OKRs at FlixBus - Case Study

Table of Contents

As one of Europe’s largest mobility providers, FlixBus moves millions of people across the continent every business quarter. Over the past five years the company has demonstrated strong international growth.

In 2016, the leadership team decided to implement a structured but agile goal management process around Objectives and Key Results (OKR) at FlixBus. One important goal was to enable self-organization and more autonomous, agile teams. Furthermore, it was a great opportunity to communicate a clear set of company goals that everyone can align their work with. A new level of transparency and unity was meant to reinforce the experience of purpose at work. With employees who better understand how their work contributes to the success of the company and how they can support each other, FlixBus wanted to leverage the potential of their teams and departments even better. Last but not least, it was important to align the entire organization across several locations and assure smooth and efficient business operations while continuing to innovate and experiment with new services. Focusing on the top company objectives while increasing collaboration across a diverse set of functions and countries was expected to drive performance and efficiency.

If you want to know more about the OKR framework, take a look at our article "Objectives and Key Results (OKR) - A Definition"

Onboarding more than 1000 employees step by step

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As the leadership team decided to implement the OKR framework for the entire organization, management buy-in as was granted from the beginning. The implementation was kicked off with an initial training of 130 employees, followed by subsequent trainings to answer questions that came up in the process and to coach additional employees that wanted to drive the goal setting process at FlixBus.

Besides management buy-in, one of the most important success factors was the introduction of OKR masters, dedicated internal experts, who were trained to operate as change agents, coaches, and process guards. These so called “OKR Champions”, were also relevant to make OKRs part of the working routine in their teams and to set expectations right. Even though the company wanted to onboard all of their teams quickly, it was crucial to give employees the time to learn working with the tool and iterating towards actionable quality goals.

With OKR Champions in every team it was also possible to encourage and moderate a stronger bottom-up approach in setting targets. This emphasized the company’s ambition to foster self-organization and an operating system that is driven by an entrepreneurial mindset and highly engaged associates.

Furthermore, it was important to demonstrate the management’s belief and support for the new organizational operating system. André Schwämmlein, one of the company’s Managing Directors shared a video of himself explaining the value and the process design of Objectives and Key Results at FlixBus. The involvement of C-level management and department heads turned out to be valuable with regards to process discipline and adoption. Team leaders understanding and supporting OKRs alongside the OKR Champions are able to establish OKRs as an increasingly important element of their existing meeting routines at FlixBus, where it is used as a tool that increases structure and result-orientation in daily communications. Successes with OKRs are appreciated prominently within communication formats like company all-hands, team meetings, or in one-on-one sessions.

The OKR Cycle at FlixBus

The OKR cycle at FlixBus is aligned with the business quarters and follows a clear process of planning and feedback sessions. Over the course of 14-18 days, all teams go from setting their priorities to defining and aligning their OKRs across the entire organization for the final kick-off.What is crucial to establish a successful cycle design, as Samuel Schuermann emphasizes, is to not just focus on setting and achieving goals, but to really make OKRs part of the weekly routine in all teams.

OKRs as part of the weekly routine at FlixBus

“If the organization understands Objectives and Key Results as a purely administrative system and not as a dynamic communication layer, OKRs have a limited impact on performance and culture. Even though the process also demands new formats like planning and review sessions, a significant success factor is to integrate OKRs within the existing meeting rhythm.”

Team and Department Meetings

Structuring meetings at FlixBus around OKRs lead to more result-oriented sessions. Furthermore, discussing OKRs means discussing priorities. It is a good opportunity to check if the focus is still the right one. It also ensures that OKR and progress data are being updated regularly and initiatives are permanently aligned with the most important strategic Objectives.

One-on-Ones and Jour Fixes

Talking about someone’s goals is great to show you understand them and care for their success. Focusing on goals and enabling frame conditions for success instead of tasks helps FlixBus to implement a more agile and collaborative culture with team leads as coaches and enablers.

Lessons learned: FlixBus tips for OKR beginners

Take the time: People need time to experiment and experience the benefits of the new methodology. It will take a while until everyone applies OKRs naturally and effectively.

Find a good balance: While ensuring compliance with certain policies, you should also allow room for experimentation and adaption. OKRs are a modular and flexible system, but changes should be justified, developed within structured reviews and retrospectives.

Go step by step: During the rollout, make sure that each organizational unit has understood the process so they can encourage others and align across the organization.

Measure the right thing: Defining good metrics for OKR often is a challenging but impactful process. When defining metrics, do not just recreate the business case in the form of a KPI tree, but focus on making your actions measurable.

Join the OKR Community to exchange with Samuel Schürmann on Objectives and Key Results.