Using OKRs to manage IT talent is becoming a standard practice. Setting goals regularly and using a system to determine whether you are reaching these objectives is vital for moving your enterprise forward in a predictable way.
As you are probably all too aware, companies without actionable goals can find themselves stuck in a rut, needing to find ways to reinvigorate themselves to improve their bottom line and keep a competitive edge. Setting and meeting new goals is also how an enterprise maintains its success rate, which goes hand in hand with building a good reputation in the industry to encourage future recruitment of promising new talent.
Using OKRs to manage IT talent
OKR is an acronym for “Objectives and Key Results.” Enterprises use OKRs to help them manage their processes to support strategic goals. As MIT Sloan Management Review noted, “OKRs consist of two parts. Objectives are short descriptions of what you want to achieve. Each objective should include a handful of key results — typically quantitative metrics or milestones that specify the steps required to achieve the goal and measure progress.”
Being a dedicated member of the leadership team in your enterprise, you should know that using OKRs will be crucial for managing IT talent.
The use of Objectives and Key Results began near the end of the previous century. Appraisd explains that OKR was “developed by IT giants Intel in the late 1990s, building on traditional performance management approaches. Many companies have since adopted oKRs in Silicon Valley, most notably Google.” The idea behind OKRs is to encourage employees to think more creatively as they collaborate on projects.
The key is that these objectives should challenge employees, inspiring them to engage with the task at hand and cooperate, with standards for measuring the results. Generally, employees will state a goal with what tasks they need to achieve, describing how they will measure the results.
Reaching for Higher Goals
One characteristic of OKRs to keep top of mind is that you can encourage employees to pursue bigger goals than what they have previously achieved. As re:Work reported, “In practice, using OKRs is different from other goal-setting techniques because of the aim to set very ambitious goals. When used this way, OKRs can enable teams to focus on the big bets and accomplish more than the team thought was possible, even if they don’t fully attain the stated goal.” Here, managers and teams move beyond their comfort zones.
At Google, the IT staff focuses on ambitious aspirations. The re:Work report noted that “Google often sets goals that are just beyond the threshold of what seems possible, sometimes referred to as “stretch goals.” Creating unachievable goals is tricky as it could be seen as setting a team up for failure. However, more often than not, such goals can tend to attract the best people and create the most exciting work environments.”
In other words, if you want dramatic results, you need to aim higher while allowing the team to know it has permission to fail since that’s how we learn and improve.
OKRs for Transparency in the Enterprise
When you adopt an OKR approach, one of the benefits is increased transparency inside your enterprise. Appraisd explains that “unlike traditional objectives, OKRs are designed to be completely transparent. Everyone’s objectives, from the CEO downwards, are made public for anyone in the company to view.” When you align each team member’s objectives with the enterprise’s strategy, you’ll find that employees work in concert more effectively toward their targets.
OKRs in Action
To organize your efforts, you’ll have workers setting OKRs regularly. Ideally, each employee will describe their new OKRs every quarter, while the company as a whole will establish objectives every year, if not also working on 2-year and 5-year goals to see how the key results pan out.
An enterprise-level OKR would focus on what direction to take the company (strategy), while OKRs on the individual level will apply to tactical efforts.
Companies will break the OKR efforts into their objectives, key results, and initiatives.
* Objectives: This describes what you want to achieve and is not technical but instead shows the direction or destination where you’re heading.
* Key Results: Each key result is something that you can measure to determine if you met the objective, based on a metric and the starting and target values—these show where employees are in meeting their latest OKRs.
* Initiatives: The various tasks and projects that employees carry out in support of the OKRs are the initiatives. Look at the initiatives as the fuel that moves workers to meet the stated goals.
Examples of OKRs for IT Management
Establishing OKRs in your enterprise will go more smoothly when you review examples of how other companies have used this process to move forward. You don’t want the goals to be too small or too difficult to quantify.
Harvard Business Review cited an example of a software engineer who submitted an OKR to improve his coding skills and achieve a particular software development rating by the end of the next quarter. The results included taking courses on programming languages, reading a set amount of books on becoming a software engineer, and earning certification to be a DevOps professional.
Unfortunately, while those are admirable objectives, they do not measure whether they will become a better programmer. Instead, a valid OKR would be more along the lines of a programmer cutting down the number of bugs he ships to the production team by 50%.
OKRs also need to account for teamwork. HBR noted that “a more meaningful goal for the engineer might be to improve the accuracy of search engine results by 25% — but that’s not something she can achieve on her own since it would involve not only the coding of the search algorithm but also the design of the search results page, the personalization of results to specific users, the analysis of large quantities of data, and many other components.” This underscores that primary goals will generally require a team effort, so OKRs will include details of the individual steps to meet stated objectives.
Will You Make OKRs Part of Your Strategic Objectives This Year?
There’s no time like the present to begin a process inside your enterprise to establish new, ambitious goals. It’s safe to assume your competitors will be setting OKRs to improve their efforts, so you will want to be on the same playing field. You’ll manage IT talent more effectively when you encourage them to create OKRs and give them the tools to organize their work toward ever-increasingly larger goals to propel the organization ahead.