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About the impact of working with OKRs – Insights from the OKR Report 2019

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You are considering using OKRs but are not sure where to start and how to implement them? You are unsure about the real impact OKRs will have? Or are you already working with OKRs but are keen on improving the process?
No matter where on your journey with OKRs you are, the OKR Report 2019 provides you with interesting facts and analyses around the use of OKRs. The results are based on a survey involving organizations that have been working with OKRs for at least 12 months. It has been conducted by Roger Longden and his team from There Be Giants, who are enthusiastic to share their insights so that other organizations can derive value from it as well. 

In this article you can take an exclusive look into the report and find out which impact working with OKRs has had on the investigated organizations. Enjoy reading!

 

“What impact have they seen?”

 

When asked “Reflecting on your use of OKRs so far, what do you believe has gone really well?” by far the biggest impact that was reported was an increase in focus within the business which came from the clarity OKRs provided. Related to this was also reports of increased transparency and the accountability which came with that. Second was how OKRs have provided a structure for teams at all levels to discuss and track performance and results. It seems this enabled some businesses to both improve communication (everyone speaking the same language) and accountability. Third, even though the majority of respondents had only been using OKRs for between 12-18 months, they believed they had seen growth in both results and ambition. There were also reports of more open conversations and feedback.

 

It’s worth mentioning there were also reports of where OKRs did not work and were dropped. All of these instances were attributed to a lack of commitment from the C suite and a failure of leadership. If OKRs as an initiative don’t originate from the top, it’s vital that those leading them enroll senior sponsors who will role model OKRs to the rest of the business. It’s a vital part of standard change management and it saddens us how often it is still absent from OKRs at their early stage. We felt it was also valuable to examine the speed at which respondents felt they saw specific OKR skills and practice really start to become habit. In response to “Thinking about the first teams who started using OKRs, when in the first 12 months did they get good at”: they reported the following for each of these OKR practices:

NB: Not all respondents answered these questions which is why the percentages don’t total 100.

 

It’s no surprise to see that respondents felt they made good progress in the first 6 months with alignment and discussion given 85% said they wanted OKRs to help them achieve stronger alignment and 45% said they wanted to improve employee engagement. Clearly there was the will to work on these.

What is revealing is that skills in crafting Key Results (outcome & measurable) seem to take nearer 9 months to master. This backs up our own experience as a shift from measuring activity to measuring impact is the biggest mindset shift we help clients work on when introducing OKRs. We also see both a lack of available measures (so they take time to establish) and also a reluctance of using/committing to them for being judged as failing. There are many reasons for this often based on previous experience which has conditioned responses and are frankly worthy of it’s own research.

 

The findings of the OKR Report 2019 prove OKRs to be helpful for increasing focus through clarity, providing more structure for teams and boosting performance results and ambition. However, they reveal that the process of implementing OKRs and formulating them in a purposeful way takes its time. This information is fundamental knowledge which program leads should pass on to both OKR coaches and management in order to create realistic expectations and avoid initial frustration.

Get access to the full OKR Report 2019 here. If you are looking to exchange with others on this topic, online or offline, get in touch with practitioners and experts at our Workpath Quarterly and Symposium on December 11th in Berlin or become part of our online Community.

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