In the world of tech, many industry giants such as Google choose to use a management framework known as Objectives and Key Results (OKR). This goal-setting platform requires a company, to define goals and come up with activities that should help them to meet these goals. Since the 1970s, OKRs have been used to improve the workplace capabilities of countless companies. When used as designed, OKRs can have a massive positive influence on organizations. OKRs are most effective when the key results set for an objective are validated during the OKR cycle. In my experience, many organizations skip this crucial validation step.
Current Role of Key Results
Defining an objective that a company, team, or individual needs to meet by the end of the quarter, or year is only one-third of the job of OKRs. One-third of the effort is identifying key results, which, more often than not, are activities that allow the company, team, or individual to meet the defined objectives. These key results tend to have a quantitative quality to them since the objectives are almost always qualitative.
Rather than just being a simple tactical list of activities, a better set of key results should be more of a measurable explanation of how the objective or goal will be able to be met. Once about four or five key results are determined for each objective, it is the job of an OKR Champion (servant leader) to coach and guide the team in executing on a cadence towards the objectives. This role is very similar to that of a Scrum Master. A Scrum Master may decide to take on the role of OKR Champion as part of a servant leadership commitment to the organization and Scrum Team.
Shortcomings of Key Results
Key results can be an effective roadmap for helping to accomplish predetermined objectives. As often used, key results are a predictive tool, which means that they are created based on what OKR Champions and other team members believe will work.
However, the very nature of OKRs is one of uncertainty because we work in complex environments, and we define these key results at a time when we know the least about how we will achieve the goals. Therefore, there is no blueprint to work from when trying to figure out which activities will be best suited to meeting the desired goal. The result is a series of activities that are believed to be effective, but these activities based on assumptions may or may not be valid.
Key results tend to fall short regarding the delivery of business value at the end of the measuring period, which is usually a business quarter. At this time, the team examines a set of resulting activities that are then determined to have been completed or not. Unfortunately, in most cases, that is where the process ends, and a new series of OKR begins. In the interest of maximizing the benefits of this framework, this should not be the final step in the process. The final, …read more
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