July 19, 2021

How to build a positive company culture with OKRs

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Countless industry leaders have adopted OKRs to drive strong business results.

Using the OKR methodology means changing the way your organization, teams, or individuals work, so there is a better chance of meeting your goals. Oftentimes, these changes are ones that can influence – or entirely reshape – your company culture. 

How does this happen? We’ll break down the key components of an OKR program and how these pieces contribute to a culture of focus, alignment, transparency, autonomy, and accountability.

Breaking down OKRs

At its core, OKRs are a goal-setting framework to track objectives and their outcomes, while also facilitating discussions about how the work of an individual is connected to overall company goals. 

That definition can be broken down into 2 key components:

  1. A goal-setting framework. This means OKRs help organizations determine two things:
    • Where they’re going.  Objectives are simply what organizations, teams, or individuals want to accomplish.
    • How they’ll get there. Key results describe how success in achieving those goals will be measured.
  2. An opportunity for discussion. A successful OKR program will include opportunities for frequent review of goal progression. 

In a company-wide implementation, every individual is expected to have their own OKRs. This is an opportunity to align their individual work with organizational and team goals. When that alignment is made, individuals will know exactly what they’re expected to contribute in order to achieve big-picture goals.    

OKRs and Culture

Let’s take a look at how, by definition, the OKR methodology builds a culture of focus, transparency, autonomy, alignment, and accountability.

FOCUS: OKRs encourage disciplined, focused work by clearly delineating where you want to go (objectives). Best practice also involves limiting yourself to only 3-5 objectives in order to concentrate resources and efforts into your most important goals.

AUTONOMY: Clearly defined key results ensure that everyone participating in an OKR program knows exactly how and what they’re expected to contribute, and by when. This promotes ownership of their piece of the business and motivates each employee to move the business forward without any hand-holding. 

ALIGNMENT: OKRs aren’t created in a vacuum; instead, they’re created in context with organizational goals. When goals start from the top and cascade down to the individual, OKRs can function like a North Star, guiding everyone involved to move the business forward in the same direction.

ACCOUNTABILITY: With such a strong emphasis on reviews, OKR programs motivate employees to take responsibility for their piece of the work. There are frequent opportunities for individuals and teams to report out on progress and step up in areas where more work needs to get done. Without this forced evaluation, employees can fall into the trap of setting and forgetting their OKRs or avoiding the necessary step of reflecting and learning. 

TRANSPARENCY: The OKR framework is about more than goal-setting. It gives you an opportunity to tear down traditional silos and instead, foster a culture of transparency, where all goals are open, and progress is viewable by everyone.‍ Reviews offer an opportunity to put this into practice.  

Implementing an OKR program will take you time, as will building a new culture. But, after a bit of practice, you’ll see the results  across your organization. For our clients, 77% say that has helped them to build a stronger company culture

We’ve partnered with Product Narrative to write an ebook on this exact topic: How OKRs Build a Productive Work Culture. Download for FREE today!

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