Objectives and Key Results, OKRs for short, is a popular and effective strategic framework that has been implemented across industries. By breaking larger and further-reaching goals or objectives into smaller, more tangible key results, the OKR framework helps keep direction grounded and allows leadership to more simply communicate how everyday tasks connect with the broader values and goals of the brand.
Another big benefit that the OKR framework has to offer is flexibility and agility. Traditional performance evaluations happen after longer periods of time. By having smaller and more easily measurable key results to keep an eye on, it can be much easier for companies to catch mistakes or miscalculations and correct course before any more harm is done. Having the potential to make these critical course corrections is not enough, however. It’s important to know how to spot these red flags, which can happen at any OKR review session. Here are 5 revealing questions to discuss whenever you and your team do review.
What Went Wrong and Why?
This one seems obvious, but it’s incredibly important. If you aren’t hitting your goals, if you aren’t hitting the key results, what’s going wrong? It’s a simple question, but it might be a very complicated answer with a potentially more complicated solution.
Either way, asking the question gets the ball rolling and can lead to more detailed and specific questions hopefully leading to a solution. Sometimes, there might be an easy answer, such as some overlooked and ignored process or misallocated effort or resources. Usually, though, the answer will be more nuanced. A good next step might be to ask…
Is There a Problem with Leadership?
For questions like this, it’s important that your workplace has a culture of trust and collaboration. If there’s an issue with direction, chances are, leadership might be to blame—at least in part. However, if employees don’t feel comfortable confronting authority positions—even in a collaborative manner—this might just turn into an issue that goes unresolved.
In any case, leadership should always be looking and evaluating inwards just as much as outwards. After all, any shortcoming in performance ends up being on leadership’s watch in one or another. A trusting and communicative team can and should be able to identify issues with leadership and hopefully suggest adjustments or corrections. Communication and collaboration are fundamental pillars of a successful team.
Does the Team Have the Necessary Resources?
One issue might be that the strategic decisions taken were the correct or appropriate ones, but the team simply does not have the necessary resources to meet expectations. This is a great question to ask because this is easily an issue that might not have been visible during the planning stage. We can have an idea of how much things are going to cost, but we all know how easily that can change.
Budget isn’t the only thing to consider, either. Does the team have the right skillset? It might be worth it to invest in specific training if this is the shortcoming that was overlooked. That, or it may very well be that the specific team member assigned to this task doesn’t have this unforeseen skill under their belt, but maybe another team member does. In this case…
Do the Right People Have the Right Responsibilities?
Once you have some time and experience in the project, everybody will have the opportunity to learn more about the scope of their responsibilities. During this time, it may become apparent that some people are simply not where they should be. Transferring focuses and responsibilities might be the best plan of action here.
Now, transferring isn’t necessarily trivial. There will likely be some cost in time and learning for team members to take on new tasks that are already up and running. The people who know best about whether or not this transfer will be feasible and reasonable, ultimately, are the team members themselves.
Was it Out of Your Hands?
Finally, it’s okay to recognize that, sometimes, underperformance is just out of your hands. Maybe an industry giant eclipsed your efforts, or something entirely unexpected like a global pandemic pushed against all of your planning. While this shouldn’t be the default or an easy excuse, sometimes, there was just nothing to do.
When this happens, pivoting quickly and creatively is important. If you run into a wall, it doesn’t make sense to just keep running into the same wall. A metaphorical wall can be more difficult to sidestep, though, so it’ll be important to have your team’s input on what the next steps should be.
This is far from an extensive list of important OKR review questions to ask, but they can certainly serve as a high quality performance survey and a starting point to more precise and context-specific lines of questioning. In any case, though, remember that these aren’t questions you should contemplate by yourself. These are questions to ask and break down with your most important resource: your team.
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