Google Ventures Startup Lab | GV partner Rick Klau covers the value of setting objectives and key results (OKRs) and how this has been done at Google since 1999. Understand the key attributes of effective OKRs and how to apply them in your own organization.
Why CXOs Choose OKRs?
The OKRs methodology is appealing to many CEOs because it is one of the few that encapsulates the organization both top-down and bottom-up. Unlike traditional goal setting methodologies, the company vision and long-term strategies are being converted into quarterly objectives with clear key results. The key results are then assigned to your management team and eventually to each team member.
OKRs and CFR (Conversations, Feedback and Recognition) together provide a clear path to setting and achieving the most inspired to the most trivial goals businesses and teams pursue.
“Our mission is to galvanize leaders to set and achieve audacious goals—through inspiration, education, and application“
In Photo: Vaidyanathan Ramalingam, Founder & CEO, OKR Stars™ and Skills2Talent™ SaaS companies, Bengaluru, India.
This blog is about my personal experience as an individual (Vaidya). Having worked for global programs at Intel I was under a matrix structure with multiple functional divisions that were distributed across USA (Chandler – Arizona), India (Bengaluru), Malaysia (Penang, Kulim and Cyberjaya), China (Chengdu and Pudong), Costa Rica (San Jose).
Happy to share my hands on experience on OKRs & CFR in global programs while working at Intel R&D Center, Bengaluru, India (Dec 2004- Mar 2007).
Let’s start with History of OKR
In 1975, John Doerr, at Intel, attended a course by Andy Grove where he was introduced to the theory of OKRs, then called “iMBOs” for “Intel Management by Objectives”. In 1999, Doerr, introduced the idea of OKRs to a start-up Kleiner Perkins had invested in . Doerr published Measure What Matters in 2017. Larry Page, the CEO of Alphabet and co-founder of , credited OKRs within the foreword to Doerr’s book: “OKRs have helped lead us to 10× growth. Since becoming popular at , OKRs have found favor with several other similar tech start-up organizations including , LinkedIn, Twitter, Uber and Microsoft.
What are OKR and CFR and their relationship in Goal management
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) drive ambitious goals of companies to achieve. While Conversations, Feedback and Recognition (CFR) enable continuous performance and people engagement.
Guidelines for “Managers Basics” and it’s importance of Intel Core Values alignment
As part of mandatory training programs, I got the training on Intel Core Values at Bengaluru, India and also attended several training programs at Intel University at Malaysia, US locations. Be it business decisions, day to day email communications, display at meeting rooms, workspace, ID Card (core values printed on rear side), or during performance appraisal conversations everywhere Intel Core Values is often used, mentioned and encouraged to demonstrate.
Our OKRs (iMBO) approach helped us to translate the strategies in to actions across programs. Otherwise it would not have been possible considering the complexities of the R&D, manufacturing and global workforce.
So much of travel for F2F meetings across worldwide facilities to meet internal customers, cross functional stakeholders to build personal yet official rapport to ensure alignment at Objective, Key Results, Projects and at Tasks levels.
Conversations, Feedback and Recognition was very visible considering the # meetings held, culture of 1:1s (matrix / direct reporting), awesome recognition practices with heavy budgets perhaps!.
Differences between OKRs Vs the earlier popular goal management practices.
Many of us have the question, why Intel’s so called iMBO (Intel Management by Objectives was the origination of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) and how is this different than the earlier goal management. You can quickly watch the below quick video to know the differences between SMART Goals Vs OKRs and practical examples from OKRstars SaaS.
Transform strategy into action – Best known methods
Organization OKRs: Any strategies always had their vision, mission and values alignment. CEO -1, -2, -3 … etc i.e., Divisions/Groups aligned their vision and mission statements which eventually became OKRs with their scope with quarterly priorities and followed Intel Product Life cycle processes etc.
Department OKRs: Since I was working in R&D, my role was systems engineer and My JD was to align with internal customer’s OKRs (charters/roadmap/project plan) and do check-ins every 2 weeks. So many meetings 24/7 used to be there but, depending on time zone we join to clarify check-ins.
Individual OKRs: At an individual level the OKRs were typically at project and task levels and not as strategic OKRs. They had traceability to which OKRs they were aligned. Also the individuals had liberty to own stretch goals to support others’ (skip level) OKRs after mutual discussions.
True alignment & initiatives – Best known methods
Alignment as a culture: Actually the alignment is there everywhere, whether it is the organization OKRs alignment or Core Values alignment while mentioning the achievements in recognition/awards, map day (alignment meeting) sessions to discuss Strategic OKRs to Projects to Tasks alignment etc.
Risk and Dependencies: Every OKR planner and tracker known as charter plan, program tracker, project plan, integration plan etc. always include the Risk, Dependencies and their mitigation plans. So that the confidence level grading during check-ins will be clear and transparent to all members involved in that SoW.
Initiatives showcase: Intel recognize and celebrates the engineering excellence from initiatives/innovations/stretch goals at USA every year known as IMEC. I was fortunate to be selected for my program’s abstract/paper to showcase at Hyatt, San Diego, California on June 25-28 sponsored by Intel TMG.
CFR practices – Best known methods
I would re-call that everyone knows everyone and could possibly recognize by Face as well. So many meetings, clarity on decisions, 1:1s, townhall meetings, weekly team updates and the global travels/con-calls etc. As OKRs are always transparent the progress, the grades, and check-ins status were available across the team.
Feedback in public, private or in a joint meetings were very normal. When it comes to quarterly OKR priorities, annual OKR plans (road-map) or tactical project or tasks, the feedback culture was there. I would also say, more number of 1:1s I had was at Intel for programs, platforms, projects, and personal i.e., Focal (PMS at Intel)
Any recognition always had aligned to Core Values. The recognizing culture and budget to managers were in place. CFR is the human part of OKR (or) known as twin sisters by John Doerr. Be it an instant award ($10 USD), group / division or at corporate award it was like you are encouraged to stretch and deliver with aspirational OKRs.
Instructor-led Training Administration and Enable Team at On-premise, WFH and Remote locations
Skills2Talent™ TMS provide a single platform where business objectives can be met through user learning. It centralizes both administrative and educational requirements, giving trainers and other stakeholders one place to achieve their roles.
Satisfying new compliance rules and requirements
Onboarding new employees related to Covid-19 Government Compliance, Upskilling teams
Introducing new products/services or training soft skills
Familiar with Training & User Management Automation, Reporting
Nomination Management to meet 100% Compliance Attendance
Skills2Talent™ TMS drive your trainees nomination process simplified with various best practices. Powered by time duration based reminders & email alerts reduces manual followup processes. Nomination approval rules options give flexibility to implement.
Improve training development & delivery through structured formal training (instructor-led) courses using best training management digital tool kit to engage learners and extend learning impact.
Trainees Attendance Records to support Internal/External Compliance Audits
Skills2Talent™ TMS provides multiple convenient options to track the training participants attendance details either by excel upload or mark directly on the software application, including collecting details about reasons for absence. Thereby the nomination can be initiated during next time.
Thanks to training alters with time bound email/reminder notifications that sit on learners email calendar and also on training calendar on application. Thus, making sure that there is enough proactiveness in planning the participation to maximize ROI for training initiatives.
Training Program Feedback for easy Business Continuity
With Skills2Talent™ TMS, create custom training feedback forms and digitally collect from/about trainees, trainers and training administrators with ease. Supported by feedback follow-up email alters/reminders makes data collection easy for training/HR department to improve training effectiveness.
Various employee performance management approaches for 2020 and beyond
When getting started with PMS (Performance Management System), the most frequently asked questions are how to choose, implement and adopt a suitable PMS. To help our customers we are glad to share various PMS approaches with examples, so that you can get started easily and implement a suitable PMS. Don’t worry our Full PMS Services such as Workshops, Coaching, Training and Consulting retainership provide all these artifacts custom developed to help your organization. Moreover, we have made examples for these re-usable PMS artifacts library available inside our software application as well, to make it more convenient to adopt. For CFRs (Conversations, Feedback and Recognition) we provide guidelines, templates and best practices including inside our Skills2Talent™ Software/Add-on modules, which will make easy to orient, train and institutionalize PMS & CFR. Most popular PMS approaches that are adopted widely across organizations are listed below;
OKR based PMS: “OKR” (Objectives & Key Results). Objective: Where do we want to go?, Key Result: How do we know if we are getting there? –> Checkout our OKR Stars™ Full OKR Services – OKR Examples.
SMART Goal based PMS: Goals should be straightforward and state what you want to happen. The goal has to be specific and define clearly what you are going to do. Use action words in goal such as direct, coordinate, achieve, complete, deliver, organize, lead, develop, plan, accomplish etc. For more details on SMART goals you can visit our other blog
Company Core Values Alignment Based: Core values often reflect your organization’s ethical standards, culture, or mission statements. Evaluating on core values reinforces the organization beliefs and ensures every employee demonstrates the same standards during the employment.
Job Specific & Behavioral Competency Based: Competencies in the context of Performance Management System is they are qualities that employees get rated on. Competencies can be mapped to R&R (Roles & Responsibilities) / JD (Job Description) and used as part of their development path (SMART Individual Development Plans).
Multiple Content Sections Based (with Weightage): Although performance reviews can be planned to include sections specific to organization’s needs, the best practice performance review includes four main content sections (A, B, C and D). These contents cover objectives (SMART goal plans), core values (aligning to organization’s vision, mission, and value system), job specific competencies and behavioral competencies (approach/ indicators/ attributes/ components). The organization need to use at least one section or many/all. If any content section has “zero” weightage will be hidden from the performance management form (template) in Skills2Talent™ PMS. Each content section is given a weightage of the overall performance score with a total of 100. These content sections can be different for different group of employees as per the business need (i.e. The percentage can be different based on work groups’ business requirements)..
Exclusively Competency Based (Mapping & Assessment): Competency Mapping is a process of identifying key competencies for an organization and/or a job and incorporating those competencies throughout the various processes (i.e. job evaluation, training, recruitment) of the organization. The mapping process includes defining Role specific Meta (Core) Competencies, Subset competencies (per Meta Competency) and mapping them along with proficiency levels (rating scale). The assessment framework can be designed as per the organization requirement such as employee and manager based competency assessments (Target Vs Actual) and thus identifying skill matrix and gaps. The assessment input can also be collected from peer members, program office and from subject matter experts (in addition to employee & manager’s ratings). The Meta competencies can be given Weightages as well to differentiate must to have/optional/common competencies along with provision of evidence/references (soft copy attachments). A focussed competency based assessment helps matured organizations to address the major pain points systematically (Ref: People CMM Ver 2.0) that impact the PMS (Performance Management System) through data intelligence for decision makers and link with Learning & Development initiatives.
Questionnaire Based: Similar to performance conversation-based assessments, the questionnaire based assessment helps to approach differently but in a meaningful and structured manner. The questionnaire can be planned to have a comprehensive scope/purpose such as, about job, work output, role, stretch goals, agility, culture fit, feedback based, employee satisfaction, aspiration, soft skills, leadership capabilities and personality etc. To have 360° views for unbiased information, the same questionnaire can be re-framed to collect feedback from the selective target people such as matrix managers, program office, peers, cross functional team, or internal/external customers. For prioritized questionnaire, the weightage can be associated category wise and to make balanced assessment along with provision of evidence/references (soft copy attachments).
For more tips to implement various PMS (Performance Management System) approaches that suits your organization you can check out our website for the detailed content.
Bonuses, increased pay and out of cycle salary increases is often seen as common motivators used by companies to retain their talent. But does this work long term? The answer is “No”.
A new research by Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Ashley V. Whillans shows that using cash as a carrot may not always be the best answer. He highlighted this in his 2019 article
As managers we have the responsibility of making every individual in the team feel valued and appreciated for their work. This can be the biggest inspiration to come to work and produce their best work.
As coaches we often come across disgruntled team members who despite their best efforts at doing quality work are frustrated because their boss does not recognize their work. Some who are really talented leave the organization. At the end of the day, the organization stands to lose.
Feeling appreciated makes people feel safe in a way which no pay hike can do. Lack of appreciation does not just impact their productivity at work, it can also be a cause of stress and anxiety leading to health issues.
John Doerr in his book “ Measure What Matters” talks about how weekly check-in meetings during the OKR cycle are meant to review and celebrate success. Transparency and employee recognition is the key to the OKR journey for any organization. To understand this ,read the article on how Ending the week with a Win with OKR is done at Apartment Therapy.
Conversation and Feedback
“A conversation can make (or break) a relationship. It can spark a new idea, it can be the catalyst for change… This is particularly true when it comes to a feedback conversation.” – Sarah Rozenthuler, Clinical psychologist.
Conversations and feedback in the workplace tend to make or break relationships , but without them it is difficult to stay connected with your team members. Having good conversation or a difficult conversation is a competency which is required for giving or receiving feedback. Many managers ignore this and lack the necessary skills to have an open dialogue with their team members.
The OKR methodology requires CFR (Conversation, Feedback and Recognition), which is an essential part of the process. To make OKRs a success , having a conversation with every individual and the team is crucial for the bi-directional feedback. It also provides an opportunity for the managers to mentor the teams.
The reason OKRs methodology is gaining popularity is because it promotes Agility and transparency in an organization therefore improving individual performance and increasing productivity. The real reason for OKR initiative to fail in any organization is when CFR component is completely ignored.
Some of our prospective customers of OKR Stars have shared with us on how they have not been able to motivate their staff to adopt OKRs. For any change program to succeed , communication is important . Most change programs fail because the leadership fails to communicate the purpose for the change. Transparency makes organization objective very clear and encourages individuals at all levels to contribute towards them.
According to John Doerr, a key difference between OKRs and traditional management systems, is that OKRs demand that every what and how must align with the very important question: Why are we doing this work? Such questions encourage dialogue. Company cultures that encourages such questioning and dialogue , include CFR in their process.
When objectives are well defined and communicated broadly, everyone understands the purpose for the most important objectives for the CEO. This energizes the teams. This in essence is the secret sauce to successful execution.
I have personally been a part of many such change programs. While communication, conversation, feedback are key, allowing everyone to get their share of the limelight and giving them time to celebrate their success makes them more involved in the whole process. By shortchanging celebrations, you miss the opportunity to recognize employee hard work and prevent them from taking up audacious goals.
Achieving success in OKR is lot more than setting objectives and tracking key results. It is also about building a culture that involves, reviews and recognizes employees hard work.
To know more about our Full OKR Services you might want visit our website