This is part 3 in our guest series. You can find Part 1 (Workshop Preparation) and Part 2 (Workshop Execution) here.

In part 2 of this series we have successfully defined and documented the team objectives. Typically, this is not the end of your support and consultancy as an OKR coach. Objectives and key results must be lived, and progress should be checked on a regular basis to acknowledge partial achievements or to allow for necessary course corrections or. Today I would like to share with you how to establish a routine for checking and updating your OKRs during the OKR cycle.

During OKR execution, I recommend doing regular team Check-Ins which you as an OKR coach would typically host. Check-Ins provide a safe space for the team to document and discuss goal-related activities. While doing such check-ins on a weekly basis may be too often, a monthly pattern certainly is not agile enough if adaptations or short-term decisions are required. I have found a bi-weekly frequency for goal update and check-up to work for many teams. Ideally you find a 15 to 20 minute slot in your team meeting in the beginning of the meeting. Regarding the order on the agenda I recommend placing the Check-In slot right after the management update. In doing so you minimize the risk of condensing or even totally skipping the check-in slot due to longer speaking time of the previous speakers. Additionally, you avoid that bits and pieces of discussions that happened so far are simply repeated.

Based on my experience, let me share with you some guiding principles for updating Objectives and conducting Check-ins which can serve as a baseline for your own OKR practice. 

1. Ideally 30 min prior to the team meeting, the following aspects should be documented in the respective platform:

  • Updates on OKRs by the objective and key result owner covering confidence level, status of objectives and key results, comments
  • Check-Ins by all participants

-> COACH NOTE: 

Objective owners and team members should come in prepared. This gives you as a coach the chance to glance at common themes which could be handled jointly during moderation.

Note: The confidence level reflects on a scale of 1 to 10 how assured the Objective / KR owner is in achieving the OKR by the end of the cycle.

2. Focus on learnings / risks / blockers

  • Which positive experience would you like to share with the team? One or two key topics?
  • Any topic where you’d appreciate a brief opinion from the team?
  • Where do you need the team to further focus on to work towards an OKR? What hinders you from achieving the objective?
  • If it cannot be solved in the meeting after 2-3 min of speaking time: Who is required for a follow-up? Who will set up the follow-up meeting?

--> COACH NOTE:

Encourage participants to start off with a positive note to establish a constructive setting for the discussion and feedback round.

Given the typical time constraints, I recommend focusing on the critical items first before getting to goal-related activity reporting.

3. Link your activities to Objectives and Key Results, focus less on what you have worked on – rather: outline the top 3

--> COACH NOTE:

Even goal-related activity reporting should be limited to a few highlights only. Check-ins should not be degraded to a pure status reporting. Hence, not every detail a person has worked on over the last 1-2 weeks is to be listed.

4. You do not necessarily have to give an outlook on what you plan to work in in the next week

--> COACH NOTE:

In general, Check-Ins may address an outlook of goal-related activities of the upcoming weeks(s). Due to time constraints, you can potentially cut out this part without fearing to lose essential information. Best case this outlook would be presented in next week’s goal-related activity reporting anyways.

5. Avoid replicating data from the OKR update to the Check-In section

--> COACH NOTE:

If Objective or Key Result owners provide comments with the goal update, it does not make sense to replicate this information into the Check-In space.

As a rule of thumb I recommend the following regards making notes and comments:

  • Comments that enrich the goal with additional information around the update should be directly done in the context of the respective OKR. This information can be visible and transparent to the entire OKR community.
  • Documentation around activities contributing to goal progress which should not be visible to the entire OKR community but solely to the team goes to a restricted safe space in the Check-In.

6. If required, call out specifics from the OKR update:

  • Is a topic progressing better than expected?
  • Has there been a stark decline in the confidence level and if so why?
  • Is progress slowing down for a topic and if so why?

--> COACH NOTE:

Due to limited time for Check-Ins, I once more recommend to not do the goal progress update during the Check-In in the meeting. I expect this to be done by the person responsible prior to each meeting. Objective and Key Result Owners, however, are requested to actively call out max. 1-2 highlights or lowlights if it serves the purpose.

7. Be prepared to provide your Check-In feedback in 2-3 min

--> COACH NOTE:

Nothing to add but:

Timebox! Timebox! Timebox! To manage the 15-20 min time slot for all participants involved. Everything beyond that requiring deep-dive discussions should be handled in separate follow-ups.


Feel free to adapt the proposals to your needs. If you find, for example, that goal updates only happen with delay or not at all you may request to extend the Check-In for 10 min once a month. In this additional time, Objective Owners are invited to briefly present their updated objectives in the team meeting itself. The same goes for Check-ins that – due to a larger round of participants  – cannot be handled in 15 min and where 30 min every team meeting would simply be too much. How about an alternative solution of having one check-in of 15 min in one team meeting and stretching it to 30 min in the next? The beauty of such measures is: You may flexibly adapt them on demand.

I encourage you as an OKR coach to be pragmatic, choose what you find useful to incorporate into your OKR practice, and simply leave out the rest. Ultimately, the routine to be established  needs to work for both parties – for you as an OKR coach and for the team you are coaching. 

Happy OKR coaching! 😊

Doreen Baseler is a program and portfolio manager at SAP SE who oversees the SAP Continuous Influence for SAP S/4HANA Cloud program and the OKR program for the SAP S/4HANA Product Management unit.
Doreen additionally has long-term experience in product and project management in the areas of Supply Chain and Manufacturing as well as in SAP Solution Manager and SAP Customizing methodology and tools.