Communicate your top-level strategy more effectively with OKRs

Posted by Dilyana Simeonova
on May 13, 2020

“If you are driving on a road that you know really well in a pitch darkness, you’ll only need a lantern. But if you’re driving down a road in unfamiliar territory, you’re going to need powerful headlights.” – Gaston Berger.

Or as we at Gtmhub would say: You will need powerful insights.

We live in a dynamic and continually changing environment. Therefore, no matter how brilliant a business strategy is, it might have to be modified at some point in time or even replaced.

There is no real panacea for how to most efficiently communicate the revised top-level strategy within the company – especially when it comes to introducing OKRs. If you google “strategy execution” you will find lengthy lists of suggestions pointing you to the Balanced Scorecard, Mind Maps, etc. It’s like when you look for a fat burner while being on a weight loss plan – thousands of options for a quick success. 

But do they work?

The management needs to identify the most effective internal channels of strategic communication, and the techniques ensuring that all employees are motivated and on the same page throughout the whole change process. Methods and tools for strategic communication are abundant. The essential thing is that all tools and methods are coordinated, so that they fit the general internal communication and organizational culture.

Fortunately, or not, we are talking about an extensive change management process, but don’t worry – there is a way for you to handle the situation perfectly. Yes, I am talking about the OKRs methodology.  

My main customers as a Strategic Accounts Manager at Gtmhub are large organizations with hundreds of teams, thousands of targets and thousands of goals. How to keep all people aligned? Should Company X be implementing the new strategy initially only within the C-Suite or a focus group involving department leads is required? What kind of resources do you need to ensure a smooth strategy transformation: a professional coach, extensive training, what else? 

Let us now discuss 10 important points you need to consider when top-level OKRs are already drafted out, and you are wondering what should happen next. 

1. Developing the right mindset 

When talking about OKRs, we focus on the mindset change – a mindset that enables employees to leave their comfort zone. Team-level coordination may happen without professional tools such as Gtmhub. Still, agile scaling across the enterprise needs sustainable ways to ensure transparency, shared understanding, consistent methodologies plus a program and portfolio view. Collective intelligence is also crucial: all employees need to participate in the process. The continuous improvement requires conducting of more regular self-assessments and get-together sessions with OKRs champions (methodology gurus, OKRs point of contacts). After all, one of the main agility objectives is to attract and keep talent, and you must ensure that your employees are aligned, while having room for personal growth.

2. Mobilizing early adopters 

“Train the trainer” approach – a pilot group is trained and successfully executes the process. At a later stage, people from the pilot group act as internal trainers/coaches to a new group being introduced to OKRs and the professional tool of choice (#Gtmhub). Late adopters will benefit from early adopters as the former will play the role of motivators and teach about both the methodology and the tool.

3. Training and coaching 

The pilot group and the OKR Champions need to share their know-how with the rest of the organization. The information and knowledge transfer will be optimized through monthly and quarterly reviews. As many training and Q&A sessions as possible is recommended. The main thing is to keep the engagement at the highest level.

4. Setting up a cross-functional leadership team using OKRs  

For an organization to be widely agile, a cross-functional leadership team is required. A team that brings all teams together. After all, the goal is to break down silos. In terms of the OKRs methodology, the OKRs of the Marketing team can be, for instance, connected to the Operations team’s ones: one can see how individual efforts contribute to the company’s desired outcomes. Seeing how all goals interconnect, employees feel closer to one another, as well as more accountable and determined. OKRs are connecting the numbers to the human factor.  

5. Providing coordinated executive support

OKRs done right empower people to learn and progress, driving more organizational value. If there is strict support from the whole upper management, strategy communication will be enhanced, and employees will be inspired to work together. If however, the needed support is missing, the whole process will be slowed down. This could also happen when not all units/teams are involved in the change process – a bottleneck somewhere in teams or functions can occur.

6. Communicating the strategic plan 

Trust is key: when full transparency is reached, and when there is a clear focus, leadership can easily track the financial progress. When a new strategy is implemented across all organizational units at the same time, all employees should generally be involved in the process. This way they will all feel motivated because of their equal contribution to the company advancement.  

7. Enlightening the whole organization  

Thoughtfully crafted execution plan combined with clear communication ensures the overall success of the organizational transformation. At first, teams often see the change to agility as just another process, blindly following the rules without understanding the underlying values and principles. It’s better not to start something new when one does not understand the “Why” behind it all. 

8. Turning the manager’s stance into one of a “Servant leader”  

Management needs to break away from the corporate governance style of predominant command and control. Instead, it should take over servant leadership. Give the employees a vision, give them autonomy and confidence in their ability to be change agents and enablers. This is the recipe for leadership in a complex agile environment. The challenge for management is to create a safe environment, where teams know it’s okay to fail, learn, and keep going.   

9. Keeping track of the new strategy’s progress  

The main idea is to identify 2-5 key outcomes and measure them along with the other OKRs. It is necessary to focus on chunks that are achievable in a short period (3 to 6 months), reflect on the progress and the lessons, then plan for the next period. Of course, all those tiny time frames should be organized based on the long-term objectives plan.  

10. Achieving a systemic company-wide transformation  

OKRs provide a framework for improvement through continuous learning. What works for our enterprise customers is to work with short periods, set priorities, focus on achieving them, reflect on what was/wasn’t completed, share best practices, iterate and improve with every OKR cycle. Otherwise, crucial bottlenecks might occur and deepen. 

Following these 10 tips will most definitely help you properly communicate your strategy throughout the whole organization. If you have questions about implementing OKRs at a larger scale, just email me at [email protected]