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How to Evaluate OKR Systems

Start small with OKR to see whether OKR systems--and OKR itself--are right for the organization.

If your organization plans to adopt OKRs (objectives and key results) as an organizational goal-setting framework, you will probably be evaluating OKR systems for managing and sharing OKRs across the organization. 

As with any major change, it’s a good idea to start small: Conduct an OKR trial to determine whether the OKR methodology itself is right for your organization. When it comes to evaluating OKR systems for managing the model, IT teams should look for, and evaluate how well, a solution fits into existing workflows. After that, integration and adaptability should be the main criteria of the evaluation.

Integrating OKR Systems with Existing Platforms

One of the first temptations will be to look for an OKR platform that works as part of an existing HCM (human capital management) system, requiring that it integrate in some way with the HCM’s employee evaluation module. This makes sense in theory, but not necessarily in practice.

For one thing, not all company-wide objectives will apply to every employee. For example, if a company sets an objective to improve its net promoter score, teams that do not impact customer-facing processes will not be able to influence that metric. Automatically propagating that goal from OKR systems to an employee performance application will just cause confusion and possibly demoralize some employees.

In addition, your HCM system probably already has a way for managers to manually enter high-level goals for their teams that align to any company-wide objectives. Providing the manager with this level of discretion gives teams the ability to figure out the best way they can contribute and how they should be measured. More value will come from connecting systems that already drive and track performance, such as CRM suites and project management applications. Evaluate how easily the OKR system can take data from those systems and aggregate it into a set of overall metrics.  

Indeed, putting OKR systems in places that touch an employee’s daily life will have the greatest impact. The dashboards you create with these OKR systems should propagate to other systems, such as the social networking platform, team workspaces and project management applications you already use. You should also be able to publish dashboards and scorecards to other applications via web services or widgets. For example, Gtmhub integrates with Slack and Microsoft Teams.

Translating Larger Goals to Individual Performance

One of the main issues with OKRs as a concept is that translating larger overall goals to an individual’s or team’s performance can be difficult.

For example, say a bank sets an objective of increasing customer satisfaction and a result of improving its net promoter score from 6 to 7. It also sets a goal for increasing revenue by 5%. The customer service organization can institute policies and programs that could increase customer satisfaction by improving first call resolution and reducing hold times. In contrast, the group charged with increasing revenue may execute a short-term strategy of raising a fee to help meet that goal. The overall result could be that any increased customer satisfaction with customer service is offset by anger about the new fees.

How SMART and RACI Models Align with OKR Systems 

Other performance and accountability methodologies can help manage team and individual performance in the context of OKRs. For that reason, organizations should look for tools that support additional frameworks or models for managing individual and project performance. For example, Minsilo’s platform supports OKRs as well as SMART and RACI models.

SMART--which stands for specific, measurable, attainable (or assignable), realistic and time related--provides a framework to measure individual and team performance. Within the SMART framework, managers establish a set of well-defined objectives and define criteria to determine success in meeting those objectives. SMART helps managers assign objectives to individuals and team members, as well as ensure that individuals have the skills, time and resources needed to meet the objectives on time.

Similarly, the RACI model guides managers toward defining the roles for project tasks. RACI--which stands for responsible, accountable, consulted and informed--determines who does what in the context of a given project’s tasks and identifies any interested stakeholders who should be kept informed about project status. This methodology fits particularly well for development projects where business and IT stakeholders need to collaborate to build or enhance an application. For a given project task, an executive may have responsibility, a project manager may be accountable, a technical analyst may need to be consulted, and a developer may need to be informed.

Having an OKR tool that also supports SMART or RACI would have value not only because the combination helps translate a larger organizational goal into individual tasks, but also because it provides visibility into how individual contributions factor into meeting a given objective. 

Conclusion: OKR Systems Considerations

Companies including Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn and Twitter have used OKRs, and the model may be right for your organization, as well. The key is to start small and choose an OKR software solution that effectively integrates with the way employees work.   


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