Look online and you will find some great stories on how OKRs have been used by many companies, with Google a notable case study, to push the boundaries of achievement. Goal setting has a number of techniques that can be used by Project Managers, however many of them limit the goal to a finish line or simply what the outcome is at the end of the fixed time period. The OKR approach not only gives a structured way to measure progress to an objective, it establishes continuous processes to set higher performance benchmarks for results and motivates the team to achieve them.
What are OKRs in Project Management?
Many Project Managers will set goals for their team and in a separate article we discussed how Key Performance Indicators could be set to support measurement of project progress and transparency for stakeholders. OKRs are different in a few ways; the most important being that they are deliberately aspirational and are not simply a reflection on all the tasks in the project plan or project board.
Project tasks have a tremendous amount of detail and it can be easy to focus on task-based outcomes. While this remains necessary for team management, it is quite mechanical and often not that inspirational. Task-based objectives are also likely to be the result of a bottom up plan, with the risk that the net result of the completed task becomes the focus and the results are simply the tick-box metrics to mark the task as complete. An impact of this approach, apart from losing sight of the big picture due to a short cycle task focus, is that the completion of the task does not achieve the target result and as a result does not meet the objective. Another impact is that the team is operating within their limits not deliberately and persistently pushing beyond them.
To begin with the Objective must be big and ambitious and, as mentioned, aligned to your organisation’s goals. It should be set at a level that drives higher performance and productivity in the team and measurable with results and metrics defined. The results should equally be set at a level that stretches the team to achieve more and be distinct from the detail of the tasks.