OKRs is a commonly used method to set, structure and prioritize goals for companies, teams or for one's own personal growth. Most importantly it allows you to track the progress of your goals throughout a specific time span. OKRs are widely used within startups and large corporations. At Alasco we chose to work with OKRs from the very beginning to structure and track our projects and tasks to get closer to our overall goal of changing and digitizing an entire industry.
As the name suggests, OKRs are two-parted: Objectives and Key results.
Objectives not measurable but define an overall goal, i.e. “Build a world-class team”, “Fill the sales pipeline to support the ongoing growth of Alasco” or “Become the best P&E team in the SaaS Champions League”. The objectives give you an idea on what a team is working on within the ongoing quarter. They might sound a bit cheesy or over the top but their purpose is to inform and to more importantly motivate the team and members of other teams.
Each objective is supported by 3-5 key results, measurable goals that show the progress towards the overall objective. Key results are SMART – a commonly used acronym (specific, measurable, ambitious, realistic, timebound).
While planning your OKRs, you should be very clear and specific about the key results, for instance by adding numbers (e.g. “Generate 25.000 impressions on LinkedIn”). By making the goal more specific, they automatically become measurable and thus help you to track the progress of your work. Try avoiding binary goals as you cannot measure them and you run the risk of having zero achievements if a project is not completely finished. We want to grow and aim high. Thus we set ambitious yet realistic goals. Setting unrealistic goals can be frustrating thus we try to find reachable goals. Key results are always time bound, at Alasco we set our OKRs each quarter for the next three months.
Setting goals in an organization is an integral part of success. Goals create focus and also show what is not important. They serve as a communication tool and as a benchmark for prioritizing initiatives. Measurable goals can visualize progress and show the success of actions.
For us, OKRs are the connection between long-term strategy and the decision what is top priority every day/week.
An important characteristic of OKRs is that they start with the objective and therefore with the why, and are complemented by key results as a measure of success. The combination of inspiring objective and measurable goal creates the power of OKRs.
However, in our view, OKRs are much more than a tool for setting goals and come from organisations with a similar understanding of culture. Therefore, for us OKRs or any kind of goal-setting can only work if the following criteria are met:
As mentioned above OKRs are time bound, at Alasco this means: we set our goals for each quarter. We have implemented a structured OKR process to make it easier to set new goals at the end of a quarter.
In the beginning of the year the Management Team presents the goal we have for the upcoming quarter. The OKRs of the following four quarters will all work towards that goal.
Before a new quarter begins, the Management Team sets company OKRs, the overall goal that the team wants to achieve within the next three months.
Company OKRs are the basis for the Team OKRs. After releasing the former, our teams evaluate what they can do to contribute to our overall goal. They think about their focus areas and projects they want to implement or achieve within the next three months. After the teams set their goals, the respective Head of the team presents their goals to have them challenged: Are the OKRs ambitious? Do the OKRs contribute to the company OKR? Do different teams have contrary goals that might get in their way? After adding feedback to their goals they are communicated back to the entire team and we are ready to start a new quarter.
At Alasco we do not only want to grow as a company, but we work on supporting the growth and development of each employee. Thus, each employee sets his/her own goals each quarter. They set goals that help them contribute to the Team goals (“Write 6 articles for the Alasco blog”) or can be more personal (“Go running 3 times a week").
In short: We evaluate what went wrong.
In Detail: The goals set within the OKRs are not tied to any salary or pay raise, but of course we want to know why we did not reach them. If a goal has not been met, we go back to see what initiatives we took in the last quarter and hold retros to evaluate what worked and what didn’t work. Sometimes the focus changes within a quarter and thus a key result does not have the same importance or urgency anymore. (For example during the current COIVD19 pandemic, we decided to pause our recruiting efforts for about two months, despite the key result of hiring 8 new employees). In other cases, we learned something about our customers, our product and our processes within a quarter which slowed down the progress during the quarter. However, the learnings we find are taken into consideration for the next OKRs which usually turn out more precise than before.
Our OKRs are tracked within a Google Sheet, in which teams add their key result progresses. Every Monday we have the “Alasco Team Weekly”. During the meeting each team presents their highlights and lowlights from the past week and gives an update on their OKRs. This way we can not only be constantly informed about the work of the other teams, but also we have a transparent way to inform about our progress and work.