6 Steps for an effective OKR Check-In

Improve your OKR Check-in with these tips and our template

Many companies associate OKRs with defining ambitious goals for a short timeframe. However, there is so much more to the concept of OKRs.

OKRs are built around a cyclical model that isn't limited to the work of a single team. The OKR Cycle links the work of individuals and teams to create an integrated model of work that provides iterative learning opportunities for the whole organization.

One crucial part of this iterative process are the OKR Check-Ins.

These Check-Ins allow teams and the whole organization to track progress
on a regular (e.g. weekly) basis to adapt tactics as needed and remove first impediments along the way.         

The goals of the OKR Check-In are as follows:

  • Transparency of the status-quo
  • Overview of the progress and upcoming tasks and activities
  • Get everybody on the same page
  • Identify impediments for fast removal    
          

Below you will find six steps to effectively design and work through your OKR Check-Ins.

Don't have time to read the full guide right now?
Download a copy of the OKR Check-In Guide here

OKR Check-Ins - Foundations:

The OKR Check-Ins does not have to be a stand-alone meeting, but can be integrated for example as the no. 1 agenda topic of a regular team or management meeting processes - no matter if it is a traditional team meeting or a Scrum sprint planning. Many teams also find it useful to combine the Check-In with an activity planning afterwards to gain clarity of all the next steps and directly work with the results from the Check-In.

Timebox for an OKR Check-In: 15 minutes plus

If no divergent opinions or impediment perceptions come up, a Check-In with 1-3 OKR Sets can be done in 15 minutes. If a team is relatively new to the process or substantial disagreements arise, more time or even a separate meeting block might be necessary.

Step 1:  Setting the scene


An effective OKR Check-in requires preparation and focus on progress and activity planning.
Ideally, all necessary data is prepared upfront and shared. It is important that all thoughts are raised, especially concerns and open questions from team members since this is valuable input and ensures a common understanding in the group.

Good Practice: 

  • Set the scene by stating what the intention of the meetings is (quick check of status quo, in-depth discussion of impediments etc.) and encourage the participants that all their thoughts and ideas are valuable. Especially in the beginning, having a designated moderator for the Check-In meetings can ensure a focused process, documentation of results, and make it easier for teams to get started.

Step 2:  Looking back to evaluate the current situation

Understanding the current situation and creating a starting point for objective discussions can start by walking through a (pre-filled) status overview of all Key Results (KR). The KR status can be evaluated by an absolute number (like 1 out of 4) and / or the relative progress (25% achievement).


Good practice:

  • Update the actual status quo of KRs one time at the beginning of the OKR Cycle so the starting point can be used as  a reference. It might also be helpful to add a comment on the KR to state the reference point (e.g. today we have 15.000 users and we want to increase this number by 15%). Also, make sure that you have clear responsibilities for the preparation of the respective KR data every week before the meeting or make sure one or more people attend the meeting who can not just give a quick update, but also answer related questions.

Step 3: Looking forward to estimating the end state

After reflecting on where you are right now, take a look into the future and estimate the possible result of the OKR Set - based on the knowledge of today. The more the estimations among team members differ, the higher the need for communication and investigation.

Good Practice:

  • A quick way to add this perspective is to define a confidence level for each Key Result. Ask everyone to share their confidence level, that the company or team will achieve this goal
    (e.g. from 1 (very low) to 4 (very high) or percentage). Use the average number to capture the actual estimation. Talk about the reasons, if there are bigger variations. Talk about trends, impediments, and actions if the confidence remains low for everybody.

A copy of the OKR Check-In template can be downloaded here:

Step 4: Adjusting and planning


Discuss the results with your team and use them as a foundation to define and adapt the next priorities and activities for the upcoming week(s). If completely new topics occur, an extra task planning meeting might be necessary.


Good Practice: 

  • Check your current task planning - does it still stand after the information gathered today or are new and/or different activities necessary? Get the main points across to create a shared understanding of the next steps instead of sharing all the details right way. If necessary, schedule a specific task planning meeting - ideally right in the Check-In meeting.

Step 5: Check other relevant metrics (optional)

There might be other relevant metrics that are important for organizational health and success that are not included in the KRs – but worth keeping an eye on. These, often called “health metrics”, can be company-wide or team specific metrics and include something like team engagement, revenue pipe or customer ratings.


Good Practice: 

  • You may use specific numbers for the health metrics that a person responsible updates before the Check-In. Alternatively, you can use a rough evaluation (like high-middle-low) given by an expert or the whole team. There is a need to spend extra time on the health metrics if either they are recurrently too low or team members have a different opinion about the status quo which might be a hint for a need for communication.

Step 6: Remove impediments

The insights shared and discussions happening in an OKR Check-In are a great source for possible impediments on the way towards achieving the set goals.


Good Practice: 

  • Listen carefully to the reasons mentioned by your team members why they might not have met the estimated progress so far or impediments shared which might have a negative impact on the progress in the future. Document impediments and assign responsibilities to resolve them. An impediment could be solved by a team member, taken to a designated meeting (e.g. an impediment board) or discussed with the next hierarchy level.

It is important to note that moving the item “OKR Check-In” to done is easy, whereas gaining valuable insights without too much extra effort while having all engaged in the process is not. The above tips are designed to help facilitate effective OKR Check-Ins in a way that improves the overall OKR experience.


Happy progress tracking!

Sources:

More resources from OKRs AT THE CENTER (OKR Definition Workshop Guide, OKR System Design Template and much more) can be found here.

This guide is based on the OKR Check-In Guide (CC BY-SA Sonja Mewes und Natalija Hellesoe).

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