Sport and OKRs

April 6, 20183 min read

The OKR methodology is as perfectly suited to develop a successful outcome in sport as it is in setting and attaining seemingly out of reach business goals. 

by Mark Richard of Auxin Services , a provider of services to help companies drive performance, including support to set and manage OKRs. 


Sport and OKRs 

Ever dream of taking a struggling sporting programme, setting it an outrageously difficult goal and then by navigating from one achievable milestone to the next drive a path to ultimate success?

OKRs have been used in world leading businesses such as Intel and Google for some years now but the move into sport has been surprisingly slow given professional sport’s never-ending search for marginal gains when actually the big picture is where attention is need most.

OKRs in business

Mark Richard, High Performance Lead in Rugby Union at Northumbria University and Director at Auxin Services, specialists in OKR implementation explains:

“OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) work to first establish a business’s long term and often seemingly out of reach “moon-shot” goal as set by its board or founder. This is then broken down into annual and quarterly objectives which are assigned to accountable groups or individuals who carefully establish and set targets for quantifiable key results. The key results are achieved via a series of tasks all aligned with the company’s route-map to its ultimate destination. Subsequently these results are monitored carefully through the OKR process (having ditched those activities that don’t contribute) ensuring the energy, resources and talent of the whole company is now pulling in the same direction”.

Translating OKRs for Sports

The application for sport are obvious; let’s say a team seeks to improve its standing in a championship where it has perennially fought relegation battles and struggled just to survive. Like many this team might set itself a three-year goal of a top four finish; OKR methodology would challenge this and set the outrageous goal of winning the league in question.

Moon-shot established, what next? Well let’s not look too far ahead, just the next twelve months and set a realistic but stretching goal for the year, say that’s a top half finish in year 1. Win 65% of our home games and 35% of our away games should do it. And what might that look like this three-month quarter and next?

What will a fully aligned team of attack and defence coaches set for their own objectives and set of key results which will help us attain the quarter’s goal?

What statistics can the analyst provide to assist; not just by looking at our team but at the opposition, the referee etc. and that we can set stretchy targets for?

What can our logistics team do to establish a match day protocol for home and away games that help prepares a positive match day environment?

How do we measure that?

How does our ground staff help, what are we doing to quantifiably improve on our diet, gym attendance and work out targets?

And what objectives and key results can we set for the team members themselves to improve skill sets and outcomes both as individuals and as units on the field or court?

So top half finish achieved year 1, how does a top three finish year 2 sound, how do we set more stretching OKRs for this year, and next into year 3 and a realistic shot at the title?


Nothing Worthwhile is Easy

Sound difficult? Well working with OKRs is difficult, it is demanding, and it is not for the lukewarm; it needs full commitment from the top down. OKRs will drive accountability, provide line of sight and a golden thread to high level organisational goals, and inevitably make life uncomfortable for the uncommitted and underperforming individual or group.

Sound complicated? Well it may be on first sight, but any group hoping for success with no aligned and visible plan at best will see patchy performance, underachievement and frustration. With no milestones being set nor met there is no sense of progress, there will be merely drift and lack of direction.

The importance of teamwork above all else in sport is self-evident; it’s why they are called team sports and why we identify with them (teamwork’s role in helping Leicester overcome the greatest of odds in winning the Premiership a couple of years ago is already legendary)

Now, and with enabling software such as Gtmhub on hand, experienced OKR practitioners at Auxin will challenge and guide you through the process; your forward-looking business or aspiring sporting programme can take advantage of one of the most effective organisational and planning philosophies around.

This article was written by Mark Richard of Auxin Services , a provider of services to help companies drive performance, including support to set and manage OKRs.