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Four Best Practices for Managers to Ensure OKR Program Success

By Betterworks
June 18, 2021
4 minute read
Four Best Practices for Managers to Ensure OKR Program Success

The engine behind a well-oiled objectives and key results (OKRs) program is management. Managers are key to an OKR program’s success. That may seem like a huge responsibility to shoulder, but rest assured that others have gone before you. Here are four best practices that can help you achieve OKR success.  

Set Priorities With Your Team

If you believe Google’s findings that developing a clear strategy for your team is foundational for good managers, you can look to your quarterly OKR setting process as a fantastic tool. Built into your OKR guidelines should be a period at the beginning of the quarter (no longer than two weeks) for managers to review top company objectives, develop their team strategy aligned with those objectives, and then work with their direct reports in helping them set their own aligned objectives.

That starts with you clearly publishing your objectives (team strategy), explaining them to your team, then scheduling individual time with each team member to write and finalize objectives. This meeting can take the place of an existing one-on-one meeting, but the important thing is to finalize the checklist in order:

  1. Review top company objectives
  2. Set your objectives
  3. Communicate strategy with the team (via email or team meeting)
  4. Set time with each report
  5. Coach individuals on their objectives and help them align

Monitor Progress on Priorities

Avoid micromanagement by monitoring the risks. A benefit of using Betterworks is having multiple ways to track and monitor progress across all of your team’s objectives. But monitoring progress doesn’t mean you have to read every comment on every key result. It means effectively understanding progress and risks at a glance so you can successfully intervene as a manager. I recommend a few strategies to this end:

1. The weekly review

Many important tasks in our lives can be finished in 10 minutes, but we often still don’t do them consistently. Why is that? One reason is the human brain is not very good at holding and organizing all the information we need for quick retrieval, and it’s easy to forget to do something valuable simply because the file cabinet in our mind is cluttered. This is why external organization systems are so powerful, and one of my favorites is the checklist.

Checklists are a simple tool, but they’re so reliable that airline pilots and surgeons rely on them in life and death situations. We can use checklists to our benefit by scheduling a recurring time (10 minutes every Monday or Friday) to address a list of tasks. That will make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

Consider this checklist for your Monday mornings:

  • Pull up “My Team” view in Betterworks
  • Sort by least progress, nudge, or comment
  • Sort by most progress, cheer, or comment
  • Publicly recognize outstanding performers for achievement

2. The sorted list view

Another strategy for monitoring risks and progress is to use the default and custom saved filters functionality in Betterworks. You can create and sort any number of filtered views to by most- or least-complete objectives. For example, you may rely on the default filter of “My team” so you can sort by every individual who reports to you. Or you may want to save a view called “Most important initiatives” where you selectively follow those which need your focused attention each week. You can even sort a filtered view of individuals from multiple teams, so a useful saved filter might be “Mentees” if you have a cross-team mentoring relationship with anyone.

3. Notifications and alerts

Notifications and alerts are also helpful for monitoring risks and progress. Betterworks allows flexibility in which activity you are notified about, as well as via which channel. Through your profile, you can “subscribe” or “unsubscribe” to alerts around various activities in Betterworks and route them through your email or Slack on an alert-by-alert basis. Your email alerts, combined with an installation of either the Gmail or Outlook plugin, which lets you view and update objectives for your whole team within your email client, allows you to effectively monitor progress without even navigating to the Betterworks app.

Effectively Check In

The right objectives are set, and you’re ready to monitor their progress. Now you need to be effective during your in-person communications with your team. The OKR helps you maintain focus and track progress, but your relationship to that OKR is bound to change as priorities change in the real world. It’s a manager’s job to ask appropriate questions and provide useful insight around how an individual contributor can achieve the stretch targets they’ve set for themselves. During one-on-one meetings, it’s valuable to ask how you can help remove roadblocks for their objectives, and when you have your official mid-quarter conversation, be sure to provide feedback around what behaviors are making your report successful or unsuccessful as they strive to complete their OKRs.

Give Appropriate Recognition and Feedback

Lastly, your job as a manager is not simply to ensure your team members achieve OKRs this quarter, but that they are feeling motivated so that they feel connected to your company mission and will be driven to achieve great things for the long term. That’s why your deliberate effort to recognize great effort and provide timely, constructive feedback is crucial. Intervention that is focused on the individual’s abilities and growth show that you are supportive and view yourself as a coach, not a micromanager.

Managers matter and good managers can be further developed. Remember that a manager is responsible for strategy, clearly communicates, and cares about coaching without micromanaging. So give a little thought and decide how you will set priorities, monitor progress, effectively check-in, and provide constructive feedback for your team.

For more insights, get your free copy of Betterworks’ brand-new Ultimate Guide to Utilizing OKRs within Continuous Performance Management® to learn more about creating the process of a goal that truly drives results for your business.