Incorporate OKRs into your business rhythm
We know that every company has its own unique “rhythm of business”—the ebb and flow of everything from strategic planning by senior leaders to the way team managers hold weekly update meetings or one-on-one sessions with their direct reports.
We also know that the OKR framework is an effective way to align teams to strategic priorities, drive results, and create a culture of engaged employees focused on achieving common goals.
A common question when adopting OKRs is around the marriage of these two topics:
“How do I incorporate OKRs and dashboards into my existing rhythm of business?”
In this article, you'll
- Define rhythm of business and why it's important to successful OKR adoption.
- Outline the overall OKR cadence, known as the “four Cs.”
- Show the types of meetings and activities that tie into the OKR framework.
- Describe in-app tools such as dashboards that integrate OKRs into your ROB.
Mindset: Before we get started, a quick reminder that incorporating OKRs into your organization’s rhythm of business is an iterative process. The more you work to see opportunities to use OKRs in your day-to-day processes, the more streamlined your workflow becomes. That’s why we strongly urge focusing on progress over perfection.
It’s far more important to make initial progress and start finding individual areas to integrate OKRs than get hung up trying to craft the perfect workflow for every single team. So for now, keep it simple and have some fun.
What is a rhythm of business and why is it important to successful OKR adoption?
Every company has a rhythm of business (sometimes abbreviated to ROB), the workflow of planning and meetings and execution, but they can vary dramatically depending on the organization. Take the example of two companies getting started with OKRs:
- A small startup with 20 employees might have a loose and flexible ROB. There might be two nimble co-founders who make fast strategic planning decisions based on market feedback, share company progress through impromptu after-work meetings in a conference room, and receive team status updates on individual projects via a few bullet points in a chat conversation when there's something new to report.
- Conversely, a large enterprise with 20,000 employees might have a mature and structured ROB. The senior leadership team might hold deliberate strategic planning sessions over a period of weeks, sharing company progress might entail a monthly all-hands video meeting across multiple time zones, and status updates on individual projects could be a detailed report following a specific template that is given to multiple stakeholders at a specific day and time each week.
While it’s true that both of these organizations approach their ROB differently, in the big picture, they share common goals:
- Leadership Strategy (Setting the vision and organization-wide goals)
- Organizational Communication (Broadly sharing these goals to every member of the team so that they understand the company direction)
- Departmental Alignment (Driving alignment and clarity across departments)
- Team Execution (Driving team progress and accountability in the flow of work)
With these rhythms in place, organizations can ensure that their OKR adoption process is successful and that their objectives are being achieved.
Find your “center of gravity.”
One of the biggest initial hurdles to incorporating OKRs into the rhythm of business is simply getting started. New users want to know: Where should I begin? How does it tie into planning? What kind of meetings will I need?
It can seem intimidating, but we’ve found that organizations are most successful when they start by meeting their team where they're today instead of reinventing the wheel. We like to call this the “center of gravity” ... existing people and processes that are already in place and working, so that infusing OKRs can be additive, not constraining.
So begin by asking yourself:
- What is the least common denominator on planning? Do you plan centrally at the CEO level? Or by division / department? Or by product, in an engineering organization?
- Who runs that planning today? Who holds the pen for drafting organizational priorities? Who is in charge of monitoring and reporting on them?
- How often do you plan? Is it aligned to fiscal years? By semester? Ad hoc by project?
By starting with existing rhythms that are working, you can then layer in additional meetings and align with the overall cadence of OKRs.
Understanding the overall OKR cadence with the “four Cs”
Before thinking about specific meetings that might take place, it’s important to understand the four steps in the overall flow and business rhythm of the OKR framework, which repeat over the course of a time period. This rhythm varies depending on how your team approaches planning, but we tend to recommend a quarterly rhythm, so that is the cadence we illustrate here.
An easy way to illustrate and remember these four steps is the “four Cs”: Collaborate, Create, Check-in, and Close.
- Collaborate - Team members collaborate with each other to align on strategy, develop shared OKRs, and understand how overall objectives from senior leadership cascade to the team level.
- Create - OKRs are planned, written, and added into Viva Goals. Collaboration continues among team members to finalize OKRs.
- Check-in - Throughout the quarter, users make check-ins to track their progress. This can be done manually or automatically through data integrations.
- Close - At the end of the period, users reflect on progress, close and score their OKRs, share key learnings, and prepare for the upcoming time period.
It’s important to note that the time and effort spent on the four Cs varies.
- Collaborate/Create - The OKR planning and writing process is started during the last 1-2 weeks of a quarter, and is ideally completed within the first week of the next quarter. Thus, the time spent can be relatively intensive (meeting and aligning with colleagues for several hours over multiple weeks, crafting OKRs, and entering them into the software), but the frequency is low (happens once at the beginning of the quarter).
- Check-in - Once OKRs are loaded into Viva Goals, the check-in process throughout the quarter begins. The time spent doing actual check-ins is low (just a few minutes to update metrics, or no time at all if check-ins are automated), but the frequency is high (generally every week for 12 weeks).
- Close - Teams reflect on their progress at the end of the quarter. The time spent closing and reviewing OKRs is moderate (1-2 hours), and frequency is low (once per quarter).
Once a cycle of the four Cs is completed, teams repeat the process in the next time period.
Understanding four key business rhythms that drive value to your OKR program
One of the best ways to drive value to your OKR program is to incorporate OKRs and dashboards into your meetings and activities.
Doing so helps create visibility for your program, instill consistent, healthy habits into your organizational culture, and align employees to the overall mission and vision of your company.
There are four key meeting categories and activities to focus on. Each one has its own purpose, actions, and dashboards.
- Leadership Strategy
- Organizational Visibility
- Departmental Alignment
- Team Execution
How to create and customize dashboards within Viva Goals
Now that you’ve seen the “why” around using OKR dashboards in your business rhythms, see the step-by-step process “how” to create a dashboard, add panels, customize widgets, and present your data in the Microsoft Viva Goals software platform: Create and customize dashboards within Viva Goals.
Every company has its own unique “rhythm of business,” and the OKR framework is an effective way to align teams to strategic priorities, drive results, and create a culture of engaged employees focused on achieving common goals.
Incorporating OKRs and dashboards across key meetings and activities helps build a healthy OKR program.