OKR Definition Workshop Guide
The OKR Definition is the first step in every OKR Cycle followed by Alignment workshops or meetings to ensure a shared direction throughout the organization.
Many teams rely on workshop formats to define their OKR Sets, because collaborative sessions tend to create more context and shared understanding from the beginning and help identify obstacles early in the process.
However, just meeting for a workshop every quarter to define OKRs often does not bring the desired results.
To get the most out of the experience - also beyond the actual OKR Definition itself - a 3-step process for OKR Definition in teams has proven to be valuable:
Below you will find a description of the P-D-F process steps as well as tips and good practices for facilitating this process with a team taken from our experience with teams around the globe throughout different industries and company sizes.
Many teams jump right into the OKR Definition. When you have a good foundation and a lot of experience, that might lead to great results.
Especially when teams are rather new to the OKR process, a “Preparation Workshop” before the actual OKR Definition Workshop can be crucial to successfully define OKR Sets together.
Recommended timebox: 60-90 minutes
Goal: “Create a shared understanding of the scope, current foundational input and set the scene for successful collaboration”
Foundational input for the OKR Definition
Collaboration during and after the Workshop
PREPARATION - PRACTICE TIPS
If necessary, use the preparation to discuss open questions around the concept of OKRs. Moreover, if it has not happened yet, collecting why the team wants to use OKRs and what they are hoping to gain from it can be useful up front to use as a reference point for decisions during the workshop and for the next steps.
After the Preparation: Fill the blanks
In the actual OKR Definition workshop, the common principles for valuable workshop applies that we will not cover in this guide, but here are some specific tips around the OKR side of it.
Recommended timebox: 120 -180 minutes
Goal: “Define a first draft of OKR Sets together building on the foundational input and learnings from the last OKR cycle”
1) Make sure everybody is on the same page
After a check-in activity, do a quick recap of the results from the preparation workshop and discuss any outstanding input. So, for example, when the preparation workshop revealed that the strategic background is unclear or not everyone is familiar with the current roadmap, check whether this has been solved and where necessary discuss open questions around the foundational input together before you start.
The goal here: A shared understanding of the current situation and the foundation for the OKR Definition BEFORE you start to discuss objectives for the next OKR cycle to avoid lack of focus, missing alignment or general misunderstanding during the process.
2) Ensure a supporting environment for the OKR Definition Workshop!
Here are some variables to think about:
Duration: From our experience, it usually takes 2-3 hours to define 1-3 whole OKR Sets per unit or team from scratch. Block enough time to avoid frustration and the need to cut off valuable conversations.
Priority: Ensure that all participants (can) prioritize the OKR Definition workshop over other short-term issues and discuss impediments around that in the preparation.
Room Preparation upfront: No matter if you are doing the OKR Definition on-site or remote, use the wall or boards to visualize the foundational input, define sections for “Objectives”, “Key Results” and “Initiatives” and “Tasks”, prepare idea and discussion spaces and whatever else you might need to ensure a smooth flow and visual cues.
3) Make everyone feel welcome, appreciated and comfortable!
When you think about the OKR Definition as part of a creation process, start with the ideation phase (no evaluation yet), then move to evaluation and finally to solution (in terms of selected goals, not features ;)
To create a good environment for all team members to freely brainstorm and share ideas, here are some things to keep in mind:
4) Ideate, cluster and decide for inspiring Objectives:
To ensure focus during the process, we recommend starting with the definition of objectives and continue to iterate and select objectives before going into the details of the Key Results.
Of course, often ideas for Key Results (or initiatives) also come up during the objective discussion.
Collect them on the board as valuable input for the later steps.
The first iteration of objectives:
5) Ideate, cluster and decide for measurable Key Results:
After you have decided on a (first draft) of Objective(s) for the next OKR Cycle, continue with the definition of Key Results:
6) Define next steps
In most cases, you won’t leave the OKR Definition workshop with all questions answered and no open tasks – and that’s totally fine. However, to ensure that the transfer into the actual execution will happen, make sure to set aside 10 minutes at the end of the workshop to define next steps and responsibilities together.
DEFINITION - PRACTICE TIPS
After the Definition: Iterate and align
After collecting missing data, clarifying open questions with other departments and going through (parts of) the alignment process for the organization, a follow-up workshop can ensure a smooth transfer into the
next OKR cycle and that all loose ends are take care of before execution starts.
Recommended timebox: 120 minutes
Goal: “Finalize your OKR Sets, discuss possible impediments or open topics and clarify the next steps for a successful next OKR cycle”
Follow-up workshops tend to be very individual depending on what topics came up in the OKR Definition workshop, how much time the team had to iterate OKR Sets in between or how far the alignment process in your organization came until the scheduled workshop.
However, in general a scheduled follow-up meeting as third part of the OKR Definition process can be used as valuable time to…
Tip for teams in their first OKR cycle(s):
To ensure a smooth start for teams in your organization new to the OKR process, extend the follow-up and use the second half of the workshop to go through the OKR cycle and answer remaining questions around the following topics for OKR Check-Ins and OKR Reflection (Reviews and Retrospectives):
More resources from OKRs AT THE CENTER (Check-In Guide, OKR System Design Template and much more) can be found here.
This guide is partly based on the OKR Check-In Guide (CC BY-SA Sonja Mewes und Natalija Hellesoe).
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