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How to use O.K.R.s for Quarterly and Annual planning

Last Updated on May 5, 2023 by

The benefits that O.K.R.s provide are beyond dispute, considering the organizations that use them: Adobe, Google, and Netflix, among many others. Starting from guiding the mission and vision, O.K.R.s improve employee collaboration and engagement and bring the organization’s top priorities to the surface. The framework provides a powerful way to express the goals of any organization and cascade them down to team or employee levels.

The benefits of O.K.R.s as a performance management tool have enough believers for the method to be widely accepted in today’s agile workplace. There are excellent guides available on implementing O.K.R.s, managers’ duties in making O.K.R.s a success, common pitfalls to avoid, and so on. However, the power of O.K.R.s lies in how they streamline management processes – be it performance, project, or planning.

Planning performance management with O.K.R.s

O.K.R.s promote transparency and collaboration and make feedback an integral part of an employee’s workday. With tools like Employee Success that merge seamlessly with Jira, managing, updating, and maintaining records become as simple as creating a ticket. The two-way feedback increases trust and helps teams build deeper bonds, leading to better collaboration and teams succeeding collectively. The ingrained recognition feature also helps employees feel good about their work making an impact, and frequent one-on-ones allow managers to offer relevant advice at the right time. Employees providing feedback on the manager’s performance keeps the process on an even keel. As the concerns raised by employees in these meetings get addressed – they get more vocal about improving processes and aim to contribute more.

Managing quarterly and annual performances through O.K.R.s

O.K.R.s come in many shapes and sizes, and none are more right than others, but some fit specific organizations better. O.K.R.s are often used in nested cadences, where the mission or vision of the organization can be seen as a big container filled with all the smaller O.K.R. containers in the organization. These O.K.R.s are neatly nested into the team, individual, departmental, and so on. The frequency of these different types of O.K.R.s changes, and every O.K.R. container, no matter its size, contributes to the greater organizational goal. A product/app that enables users to generate ‘latest memes,’ for example, needs to update quite frequently – and O.K.R.s can even be set for a monthly cadence. Managing the expectations of large enterprises can be long-winded and may demand some annual O.K.R.s.

O.K.R.s can help teams to swiftly and deftly adapt to changing conditions and have regular processes dedicated to reviewing objectives. Goals set in April may not be relevant by the 3rd quarter, and quarterly O.K.R.s under them can change course with little difficulty, thus steering the direction of annual O.K.R.s too. Quarterly O.K.R.s also encourage risk-taking and reward innovation.

Setting Annual O.K.R.s can create a sense of grandeur and paint a hue goal that looks great and is a great motivator. Also, breaking down goals like this can help managers persuade their teams or management to invest time and resources in developing certain features. But quarterly O.K.R.s make those lofty ambitions feel achievable to the lowest level of employees involved.

Teams that set annual goals and make them transparent provide a broad framework to their team members to construct their O.K.R.s.

Managers can help their team members write effective O.K.R.s by giving examples, helping them understand the product and the team goal, or through a simple coaching session. Suppose one of the preliminary critical results of team O.K.R. is to achieve $1 million more through product sales. In that case, sales teams can focus on increasing their effort by X%, the development team can aim at introducing Y new feature requests, and H.R. teams can look at plugging the gaps in core teams with Z relevant personnel in their quarterly O.K.Rs.

Organizations who take time to explain the need and importance of adopting O.K.R.s to their employees find tremendous success with their endeavors, and there is no one right way to embrace O.K.R.s. There are plenty of flavors to choose from, and if something else is needed, organizations can tweak the framework according to the needs of their employees.

Quarterly O.K.R.s set my teams to simplify the larger goal to different team members. The $ 1 million increase in revenue might seem high for the testing team, but sales teams – and internal finance – see much higher amounts regularly. Quarterly team O.K.R.s put things into perspective: employees clearly understand what their job responsibilities are and can easily break that down into manageable weekly/biweekly sprints – instead of getting overwhelmed by the significant number in the annual company O.K.R. They provide greater flexibility in best-case scenarios, where managers can estimate the amount of work that will be completed by the week/15 days – and learning opportunities if sprints go sideways – managers can step in and help employees understand why the issue arose in the first place.

Prerequisites and best practices in setting up O.K.R.s

The benefits of O.K.R.s are not circumstantial or accidental. Teams can enjoy them only if they are intentional in their goal-setting process and follow the principles and guidelines. Maintaining the frequency of team meetings is very important, as it helps build trust in addition to swift issue detection (that needs to be fixed ASAP to keep the faith). Two-way feedback, essential for the leaders and managers to grow as quickly as their team members, depends on the said leaders creating a safe space for their team members to air out frustrations. Managers must also look after their teams, not just the products they manage. F.A.C.T.S. (Focus, Alignment, Commitment, Transparency, and Stretch), the oft-touted advantages of O.K.R.s, ensure remarkable success in strategy execution if there is a strong focus towards organizational alignment, genuine commitment towards employees, transparency across the organization, and innovation. Managers who enable and actively support their team members to connect their personal growth to that of the organization on their own, achieve better strategic results, while creating purpose and providing motivation.

Final words

While O.K.R.s streamline processes, the employees undergo/execute those processes – and the focus should be on their well-being. When the employees in a team are happy, they put in more effort and thought to improve their work quality. Not only is this reflected in the organization’s product line, but it also helps the product line stay ahead of the market demands because of the proactive learning and development of employees that O.K.R.s made possible.

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