OKRs can be implemented at three different levels in an organization: at the organizational level, for individual teams/departments, and in some cases, even at the individual level. Depending on the size of the organization, there may be multiple layers of teams/departments implementing their own OKRs.
It is often recommended to start at the organizational level, where leadership builds their OKRs based on the company’s vision and strategy. Simplified, OKRs become an agenda for the upcoming year’s movement towards the vision and implementation of the strategy.
Both sales goals and goals related to entering new markets, launching new products, and other areas can be included. However, to maintain focus, it is recommended to have no more than 2-4 objectives with 2-4 key results connected to each. These become the organization’s focus for the upcoming year.
Organisational OKRs are often referred to as strategic OKRs.
As a team or division, it is helpful if the organization’s goals are clearly outlined using OKRs, but it is not a requirement. Often, it is possible to construct a common goal based on the company’s strategy, expectations on the team, and similar factors.
At this level, it is beneficial to discuss how the team/division supports the organization overall. What is the team’s/division’s vision and mission? This has implications for which organizational objectives to focus on.
A common misconception about OKRs is that it is a waterfall model where objectives are derived from the organization’s key results and activities are created around them. In reality, this goes against the purpose of the framework, which is to create engagement as well as alignment.
Instead, teams in the organization are encouraged to have internal discussions about which overarching objectives they should support and based on that, set their own objectives and key results where they see they can have the greatest impact on the organization’s overall ability to achieve its goals. The focus here should be on aligning objectives with the organization’s goals, but it is up to the teams to determine how to work towards them.
In teams, key results need to be translated into action plans and activities – this is also left to the teams themselves. In this way, OKRs are a model that encourages trust and initiative throughout the organization. The contract between leaders and teams is that the team will deliver on their set goals and choose the path to achieve them, rather than discussions about which path and activities to choose to get there.
In some implementations, individual OKRs are created for employees in an organization. It is, in many ways, an extension of how OKRs are used at the team level, with the important difference that at the individual level, individuals set their own objectives and key results (based on the team’s set OKRs, of course).
In many cases, goals can become more tangible in this way, and it brings individuals closer to activities depending on where they are in the organization.
However, in individual OKRs, one can also include things like personal development plans and other focuses that support the organization but may not directly align with the organization’s overarching objectives. For example, a member of a marketing team working on getting participants for events (key result: 300 participants at external events) could create an individual objective like “Increase participation in external events compared to last year” and tie key results to it, such as “Email generates 100 registrations,” “Each salesperson invites at least 10 customers,” “Social media generates 100 registrations,” etc.
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