1. Rhythm of Execution
Each Monday, the team should meet to check in on progress against OKRs and commit to the tasks that will help the company meet its Objective. I recommend a format with four key quadrants:
Intention for the week: What are the 3-4 most important things you must get done this week toward the Objective? Discuss if these priorities will get you closer to the OKRs.
Forecast for month: What should your team know is coming up that they can help with or prepare for?
Status toward OKRs: If you set confidence of five out of ten, has that moved up or down? Have a discussion about why.
Health metrics: Pick two things you want to protect as you strive toward greatness. What can you not afford to eff-up? Key relationships with customers? Code stability? Team well-being? Now mark when things start to go sideways and discuss it.
If only a fourth of the time allotted for the Monday meeting is presentations and the rest is discussing the next steps, you are doing it right. If you end early, it’s a good sign. Just because you’ve set aside an hour doesn’t mean you have to use it.
In the Friday wins session, teams all demo whatever they can. Engineers show bits of code they’ve got working and designers show mockups and maps. But beyond that, every team should share something. Sales can talk about who they’ve closed, Customer Service can talk about customers they’ve rescued, Business Development shares deals. This has several benefits. One, you start to feel like you are part of a pretty special winning team. Two, the team starts looking forward to having something to share. They seek wins. And lastly, the company starts to appreciate what each discipline is going through and understands what everyone does all day.
How to set quarterly OKRs
Keep the meeting small – ten or fewer people if possible. It should be run by the CEO and must include the senior executive team. Take away phones and computers. It will encourage people to move quickly and pay attention to it.
A few days before the meeting, solicit all the employees to submit the Objective they think the company should focus on. Be sure to give them a very small window to do it in; 24 hours is plenty. You don’t want to slow down your process and, in a busy company, later means never.
Have someone (a consultant, the department heads) collect and bring forward the best and most popular ones. Each exec head should have an Objective or two in mind to bring to the meeting.
Discuss. Debate. Fight. Stack rank. Pick.
Next, have all the members of the exec team freelist as many metrics as they can think of to measure the Objective. Freelisting is a Design Thinking technique. It means to simply write down as many ideas on a topic as you can, one idea per Post-it. You put one idea on each Post-it so you can rearrange, discard, and otherwise manipulate the data you have generated.
As a rule of thumb, I recommend having a usage metric, a revenue metric, and a satisfaction metric for the KRs; but obviously, that won’t always be the right choice for your Objective. The goal is to find different ways to measure success, in order to have sustained success across quarters.
Next, set the values for the KRs. Make sure they really are “shoot for the moon” goals. You should have only 50% confidence you can make them. Challenge each other. Is someone sandbagging? Is someone playing it safe? Is someone foolhardy? Now is the time for debate, not halfway through the quarter.
Preparing for the next quarter
If you have been running a regular commitment and celebration cadence then you should be able to determine if you have made or whiffed your OKRs two weeks before the end of the quarter. Don’t lie to yourself that you might pull a rabbit out of a hat in those last two weeks. Admit you have missed a KR, or admit you set a KR too low and hit it too easily. Get that learning, and roll it into your next goal-setting exercise.
OKRs are about continuous improvement and learning cycles. They are not about making checkmarks in a list. So you didn’t hit any of your KRs. Ask yourself why, and fix it. So you hit them all? Set harder goals, and move on. Focus on learning, getting smarter, and having better things to celebrate every Friday.