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How to use OKRs to put your values into action
Do you know your company’s OKRs (objectives and key results) off the top of your head?
If you don’t know them, then your team likely doesn’t either. So it’s crucial that you do know what they are because OKRs are key to keeping teams aligned.
Last updated18 Aug 2022
In fact, one of the most common causes of conflict and frustration in any company is lack of alignment.
Not only between teams, but also how one team’s goals ladder up to the overarching company-wide OKRs.
At a high level, a lack of alignment makes it almost impossible to build a cohesive company culture around a shared sense of purpose—and it can lead to lots of frustrating moments for everyone.
So even though the sales team is hitting quotas and the product team is plotting roadmaps, it can be easy to overlook the gaps that naturally form between them.
Here’s an example of what I mean by this: a sales rep commits to a prospect that a certain feature will be added or modified to close a high-ticket deal fast.
The product team has this on their to-do list but also has other commitments that take priority.
Therefore, they don't have the capacity to meet the sales rep’s request in the timeframe given.
The result: not only are both sides frustrated but also an unrealistic expectation has been set. That is, a customer’s request trumps a product team’s roadmap and undermines their strategy.
When teams work in silos like this, a gap forms and an opportunity is lost.
Now, let’s flip the script.
Imagine a company-wide goal to increase the amount of high-ticket deals by a certain percentage that immediately cascades down to other teams.
The marketing team might switch to a more account-based model, or the sales team may invest in a new lead-scoring platform. And the product team could deep dive into customer research to understand what high-ticket prospects want to see next.
All of this effort could help 20 salespeople close 20 high-ticket deals, instead of changing around the product roadmap one time at the last minute to accommodate one customer’s specific request.
At Hotjar, we use a method like this one in the form of company-wide OKRs.
We find this gives context and narrative to our company-wide goals and helps our teams work together to see the bigger picture.
What are OKRs?
Created by Andy Grove and popularized by Google, OKRs (objectives and key results) are a goal-setting framework to help align teams with one another. Here are the elements that make up an OKR:
Objectives are tangible stretch goals that require multiple teams to work together. For example, a company-wide objective could be as simple as, grow the company.
Key results measure the success of those objectives. For example, a key result for grow the company could be, increase revenue by 25%.
Written together, this OKR would be: grow the company by increasing revenue by 25%.
Unlike traditional goal-setting where more is the norm, OKRs require you to choose no more than three to five at a time.
We only set three per year at Hotjar, with every department, team, and individual choosing OKRs that fall under one of these three categories.
Keeping with this example, there are multiple ways to increase revenue. You can hire more sales reps, increase their quota, sell an additional product line, or double down on a particular marketing channel.
The role of an OKR is not necessarily to be prescriptive but to give a guiding principle for a full year’s worth of work, and it should be challenging enough to create a step-change in how you do business.
OKRs can put your values into action
OKRs have two main goals:
To translate the overall strategy of the business and the vision into something tangible for teams to work with
To create alignment between teams, so you’re focusing on only what’s most important for your goals
Done right, they can also challenge you to be more innovative and creative.
But they also have potential to completely change how you do business.
OKRs are the framework that puts your company values into action.
I believe success isn’t just a matter of more revenue or more customer growth. The most successful companies in the future will be the ones with a deep sense of purpose.
That’s why we’ve built an extensive giving back program around climate justice—which all began from an OKR we set a few years ago to become carbon neutral.
What came out of that OKR was a commitment to understanding not only our own carbon footprint, but also the practices we can implement behind carbon neutrality—turns out, it’s shockingly easy to pay a little money and offset your carbon footprint. We realized right away, though, that it wasn't enough to grow our business in a way that felt right to us. Since this OKR was set, we’ve:
Mapped our full carbon footprint, including our individual employees
Invested in climate projects like the San Antonio El Sitio Wind Power Project
Planted more than one million trees
Purchased an acre of land on behalf of every Hotjar employee to prevent deforestation
Using one of our OKRs to transform our company culture and how we do business sets the stage for the rest of these actions. We don’t need to set an OKR to continue this work because we’ve worked it into the fabric of who we are. That’s what makes OKRs so powerful.
How to set purpose-driven OKRs
Before you set your OKRs, you have to know strategically where you want to go.
It’s not about picking exciting, challenging numbers out of the air and going after them—it’s about deep focus and data analysis on the areas of the business that need attention or cultivation to continue to grow.
OKRs are the bridge between your strategy and action. You have to drill down into what is truly meaningful in order for OKRs to have any impact. No matter what, they need to reflect your values.
We believe in a purpose-driven business model that’s people-centric, and this is reflected in the way we create our OKRs. So we set only three objectives: one for our team, customers or product, and company growth.
When creating OKRs that encourage purpose, it’s important to incorporate your values into them.
What makes OKRs work
OKRs are a useful framework, but they are just that: a framework.
As you introduce a new way of goal-setting, my biggest advice is that you should be prepared to fail at first.
OKRs are designed to be challenging and push the envelope, and that means you may not always achieve them.
Don’t rush it, or try to set your OKRs after a single executive workshop.
It takes time and tinkering to get them right—but when you do, you can lead your company to even greater heights.
How many OKRs do you set every quarter or every year?
Do you leverage your company values into them, too?
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