The Five +1 “Superpowers” of the OKR Framework
“If you seek to achieve greatness, stretching for amazing is a great way to start.”
The OKR Framework gives organisations five strong advantages, or attributes, that help drive organisational success. Specifically, these OKR advantages, or Superpowers, which set them apart from other goal-setting systems, are known as the FACTS of the OKR Framework, and they are:
- Focus – Using the OKR Framework means limiting your choices – fewer is better. Plans are made quarterly, so the focus is on what can be accomplished in the quarter. You are limited to the number of objectives (Os), usually 1 to 5, and the number of Key Results (KRs) per Objective, no more than 5. This is what sets the OKR Framework apart from other goal-setting systems. The OKR Framework brings to the surface the handful of initiatives that can make a real, immediate difference.
- Alignment – Cascading and Laddering OKRs maximises performance by making it possible to adapt to changes much quicker than top-down only models. Famously, Google started using the framework when they were a 60-strong organisation. Today, the 100K + employees at Google align their goals from executive to individual level within 3 weeks every quarter.
- Commitment – Commitments are OKRs that all have agreed will be achieved, and schedules and resources will be adjusted to ensure that they are delivered. Each team member must create very clear signals for everyone that they are working towards their OKRs. Whether this is done through a spreadsheet or OKR software. This is done regularly weekly, monthly, and quarterly to avoid slippages.
- Tracking – Measurable, verifiable success metrics are embedded in an OKR and tracked from output to outcome. The check-ins are scheduled, balancing focus between long-term direction to short-term progress and allowing for adjustments when needed. Tracking these commitments is done transparently. Having these reference points to grade your current OKRs is the long-term magic of them at the individual level. Are you on track to meet this objective or not? Why or why not?
- Stretching – The OKR Framework inherently pushes organisations to strive further, to eke out a little more. Because OKRs are not directly linked to performance or remuneration, they encourage people to set higher objectives and push a little harder than what they thought was possible. As Larry Page, founder of Google, says “I’d rather have the objective be to go to Mars, and if we fall short, we’ll get to the moon. This is how you make moonshots.”
When these FACTS are combined, another equally potent superpower emerges:
- The potential to help organisations achieve a holistic transformation encompassing both culture and operational capabilities.
The FACTS of the OKR Framework is why so many organisations use it. The benefits of focus, alignment, commitment, tracking, stretching, and holistic transformation have proven invaluable to them.
The problems of Organisation-wide Transformation
“Transformation”, as a euphemism for going digital or a cover for outsourcing, is no longer enough. We are in a new socio-economic phase that calls for a more profound, more holistic system of change – one that can somehow lead to the organisation becoming more attractive to candidates, more innovative, more customer-centric, and more strategically agile.
That’s a tall order, especially given our past experience of Change Management. Even though departments across the organisational are working to reinvent themselves, there’s no guarantee that, what amounts to a number of independent, mostly linear, change initiatives, will harmoniously combine to deliver the holistic change necessary – especially since, in a siloed organisation, no single department can deliver goals that require broad collaboration across the organisation, such as achieving customer-centricity.
However, the conventional alternative (resorting to a centrally planned organisation-wide change program to deliver the coordination that departmental-level initiatives cannot) is vulnerable to friction and pushback, and runs the risk of stifling, if not derailing grassroots initiatives completely.
Where the OKR Framework helps
The challenge is to bring about a holistic transformation that delivers the goals considered necessary for continued success in the 21st century, but without resorting to the top-down, roll-out of an elaborate transformation program, yet still managing to align departmental level change programs without stifling them.
Despite the contradictory nature of these requirements, this is where the OKR Framework can help. Furthermore, the OKR Framework, as a “transformation engine”, can significantly contribute to helping the organisation achieve all of its change goals, i.e., becoming more attractive to candidates and employees, more innovative, more customer-centric, and more strategically agile.
While this claim might sound like a stretch, we only need to explore the full implications of what initially attracts many organizations to the OKR Framework to realise that there’s nothing far-fetched about it, namely the promise of bringing about a more effective, outcome-orientated workforce.
The OKR Framework is deceptively simple, consisting of 3 main elements:
- The Cadence / Cycle – annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly
- The OKRs – objectives, key results, initiatives and tasks
- The CFRs – conversations, feedback, recognition
The “trick” of getting this working effectively with you and your team, is in the definition of the OKRs. This is where most organisations get it wrong. They don’t write objectives or key results correctly and don’t focus on the objectives that will “move the needle”.
This is exactly where, as your OKR Coach, we can assist. Get these 3 elements properly defined up-front, and the outcomes are achieved.
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