Planning OKRs for 90 people? Easy!
December and January go beyond the season's festivities and relaxation—they're prime for reviewing achievements and strategizing for the upcoming year and quarter.
As a specialist consultant called upon by diverse companies, from start-ups to major corporations, I'm excited to share strategies that streamline these sessions and tailor them to the unique dynamics of each group.
This piece delves into a particular instance, offering insights and practical tips. Special thanks to Elena Baeva and Elena Elnova of CDEK for their collaboration in orchestrating an insightful quarterly OKR planning session for a prominent logistics firm. The session saw the convergence of over 90 leaders, including top executives, department heads, and regional directors.
How can you ensure productive collective work for such a number of participants, so that each one is heard and contributes to determining the main priorities for changes in the next quarter?
  1. Keeping the Strategic Goal Front and Center.

Remember, OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are about steering strategic transformations, enabling organizations, teams, and individuals to methodically and flexibly advance towards pivotal objectives. Therefore, it's crucial to have the company's strategic goals—for both the upcoming year and beyond—clearly defined before the OKR session. These goals need to be continuously visible, serving as a constant reference throughout the OKR process. The most straightforward approach? Print and distribute them generously across the workspace.
2. Smartly Splitting Into Teams.

In discussions, ensuring everyone's voice is heard is key, but that's a tall order with 90 people. Aiming for around Miller's number (7 plus or minus two) per group strikes the right balance. So, splitting the crowd into smaller teams is a must. This can be random or based on initial seating arrangements, leading to teams of familiar faces. However, when setting quarterly priorities for a whole company, carefully crafting these subgroups is crucial.

Two main strategies work here:
One, group together those in similar roles. It's a great way to surface specific viewpoints within the company, though it might prolong the discussions. This approach is ideal for retrospective meetings. But in time-sensitive planning sessions, the second strategy is my go-to.
The second involves a thorough mix-up, ensuring each group has a diverse representation - from top executives to branch managers and department heads. This promotes a rich mix of perspectives right from the get-go.

Now, the real question: how to swiftly sort 90 people into these well-thought-out groups? First off, categorize the attendee list by last names. Then, assign each group a unique identifier. In our case, we used cartoon monster stickers for a touch of fun. You could use anything from superheroes to animals or even planets, keeping it light and manageable. The nitty-gritty involves marking tables or flipcharts with the group's symbol and replicating it on participants' badges. This way, grouping doubles as an ice-breaking activity. When it's time to huddle up, have everyone find their group by symbol. A humorous touch here can really set the stage for an energetic brainstorming session.
3. Leveraging Miro for Collaborative Space.

In face-to-face sessions, I’m all for hands-on tools like flipcharts and stickers, fostering movement and real-time dialogue. After all, that’s the essence of in-person collaboration, right? But when managing ideas from 12 different groups, especially in a room hindered by obstructive columns, a blended approach is key.
We start with good old brainstorming using physical stickers, allowing everyone to jot down and reflect on their priorities. These stickers then find their way to a flip-chart, sparking group discussions and the merging of similar concepts.
A gentle reminder here: OKRs are about steering change, not routine tasks. Actions that are familiar and routinely performed don't usually qualify as OKRs.
Within these small groups, the brainstormed ideas are sifted through, keeping only those fitting for OKRs.
The refined ideas are then transferred to a Miro board, each team getting its own designated area and sticker color.
This digital board can be projected for all to see, bringing everyone on the same page.
The real magic happens when every team has uploaded their ideas. Here, an AI assistant can be employed for the auto-clustering of similar ideas. This is followed by a collective review, ensuring the right placement of ideas and understanding their context. The goal is to strike a balance between too much granularity and over-generalization. This sorting process helps in pinpointing key focus areas for the next quarter.
4. Thoughtful Voting Process.

In the realm of OKRs, we aim to select between one to three key objectives. So, from the plethora of ideas generated, we need to narrow down to just a few. What about the remaining ideas? Some might be shelved for future consideration or delegated to specific teams for further development.
Prior to prioritizing, it’s crucial to establish clear selection criteria. It’s beneficial if the proponents of each idea cluster present their case, potentially leading to some ideas being dismissed.
While individual voting could lead to bias, especially in a diverse group, we opted to maintain the same teams for a more balanced decision-making process. Each team deliberates internally before casting their collective votes, accompanied by justifications for their choices.
This approach fosters a deeper sense of responsibility and helps in highlighting the most pertinent priorities. And then, it’s about making the hard choice - to add another OKR or stick to the methodology for focused effort and impactful results. It’s no easy feat, as evidenced by the passionate discussions, but maintaining focus was key to our success
5. World Café for Crafting OKRs

Initially, diverse teams brainstormed, voted, and set Objectives. But for carving out Key Results for OKRs, those who could significantly impact the topic were essential.
We started by pinpointing individuals eager to own each OKR. Participants were then evenly distributed to support these Owners.
Given the larger than ideal group sizes, we implemented a 'World Café' for each OKR. For each OKR, a large zone with three tables was set up. Group members spread out across these tables, each selecting a 'Table Host.'
This four-stage process kicked off with discussions at each table. The key question: how to measure the Objective's attainment? What metrics show goal progression?
Every 15 minutes, participants shuffled tables, except the Table Host, to foster fresh perspectives. This round-robin approach allowed new participants to spot and address any weaknesses in prior ideas and introduce novel concepts.
The third round introduced the crucial step of prioritizing and choosing the most fitting Key Results. These results were then collated on a Miro board. Guided by the OKR Owner, the large group deliberated on the final selection.
This method ensured everyone's active involvement in shaping OKRs and a comprehensive development of the metrics suite.

I'd Love Your Thoughts

What insights from this case study caught your attention?
Any questions that popped up?
How do you approach planning sessions for large groups?