Leaders often tell us that they’re struggling with the rollout of OKRs at their company, so today, we’re showing you exactly how to implement OKRs, and make them work for your business and your people.
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) refer to the goal-setting framework that helps your people establish clear, measurable goals, and track their progress towards achieving them. Research shows that a framework like OKRs can increase an employee’s odds of achieving their goal by as much as 40% (1), so naturally, they’re extremely popular.
By helping hundreds of teams master OKRs through our platform Frankli, we’ve become very familiar with the most common OKR pitfalls. For many leaders, getting started with OKRs is the most challenging part.
That’s why, today, we wanted to share a clear and concise guide to OKRs and OKR best practices, with a list of steps for leadership teams to follow when implementing OKRs. Let’s dive in!
How to Implement OKRs: A Step-by-Step Guide
1. Clarify your strategy
This is easily the most important step in the process, but it’s one that’s often overlooked by leadership teams. If you want to use OKRs to transform performance at your company, your business strategy needs to be well-informed, actionable and easy for employees at all levels of the organisation to understand.
This is because your employees will need to connect their goals to the wider company goals. So the simpler your company strategy is, the better it will cascade or flow from leadership to employees, and the easier it will be for team members to align.
We recommend a full review of your business strategy before you get started with OKRs. Read our guide to reviewing your strategy.
2. Decide on company priorities for the year ahead
You probably have some business goals already written down, but now’s the time to really refine your priorities for the next 12 months or so.
This is best done in conversation with the entire leadership team. Start by reviewing your company’s vision and mission, as well as your collective strengths and weaknesses. Be sure to address your current biggest challenges and any challenges that may be lurking on the horizon.
Listing your priorities in order of importance is probably the hardest part of this task, but it’s a really important one. So really dig deep and ask yourselves; What is the one thing that will, if achieved, define success for the entire company?
3. Break down priorities by quarter
In this step, you’ll further define your priorities and break them into smaller pieces by introducing proposed timelines.
For example, let’s say your number one priority for 2024 is to expand into new markets. Your priorities for each quarter might look like this: Q1: Decide on new markets. Q2: Perform market testing. Q3: Launch in new markets. Q4: Achieve $40,000 in new market revenue.
Careful planning is key to this step - your priorities should be ambitious, but the timelines should still be realistic.
4. Choose your tracking and reporting method
Your next task is deciding where OKRs will be stored, tracked and reported on, once they’ve been created.
Here are the most popular options:
- Pen and paper
- Non-dedicated software, e.g. Notion
- Dedicated OKR software, e.g. Frankli
Avoid a pen and paper system at all costs, unless you want OKRs to be forgotten about as soon as they’re set!
Spreadsheets are slightly easier to manage, but are clunky at best, and make it difficult for individuals to reference personal, team and company goals at a glance, or quickly report on their goal progress.
Non-dedicated software is similar to the spreadsheet system in that it’s a relatively secure way to store and collaborate on OKRs. But again, much time will be lost searching for the right document and manually updating goals.
Using a dedicated OKR platform like Frankli is by far the most time-efficient way to track and report on goals. Frankli provides templates that help employees write more effective OKRs, makes updating goals quick and easy, provides a visual representation of progress and promotes goal-focused conversations through integrations with 1:1 meeting, feedback and appraisal tools. Learn more about why we prefer OKR software to other methods.
5. Set company goals for the coming quarter
If you’ve been diligent in completing Steps 2 and 3, this step should be quite effortless.
To translate your company priorities into company goals, you need to nail down your objectives and key results for the coming quarter.
It can help to think of it like this:
Objective: where do I want to go?
Key Result: how will I get there?
So, in the example from Step 4, one of your OKRs might look like this:
Objective: Achieve $40,000 in new market revenue
1. Develop and launch 3 early-use incentives
2. Run targeted paid marketing campaign
3. Land 200 product demos in AUS and NZ region
4. Achieve 5% demo-to-close conversion rate
Remember to stick to 3 - 5 key results per objective and 3 - 5 OKRs per quarter. You’ll find more tips for writing company OKRs here.
6. Communicate company goals and OKR strategy to your people
Your next step is to communicate your OKR strategy to your people.
You’ll want to:
- Start a conversation around goal-setting
- Set expectations around goal-setting
- Highlight your new company goals
A good way to begin this process is to have a member of the leadership team address employees during an All Hands meeting. Here, they can talk through some of the benefits of OKRs for employees, provide relevant details (the tracking method used, the date by which employees are expected to have written their personal OKRs, etc.) and answer any questions.
They should also present the company priorities for the year and goals for the quarter, so everyone on the team is aligned on what success will look like.
7. Provide OKR training for key people, including managers
Leaders, HR leaders and managers play a key role in aligning your people on goals and ensuring that employees are engaging well with OKRs. So it’s important that you not only secure buy in from these people, but support them to use OKRs to their fullest potential.
This can include, but is not exclusive to:
- Using a dedicated OKR platform like Frankli that provides templates, guidelines and in-app support
- Hosting internal or external OKR training or workshops
- Sharing OKR resources or how-to guides
8. Work with department leads on setting department goals
Once your company goals are set, it’s time to create department goals that align with those all-important company goals.
This works best when leadership teams and department leads collaborate. Department leads should also check in with each other to avoid too much crossover in their OKRs.
9. Work with managers on setting team and personal goals
Next, you’ll work with your managers to set team goals, and your managers will work with their direct reports to set personal goals, all the while linking their objectives back to company goals.
What’s most important here is that goal-setting remains collaborative at all levels. Your people will be more likely to invest in pursuing their goals if they’ve had a hand in creating them.
Deadlines can be really helpful here, so settle on a date by which everyone has their OKRs written and ready to go.
10. Establish a rhythm of weekly check-ins on goal progress
Once your OKRs are set, your people should create new routines in which they check in on their progress and update their key results weekly.
This will be fuelled by regular - weekly, fortnightly or monthly - 1:1 meetings between employee and manager.
As your team grows, it may help to appoint a dedicated OKR champion. This team member should ensure that OKRs are being kept up to date and that check-ins are happening regularly.
How to Implement OKRs: Action Points for Leaders
- Perform a business strategy review
First 30 Days
- Refine company priorities
- Break company priorities down by quarter
- Research and choose an OKR tracking method
- Set company goals for the coming quarter
First 90 Days
- Communicate company goals and OKR strategy to your people
- Provide OKR support for key people, including managers
- Work with department heads on setting department goals
- Work with managers on setting team and personal goals
First 12 Months
- Establish a rhythm of weekly check-ins and regular 1:1s
- Appoint a dedicated OKR champion to drive consistency across check-ins