Align your OKRs to deliver transparency, visibility, and accountability
Microsoft Viva Goals is a goal-setting solution that aligns teams to your organization’s strategic priorities to drive results and create a culture of engaged employees focused on achieving common goals.
The key word there is align ... cascading and linking Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) up, down, and across an organization to ensure that everyone is moving in the same direction.
In this article, you'll learn:
- How to define alignment and why it's important
- Show how to align OKRs up, down, and across an organization
- Teach you best practices for aligning your OKRs
Mindset: Before we get started, a quick reminder that writing and aligning OKRs is an iterative process ... each quarter that you create, align, and achieve your goals, the better you will become. That’s why we strongly urge focusing on progress over perfection.
It’s far more important to make initial progress and start aligning a few of your major goals and enter those into the system than get hung up trying to craft the perfect alignment for every single team. So for now, keep it simple and have some fun.
The concept of alignment within Viva Goals refers to the process of linking Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) up, down, and across an organization.
Today’s business leaders are looking for a better way to drive purpose, alignment, and results:
- Becoming more strategic with their budget, resources, and time
- Focusing on and communicating top priorities for the organization
- Adapting to a new normal at work, including the digital needs of a hybrid or remote workforce
- Connecting work groups that are siloed, disconnected, or doing redundant work
Now more than ever, employees are seeking purpose and meaning at work, and want to be part of the company mission. The use of OKRs provides transparency around company goals and helps ensure that everyone is moving in the same direction. When OKRs are properly aligned, individuals can clearly see how the work they do as part of a team delivers impact to the overall purpose, and makes working with cross-functional teams and remote co-workers easier.
Alignment framework: Top Down, Bottom Up
Before getting to OKRs, senior leaders should start by defining a company’s overall Mission, Vision, and Values. What is the company’s reason for being? What is the sense of purpose? Being clear helps inform the strategy and direction to take.
From there, senior leadership should start with a top-down approach, taking ownership and defining annual Objectives and Key Results, the most important 3-5 goals that the company wants to achieve in the coming year.
Recommended Reading: Write annual, organizational OKRs using the 5 Ps
Guidance from top leaders is critical, as they set the "North Star” direction for where the company is heading.
However, at a certain point you need to incorporate bottom-up input to fuel the specifics of your business. Employees that are part of teams “in the trenches” are vital to communicating the critical day-to-day key results that will contribute back up to the overall goals of the company. Bottom-up alignment empowers teams to create their own OKRs in support of the top 3-5 goals on a company level, and determine the best way to drive impact for that time period.
Visualizing OKR alignment
Once company level OKRs are in place, it's recommended that teams (which could also be called Departments, Divisions, etc.) align their Objectives up to the company level, and then subteams below that align their Objectives to the Objectives of the parent team.
These Objectives are not identical to the ones above it, but in support of them.
Consider the following example:
Let’s say one of the main Objectives at the company level is to focus on top talent, to make sure they're both engaged and diverse. The objective might be:
- Objective: Elevate our top talent in order to provide a culture of equity
Appropriately, the metrics for success at the company level might focus on the team thriving, and being more diverse:
- Key Result 1: Improve our Thrive score by 20%
- Key Result 2: Improve our diversity and inclusion percentage point for leadership by 4
When the People team meets to set their OKRs, they have transparency and can see that one of the critical goals for senior leadership is to focus on their top talent, to make sure they're both engaged and diverse. They understand the objective and the outcomes driving success from the top down.
However, they're also in the best position to know how best to accomplish this mission. For example, they might have external research reports, and employee comments from previous thrive score surveys, that show that their top level compensation packages are out of sync with the rest of the industry. Therefore, the People team makes it a priority to work on compensation as a way to contribute to thrive. This is an example of bottom up alignment.
The Objectives they might set are:
- Objective 1: Revamp the compensation program to reflect proper market rate for our top talent
- Objective 2: Bring in best talent of the industry to our A-team
They also might add a third Objective around diversity and inclusion.
Lastly, perhaps it has become more apparent that taking data-driven approaches to challenges has paid significant dividends for the company. Let’s assume that Acme has an internal research and insights department that was the source of the compensation data used by the People department.
The leads of both departments meet and decide that they need a diversity and inclusion study to inform their hiring decisions. Thus, they might make an Objective to share this goal through the multiple alignment feature. This would be an example of cross-functional alignment.
Align OKRs in Viva Goals
Now that you’ve seen the “why” around aligning your OKRs, see the step-by-step process “how” to collaborate, align, and view your OKRs in the Microsoft Viva Goals software platform: Collaborate with Viva Goals
Today’s business leaders are looking for a better way to drive purpose and results. OKRs are a goal-setting framework to do this, and using alignment within Viva Goals allows the organization to link from the top down, bottom up, and across groups. This alignment provides visibility, transparency, and accountability to make sure that everyone in the organization is moving in the same direction, helping to drive purpose and meaning at work.