The global pandemic of 2020 has shown us that careful long-term planning efforts can end in frustration and nonfulfillment. However, that doesn’t mean long-term goals are not critical.
As a startup, you have a vision (the ultimate destination), so all your current efforts tie together for the bigger picture.
Business annual goals are important, but breaking these goals into small focus areas is an excellent agile strategy. The shift towards agile goals can be time-consuming and challenging because it requires adopting changes to your culture and performance management, according to 59% of business professionals.
To achieve agile goal setting and empower your business team to move towards your preferred organization metric, consider using the Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) goal-setting framework.
Here, we help you learn everything about the OKR method and OKR coaching, how OKR software set you up for success, and the best software on the market.
Let’s dive in.
OKRs are Objectives and Key Results, which help teams set and track measurable goals. The method helps create OKR templates that are immensely flexible so they bend and bow to fit all purposes of project management.
So, it’s “I will [Objective] as measured by [Key Result].”
The Objective is a goal you’re working towards, including increasing brand awareness or even creating the lowest carbon footprint in your industry. We use the objective to set a clear direction to where we want to go - OKR progress.
The Key Result measures your progress towards the objective, such as ensuring a quarter of your item’s material is compostable or driving a million web views, even improving employee experience. Think of the key result as a signpost with a distance marker.
Initiatives are tasks or projects that’ll help you achieve the key results. The initiatives are descriptions of what you do to get to a destination.
The methodology involves applying several rules that help employees align, prioritize, and measure the outcome of efforts. OKR helps organizations and small businesses create a connection between strategy and execution while moving an output-based to an outcome-based approach.
The most popular tool is the spreadsheet for many startups making their first entry into OKRs. However, business growth means your once-clear alignment quickly descends into an unreliable tangle.
Like the OKR methodology, OKR software is a means to achieving an end. The software will help employees track progress easily and improve task management.
But there are too many options available on the market, making it difficult for a business to choose one for their management system. Here are five things to look out for in OKR software before investing in one.
The best and most high-performing OKR software supports easy customization and is flexible. You can check the OKRs or goals as milestones, quantities, or percentages.
Look for software that offers the flexibility to check in on your OKRs as per your requirements. Plus, the software will become an invaluable tool in the long run.
OKR software should have basic functionality for aligning and cascading simple OKRs. Remember, OKRs and goals are a shared responsibility.
Cascading the OKRs allows sharing goals from one organizational level to the next, improving the general roadmap. For instance, the manager may cascade their goals down to direct reports.
Aligning the OKRs helps everyone visualize your organization’s bigger picture. Individuals can align their goals with the business.
For instance, your primary goal is to break into an untapped market. Aligning the OKRs will show employees how their efforts contribute towards a specific goal.
Users should understand how the OKR software works with little to no training during onboarding. Choose a tool with a clean and uncluttered user interface.
The simpler and more user-friendly the OKR software, the easier it is for everyone. Understanding and using the software shouldn’t be a new project for all employees.
Plus, make sure it offers easy integration with other processes or OKR tools. The software adoption rate increases depending on its user-friendliness.
Adding comments allows employees and managers to discuss important business components. This functionality promotes two-way communication and teamwork while setting a healthy workflow culture and regular feedback.
Actionable dashboards and insights make understanding and analysis simple. Plus, check whether it indicates completion percentage, highlights goals, aligns goals, and status.
Dashboards and insights help employees see whether a goal requires more attention. The dashboard also helps everyone stay focused and aligned.
The main reason for having OKR software is to increase the visibility of your OKRs. So, you’re not digging for information from multiple tools. Instead, you have a central place for creating, visualizing, storing, and tracking OKRs all in one.
Between documentation tools, time feedback, Jira, execution tools, Slack, Microsoft teams, and email, teams in your organization have multiple places to check for information. Introducing a separate OKR software to the mix adds a new place where your information dies.
The best OKR software works with other business tools such as Salesforce and Asana or is a feature included in the main execution tool.
A significant benefit of the OKR framework is alignment from top to bottom and across the organization. Such alignment is only possible when setting goals is bi-directional. So, leaders set goals for their teams, and teams can share their goals with the leaders.
Bi-directional goal management setting helps create autonomy across your venture. As a leader, you show teams where to go while letting them determine how they’ll get there, allowing them to balance between short- and long-term strategies.
Goal alignment during the planning phase is excellent, but staying on course is another thing. The right tool makes it possible to maintain the desired alignment for your long-, mid-, and short-term company objectives.
The best software shows the connection between objectives and how they work together across the organization. You see the relationships between work items and each connected objective, so leaders and their teams have an obvious line of sight of the connected work.
Bi-directional visibility is critical for aligning your teams with long-term strategic goals. However, horizontal synchronization is vital, especially for teams working closely together, sharing resources, or with shared objectives.
As you set OKRs, teams should focus on goals within their control. Lean-agile teams are cross-functional and self-sufficient to come up with goals they can achieve without outside influence.
Limiting the interdependencies is a critical scaling aspect. The “white space” between organizational teams needs attention to achieve agility.
Increasing visibility into the shared company objectives and interdependencies can help your organization manage the white space. The best OKR software lets your teams see what other departments are working on, especially tasks that require horizontal and vertical synchronization.
OKRs help organizations manage their employee performance in five ways:
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are measures for tracking organizational operations. Pick a subset that is key to the success of your project or team success. A strong KPI offers meaningful information to shape the decisions you make.
OKRs have a direction and soul to them. The objective is what you want to accomplish, while key results are how you’re getting there. Because KPIs are measurable, they are excellent key results.
Conversely, OKRs are:
As per research, five out of 10 startups fail within the first five years. Have you ever wanted to understand why innovative ideas don’t transform into successful ventures?
The first task for any startup is to find the right product-market fit to gain success or even survive.
However, finding the product-market fit is difficult. The process requires defining your hypotheses and testing them. Principles of OKRs can help startups find the right product-market fit:
Using OKRs offers startups several benefits:
It’s tempting to pile on objectives, but their effectiveness stems from their focus. Google OKRs experts recommend each team should have five objectives max with four key results for each objective.
Set at least one or two objectives for the planning phase at the organization level. Cascade down into one or two objectives for each team and one to two objectives for each individual on a team.
The objectives offer answers to the top one or two items that require accomplishing within the quarter and contribute to the long-term organizational vision.
These objectives can also balance each other. For example, balance an efficiency-based objective with a quality-based one.
However, make sure you have a set number of OKRs achievable within a specific timeframe. The number of objectives and key results can change from team to team.
Setting goals is not a one-size-fits-all procedure. When setting out to embed an OKR program, here are steps you need to take before, during, and after.
OKRs are effective for goal setting. While simple and easy to use after your business develops a rhythm for them, it’s easy to make mistakes when introducing OKRs.
Here are the most common OKR mistakes and how to avoid them.
Your OKR goals aren’t tasks or projects. Instead, they are results or outcomes.
An OKR goal or objective is what you want to achieve, and you must complete a combination of projects to reach your goal. A task is something you do, while a project is a combination of tasks.
Consider using a work management platform to track company goals and activities your employees need to complete the key results and objectives. The OKR platform will help your employees stay on track, and combining weekly one-on-one check-ins means they’ve got no excuse for failure.
Not having a measurable figure or poor metrics accompanying the key results is a common mistake. It also means the OKRs are vague and not aligned to specific and measurable outcomes.
Consider adopting smart goals framework to ensure your OKRs are specific and measurable within time.
It’s tempting to set up easy targets to prove your teams are consistent performers. However, achieving 100% success from OKRs means challenging yourself.
The key results you choose should be such that you’ll achieve at least 60% to 70% of them. Key results should be difficult, but not impossible.
Without imposing a limit on OKRs, you’re setting up the team for failure. Employees lose focus when there’s too much to do and become overwhelmed and disengaged.
Instead, set up only three to five objectives in a quarterly time frame or even fewer when introducing them to your startup. Consider introducing one or two more objectives each time the teams meet their latter.
Update key results regularly. Consider creating weekly OKR discussions and make them a ritual with your team. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself off track at the end of the quarter.
Businesses realize several benefits when implementing OKRs. However, many benefits depend on the organization, culture, and others.
That said, the benefits of adopting OKRs include:
Business growth means new people are constantly joining the team. Such development requires everyone to move in the same direction, but it can be challenging. Many employees aren’t aware of your mission, vision, or objectives.
Further, it’s sometimes difficult for employees to know what their peers are doing. Such an environment leads to resources and effort waste. But OKRs can help prevent this.
OKRs provide a simple framework that keeps everyone in the know of the business objectives and direction. The information offers employees a better, more productive means of utilizing their time and resources available.
A key element of OKRs is using connections between team and organization objectives and connecting them to day-to-day work. Aligning the daily activities to objectives helps you understand the team and company focus. Plus, others know what the priorities are.
It’s not enough to write your business goals and teams’ OKRs in a digital workspace and expect all employees to agree. The best alignment fosters two-way communication—bottom-up and top-down.
The leadership explains and clarifies the organization-level direction, so the teams have data to create their OKRs within a quarter. After drafting the OKRs, each department presents them to the rest of the organization and answers queries that may come up.
Weekly check-ins are a starting point for creating plans for the upcoming week. Clear objectives and key results allow team members to choose how they’ll achieve the OKRs.
Weekly plans are also linkable to the team's objectives. The strategy allows a clear view of how the plans drive objectives and if they’re moving forward.
Achieving company OKRs requires collaboration from different teams. Each team is working towards their OKRs as a group, and the weekly OKR check-in meeting ensures everything is on track.
These weekly meetings also help foster mutual understanding and build trust. The check-ins must have a clear agenda and shouldn’t last longer than 30 minutes. You can incorporate the check-in as part of a regular team meeting.
OKRs encourage continuous growth and development. You have an option between these two goals:
Consider these steps when using OKRs:
Startups can use OKR software as a single repository for employees to understand what needs accomplishing (objectives) and ease tracking measurable and specific actions (results). Other ways the software can help in OKR management include:
Flair’s OKR Management tool is the best performance management software that saves you hours. Especially for sharing your organization’s goals, tracking results, and making them visible for all your employees for time-effective planning and growth flexibility.
The OKR framework offers us a robust but flexible means of aligning business strategy. Excellent OKR tools, such as our Performance and Goal feature, will not hold you back. As you consider the options available, ask a few simple questions that’ll lead you to the best OKR software for startups.
Consider OKRs as a goal-setting strategy that can help startups move from initial hardship fast by focusing efforts on what matters. Your employees are the frontline warriors, and OKR is the guiding beacon.
Last note: even if you’ve only one OKR, pursue it until completion. Take each OKR seriously if you’re eager for results.