When the pandemic hit, our teams relied on OKRs to help navigate through the change — a strategy that helped us emerge even stronger on the other side. This process taught us a lot about what works when it comes to OKR planning, such as the importance of remaining nimble when building out your objectives and results and the need to create accountability and clarity as you work through them.
All of this was the topic of our last article. Now, I’d like to share how you can go a step further and use MURAL to guide your team through the OKR planning process. I know you might be thinking that holding regular meetings is hard enough, much less ones about a difficult topic like OKRs. Won’t adding in a mural just make it more complicated?
Thankfully, no. And to prove this is possible and offer a way to see how for yourself, today we’re sharing a custom MURAL template for OKR planning that you can use to unify your team, find consensus, clarify action, and motivate people toward achieving meaningful strategic goals.
Here’s how it works.
To get you started, we mapped out a session that will help get everyone aligned and ready to put together effective OKRs.
As in every meeting or workshop, we begin with an icebreaker to get the creative juices flowing. Then we switch into a retrospective to reflect on what worked versus what didn’t. This is your chance to touch on the challenges your organization faced last quarter or year, as well as celebrate your biggest successes, so that you can start narrowing down what the focus of your OKRs should be. This also helps orient everyone to using the MURAL in an encouraging way that builds trust. Because this also serves as an icebreaker, don’t put any limits on what people can suggest here. Try to get everyone talking and discussing so they’re ready to keep contributing later on. It may be a good idea here to remind people that nothing is set in stone. The process of coming up with and using OKRs should be thought of as a journey. As you use them, you will inevitably learn what works and what doesn’t, then iterate and adapt them over time.
Once everyone has reflected on the past few months or year and is thinking about your organization’s future, we thought it would be a good idea to include a quick note from leadership. Whether this is from the CEO or a team leader, we included a space for them to record a video in which they explain what is most important or top of mind. Tools like Loom let you record a quick video very easily. Plus, it's a way more engaging piece of content than a company wide email!
🚀 Pro-tip: Don’t make this video too long. It should be about five or ten minutes and only give participants a sense of focus. It will be up to them to come up with a plan.
The message from the CEO should give teams the guidance they need for what comes next — working on their own to agree on objectives. Although a lot of people may think you have to come up with your objective and key results at the same time, this template encourages you to wrap up this session by getting everyone to discuss and decide on your objectives. You can use the voting feature if necessary or create affinity maps for similar objectives, but the main purpose here is to get everyone to agree on what you’re trying to achieve so you have clear goals going into the next quarter or year.
The second session is all about organization. After a quick warm up, where you get everyone talking about previous goals and how they measured progress for them, you move onto the measurable action plan.
Because it might be difficult for everyone to come up with useful measurements right off the bat, this template helps you ease into them with clusters. Think of these as more general categories that can each contain multiple individual projects. For example, say you’re launching a new website. You might have a marketing cluster that contains projects like ad campaigns, launching customer comms, and some reporting to measure the entire flow of these users. This helps you start to group projects so you can think about their wider criteria.
Once you’ve done this, the template provides space for you to organize and prioritize individual projects, as well as to assign owners, deadlines, and metrics of success. Depending on what works best for you and your participants, this can either be done collaboratively during the planning session or asynchronously. In the end, however, everyone should have a clear idea of the projects each team or employee has been working on and what is coming up.
Once you’re through with this session, everything should be in place for you to start fleshing out your OKRs.
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So by now you’ve agreed on your larger objectives, organized your various projects, and even assigned some measurements for their success. It’s time to put that all together.
The template provides an intuitive way to begin doing this by phrasing each objective with “We will [YOUR OBJECTIVE].” For example, “We will become a world-class Revenue Operations team” or “We will become the platform of choice for solutions consultants.” Try to be as specific as possible when coming up with your objectives. For instance, here’s an example of what you should NOT do:
“I will improve the way I engage with my customers by preparing better for my meetings and asking more feedback from my manager.”
Compare that with this better example:
“I will improve the way I engage with my customers by applying the ACE framework in 100% of my calls, use a discovery canvas template in every disco call and get 5 customer praises during the quarter.”
From there, you can carry forward the work you did in Session 2 and assign key results for those objectives. Try to come up with three key results per objective.
The template also provides space for you to list out your rationale (why are you doing this?), associated projects, and any relevant dependencies. There’s even a section for you to mark the status of each key result if your team would like to continually return to this template to track their progress. Like the previous session, you can conduct this part either in real-time or asynchronously, depending on what works best for you.
OKR planning sessions are, by design, a little messy. Effective OKR planning should capture as much input from as many stakeholders as possible and then focus teamwork around the most important work. This can make running the sessions seem a little intimidating and chaotic — but the reality is the mess brings meaning. Making the OKR planning process visual offers your team a way to bring clarity and alignment. Everyone is included, working off the same “virtual” page — that is, the digital canvas in MURAL. And everyone has the chance to show what they mean. In other words, that “mess” helps your team create shared meaning.
Better OKRs are the result. See for yourself! Give the OKR Planning template a try.