The right company culture for OKRs

Nick Stanforth is the CEO and founder of Progress Factors – a Germany-based management consultancy, specializing in Strategic Consulting, Transition Journey, Change Management and their own OKR methodology, called ‘Win with OKR’. Tom Williams is the UK Lead Consultant at Progress Factors. In this Voices of OKR piece, Nick and Tom discuss the cultural factors that are necessary for a successful OKR implementation. 

Objectives and Key Results is a proven methodology. The challenge is the mindset shift required to make the necessary change to implement it successfully.

Purpose 

In our experience of successful transitions, the cultures that make the fastest progress are those who start from a position of having a clear and definitive purpose. Purposes are invaluable to the OKR process due to their enduring nature. Having quarterly targets with no overarching direction inevitably leads to distractions and a lack of development.

Mindset 

Once an effective purpose has been decided upon, the power of OKR can be revealed, provided that the people implementing the change have the capacity for growth in their mindset. It’s not unusual to meet teams and individuals who really want change, but in reality, haven’t been in a mental position to follow it through. This ‘if not how’ approach quickly becomes a bottle neck for growth, meaning we must first address that mindset in order to make the introduction of OKR impactful.

Priorities 

Another necessary progress factor is the understanding that if you have too many priorities, you have no priorities. OKR is not an ‘add-on’ to your already busy lives. It is a process by which you can effectively prioritise the elements of your job that will have the biggest impact on growth. OKRs will become your work and the less important elements of your job will cease to be your ‘business as usual’ and become something you do as and when you have capacity.

Flat hierarchical structure 

Effective OKR cultures tend to have flatter hierarchical structures than traditionally would be expected. At Progress Factors we talk about ‘taking strategy out of the board room’ and ‘distributed decision making’. Setting effective OKRs must be a balance between direction from the leaders and drive from those involved in the day-to-day workings of a team. By gaining insights from a broad spectrum of your colleagues, considering the inevitable cognitive diversity from within, you will make more informed, more accurate and more consistent decisions.

Moving quickly 

The final element that is a bedrock for successful implementation of OKR is the ability of a team to move quickly, to fail quickly and to pivot if required. By concentrating all your efforts in every cycle to trying to achieve something great, the progress that comes as a result will be inevitable. By analysing the failures quickly, it provides the opportunity for further success down the line.

In summary 

 Successful implementation of OKRs requires the following from a culture:

  • Clear direction and leadership
  • A genuine desire to change, along with the requisite mindset to do so
  • The ability to prioritize effectively and not get distracted
  • A growth mindset across the team – fail fast in a safe environment
  • A hierarchical structure that encourages challenge, innovation, active contribution and high-performance
  • The scope to focus on something for a whole cycle, however long that may be

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