OKR Implementation Guide

How to manage the OKR roll-out

Once you’ve learned the basics of the OKR methodology, the next step is to start implementing it. When implementing OKRs, it’s important to allocate time for discussions and preparation, starting a few weeks before the coming quarter to make the most out of the methodology.

The first thing to do is to make decisions about which teams will use OKRs. 

There are three options you could consider for the first-time roll-out:

  • Pilot Team
  • Team leaders only
  • Everyone 

Let’s discuss pros and cons of each roll-out strategy. 

OKR roll-out process

Pilot Team

By only focusing on one team, you can work out any workflow issues before introducing the new goal-setting process to everyone. 

The choice of a Pilot Team could be based on how open-minded a group of people is. If you have a functional team (like business development, growth, etc.) with a growth mindset and readiness to try new things, that group of people should be your first choice. 

However, very often you have specific individuals ready to try new things but not a whole functional team altogether. In this case, you can consider assembling a cross-functional group of OKR champions – a guiding coalition – who will learn the methodology, and teach it to their own respective teams when the time is right. 

A guiding coalition can consist of managers and specialists alike, and their sole purpose would be to learn and practice the OKR processes. 

Although OKR roll-out through a Pilot Team is arguably the most effective approach, it will take longer to introduce the methodology to the rest of the company. A guiding coalition of OKR champions will need some time to learn the process and find the best way to bring everyone else onboard. But taking this time could be necessary if you are serious about OKRs and want these changes to last a very long time. 

This should be a go-to approach for companies with 50+ employees. 

Team Leaders Only

By starting OKRs with team leaders only, you can work out goal alignment issues and how team level OKRs connect to overarching company goals. You’ll get a mini version of what your OKR levels will look like, so you can predict how OKRs will work for the whole company.

The benefit of this approach is that this mindset shift (managing by outcomes vs outputs) is a huge change for organizations, and if you onboard the team leads properly, then everyone else will see that this framework works and should be taken seriously.

However, some team leaders might be less receptive to new things, and they might push back on the implementation of the methodology, thus, shaping the attitude of their entire team. 

Some people are naturally and intuitively drawn to the OKR mindset but others might need some time to adjust to the new thinking framework. 

This approach works well for many companies regardless of their size if the team leaders are equally motivated to make OKRs a success in the company. 

Everyone

Starting everyone out using OKRs at once can be incredibly daunting, but is suitable for SMEs (small to medium size enterprises) or companies with flat hierarchies. It takes 2-3 quarters to fully see the value of OKRs, so getting everyone started means seeing results sooner. 

If you are onboarding everyone at the same time, be ready to book out your calendar for many weeks to come because people will have a lot of questions and require a lot of help along the way. 

It is absolutely necessary to have full leadership support and a few people to be OKR champions. Both leaders and OKR champions should be go-to coordinators of the process. 

Companies with 20+ employees would definitely need an OKR coach (internal or external) to guide them through the process and make sure everyone follows through. 

How to organize the timeline for OKR roll-out

1-2 Weeks Before Starting with OKRs

First, start by defining your Quarterly Company level Objectives. You may also want to have longer term Annual Objectives that the Quarterly ones would connect to. However, this is optional. 

Another thing to note is to keep Annual Objectives at the Company level only. Annual Objectives shouldn’t be used by lower levels or you lose the agility factor of OKRs.

When starting out with OKRs, it’s important to remember that you should only create a few Company level overarching Objectives. We would suggest setting 1 and no more than 3 Company level Objectives and discussing them with managers, team leads, and whoever else is involved in the change to OKRs so everyone agrees on the most important goals for the company. 

This process of getting feedback on the Company level Objectives will help you validate them from the execution perspective. If a goal is not achievable, or unreasonable for this quarter, feedback from employees will indicate that. 

Example: You have an annual Objective to “increase company growth.” So, for the first Quarter, your focus regarding this goal could be to “understand and analyze our customers better” or “create a better workplace for our employees.” These Quarterly Objectives help you realize your Annual Objectives by looking for the positive outcomes of better aiding customers or staff. 

You can then repeat this process at the team level. At the team level, team leads should consult their team members to decide on team-important goals while team leads should make sure that these goals align with the Company Objectives. Writing Team Objectives is a critical thinking exercise, and it will involve a lot of discussions so make sure to allocate enough time for them. 

Each Team Objective should have 3-5 Key Results to measure success or failure of this Objective. In the process of drafting an OKR, writing Key Results takes up most of the time. 

Tip! Write Key Results, Not Tasks

Let’s say you are organizing an event.
There are a series of tasks that need to get done to do so, for example, you may need to rent a venue, book a band, organize someone to host, hire catering, etc. These are tasks, not Key Results.
Your Key Results should measure the impact of the entire event. For example, your Key Results can be to “sell 2000 tickets”, “get a 4.5/5 rating from TripAdvisor”, “achieve renown at 5 different news channels”, or “have 50% of attendants sign up for the company newsletter and updates about the next event.”

The final step before finalizing OKRs is the last round of feedback where Objectives and Key Results can be added, deleted, or changed. 

Presenting a Team OKR for the rest of the Company should take place before the quarter starts so that there is enough time to work out cross-functional dependencies with other teams and agree on the rational use of resources. 

Weekly Check-Ins

It is incredibly important that an OKR check-in process is implemented and followed. That means teams should have Weekly Check-ins to see how their goals (Objectives) are progressing. Do not wait until the end of the quarter to do this, as OKRs require a continuous evaluation process. Likewise, if no one is checking in on their OKRs, they will probably forget about them, destroying all the hard work they put into setting them in the first place.

Once a Month

Make sure to have  OKR review team meetings every month to summarize lessons learned and adjust the tactical approaches to the Objective. The purpose of these meetings is to identify problems and brainstorm ways to fix them . Team managers should present these lessons learned during a company-wide monthly OKR review. A cross-functional company-wide OKR review is a great way to stay aligned and ensure better collaboration among teams.

1-2 Weeks Before the End of the Quarter

At this point, the entire company should review the Company Objectives to see the progress that has been made towards them at every level. It’s definitely a good idea to gather some input on this quarter’s OKRs and ideas for the following quarter. 

The purpose of the company-wide quarterly OKR review is to look at everyone’s progress from a big picture angle and collect important learnings to set better OKRs for the next quarter.  

Good Questions to Ask as a Team:


– How did your team perform?
– How big was the contribution of the Team Objectives to the overarching company goal?
– Were the OKRs set a good choice for the team? Did they help the team make improvements for the team as well as the company?
– If the OKRs failed, then why?
– What were the challenges this quarter?
– Lessons learned
– what can be done better next time?
– What are some ideas for the upcoming quarter?
– Were the KRs outcomes driving the Objective forward?
– Could we have better KRs next quarter?

Good Questions for Company Review


– How did the company move forward in achieving company goals?
– Were the results satisfactory?
– Which teams performed the best?
– How do you support teams that did not succeed? 
– Did teams feel motivated working with their OKRs?
– Was the focus clear to everybody? 
– What are the main learnings from this quarter?
– What can the company improve in their OKR setting and process?

Managing your OKR roll-out

Although every company is unique, most teams go through the exact same challenges when implementing the OKR methodology. 

Introducing a new goal-setting approach is not a mechanical process and it will require a lot of intentional changes. In the end, it is going to be well worth the effort because once everyone is brought up to speed, you will observe a significant change in your organization both in culture and productivity.