The disruption of a sector like Fintech does not happen by chance. It happens by design. Disruption is almost always an intentional act. You see a valuable established market with dysfunction and you seek to improve it. The genesis of disruption is often a unifying goal, and for tech companies, that often means an OKR: goal and key results.
There is about a 70% chance that you are reading this post with a Chrome browser. But did you know that when Chrome was getting off the drawing board at Google, it started life as an OKR?
Objective: Develop the next generation client platform for web applications
Key result: Chrome reaches 20 million active users for seven days
Almost any team could see this and know where the business is going. They could start to think about the best way to help the team be successful. These cross-disciplinary discussions occur every quarter where teams discuss what the few game-changing OKRs should be. These goals are out of the ordinary. The bottom-up part of OKR planning.
This drive to bring more purpose and greater empowerment and autonomy is critical to OKRs. If you want to disrupt a large market with great competitors and high-performing teams, use a goal setting framework like OKR. These teams are highly collaborative, agile, productive, and innovative. They are not a luxury; they are table bets.
OKRs that align with the above objective are very likely to be cross-functional. Each department would be involved in planning. If you’re launching a new product, that takes a cross-functional effort. You will see each quarter and discuss whether an OKR should be transferred.
OKRs are more than aligned goals and key results
It’s a common misconception that OKRs are just about learning how to write an objective and comparing it to 1 to 4 key results that align with other objectives and key results. If you’re good at using OKR, you understand the little details that unlock its hidden superpowers.
Full clarity with OKR
If you have planned OKRs well, you will be clear about some game-changing goals and have imagined what success would look like. You will then commit to achieving them – the more focused, which means the fewer goals you have, the better.
If you’re trying to describe your business as usual as OKR or wedge every KPI you track into a Key Result, you’ve gone wrong. When you wake up in the morning, you should never wonder what the company and the team are committed to achieving.
Different teams, roles and responsibilities in the business will be involved in the OKRs in any quarter. Of course, you have named owners and collaborators, but you can also have different people take initiatives to deliver the results you have specified. If you are in Legal and you are launching a new product that needs Terms and Conditions, you know what when you need it, you will stop what you are doing to help achieve the committed OKR.
Having a shared subset of KPIs called Health Metrics (that is, the health of the company) will help clarity. These tell you and everyone else how a team is performing. OKRs can then focus on the areas of highest value. The performance of the company as always is measured with these metrics. If any of them become a problem or an opportunity, it might become an OKR focus in the future.
There is something about hard-to-reach goals that help most of us perform better. It is the science of goal setting. The benefits of stretching are:
- Create a greater focus on the most relevant activities.
- Extend the effort for a longer time
- Stimulate learning, collaboration and innovation
Taken to the extreme, this ambition turns into a lunar shot, but the default for OKR is simply ‘Hard’. If goals are difficult to achieve, you must also redefine success. The idea that 100% is not necessarily the desired end state is strange at first. The sweet spot, when the targets have been well calibrated, is somewhere around the 70% mark. Much less, and perhaps there were problems, much more, and perhaps you were not ambitious enough.
Once you’ve defined OKRs, cadence and communication are what drive the results. Weekly checks become the wheel of achievement. Next week’s priorities, progress, and issues are shared. The records show responsibility, collaboration, reliability, and productivity. It will enhance ongoing commitment to your desired end state.
If you are going to have honest discussions about what the priorities should be, if you are going to be genuinely ambitious, if you are going to work across the board, as well as in your teams, if you are sometimes playing a leading role. and sometimes supporting. You will work in an agile way, sharing priorities and problems as you go; you need to have the right culture.
Adopting and incorporating OKRs improves culture over time; even if it just points out where the problems are to begin with. Cultural pillars such as responsibility, collaboration, Psychological safety, and learning and development will be critical to everything you do.
The behaviors and habits that define how the company works, how managers and teams behave, and how it happens on a day-to-day basis are the glue that will hold everything together as you move from scalability to unicorn.
It’s a journey
If you are looking to interrupt the establishment, try using OKR. It takes a few quarters to make OKRs cultural, and there will be roadblocks along the way and mistakes could be made. However, once you have the framework in your toolbox and culture, the only limit to your success becomes your level of ambition and willingness to fail occasionally.