March 10, 2021

Why your business needs an OKR champion

Joe Ottinger
Co-founder of OKR Advisors

An OKR champion is a superuser that understands the ins and outs of OKRs and can support their optimal adoption within a company. OKR champions help with the successful rollout, adoption, and use of OKRs within a company. Usually there are a number of OKR champions within a company depending on size. They typically come from different areas of the operating organization to better contextualize OKRs for their areas of responsibility. OKR champions have a number of roles and responsibilities to support the successful adoption of OKRs within a company.

  • First, they facilitate the successful rollout of OKRs within a company, working with the senior team to identify and knock down barriers to success.
  • Second, they are power users that can train and coach others as well as facilitate or support their optimal use within team meetings.
  • Third, OKR champions support the development of an internal center of excellence relating to OKRs and other agile business methods. An OKR center of excellence can include a directory of certified internal champions and external resources, eLearning and other educational materials, company-specific tools, templates and job aids, and an overview of how to use the company’s OKR software system, among other things.

Why you need an OKR champion

OKRs are an entry point for companies that desire to become more agile. They are part of an agile business operating system if you will. For a company to achieve the positive benefits OKRs can offer, however, requires a fundamental change to the way leaders engage with their teams and organizations, and to the way organizations operate. For many, these changes are significant, and like any other large change effort, organizations benefit from utilizing a proven change methodology.  OKR champions are a critical part of the change process leading to successful OKR adoption and the achievement of positive business results.

For organizations that attempt to roll out the goal-setting framework without OKR champions, there is a greater risk that it will not be adopted well or at all. Changing individual and team behaviors to successfully adopt the OKR methodology, like any other change, can stall out without creating new, positive behaviors and habits.  The habit that brings the biggest benefit to teams and companies is to start with outcomes first, not activities, and to ensure those outcomes are aligned throughout the company’s top priorities.

Role of OKR champions in change leadership

In my recent past, I had the pleasure of co-founding a firm with Harvard Business School professor John Kotter, called Kotter International. Professor Kotter is one of the world’s leading experts on how to lead change within organizations. He developed, and we implemented, the most well-adopted framework for successfully leading change in the world.

One element of the process involves creating a guiding coalition of change champions. In our blog post, titled OKR Pitfalls, Failures, And Restarts, we identified the lack of a change leadership approach as one of the most significant pitfalls leading to failure, and the support by internal OKR champions as one of the keys to success.

Change leadership framework

The change approach developed by Dr. Kotter has three stages:

1) Developing a climate for change

2) Engaging and enabling the organization

3) Sustaining and institutionalizing change.

The elements of that approach as it relates to OKRs are identified in the diagram below. As you can see, identifying OKR champions is part of the first stage.

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How to train an OKR champion or become an OKR champion

Similar to the mastery of any methodology, we recommend going through a reputable OKR Champion Certification Program to develop mastery of the methodology and best practices for being an effective OKR coach, educator, and facilitator of the process.

You can learn more about the OKR Advisor Champion Certification Program and upcoming training dates here.


About The Author

Joe Ottinger is a co-founder of OKR Advisors, a training and management consulting firm helping companies achieve the promise of business agility now. Prior to OKR Advisors, Joe was a co-founder of Kotter International along with Harvard Business School Professor John Kotter. Joe has published books and articles about OKRs, business agility, innovation, change, and leadership, which have appeared in Forbes, Chief Executive Magazine, The Financial Times, Worth Magazine, and Stanford’s Center for Social Innovation.


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