Most business owners and team leaders understand the importance of a company philosophy. As Simon Sinek points out in his TED Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, organizations are most effective when they focus not only on what they do, but also on why they do it.
However, while many organizations technically have a core set of values, very often, they don’t embody them. A mission statement posted on the wall is pointless if it doesn’t actually impact how the company operates on a daily basis.
Adhering to the organization’s stated values isn’t just a matter of integrity; it also guards against employee cynicism. When team members see a company that’s habitually violating its own principles, they’re less likely to be truly engaged with their work.
The Power of Questions
Asking questions is one of the most effective ways to make sure individual employees and the organization as a whole remain committed to the established values. Andy Grove, one of Intel’s first employees (considered an unofficial cofounder by some), even established a management process around this concept. Called Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs, the process came about as a response to two essential questions: Where do I want to go? How can I know I’m getting there?
These questions are meant to encourage people throughout a company to analyze how they spend their time. They can help guide employee performance evaluations, while also serving to motivate staff on a daily basis. After deciding on key quarterly objectives, those objectives are broken down until the role of each team and individual employee is clear. The objectives, of course, must align with the overall company vision. It’s a management style so effective, Google uses it.
Although every company could technically adapt the OKR management style to fit their unique needs, following a template simplifies the process. These six steps outline what you can do to implement OKRs in your organization efficiently:
- Establish 3 – 5 overall quarterly and yearly objectives for the entire organization.
- Teams establish 3 – 5 team-specific objectives based on the company’s overall objectives.
- Individual employees coordinate with managers to create their own unique set of 3 – 5 objectives, using those of the team and company as guides.
- Employees coordinate with supervisors to establish “stretch” goals that they will aim for, but are not likely to achieve.
- Managers ensure OKRs are transparent, sharing them openly and freely throughout the organization.
- At the end of each quarter, employees evaluate their own success. They should aim for a 60 – 70% success rate.
Some people dismiss the OKR management process: They believe that by setting quarterly goals, organizations restrict their own ability to adapt to changing market conditions. That’s why it’s important to know that OKRs shouldn’t be completely unchangeable. If circumstances demand a new strategy, it is acceptable (and smart) to adjust.
As a manager, there are steps you can take to ensure the OKR approach is as successful as possible. First, don’t set more than six quarterly objectives for an employee or team. Too many objectives can overwhelm employees. You should also constantly monitor their status to make sure they’re progressing at an appropriate rate.
Make it clear that these key goals will not impact an employee’s compensation or standing in the organization. You don’t want to intimidate them; you just want to establish a culture where your team members can focus on what needs to get done.
OKRs should help you adhere more closely to your overall values. Of course, you should set goals that benefit the company financially. That being said, implementing this management strategy will also ensure that your employees feel the organization has true integrity. They’ll be much more engaged as a result.