As we know (and the management, too), effective goal setting has great power and strongly influences focus, commitment, alignment, accountability and of course: success.

Nonetheless, statistics show that the desired effect is not achieved with one directional goal setting.

Why is that so?

Typically, goals are fixed for one year and seldomly are adjustable. And here is probably the biggest issue: the time scope.

  • Where do you want to be in one year?
  • What are the steps you need to undertake?
  • How do you measure your progress?
  • Which relationships are important to reach your goal?

With the knowledge you have now, answering these questions properly so that the answers can be put into stone is nearly impossible. Life is what happens, while we are making plans.

But there are other reasons, too. Your goals, that are the outcome of a mission broken down in uncountable steps by the same amount of different people are probably extremely hard to link to the actual purpose. It is the same effect like in chinese whisper. At the end, you cannot fit your goals into the bigger pictures and everybody looks at each other with a questioning face. But since one expects of you to move forward, you do so. And your colleagues, too. And in the end, there is no perfectly balanced novel, with interesting characters that are interconnected and there is no red thread that everybody is linked to.

And with no adjustments and poor feedback mechanisms, the characters make one step after another without knowing if they are on the right path. There won’t be exciting turning points and no third act and most certainly no happy end.

Objective and Key Results

How can you ensure to be on the right path and create such a happy end if the common big 1-year plans tend to fail? Is there a method to keep a company, a department or a team aligned and on track? Objective and Key Results (OKRs) is a method which can help you out to push yourself and your company forward into the right direction. But how can OKRs help you out?

OKRs are divided into two parts. On the one hand you have the Objectives which are qualitative goals and determines what you want to achieve. Good Objectives are meant to inspire and motivate you, so that you want to seriously make them happen. Key Results on the other hand are quantitative metrics to check whether you achieved your goals or not and helps to keep the Objective real. When used properly, good Key Results are going to take your fear of not reaching them. Instead of sandbagging you should shoot for the moon but without making them completely unreachable. If you have a realistic chance of 50% to reach the Key Result, then they are a good choice.

The time horizon of OKRs should always be a 3-month period. When using this timebox there is enough time to get meaningful things done but also you have the possibility to adjust the direction you are going frequently.

How to keep everyone aligned

Getting distracted and losing your focus sometimes is human and likely to happen. Therefore, it is important to get back to your focus frequently to avoid the risk of working towards different directions.

Checking your OKRs once a week helps to keep everyone aligned as well as making both, progress and impediments transparent. This weekly should not end up in a status report. Moreover, it is used to inspect and adapt the plan and realign everyone to work on the same goals. To achieve this, it is useful to present results as one part of this meeting but more important to get into a discussion.

Utilize this event to plan the steps for the upcoming week and check if you are still on track. As important as progress on your OKRs is, you should not forget about everything else. That is where Health Metrics getting important. Those determine things you have achieved in the past and should slip it. When trying to approach new customers for example, you should not stop to care about the existing customers.

Traffic light vote

To keep it simple you can use a traffic light vote on your Health Metrics to see if you are green and everything is going well or if you are red and definitely have to refocus on those Health Metrics again. When doing a traffic light vote and all the participants vote green except even one participant who votes red, the whole vote is turning red. Although it is hard to have the courage to speak up if something goes wrong, this leads to important and very valuable discussions and the possibility to inspect and adapt to improve the future.