Especially in our increasingly interconnected and rapidly changing business world, it is critical for companies to be able to act with flexibility. For many companies, quarterly business reviews are a linchpin in the process from strategy to execution. At the same time, the question increasingly arises how QBRs can be closely linked to the more and more present agile goal management framework OKR Framework for agile strategy execution. The question is how QBR and OKR can be combined.

What does QBR stand for?

The abbreviation QBR stands for the term "Quarterly Business Review" - i.e. meetings in which figures are reviewed on a quarterly basis, goals achieved are checked and potential for further development is uncovered.

What are QBRs good for?

For successful management, it is essential to regularly map the course of business, prioritize tasks and coordinate teams. After all, a company always needs a common general strategic direction - a concrete common vision - in order to be able to work effectively and agilely and to keep employees motivated.

QBRs are used to check whether the company and its employees are still "on track" with regard to this direction. In these quarterly meetings,

  • goals are considered that an organization or team has set for itself or that have been set by a customer,
  • it is checked whether and how these goals have been achieved,
  • ideas and new goals are being brainstormed that can be used to further improve performance in the future - both at the level of individual teams and employees, and in terms of the entire organization and its performance.

Who should participate in QBRs?

The question of who should attend QBRs is easy to answer: relevant stakeholders and decision makers. A QBR meeting is about the strategic direction of a company, which means that there is no small talk about day-to-day business, but rather higher-level decisions are made. Accordingly, the people at the table should be those who can make informed decisions about appropriate strategic initiatives.

No surprises - set the agenda for QBRs in advance

To structure a QBR in a meaningful way, an agenda should be set in advance and sent to every attendee. This way, each participant knows what the topics are, why he or she should attend, and what is expected.

Such an agenda could be structured as follows, for example:

  • Brief introduction
  • Summary / recap of objectives
  • Presentation of the balance sheet / performance in the last quarter (focus on key OKR/KPI)
  • Highlighting special achievements
  • Information about special challenges (incl. solutions)
  • Highlighting potential (resulting from challenges)
  • Roadmap for the future / outlook for the next quarter
  • Time for questions and feedback (approx. 20 - 30 minutes for 60 -90 minute meeting)

QBRs - pitfalls and weaknesses

Well-prepared and executed, QBRs offer enormous potential for companies since the business situation can be reassessed and, if necessary, adjusted to shorter, regular intervals and transparency is created for all stakeholders involved.

However, QBRs also bring with them numerous organizational challenges and it might take time for QBR processes to become established properly.

For example, responsibilities with regard to QBRs should be clearly defined and tasks clearly assigned at all times. In addition, QBRs should be focused on discussions of the essentials without becoming too technical or administrative.

Goals set in QBRs for the next quarter should be aligned as closely as possible with the company's strategy and/or the customer's needs.

QBRs are also very time-consuming to prepare. When the quarterly figures are finally prepared, they are often no longer up-to-date. This is where the OKR method can provide support. Supplemented by a useful analytics tool, OKR can deliver the right content for QBRs directly and up-to-date.

Objectives and Key Results (OKR) - the key to successful QBRs?

OKRs are an omnipresent trend topic in the management world. The acronym OKR stands for "Objectives and Key Results" and describes a modern and agile framework for the efficient implementation of strategies that can be applied to teams and organizations of all sizes.

With OKR, goals can be set, managed and implemented at all organizational levels of a company in a holistic and outcome-oriented manner. The special feature: Employees are actively involved in creating the company's goals.

Thus, the OKR framework not only promotes rapid growth and helps to continuously optimize processes within the company, but can also become a driving force for innovation, employee development and cultural change. And it does so through a clear focus on the essentials, clearly formulated goals and regular success checks.

OKR - definition as a flexible framework

OKR is by no means a static process, but a flexible method that can be individually tailored to the needs of a company - depending on its objectives.

Long- and medium-term goals are combined with short-term goals and concrete tasks. Thus, OKR allows for business agility while ensuring a certain continuity.

You can also find a detailed definition in our article "Objectives and Key Results (OKR) - A Definition".

Objectives and Key Results - a "best-of" of different methods

OKRs combine the strengths of different goal setting and management methods. They basically represent a symbiotic evolution or even a "best-of" from metrics such as Management by Objectives (MbO), SMART and Balanced Scorecard (BSC).

Objectives and Key Results - the OKR Basics

The basic procedure for using the OKR method in the context of QBRs is simple: Qualitative goals (objectives) are formulated. These objectives are being set ambitiously and formulated in a way that is motivating, memorable and directional for the employees.

Each objective is linked to two to a maximum of five measurable measures (key results) that specify how a set goal can be achieved. Key Results allow the quantitative measurement of progress towards the goal.

Each Objective and Key Result is always set to be achieved within one cycle (which can vary but is usually 3 months).

Examples for Objectives and Key Results

OKRs can be defined at all levels of the organization: for the whole company, a department or an individual employee.

As a formula for the successful formulation of Objectives and Key Results the following guiding principle of OKR professional John Doerr can be used: We will achieve (Objective), measured by (Key Result).

Thus, a successful OKR formulation for the marketing team objective "Alignment" could be:

We will achieve a steadily increasing inflow of high-quality leads to provide our salespeople with the right conditions to close their deals, as measured by

  • A 65 percent match of our MQLs to our ICP.
  • A 10 percent increase in our reach.
  • An increase in average monthly MQLs from 2,000 to 2,600.

You can also find more OKR examples, as well as tips and advice for writing good OKRs, in our article "OKR Examples for Teams and Leadership".

Improve Business Value with OKR - Optimize QBRs

OKR as a management method has the potential to uncover problem errors not only during QBRs, but already during an OKR cycle - for example in regular check-ins - and to make course corrections in the running process, which without OKR method would have been discovered and corrected only in the context of the next QBR or even at the annual closing.

OKRs in combination with QBRs also provide more clarity in target formulation and target control. The OKR method creates the link to higher-level strategies and goals, it provides a binding structure for the management of operational goals, and ensures that all employees feel engaged and also commit to the common goals at the team level.

In this way, OKRs can be used to increase the quality of goal formulation in the context of QBRs, which in turn can lead to an increase in efficiency and turnover. In addition, OKR helps shorten the preparation time for QBRs. The implementation and the use of OKR tools can also ensure consistent data timeliness.

QBR and OKR FAQs

Why is the implementation of QBRs useful?

It is important to take the time to reflect on the key goals set (whether they are KPIs or OKRs) and to be able to plan for the future to either achieve these goals or set new ones. QBRs perform exactly these functions. They provide the ability to measure and evaluate performance that has been previously established and, by looking at the results, enable an efficient roadmap for future success. In addition, QBRs provide a concrete 90-day timeline and provide an opportunity for feedback.

What should be included in a QBR?

Good planning is the cornerstone of a successful QBR. Be prepared to thoroughly review the previously established OKRs (and KPIs), highlight successes, outline challenges from the previous 90 days, suggest future opportunities, and establish a plan with goals for the following quarter.

What mistakes should be avoided for a successful QBR?

If possible, a QBR should mainly focus on achievements rather than failures. A work environment should allow  open, honest discussion and feedback, however, it is more helpful to keep an optimistic outlook for the next cycle.

A QBR is also not the appropriate forum for detailed questions. Technical details or specific questions about a product can be clarified afterwards - without wasting the time of the executives present at the QBR.

In fact, a QBR should last no longer than one to two hours. An agenda sent to all participants in advance helps with time management and ensures that all participants enter the meeting with clear expectations.