6 steps for a successful OKR Definition Workshop

OKR Definition Workshop Guide

Many teams rely on workshops to define their OKR Sets. Workshop formats make it easier to manage the OKR Definition process and also provide many opportunities to actively differentiate between the idea creation phase, evaluation, and adjustment. Additionally, collaborative workshops tend to create more context and shared understanding from the beginning of the process, which can help leaders align on strategy, goals, and measurement options, as well as timeline and resource estimates. 

The following are 6 steps for setting up and facilitating your OKR Definition Workshop, along with some tips to keep in mind before, during and after the workshop.

SET THE SCENE BEFORE THE WORKSHOP

Step 1:  Make sure everybody knows what’s going to happen (including the “why” and “how”).    

Here are questions that can help ensure the right tone is set at the beginning of an OKR workshop:

  • What is the concept of OKRs and why do you use them in your company?

  • What is the goal for this workshop (i.e., define Objectives, define whole OKR Sets, collect Key Results, etc.)?

  • Which timelines make the most sense for your OKR Sets (e.g. the next three months)?

  • How many OKR Sets do you plan to define?

  • Are you looking for strategic-only OKR Sets or should day-to-day activities be covered as well? 

  • How are you going to integrate the ideas of OKR Contributors (who gave input before the workshop)?

  • How do you want to deal with non-present team members?

  • How are you going to decide on the final Objectives and Key Results (e.g. democratically, the leader decides or consent decision making)?

  • What are the process steps that will be taken during the workshop (general flow)?

  • Who is going to facilitate the workshop and what is their role? If it is a person from the team, how are you ensuring that the person can facilitate the group and give input at the same time?


Practice Tips: 

  • Visualize the Definition process and collected info on the wall / a flipchart for everyone to see and refer to during the workshop → Insert picture as example

  • Have a person responsible for the workshop facilitation nominated well in advance

Step 2:   Ensure a supporting environment for the OKR Definition Workshop!  

Here are some variables to think about:

  • Duration: From our experience, it usually takes 3-4 hours to define 1-3 whole OKR Sets per unit or team. If the team is not very experienced with OKR Definition yet, it might be helpful to schedule 2 shorter workshops and reiterate the first draft or complete the process.
  • Priority: Ensure that all participants (can) prioritize the OKR Definition workshop over other short-term issues. In the long run, nothing should be more important than your company's priorities.
  • References: Bring everything you have as a printout for reference, such as the following: purpose, vision, mission and current strategy version, main customer journey overviews or most important impact metrics as a reference point and source of input for the following discussion. The clearer the strategy and value-propositions, the easier the OKR Set Definition!
  • Room Preparation upfront: Use the wall or boards to visualize the long-term goals and define sections for “Objectives”, “Key Results” and “Tasks”.


Practice Tip: 

  • Ensure that the participants are actually familiar with the long-term goals (vision, strategy, etc.). If necessary, share them before the workshop for self-study and use some time at the beginning of the workshop to answer open questions and create a shared understanding.

ORCHESTRATE PEOPLE AND IDEAS DURING THE WORKSHOP

Step 3:  Make everyone feel welcome, appreciated and comfortable:

  • At the beginning of the OKR Definition Workshop (ideation phase), it is important to clearly state that it is not about “right” or “wrong” and there is no need to evaluate (yet).Being creative, thinking big and valuing all ideas (no matter how crazy) should be the credo.
  • Questions like “What marketing activity for our company would you carry out if you had 10 Mio. Dollars today?” can help to think big.
  • Be aware: everybody lives in his or her own reality. To assure valuable communication, it is worth regularly check in with everyone, letting them repeat what they understood from the ideas of others to ensure alignment.


Practice Tips: 

  • To get the team into the right “spirit”, prepare a creativity exercise or other activity to distinguish this workshop from the regular working mode. You can ask them questions that interrupt and challenge their normal thought patterns, like “Where would you fly to if you would have wings?” or “Draw an animal that tastes like honey and looks like a cucumber”.
  • Talk about main principles for OKR Set Definition and visualize them on the wall as well

Step 4:   Ideate, cluster and decide for inspiring Objectives:  

Here are some variables to think about:

  • Start with a free brainstorming with a short time box (e.g. 3 minutes).One idea is to have participants write down their ideas for Objectives (one per post-it) in response to one or more of these questions: 
    • “What should be our next step to achieve our strategy?”
    • “What success stories would we want to share at the upcoming industry conference?” 
    • “What key indicators would change if we could eliminate our actual strategic weak spots?” 
  • Have everyone present their post-its to the group. 
  • Cluster and classify the ideas together under Objectives, Key Results and Tasks (see checklist). 
  • Check for the “reasons behind”: If a post-it rather describes a Key Result or task you can simply ask the person (or the entire group) “Why would you measure this or do this?” or “Why is this important?” and the answer will provide new ideas for Objectives. 
  • Once all the post-its have been assigned to the right “flight”-levels, the Objectives are jointly discussed to identify the biggest lever to move forward in terms of strategy.
  • Decide about the Objective(s) you want to work on in the next OKR Cycle.
  • The Objective is really valuable when everyone in the room nods in response to the question: “Do you want to get out of bed for to contribute to this every morning?” If not, that’s also okay – but maybe the discussion offers some insights on how to weak the Objective to really be inspiring and motivational.


Practice Tip: 

  • Have the facilitator guide the participants through the process by asking questions and summarizing every step.
  • Have the OKR Checklist at hand during the Workshop to reflect on the collect Objectives (and later Key Results).

Step 5:   Ideate, cluster and decide for measurable Key Results:

  • Start with a free brainstorming with a short timebox (e.g. 3 minutes) again to ensure you collect all the ideas BEFORE evaluating or eliminating options.One idea is to have participants write down their ideas for Key Results (one per post-it) in response to the question: 
    • “How will we know that we are on the right track to reaching our objective?
    • What indicators should we look for?” 
  • Have everyone present their post-its to the group. 
  • Cluster and classify the ideas together under Objectives, Key Results and Tasks (see checklist).
  • Cluster the ideas for Key Results into different areas to check and make sure ,they really differentiate between the Objective and the other perspectives (e.g. user growth, engagement, sales, quality or performance). You might not need 3 Key Results representing the same perspective but rather pick one. Or if you identify that all 3 Key Results from the same perspective are relevant, then the Objective might need another tweak/ focus (See OKR Set Checklist).
  • Discuss the options and decide on the final Key Results which are best suited to measure your progress towards the Objective.


Practice Tip: 

  • To keep the discussion efficient and avoid getting lost in the weeds, you can initially only write down the ideas for measurement criteria itself and NOT define a relative or absolute number yet, e.g. ‘X % more leads’.
  • AFTER deciding which Key Results you want to use for the next OKR Cycle, briefly discuss together which values should be set as ambition.

CONNECTING THE DOTS AFTER THE WORKSHOP

Step 6:  Synchronization with other OKR Set drafts  


Once the OKR Sets have been formulated, a discussion phase may be necessary for which the OKR Sets are examined from all angles in terms of coherence. Moreover, at the end of the workshop at the latest, a person for the synchronization should be defined who is responsible for supporting this process and reporting feedback to the team. A follow-up workshop may be necessary.

Practice Tip: 

  • To ensure a valuable and efficient follow-up, reflect on the alignment process from the last OKR Cycle, and draw conclusions. You may also benefit from blocking time or organizing workshops for steps that have proven to be helpful or necessary in advance.

A copy of the OKR Definition Workshop Guide can be downloaded here

Want to know more about individual OKR System design?

Our book "OKRs AT THE CENTER - How to use goals to drive ongoing change and create the organization you want!" is ourtnow!

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