The OKR Framework in Remote Teams: What You Need to Know — Andy Sto

Interestingly, few people can list their top priorities even though transparency and communication are top of mind these days. In a survey of 11,000 senior managers, leaders, and executives from more than 400 companies, London Business School found the following:

Only about half the participants were able to get the same priority after five tries. Among the participants, only a third knew what their top three priorities are. It is at this point that OKRs can offer a solution to this problem by clarifying and ensuring clear and measurable communication of the company’s goals.

A company can set OKRs at various levels, such as the individual, the team, or even the entire company. There are two major components of OKRs:

  • Objectives — they define ‘what’ you intend to accomplish.

The use of OKRs is particularly beneficial in remote work, where people are isolated from their teammates and work in silos. By setting clear OKRs, managers will be able to increase the motivation of remote employees and the productivity of the company as a whole.

Benefits of using OKR with remote teams

Communication of priorities and responsibilities is made simple and effective with the Objectives and Key Results framework. Companies use OKRs to establish their top priorities, measure the metrics they need to monitor for success, and to set up a regular progress monitoring and performance review process.

No matter how long you have worked remotely or how recently you began, OKRs can boost the efficiency of your company and encourage everyone on the team to stay motivated.

We are going to explore several benefits that demonstrate why OKRs are a great tool for remote work, as well as why they are so effective at ensuring alignment within your team and being able to adjust as the business environment changes.

Makes alignment and prioritization easy

Having agreed-upon goals for the entire team is important, and it should be the same goal for everyone regardless of what they do. Furthermore, OKRs can be used in this way to motivate the remote team, as well as to motivate your corporate teams.

Remote workers no longer have to guess what their company’s top priorities are. They can see what is important to the company right away. When OKRs are designed correctly, they’re easy to understand. It is important that you then put them into the OKR file format, so that they can be distributed in the manner that best suits the needs of your business. Essentially, all of this can be handled virtually.

One of the most desirable characteristics of OKRs is that they set the priorities so if an employee has no idea what task to perform first, they can refer to OKRs for guidance. Because they’re transparent and easily understood, everyone at the company should be aware of their goals for any given quarter, whether they work at the office or at home.

Enables remote teams to focus on results

OKRs do more than lay out objectives; they also describe the process for achieving them. The team agrees upon the key results when defining to what success looks like after an objective has been completed.

It is then up to teams and individuals to take ownership of specific KRs or turn them into their own OKRs aligned with the higher-level objective. It is a process that is sometimes referred to as “cascading” or “laddering.”

It becomes easier to track progress if key results are measurable from top to bottom. Team managers and individuals can easily monitor their progress toward the achievement of the objective. In addition to allowing for authentic trust to be built between employers and employees, Tracking KRs enables managers to verify that work is being done without micromanaging.

As long as the OKR framework is in place, team members can discuss potential deviations or unattainable results more frequently than waiting months or weeks for them to occur. The process of regular check-ins is key to the OKR framework. Initially, OKRs may be set weekly, monthly, or quarterly, or they may be cascaded with weekly OKRs leading to monthly OKRs and monthly OKRs leading to quarterly OKRs.

OKRs with cascading goals help employees prioritize. In particular, this is useful for remote workers who are not used to working alone, in a remote area. With low-build team management, these employees often find it difficult to maintain focus.

Having Objectives that make clear what you want to improve and Key Results that set real measurable outcomes will motivate your team to reach even higher levels and to overcome any barriers to remote working that may be only temporary.

Facilitates communication for a balanced review cycle

Checking-in on top priorities and team performance can be the key to establishing a rhythm for remote teams. As a general rule, OKRs are reviewed every quarter, but the system can be customized to meet your organization’s specific needs. For example, the review cadence could be monthly, if the team feels this is necessary.

Communication becomes essential, as you will see. Especially when it comes to situations where frequent meetings and clear communication is crucial to avoid any hasty decisions that might have been otherwise taken. In order for fast decisions to be made, it is essential that the objectives are clearly defined, with a solid understanding of what it would take to achieve those objectives.

Despite working remotely, employees can still contribute to the company’s success. Every member of the team is aware of the results that the company is achieving. As their performance goals have been defined and are tied into the team’s goals, they are also able to see how their contribution has contributed to the team’s success.

If you’re going to facilitate communication for a balanced review cycle, OKRs should be quick, light and flexible, and the frame of every step. It’s time to take a step back, reflect, and ask some probing questions.

Fosters agility and ease of learning

‍‍Today, adapting quickly to market changes and learning fast are necessary for remote companies to survive and thrive. The company may have to restructure processes and workflows or even change the whole model altogether.

It is imperative that remote team leaders have a clear understanding of their strategy, in order to improve team productivity, delegate more effectively, and mitigate risk. Businesses should focus on profitable revenues, reskilling and redeploying talent, and building an enduring brand during and after a crisis.

In the wake of the latest unprecedented events, organization shock and uncertainty are on the rise. It is important to share your internal and broad learnings in order to strengthen your company against weaker competitors, and restore, grow, and improve your presence.

As previously mentioned, OKRs are generally established quarterly, but they can also be tailored to the team’s preferences. This means that if your business doesn’t achieve the results it is expecting, then you can become agile and adapt as needed.

The different types of OKRs

It shouldn’t be difficult to build an OKR framework, and you will find that it is easier to work on a plan that is very well established for team members who work remotely. It is possible to divide OKRs into different categories, such as providing a top-to-bottom look at a company. There may be OKRs set for the company, the team, and then even for individuals. Let’s consider some examples of each type of OKR.

Company OKRs

An organizational OKR describes the top priorities of the company and is perceived as a high-level, inspiring goal. Each manager and team member sets their own goals in alignment with the company’s goals.

Take this example:

Company Objective: Launch a high-quality minimum viable product.

KR: Get 15% of users returning to the product page within a week.

Team OKRs

Team OKRs are determined collaboratively by the manager and team members so that everyone is on the same page. Typically, cascading is used, in which remote teams take a specific company-level key result and make it their own OKR to become aligned with the company’s goals.

The ideal number of key results should be 3–5 per objective.

Here is an example of an OKR for a remote marketing team:

Team Objective: Improve customer engagement through weekly emails.

KR: Increase CTR to 25%.

Individual OKRs

A key advantage of setting and tracking OKRs is that managers can review progress without micromanaging their reports, which can be an advantage in some cases. There is a tendency for companies to encourage team members and groups to post their OKRs in an open place so that anyone can access them and become familiar with them.

If we look at the following example of setting OKRs for remote teams, we can see how it will help employees stay in the loop with what is happening within the team and across the company.

Here is an example of an OKR for an HR executive:

Individual Objective: Take people operations courses to upskill.

KR: Attend weekly events with HR professionals.

How to set up OKRs for the remote model in 5 steps

Whether you’re implementing OKR or any new system for the first time, it’s likely to be intimidating, especially if it’s remote. The following steps will assist in making the process go as smoothly as possible.

1. Determine if an OKR system is necessary

Identify the common problems you face when working remotely and how the OKR framework can help. In times when teams are not aligned on a major project, then using OKRs as a means of realigning them towards their strategic goals can be very beneficial.

2. Get remote teams on board with OKRs

It is important to recognize that you will not only need to overcome the limitations of remote working (e.g., having team members with different hours of availability), but also potentially facing resistance to this new approach. Therefore, get them to understand how this new system will encourage productive remote working and encourage individual and collective commitment from the team members.

3. Develop a plan for implementing OKRs

An ineffective system can exacerbate the difficulties experienced by teams that already have remote working issues. This is why you have to develop a solid plan for rolling out OKRs that specifies how each team can take part. Having teams develop tactical goals that are aligned to the organization’s overall goals is an easy way to get started.

You may want to consider having a pilot program test out the OKR system in large organizations with complex decision-making processes first.

4. Select the appropriate OKR tool

Make sure that the OKR tool you choose can easily be integrated with the team’s existing work platform. Through this platform, employers will have the ability to monitor both task and goal progress with a single glance.

5. Analyze the effectiveness of OKR

The implementation of an OKR system is insufficient on its own. It is very important to gather feedback and review it to see if it is increasing the productivity of remote teams. Basically, a successful implementation of the OKR framework will be when the common problems raised in Step 1 get solved.

The Verdict

There is no doubt that this goal-setting method helps remote teams strike the right balance between supervision and performance. By establishing clear goals and providing guidance, it motivates members of the team to take responsibility. And the key to achieving this is communication.

In remote teams especially, communication is crucial, so OKRs can ensure that teams work together effectively and in a coordinated manner toward the company’s goals.

Since OKRs are results-oriented, they often serve as a leveler between the different style of work among individuals. When you switch to OKR for remote work, you’ll have the ability to find ways to get both introverts and extroverts to contribute fully. Do not forget that both team and personal OKRs can be discussed in weekly meetings and one-on-one meetings.

Finally, in order for OKRs to be successful, they need to be reviewed regularly and can be adjusted according to changes in the team’s roles and priorities. With this approach remotely located teams will be able to have frequent conversations about what’s working, what needs to be changed, and what can be dropped. Thus, it is more likely that the best ideas will win rather than just those with the loudest voices.

Originally published at https://andysto.com on May 19, 2022.

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