Nothing is impossible – How companies create transparency using the OKR method

Do you know what your company’s vision is? Do you know the company strategy and what annual goals are currently being pursued? No?

But why even deal with the big “problems”, there are already enough open to-do’s on your own desk. They have to be finished up first!

Many millions of employees in other companies probably feel the same way. The problem, however, is not the mindset of the employees or the lack of motivation – the problem lies in the lack of transparency and integration of those involved. This not only paralyzes the adaptability of companies, but also the implementation of strategies. However, globalization, digitalization and new requirements in the area of sustainability make flexibility more important than ever.

Agile target management through the agile OKR method

One way to face more and more quickly changing conditions and get employees on board is by using OKR to manage objectives in an agile way.

OKR, the abbreviation of “objectives and key results”, is an agile method for targeted implementation of your company’s strategies. In OKR, tangible, directional and ambitious “objectives” that describe the desired qualitative target state are derived from the company strategy. The “key results” concretize the objectives and are used to measure progress quantitatively. The key results are passed on to business units and teams so that all those involved can contribute actively to achieving the company’s goals.

Management defines and communicates the company strategy and goals and individual business units and teams define their own OKRs based on these.

Achieving the goal with transparency: Management and employees drive the method forward together

This process is only possible if management at all hierarchical levels is committed to a high degree of transparency around strategy. Defining goals top-down and bottom-up keeps employees continuously involved and enables them to see and engage in the big picture.

A short cycle increases the sense of achievement

Agile OKR cycles of 3-5 months and regular OKR check-ins make results tangible and illustrate continuous progress. Each OKR cycle consists of five process steps.

5 process steps of an OKR cycle:

  1. OKR planning
    Management defines the annual goals and derives OKRs at the company level. Based on these, the teams plan their OKRs independently.
  2. OKR alignment
    OKR managers help coordinate team OKR planning.
  3. Implementation & OKR check-ins
    OKR status is reviewed in regular team meetings.
  4. OKR review
    At the end of a cycle, the teams present the final status of OKRs and evaluate the results.
  5. OKR Retrospective
    The teams then identify potential ways to improve the OKR process, without management involvement.

At acondas, we use this method successfully not only with our customers, but also in our internal work. We asked our colleague Christian how the OKR method is used in the marketing and sales team at acondas and what benefits it has.

What were the main reasons for introducing the OKR method at acondas?

At acondas, I am in charge of managing employer branding and sales activities. Despite many initiatives and creative ideas, we were often unable to determine or quantify the impact of our campaigns. Since we had not defined the goals and success criteria of a campaign in advance, we tended to evaluate the results based on our “gut feelings”.

So you had not collected any KPIs?

Yes, before we introduced OKRs, we even had dedicated people responsible for reporting. However, it was so detailed that we couldn’t fully understand the huge volume of KPIs. We felt frustrated seeing a lot of stagnant numbers without understanding what they really represented. In addition, there was a time and personnel gap between campaign execution and measurement. For example, it was impossible for our Social Media Manager to test different types of campaigns, evaluate the effect immediately, and then optimize campaigns step by step. Instead, other individuals evaluated the numbers at a later time without understanding the ins and outs of the campaigns.

How did the OKR method help improving transparency and focus in the company?

When OKRs are used, the entire company feels responsible for achieving goals. The marketing and sales derives all goals and success metrics based on the overall company goals. In our case, this has also increased transparency and a better company-wide understanding of how employer branding can contribute to achieving recruiting goals. In addition, our key performance indicators are immediately measurable as “early indicators”. It is motivating to guide a key result in a certain direction through a single action. Our regular OKR check-ins also helped increased awareness of our priorities across the team.

So you only work on issues that contribute to your OKRs?

People often talk about 70/30 logic. This allows us to spend some of our time on other issues that we can’t neglect, such as updating our website content or implementing legal templates. But the greater the focus on OKRs, the better it is for the individual workload because we don’t do things that do not contribute to our defined goals or are urgently necessary.

That all sounds very positive. Did you face hurdles in introducing the OKR method and how did you overcome them?

OKR success depends heavily on the quality of the defined objectives and key results. Indicators must be able to be influenced directly and measured continuously. The team needs enough time, expertise and the necessary reporting tools from the start. Even so, a lot can go wrong: if targets turn out not to be meaningful or achievable, the team must not shy away from correcting itself. Transparency sometimes leads to bidding adieu to “cherished” initiatives because they do not have the desired impact. That hurts sometimes.

Do you have any tips?

OKR is an agile method. That means autonomous teams have to be able to make and implement decisions quickly. For example, we agree on a budget with management for certain measures beforehand, which we can then use flexibly within this framework. This is the only way we can test things and then identify the most successful measures in the long term. Especially as consultants, we always want to prepare decisions as well as possible – sometimes trial and error leads to the best results…

Achieve goals faster by introducing OKR

Using OKRs, you can make your company more flexible and enable it to react faster to internal and external factors. The short cycles and the team-level goals make success continuously tangible for all employees. This ensures that activities throughout the company are focused on and aligned with the company’s most important goals and strategy.

Are you ready for the future? Building on our experience with many customers across industries, we can work with you to develop your individual approach. Based on clear criteria, we can help you determine whether the OKR method is the optimal approach for your project. Prior to implementation, we will help you customize a target management approach. Using our acondas KEY approach, we can support you during the introduction and anchoring phases.

Do you have questions about OKR or would you benefit from implementation support? Reach out to us at:

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