Harnessing the Wisdom of 466 Leaders: Essential OKR Considerations for Strategy Execution Mastery

In March 2023, a groundbreaking survey conducted by OKRmentors & Quantive delved into the minds of close to 500 leaders to unravel the enigma of successful strategy execution. The findings, compiled in The Global State of OKRs, provide profound insights for leaders and strategic execution professionals. In this article, we uncover the key elements around OKR deployment strategy—the who, the what, and the how. Gain profound insights that will empower leaders and strategic execution professionals to unlock the full potential of OKRs and drive success.

Who is Responsible for OKRs? 

Key Findings

Discover who holds the responsibility for the success of OKR implementation within organizations. Our survey reveals that almost half (48%) assign an OKR sponsor within the executive team, while 38% have a dedicated OKR lead on staff. Additionally, 25% establish a network of OKR champions across the organization, and 17% tap into the expertise of an external OKR coach. These trends remain consistent across geographies, industries, and company sizes.

What Overachievers Do

Uncover the practices of OKR overachievers as they involve larger teams in making OKRs work. Overachievers are more likely to have an OKR Lead (44%), Sponsor (44%), and Champion Network (46%), involving champions and coaches 40% more often than their beginner counterparts.

Expert Insights

The OKR framework's beauty lies in its simplicity, but successful implementation represents a significant shift for organizations. While avoiding unnecessary complexity, it is crucial to recognize the profound impact that OKRs can have. Adequate resources are essential to drive and support this change effectively.

Aligning OKRs with the Right Levels of the Organization

Key Findings

Explore how organizations align OKRs with different levels of their structure. The majority set OKRs at multiple levels: 65% align OKRs with lines of business or division-level objectives, 59% set OKRs at the company-wide level, and 53% assign OKRs at the functional teams level. Cross-functional teams or individual-level OKRs are less common but still practiced. These trends hold true across countries, organization sizes, and industries.

What Overachievers Do

Discover how overachievers involve more levels within their organization, frequently setting OKRs at the company level and cross-functional teams level compared to their beginner counterparts.

Expert Insights

Leaders face important decisions when setting OKRs at different organizational levels. Involving more stakeholders in OKRs allows for qualitative and quantifiable alignment with strategic priorities. However, it requires careful management to ensure vertical and horizontal alignment, especially when updates or evolution of OKRs are necessary.

Linking OKRs to Business and Accounting Cycles

Key Findings

Unveil the alignment of OKR cycles with business and accounting cycles. A significant number, 58%, report that their OKR cycles coincide with these cycles, showing consistency across geographies, industries, and company sizes.

What Overachievers Do

Discover how overachievers prioritize the alignment of their OKR cycles with business and accounting cycles, with an impressive 81% adopting this practice.

Expert Insights

OKRs serve as a bridge between strategic objectives and day-to-day activities, making integration with other organizational processes crucial for success.

Linking OKRs to Individual Performance

Key Findings

Explore the connection between OKRs and employee performance evaluations. 56% of organizations use OKRs to inform employee performance evaluations, with 17% considering OKRs as the primary factor. However, 27% do not link OKRs to performance evaluation. These trends vary across industries and company sizes, with geographical differences as well.

What do overachievers do

76% of overachievers link OKRs to employee performance evaluations in a direct or indirect manner. That’s 1.4 times more than beginners. Of these, a third (33%) make OKRs a primary factor in performance evaluations.

What the expert says

OKRs serve as a valuable tool for fostering alignment within teams and organizations, ensuring clarity on which goals to pursue and providing a means to measure and track success. Furthermore, OKRs encourage teams to embrace ambition and strive for outcomes that may initially seem unattainable. Generally speaking, achieving 70% of your OKRs should be considered a satisfactory outcome. However, when OKRs are linked to performance evaluations and financial incentives, employees become more cautious when setting metrics, resulting in less ambitious targets and ultimately, less ambitious outcomes. OKRs are most effective when implemented at the team level, as they foster collaboration, alignment, and shared ambition among team members. By utilizing OKRs at this level, organizations can cultivate a culture of collective effort.

OKRmentors recommendation

To ensure a successful OKR program, it is crucial to establish two key roles within your organization. The first role is that of the OKR lead, who takes responsibility for implementing the OKR process. This individual works cross-functionally across the organization and collaborates with the executive team to ensure a smooth and streamlined rollout of OKRs. The OKR lead plays a critical role in establishing the framework and guiding teams throughout the process.

The second role is the OKR sponsor, typically an executive who champions the OKR initiative within the executive team. The sponsor helps elevate the importance of OKRs and ensures their integration into the overall strategic direction of the organization. They provide support to the OKR lead and help overcome any challenges that may arise during implementation.

In addition to these key roles, involving managers and individual team members through a network of OKR champions can strengthen the adoption and success of OKRs within your organization. These champions serve as advocates for OKRs within their respective teams, helping to drive engagement and alignment.

Consider seeking the assistance of an experienced OKR coach who can provide valuable guidance and expertise in implementing OKRs effectively. An OKR coach can help you avoid common mistakes, tailor the approach to your organization's unique needs, and find the best practices for successful OKR implementation.

When it comes to setting OKRs, it is essential to focus on both company-level and team-level objectives. Company-level OKRs help establish overall business priorities and provide strategic direction, while team-level OKRs connect day-to-day tasks to the broader strategic goals. Starting with these two levels and gradually expanding based on your organization's motivation and need for alignment, focus, and engagement can yield significant impact.

To ensure a smooth integration of OKRs into your existing processes, tools, and operations, strive to align OKR cycles and practices as closely as possible with your organization's current frameworks. This alignment is particularly crucial when it comes to performance evaluations, planning, and priority management.

When linking OKRs to individual performance evaluation, it is important to strike a balance. While establishing a loose link can serve as a source of motivation for individuals, quantifying this link too strictly may inadvertently discourage team ambition. To address this, consider evaluating the quality of an individual's contribution to the OKR process and the delivery of results. This approach allows for meaningful discussions between team members and managers, recognizing individual efforts within the broader context of OKR achievement. By shifting the focus to qualitative assessments, you create room for acknowledging and appreciating individual dedication and involvement in strategic execution.

By following these expert recommendations, you can pave the way for a successful OKR implementation and drive significant progress in your organization's strategy execution journey.

At OKRmentors, our collective of experts is dedicated to helping organizations become OKR overachievers and reach new heights of performance. Explore how we can assist you. Alternatively, download the complete report for comprehensive insights into OKRs' best practices. 

Remember, it's never too late to embrace change and unleash the true potential of your organization. Take the first step today with OKRs.