For the first time ever I found it incredibly hard to set my annual goals and in fact, this week marks the actual completion of them, weeks after 2019 came in. Why? Because instead of my goals being all about me, they’re now about the company and the team. This time last year, Beautystack had just 4 people in a small room in Second Home. My goals were really personal stuff I needed to achieve. Now my main focus is keeping everyone else on the team aligned. January came out of nowhere and a crazy NYE spent in NYC meant that my mind wasn’t rested and rejuvenated. (Note to self: All holidays are now recharge holidays) The goal setting didn’t come as naturally as usual so I turned to a framework to help. Measure What Matters, is a book written by John Doerr, legendary investor in Google. He brought the methodology of OKRs to Google and now refuses to invest in any company that doesn’t utilise them. I’m writing this because a few fellow founders have found it difficult to implement while they’re still small, so here’s how I did it.
What an OKR? Objective. Key Result.
is an amalgamation of management theories of the last 50 years including ones from from Peter Drucker and Andy Grove that simplifies progress down to a single objective and the key results that will contribute to that Objective. A bit like SMART goals but you measure you success at the end of the period. 0 is a fail. 1 is complete. 0.7 was close but no cigar etc… You must really read the book to provide colour and examples about how to run OKRs right.
As a second time founder, what I’ve learned about introducing any theory into your business is that its not simply a case of writing them down and sending an email to the entire company and having a meeting or two. They require some love and nurture to get right. I’m very aware of disturbing and distracting the team with management theories and workshops so I really wanted to get this one right and make everyone see the value, rather than chopping and changing frameworks. After I decided to try OKRs, I dedicated a considerable chunk of my time to launching it in the company in the right way. I thought “What can I do to give OKRs the best chance of success in Beautystack?” Change doesn’t happen overnight. You need to be patient, you need to involve the participants and most of all, you need a Guardian of the Change. So I was the first OKR Guardian.
So how did I go about making this happen? Firstly I accepted (and communicated) it would be a work in progress and take several quarterly cycles to get the process right. That took the pressure of the team and myself. That said, I wanted to be time efficient as possible so I was like — ok, but secretly it would be cool to get it right first time!
We had an all-hands where I introduced the concept of OKRs. What is was, why it was important, why I think it will work for us and fielded and Q+As from the team. I then told them the process that we were going to take to implement this so that everyone was clear from the get go as to what we were doing and what their role was.
Bearing in mind we were already into the quarter, Q1 was a bit muddy. The book also gives you a great annual timeline as to how to run OKRs so we are slightly out of time sync.
This was the process:
- All hands meeting introducing OKRs with a deck based on one given to me by my friend Sam Knight at Pollen 8 on 1:1s, OKRs and SW
2. I created a single Google Slides Doc with all the OKR templates pre set up so all they needed to do was fill them in. Good for transparency and visibility.
3. I actually commented on each page and tagged the team member so I would get a “Resolved” notification once they had written it up. Pedantic yes but it kept the process moving.
4. I sent meeting invites for the whole year — last Thursday of the Quarter is OKR Review, Sept OKR review will also be Team Annual Offsite and Dec OKR will be Year in Review/Annual OKR Review. So holidays can be booked around it. Also monthly 15 min OKR Check Ins.
5. I wrote the Company Annual OKR in the Google Doc — What do we want to achieve in the next 12 months. I kept the Objective purposefully vague so that each team from marketing to engineering could take what they needed from it to create their OKRs. the Key Results were very specific but while writing them I kept in the back of my mind “How could each person in the team feel they can contribute to this.”
6. Another meeting — I presented the Company Annual OKRs I had written, why I thought they were important and gave examples of how the teams would contribute to it with theirs. Next step was Team Annual OKRs.
7. I set meeting invites (I didn’t wait for people to self organise) amongst the Teams for them to write their Team Annual OKRs. I sat in the first 5 mins then left them to write it together.
8. I reviewed them as they were written (The resolved notification) and casually walked over to their desk for 15 min chat about them to avoid more meetings. Tidied them up together then signed off.
9. Once an OKR was completed in the Google Doc I changed the background page blue so everyone could see what was outstanding. I know I’m anal.
10.. Once Annual Team OKRs were complete everyone then worked on their individual Q1 OKRs. Same process above, I spent 15–30 mins casually with each person to review their OKR and sign it off.
11. Once the whole deck was complete with Company Annual OKR, Team Annual OKR, Company Q1 OKR (some Teams had Q1 OKRs, some weren’t necessary) Then Individual OKRs. We have arranged an offsite meeting room for half a day where everyone stands up and presents what their OKR is, what they’re working on and why its important. Everyone has to have a pad and listen and write down if they need to help/contribute and just general feedback. I did this as I want everyone to support each other in hitting their goals and to be accountable. (We then spent afternoon creating Team Charters)
12. Once a month, I, or their Team Leader does a 15 min OKR Check In again, pre scheduled in calendars.
What I learned about implementing OKRs
This whole process took around 5 weeks for 15 people. (I wrongly set in advance presentation meeting times that assumed we would finished this in two weeks lol) and I would say that everyone is excited and clear on what they’re working on. It’s a new type of strategy setting for me and I feel I have clarity and focus on how we all work as System.
Much like the Guides to Working with me, they have to be verbally and visually repeated in the office to become ingrained Company Culture. The toughest thing everyone felt about writing their OKRs was the language used. Many of the team used it as a task list — which its not. I found myself repeating the same phrases:
“What is the outcome of achieving the Objective”
“What would the actual result be if you did that. Not the thing you do. the result of the work”
“Remove the verbs. You’re not going to do anything, what would you have done.”
“You can’t have two KRs across multiple people, one person in team take ownership”
“If you present that OKR on March 28th in front of the team, would you be extremely proud of it? Is that enough for 3 months work?”
The date mechanism was a really good incentive. I kept reinforcing the dates to make them real “On Dec 20th when you stand up in front of the whole company and say what your team achieved that year, is that OKR gonna make you proud of yourself?”
Overall I think we are off to a good start and I’ll let you know how it goes! We are going to transfer this into Jira too. If you have any further advice on running OKRs please comment or reply!