Keeping people engaged with goals is often harder than it looks. But it's not because your team doesn't care – it's because working on said goals often requires 100% of their attention. As a result, sharing progress on outcomes gets pushed back down the list of priorities until it's time to prepare the monthly or quarterly business review meeting. This turns what should be a set of dynamic conversations centred on your most important goals into a simple reporting exercise.
It might not matter much when you're a small team, but this will quickly have a negative impact as you scale. Just like with projects, delivering a strategy needs to be agile. The longer you work on something without measuring impact, the less likely you are to hit your target.
Why? Markets move, products change, competition adjusts. Your initial plan will often need adjustment during the quarter, no matter what your goals are.
- An Engineering team might be looking at increasing uptime via platform changes, only to become the common target of DDoS attacks.
- A Marketing team could be trying to increase SEO ranking by producing more content, only to realise at the end of the quarter that their main competitor is hitting the same keywords.
- A Product team might be looking at boosting retention with a new onboarding flow, only to realise too late that they've made things worse.
Achieving outstanding results will require a tight feedback loop between delivering outputs and measuring impact on outcomes. This is the best way to not only avoid surprises but also to optimise your current effort.
Why OKR check-ins are important
The Objectives and Key Results framework (OKR) has now become the defacto goal-setting framework for teams. It's an effective way to define a common language for focus inside organisations.
Another advantage of using OKRs is that you will find a decent amount of literature to help you adopt the framework:
- It can be a set of OKR examples
- It might be about the difference between OKR and KPIs
- It could be about generating OKRs via AI
All these posts will help you set better quarterly goals, but without a good OKR check-in cadence, you will lose half the value of using OKR.
Here are some of the benefits of having a solid engagement with OKR check-ins.
Better alignment and focus
Doing regular OKR check-ins is the easiest way to keep everyone aligned. First, it will bring back the most important goals to the top of the mind. Second, it will provide a natural opportunity to share progress with your peers and ensure that you're still working toward a common goal.
Check-ins will also help avoid scope creep and distractions by resetting the context.
Weekly check-ins will give teams an opportunity to adapt their tactics in response to changing circumstances. It could be that it's much harder than expected to achieve certain key results. Or that some teams have to be restructured to meet specific targets.
Weekly check-ins are not just about writing notes for the exec team. It's a moment of reflection that should help you keep your strategy agile. The purpose of the check-in process is to have a clear answer to the question, "do we need to do things differently?"
Having different people in charge of updating progress on the Key Results will help foster a greater sense of ownership by the teams. Of course, achieving goals is a collective effort, but you will increase your chances of success by putting them in charge of sharing progress updates.
Instead of being passive readers of memos written by leadership, they'll become active participants in charge of communicating progress to the rest of their organisation.
Strategic initiatives and projects can be seen as bets that you're making to achieve specific results. Some of these bets will pay off, but others will fail. Once we accept this reality, it becomes obvious that we need a way to minimise the cost of being wrong.
This is quite similar to the reason why we moved away from waterfall to deliver projects. Working for months on a feature without validating progress is a sure way to build the wrong thing. Similarly, working on strategic projects for months without measuring impact is going to introduce a lot of risks.
Doing regular check-ins will surface problems early, allowing you to fix things before it's too late.
10 tools to drive engagement with OKR check-ins
The benefits of having regular OKR check-ins are clear, but many orgs still struggle to see their teams fully committed to OKR updates. This often happens when there are many steps involved in the check-in process, requiring people to spend 1+ hour per week to find their goals and update them.
Fortunately, you can leverage tools to greatly simplify OKR-tracking. The simpler things are, the more engaged your team will be.
Here are 10 tools that can help in Tability 👇
1. Check-ins reminder: to keep your goals at the top of the mind
Having automated check-in reminders is an easy way to increase engagement with OKRs. It guarantees that every KR owner will receive a custom reminder that only includes the list of Key Results they need to update.
Having a bot doing the nudges also removes micro-management from the process, as the reminders are no longer coming from your boss.
2. Personal focus dashboard: to find all your goals in 1 place.
One issue with OKRs in spreadsheets is that it's not always easy to find your goals. First, you need to remember where the spreadsheet with the OKRs is located, and then you need to comb the lines to find the rows where your name appears.
Another problem is that there isn't a good way to know if the data you're looking at is accurate or outdated. It might have been updated yesterday by a colleague, or it might be a couple of months old. Who knows?
In Tability, each user has a personal focus dashboard that is unique to them. Key Results that need to be updated automatically appear at the top, even if they are spread across multiple OKR plans. This saves a lot of time by giving quick access to the goals that matter.
No need to search for your OKRs anymore - they're there as soon as you open the app.
3. Progress charts: to visualise Key Results trends
We all know the adage, "A picture is worth a thousand words". This definitely applies to OKRs, and being able to see progress on a chart will make the experience more dynamic than parsing numbers in a table.
You can look at the picture above and feel the story even without reading the notes associated with each check-in. The more you can make OKRs visual, the easier it will be for people to keep the right sense of urgency.
4. Read notifications: to show interest from others
"Is anyone even reading this?"
I remember asking myself this question when I was a Product Manager diligently writing my monthly OKR updates. Of course, there was intrinsic value for me, but you'd often wonder if putting effort into the status reports was worth it.
This feeling changed once I heard my colleagues mention some of my updates during meetings. Knowing that people were actually paying attention to the check-ins motivated me to write more thoughtful status updates.
Tability will recreate that dynamic by automatically notifying check-in creators when their updates are read for the first time. This can be especially helpful for remote teams where most interactions are async.
5. Data source connector: to save time by pulling data from your tools
If you have measurable goals, then it's likely that the data sits in multiple different platforms. This means that KR owners might have to context switch numerous times to update progress on their goals.
- Conversion data might be in Amplitude
- SEO metrics are in Ahrefs
- Sales outreach numbers are somewhere in Hubspot
Data needs to be readily accessible if you want to keep your team engaged with the update process. It's easy to understand how one would try to avoid having to juggle half a dozen tools every Monday to write their check-ins.
Tability solves this issue by letting you connect your tools to your goals. It can then extract the current value of your metric and display it directly in Tability to eliminate context switching.
6. Web link connector: to also save time by getting to the right source in 1-click
If you can't connect a data source directly to your goal, you still have the option to add a web link to the original source. This link will be displayed in the check-in form and will allow the user to jump to the right metric in a single click.
This is especially useful if you've created KPI dashboards in other platforms, and want to avoid having to remember which custom report contains the right metric.
7. Pending check-in flag: to quickly identify outdated data (and increase accountability)
Another way to increase engagement and accountability is to add a flag to outstanding Key Results. This is important for several reasons:
- You can quickly see what's out of date.
- It prevents false positives (ex: a KR is green, but the last update was 2 months ago).
- No one likes to see a red dot next to their goals – you're more likely to see OKRs up-to-date as a result
Tability will automatically manage the check-in flag according to your preferred check-in cycle.
8. Streak ladder: to gamify engagement
Humans are naturally wired to seek streaks. So, why not use that to our advantage? In Tability, each user can start a check-in streak by completing all their check-ins for the week on time. The more they engage with the check-in process, the hotter the streak becomes.
This may look like a gimmick, but it's a simple way to add fun and a positive experience once you've written all your progress updates.
9. Engagement report: to monitor adoption
Are teams engaging with the OKRs? Are people looking at the status reports?
You can easily answer this question by looking at the Workspace Insights dashboard in Tability. It's a place where you can find general statistics about active goals, as well as graphs showing you usage trends.
10. Insights filters: to set better goals
Tability also comes with a series of filters designed to help you find OKRs that can be improved. In 1-click you can:
- See all the KRs without owners
- List all the KRs that aren't measurable
- Surface all the plans that have too many OKRs
The purpose of these filters is to help teams create effective plans and make it easy to isolate things that require your attention.
It's not just the tools – leaders also need to engage
Leading a team with OKRs is akin to coaching a sports team. Coaches don't just draw up plays; they lead by example, demonstrating strategies and techniques on the field. They're actively involved, constantly reviewing and adjusting the game plan to ensure every player knows their role and how it contributes to the team's victory.
When players are involved in devising the game strategy, they're more committed to executing it. It's like having a say in the plays that will be run during the game. This sense of ownership means each player is more likely to dig deep, push harder, and strive for excellence, knowing that their input is valued in the team's roadmap to success.
And just as a good coach gives a pep talk after a game, acknowledging the hard work and dedication of the team, regular recognition of OKR progress keeps morale high. Celebrating the wins, no matter how small, and analysing the losses in a constructive way ensures that every team member stays motivated and improves. It's about creating a culture where feedback is the fuel that drives the team forward, helping them score goal after goal.
Try these OKR tools for free
A simpler goal-tracking experience and better visualisation will make teams more engaged with the OKR process. Try Tability for free to see how these tools can facilitate adoption and help you reach your goals faster.