplished and, if not, it gives time to make adaptations for their accomplishment. At the end of the quarter, the accomplishments are checked, and the plans for the next quarter are made.
These helps to “execute” the change, allowing for the inevitable changes that happen along the way, and taking advantage of information current along the entire change journey.
Change projects that use the OKR Framework for execution are:
- Less prone to error – requirements are checked and confirmed throughout the project
- More flexible – using traditional methods means once a step has been completed, it’s difficult to go back and make changes. The shorter check-in cycles of the OKR Framework means that initiatives can be adjusted as needed to accomplish the objective.
- More predictable end result – because small adjustments can be made along the way, the end result is more predictable and reliable
- More open to changes/additions – traditional methods aren’t geared to take into account evolving changes necessary which “locks in” initiatives and outcomes that may not be appropriate as the project continues. The OKR Framework not only has the ability to adapt to changing needs, but it expects them and plans for them.
- More employee involvement – the OKR Framework sees employees as part of the implementation process and responsible for drafting and managing their own OKRs, which are based on achieving the overall project objective for the quarter.
Overall, using the OKR Framework for Change Execution leads to more reliable and sustainable outcomes.
Change today is not the same as Change in the past. Today’s Changes are Complex, Continuous, Interrelated and Transformational. As such, a more holistic approach is needed.
This approach needs to view change from a more “facilitative” than a “management” perspective. The interrelation between the change initiatives need to be explored to minimise impact on the workforce and minimise change fatigue and burnout.
Change today can’t be avoided or postponed without some severe impact on the organisation going forward. The best way to ensure successful and sustainable change is to improve change execution. And the OKR Framework does exactly that for you.
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