Step-by-Step to Success: A Case Study in OKR Implementation
Many businesses are asking the right question: "Who should be involved in introducing Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) from the start?" The answer varies. In a nimble startup, the entire staff might engage in OKR training and establishment immediately. However, in mature organizations, it's best to introduce OKRs step by step.
This week, I led a session for a client in Munich. For confidentiality reasons, I won't share their name yet, but their story of introducing OKRs is worth telling. The genesis of OKR adoption was tied to managing pivotal shifts in the organization's business model. A Coverdale consultant (I'm also part of their team) suggested OKRs as the best fit.
Step 1. Understanding OKRs

First, I ran an introductory OKR workshop for the holding's board of directors. It's crucial they understand and support OKRs. This way, the whole process gets a strong start.
Step 2. Setting the Direction

Next, a small "Transformation Team" formed. At the Kick-off session, team members defined their mission and set OKRs for themselves. In this case, the OKRs were more like milestones, and if summarized, their main goal was to develop a change strategy for the rest of the company. Using the OKR tool in this case was somewhat redundant but useful because team members gradually started living by OKRs, tracking progress, understanding how it works, to then act as a role model for the rest of the company. And this approach worked excellently!
Step 3. Expanding the Circle

Six months in, I held a comprehensive OKR workshop for all managers. The Transformation Team shared their strategy and strategic change goals for the year. We then planned the company's quarterly OKRs, based on these goals.
The presence of team members seasoned in OKR nuances not only expedited the workshop but also enriched the experience, making it more productive.
Step 4. Involving Everyone

Participants wondered, "When and how do we involve the whole team?" My advice: keep involving people step by step. Start by introducing company-level OKRs. Encourage teams to develop initiatives aligned with these. If a team feels ready, they can certainly set their own OKRs in harmony with the company's. Initially, however, the focus should be on initiatives rather than setting team-level OKRs.
After a couple of cycles, when the management team is more confident with OKRs, include all teams in the planning. Set OKRs at both company and team levels.
Introducing OKRs gradually helps everyone understand and use them better. It also reduces any hesitation or resistance from the team.