Whatever plans your company made at the start of 2020, chances are they got thrown out the window. COVID forced everyone to adapt overnight — and MURAL was no exception. When the pandemic hit, we were in the midst of mapping out our Q2. Suddenly, we had to adjust to a world in which business was anything but usual.
Fortunately, we were able to adapt quickly to this new reality thanks to the flexibility and foresight of our OKRs. If you haven’t considered OKRs in a while, this may sound surprising. Perhaps because they have been around for so long, OKRs can often have a reputation for being inefficient and ineffective. Especially for organizations that value agility, OKRs may not seem like a good tool for growth.
But when done right, OKRs can, in fact, be one of the best ways to ensure your organization can weather change and continue delivering value.
👀 Looking for the MURAL OKR Planning template? Find it here — and stay tuned for a “How to” post for using it coming soon!
Although much has been written about OKRs elsewhere (for instance, see Koan’s article on how to write incredible OKRs). Here's a quick refresher for the unfamiliar.
OKRs stand for Objectives and Key Results. They are a simple but flexible tool you can use to set goals, define objectives, and measure results. Although this framework has been around since the 1980s, OKRs have become a popular tool with Google and other large tech companies due to their ability to create alignment and ensure everyone is consistently working toward the same set of priorities.
While your team is free to define your OKRs however you want, the most effective OKRs typically have the following characteristics:
For instance, consider this example of a well-crafted simple objective: Lower your carbon footprint. Your key results? Convert to 100 percent renewable energy within six months — or use 100 percent recycled materials within three months. More broadly, you could also set an objective to simply make customers happy, and then back this up with key results — like achieving a certain NPS score, lowering customer churn to a specific percentage, or collecting a certain amount of customer feedback every month.
OKRs can be used to focus work on a variety of purposes, whether driving company-wide ambitions or increasing your own personal productivity. But regardless of their scope, their strength is in helping to create consensus, clarify action, and motivate people toward achieving meaningful strategic goals.
So now you’re ready to start planning out your OKRs.
To help out this process, here’s a simple step-by-step framework you can follow to build out your OKR planning sessions:
Feel free to adapt this basic framework to your specific needs. For instance, if you are leading an OKR planning session for a smaller team or division, you could streamline these steps by asking everyone to come to the meeting with several ideas already prepared.
NOTE: In case you’re wondering, there is a MURAL template for OKR planning. If you’re looking for a “how to use” the OKR planning template, be sure to stay tuned for Part 2 of this series.
So how do you ensure your OKRs remain useful when so much else is uncertain?
One of the first things we realized when we began adapting our planning process after COVID was that the most important part wasn’t necessarily how we were conducting our planning meetings, but how we were implementing our OKRs.
Specifically, there are five key elements you should have in place to ensure your team can successfully achieve your OKRs:
As any executive knows, the only constant is change. But by continually using OKRs to realign your organization and prompt your employees to think about long-term goals and how they can achieve them, you can take a significant step toward achieving the flexibility you need to succeed.
More than a year after COVID disrupted our original plans, what’s our result? By using our OKR planning process to guide us, we have been able to grow demand by an order of magnitude.
In part two of this series — coming soon! — we are going to take a closer look at how you can use the MURAL OKR Planning template to successfully plan out OKRs, even when your team or company is fully remote.