More than 70 professionals signed up for Workpath’s last OKR FORUM of 2017, this time at the Center for Digital Technology and Management in the heart of Munich. After a successful series of forums in the German-speaking region, with co-hosts like Deloitte Digital or the CDTM, this December edition again brought together experienced practitioners and beginners. The event started with a retrospect of Workpath’s CEO Johannes Müller on how OKRs have evolved in Europe and how agile goal management is transforming more and more enterprises. The event continued with an expert talk by HolidayCheck’s Karl Pitrich and Mathias Gorf about their experiences with implementing OKRs and adapting the system over several cycles. A panel discussion with representatives of OKR practitioners like Workpath, Personio, FlixBus, Jochen Schweizer and HolidayCheck closed the official agenda.
“It has not been easy, but we can show impactful results today.”
Mathias Gorf and Karl Pitrich, HolidayCheck’s OKR program owners, focused their presentation on the previous 12 months with OKRs and on how they would introduce their OKR system today. While sharing insights on the implementation and adaption process, they explained their learnings.
A key advice was that an enterprise should never try to just copy the model of another company. “It won’t fit, or it will even harm you”, Karl Pitrich stated. The better approach is to gather knowledge about OKRs in order to understand the underlying principles and then just start and adapt over time. Also, after the first few cycles, one should try to tailor their goals less and less to the existing organization, but organize the company and its people around shared goals and priorities.
“OKRs are a mirror for your organization”, Mathias Gorf added, as they help identifying the gap between the current state of an organization and its ideal of an agile network focused on value creation.
Engaging and aligning all stakeholders was another important aspect the two experts talked about. This goes hand in hand with communication, which is another key success factor of OKRs. This is why HolidayCheck established a regular meeting rhythm with OKR check-in sessions similarly to Scrum meetings. Not only do OKRs enhance the communication between c-level managers and their teams, but they are also impactful to make these conversations more efficient, result-oriented, and data-driven An important communication tool in this context are the “confidence levels” of HolidayCheck’s OKRs. Team members state their confidence in reaching a given goal, e.g. “I am 75% sure that I will reach the goal on time”. This type of communication unearths issues early and promotes a transparent culture focused on continuous learning and fast iterations.
But how do you even set effective OKRs? HolidayCheck has started to develop their own sophisticated process and they are moving towards a network organization of self-organized, autonomous teams with that. For this purpose they have introduced so-called “super teams”.
After the management team has shared their perspective on the organization’s strategy and the priorities for the next cycle, everyone in the company is invited to come up with ideas for OKRs that can support these organizational goals.
All individuals and teams then present their ideas in a marketplace-like concept, where the management and their colleagues can decide which ideas to support. This process then results in interdisciplinary “super teams” of multiple individuals and sometimes even teams. This evolving approach ensures high employee engagement and a continuously optimized alignment across the organization. “However, keep in mind, one should never just copy the approach of another company when it’s about OKRs. You have to find your own way over time”, Mathias Gorf reminded the audience.
“When you have finally set your goals and teams work, don’t expect to see immediate effects.” Pitrich closed their talk. OKRs and their implementation require time. Also, one should set oneself up to fail. At first, failing is just part of the process and OKRs are designed in a way, they help you understanding how to improve processes and organization design. “But with time passing by, you realize, you fail less and less.”
The following panel discussion mainly focused on how organizations can scale their agile goal setting process with OKRs among hundreds or even thousands of employees. Samuel Schürmann from Flixbus, Säm Abdelkhalek from Jochen Schweizer, Jonas Rieke from Personio, Karl Pitrich and Mathias Gorf from HolidayCheck, and Johannes Müller from Workpath discussed how companies can integrate OKRs into the weekly work routine and agreed that this is a crucial success driver of agile goal and performance management. Using OKRs to prepare and structure team meetings, one-on-ones or company town hall session help enforcing a transparent and result-oriented workplace culture and it helps illustrating the value of agile goal setting on a daily basis.
Speakers and Panelists
Karl Pitrich, Head of Engineering at HolidayCheck, initially introduced OKRs at the company and is a pioneer of agile goal management in the German-speaking region.
Mathias Gorf is the new OKR program owner at HolidayCheck. He already helped fashion OKRs at his previous company and is now driving the OKR process to transform the organization into a more and more agile structure of self-organized teams.
Samuel Schürmann is the executive assistant to the CEO of Flixbus. As a responsible manager for strategy and strategy implementation he introduced OKRs to the company with more than 1000 employees all over Europe.
Säm Abdelkhalek is agile coach and OKR master at Jochen Schweizer. He is the internal OKR program owner and contact person for all topics related to agile goal management at the company.
Jonas Rieke is VP of Customer Success at Personio and OKR program owner at the technology company. He was part of the initial roll-out team and is now developing the system for the needs of their fast-growing organization.
Johannes Müller is co-founder and CEO of Workpath. He and his company support organizations implementing and establishing OKRs with their enterprise software and training solutions.