Creating an OKR-driven organisation

For the last 13 years, our business model has always been very reactive. We waited for jobs to come in and let the volume and type of work shape our planning. Spending time on strategy or goal setting was never considered, and though the business has thrived, there has never been an overriding sense of purpose and direction beyond “get it done” and “do a great job”.

We realised that to flourish and grow, we need to know where we are going and how we plan to get there. We needed to find a system to convey a clear vision and purpose, to drive the business forward and inspire our team. Luckily, and at precisely the right time, we discovered Objectives and Key Results (OKRs for short).

OKRs were created in the 1970s by Andy Grove at Intel and famously pitched to Sergei and Larry at Google by John Doer in 1999. Today, 98,000 Googlers worldwide use OKRs. Many other companies have adopted them for their planning and goal-setting, including Spotify, Twitter, LinkedIn, Airbnb, Walmart, Target and The Guardian.

OKRs allow you to describe in an inspirational way what is essential to your business, to provide a map for the road ahead and to encourage people to take risks. Once you have set your company’s OKRs, each team member will then create their own goals which must feed into the company’s. This way, everyone is working towards a common goal; to build a remarkable business.

How we use OKRs

Tenacity Works has shared a set of four ambitious 2020 OKRs on our internal Wiki page. Our team members have each created their OKRs, all of which feed into the company’s OKRs. It doesn’t mean they must exactly match; it’s just so that everyone’s individual goals should, in some way, contribute towards the success of the company OKRs.

Working in this way ensures that our team can see what they need to achieve personally, while also contributing to the success of the business. In the interest of transparency, all our individual OKRs are also posted to the internal Wiki page so that team members can see what each other’s ambitions and priorities are for the year ahead.

Anatomy of OKRs

OKRs can consist of several different components:

Objectives

  • Are what you want to accomplish
  • Significant, concrete, action-orientated, inspiring and a little scary
  • Are the ultimate goal

Key results

  • Key Results are how you are going to get that done
  • They must be specific and time-bound, aggressive yet realistic and measurable
  • Key Results tell you if you have achieved the objectives
  • They must be measurable, i.e. if they don’t have a number then they aren’t a key result
  • The only exception is if the result is a binary; hit or miss action like launching a new site or brand
  • We use three key results for each objective

Milestones

  • Smaller tasks that need to be achieved to meet a key result
  • We use three or four milestones for each key result

Scoring

  • Zero = complete fail or OKR has not been done
  • 0.6 = satisfactory result
  • 0.7 = good result
  • 1 = nailed/100% result

This scoring system is not to judge the company or our team members, but rather to help with direction. The idea is to measure and observe to see what works and what doesn’t, not to criticise.

Conclusion

The OKR system is still very new to us, we only fully adopted it across the company at the start of the year. Hopefully, we can use these exciting new tools to build an even more remarkable business. Our plan is to share our progress on this journey throughout the year.

Please get in touch if you have any questions about how we’ve implemented OKRs. We would love to tell you all about it!

Further Information

Most of this explanatory information around the anatomy of OKRs comes from an exceptional book, The Agency: Build-Grow-Repeat by Luca Senatore. Reading this book planted the seed for us to explore and adopt OKRs. Follow Luca on Linkedin for regular insights on OKRs and running a digital agency.

Watch John Doerr on the TED stage, talking about why the secret to success is setting the right goals.

Beautiful cover image by Joel Filipe on Unsplash

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