How the Chief of Staff Can Propel the Organization via OKRs

September 30, 20214 min read

Agile Strategies Lead OKR Consultant Gracie Koester explores how the Chief of Staff can use OKRs to help guide and propel the organization.

The Chief of Staff role is gaining popularity and the job descriptions can vary. Indeed, the title itself can vary: Chief Administration Officer, Chief Process Officer, Head of Strategy & Operations. At a minimum, the role can maintain myopic attention to execution. At a maximum, a Chief of Staff (CoS) can be a strategic partner, helping guide and propel the organization.  

Maintaining Vision & Navigating Change

Carrying the vision of the CEO and aligning the priorities of different departments, the CoS must operate with high-level thinking, disciplined process, plus strong negotiation and collaboration skills. As organizations adopt more agile business models and confront questions of when to pivot in response to opportunities and threats, the CoS plays a key role in managing adjustments in priorities and projects.   Effectively deploying Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) can enable the CoS to help orchestrate these changes at speed and keep integrity to the big picture.  

OKRs and Chiefs of Staff

OKRs are a framework that provides: 

  • A clear set of north stars (Objectives)
  • A means of assessing progress towards achieving those Objectives (Key Results)
  • A basis for frequent problem solving and innovation on how to achieve these Key Results (tasks and tactics).

 Thus, OKRs support the Chief of Staff’s duality as a strategic thinker and tactical operator. By looking across the business’ OKRs, the Chief of Staff can ensure department priorities map to company strategy, gaps are identified, and the organization stays on track towards its goals. Going beyond helping the organization to chug along, the CoS can use OKRs to take it leaps ahead.  

OKRs provide a nexus for critical conversations

Because OKRs encapsulate meaningful and mission-critical work, they indicate where dialog and coordination are most important. OKRs shouldn’t just be on a team’s agenda, they should be the team’s agenda. The Chief of Staff can use OKRs to focus dialog and foster decision-making.

OKRs provide easy insight into achievement and clarity around change. If a tactic isn’t working, it will show up as an unachieved Key Result. If an Objective changes due to shifting conditions, it’s clear why certain initiatives or tasks need to be stopped. OKRs help the CoS drive crucial decisions and align staff around a common goal. As conditions shift, keeping your crew rowing together is mission-critical and of primary concern to the Chief of Staff.  

Making the Case for OKRs

As the Chief of Staff helps oversee, align, and motivate the organization, they need to keep a pulse on conditions internally and externally. A solid OKR process builds the muscle for sensing changes in the market and landscape.  

The Chief of Staff must bring curiosity and critical thinking to this process, leading the charge for others in the c-suite. OKRs support the CoS in ensuring strong cross-functional alignment — engaging leaders towards a common goal versus allowing executives to silo or, worse, harbor competition and resentment.  

When getting started with OKRs, the Chief of Staff needs to gain Executive team support. First, assess and communicate what is and isn’t working with your current ways of managing strategy, goals, and tasks. Help executive leaders and the CEO understand how your current processes may be slowing you down or suffer from a lack of clarity, commitment, or urgency.

Moving to OKRs enables greater strategic agility across the organization. The case needs to be made for why, in current times, the shift to OKRs becomes a competitive advantage. With greater strategic agility, the organization will also see increased alignment, collaboration, and improved prioritization.  

Risks and Rewards

As the organization progresses with OKRs, the Chief of Staff should ensure OKRs are not becoming a means of compliance – instead, OKRs should be fostering better conversations, coordination, and execution.  

To leaders that feel that developing OKRs is frivolous or takes too much time, the Chief of Staff should communicate the power of coordinated action, as well as the quarterly ROI of investing only a few hours to set clear OKRs. The lost productivity from a lack of clarity and consistent engagement with OKRs is a cost the business should be remiss to pay.  

The Chief of Staff has a clear means, through OKRs, to gauge leading indicators of success and take action where processes or progress are faltering or breaking down. Using OKRs, the CoS can enable the business to course-correct and stay ahead of the curve. This keeps strategy alive, evolving, and avoiding the all-too-common experience of strategy decay or irrelevance.  

Embarking on OKRs can address the strategy execution gap, foster better decision-making, and promote critical cross-silo alignment – all elements the CoS has responsibility for. Employing OKRs, the Chief of Staff can keep attention on the link from initiatives to outcomes to vision, becoming an essential strategic asset to the organization.  

Ready to take the first step towards OKRs as a Chief of Staff? This whitepaper from Gtmhub’s Chief of Staff Harry Siggins is your starting blueprint to creating outcome-focused teams using OKRs. Download it here

About the Author 
Agile Strategies Lead OKR Consultant and Director of New Business Gracie Koester brings over a decade of consulting experience in strategy, leadership, and team performance. She has built two service-based businesses, worked as an Executive Coach, and led transformative healthcare projects. Gracie leads many OKR projects for Agile Strategies, helping clients build revenue and increase impact. You can read more from Gracie here. She has worked across industries, including healthcare, design, advertising, tech, retail, construction, and social impact.