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Learn best practices and tips to keep track of your OKRs effectively
If your team is serious about achieving its goals, then you're probably already familiar with the Objectives and Key Results framework (OKRs). This goal-setting framework has quickly become one of the most popular methodologies for companies worldwide.
However, simply setting OKRs is not enough to guarantee success. Regular check-ins are crucial for tracking progress, identifying obstacles, and making course corrections. And that's exactly what this guide is all about — providing you with the tools and knowledge you need to conduct effective OKRs check-ins.
We'll cover everything from best practices and common pitfalls to strategies for keeping your team motivated and on track.
Benefits of tracking OKRs
75% of the posts about OKRs tend to focus on goal-setting. You'll read about how to write great Objectives, how to set measurable Key Results, or how to run effective workshops with your team. But setting OKRs is just the first step, and the real magic happens when you consistently review and track progress through regular check-ins.
You'll find below the top benefits of OKR check-ins.
1. Improved accountability
Weekly check-ins help keep team members accountable for their progress and ensure that they are taking the necessary steps to achieve their goals.
2. Increased visibility
By reviewing progress on a regular basis, team leaders and managers can quickly identify potential issues and take corrective action before they become major problems.
3. Enhanced communication
Check-ins provide an opportunity for team members to share updates and collaborate on issues, improving overall communication and teamwork.
4. Greater alignment
Regular check-ins help ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals and that there is alignment across teams and departments.
5. Improved performance
By keeping a close eye on progress and making adjustments as needed, check-ins can help optimize performance and increase the chances of achieving objectives.
Weekly OKR check-ins vs. monthly OKR check-ins
Before you start tracking your OKRs, you'll need to consider the check-ins frequency. As a rule of thumb:
- Quarterly OKRs should be tracked weekly.
- Yearly OKRs should be tracked monthly.
This approach will allow you to have enough data points to identify trends in your Key Results.
Don't track your quarterly OKRs on a monthly basis. This will often give you a false sense of security in your first month, only to start panicking on month #2 if you're not on track. Then it'll be already too late to adjust your strategy before the end of the quarter.
On the other hand, weekly check-ins will help you anticipate issues much earlier. You'll quickly see trends and will be able to take action rapidly to correct the course.
Picking the right check-in frequency is really about making your teams agile. You won't need to track annual goals every week (that'll be too verbose), but you do need to give yourself the opportunity to realise when things aren't going your way.
Weekly process to track OKRs
For OKRs to be effective, we recommend adopting a simple ritual that will create a natural accountability towards outcomes in the team.
- Start the week by looking at progress on Key Results.
- Then see if you need to adjust your roadmap.
- Do demos with the team to celebrate the good work that has been done.
This ritual will help everyone stay connected to the top priorities by starting every week with a brief reminder of what's important. It's crucial to begin with OKRs progress first to set the context as roadmap discussions can often turn into technical debates. Additionally, starting by looking at progress on outcomes will help bring the focus on the right initiatives when it's time to review the priorities in the backlog.
Discuss outcomes first, then outputs.
How to run your weekly OKR meeting
Each team that has an OKRs plan should have their own weekly ritual. Some people might have several such meetings (ex: a leadership OKRs review, and a product team review) but that's ok. What's more important is to create a culture where conversations are focused on the goals rather than the tasks in flight.
Now, it's also important to make sure that these meetings flow rapidly. Try to limit the number of participants to 10, and the duration to 1h on Mondays (Friday demos are not always applicable).
Here's the process to follow with the OKR review meeting:
- Not more than 10 participants
- Progress on OKRs should have been published async prior to the meeting.
- Start by talking about the OKRs, then discuss changes to the roadmap (outcomes first, outputs second).
- Don't spend too much time on the items on-track. Celebrate the wins, but save your discussion time for the items that are at-risk or off-track.
What to do when a KR is at-risk:
- Don't panic on the first at-risk/yellow update. It might be an outlier.
- If at-risk is confirmed, identify the root cause (quite often it can be that the goal was too aggressive).
- Discuss possible action items (but don't commit yet as other OKRs might take priority).
What to do when a KR is off-track:
- You need to have a clear assessment of the risk, and an honest discussion about your ability to achieve said goal.
- There might be times when it's best to stop working on an OKR if it's not realistic – you can redirect efforts on achieving other outcomes.
- List action items, and have a clear follow up on what has been done in the next meeting.
The first OKR meeting might take a bit of time as people are still getting familiar with the OKRs, but you'll see on week 3 or 4 that this meeting can be run quite quickly as everyone will have the same priorities in mind.
Best practices and tips to track OKRs effectively
Make sure you write good OKR check-ins
There are 5 weekly check-in questions to answer in your progress updates:
- Progress: where are we today?
- Expectation: is this where we're supposed to be?
- Trends: are we getting better or worse?
- Root cause: what do we think happened?
- Plan: should we do things differently?
Make sure that you're covering all these questions when you're writing your OKR check-ins. Many answers should be covered by your tracking dashboard (ex: Key Result progress, confidence with red/yellow/green status...) but you'll absolutely need to write meaningful updates to have effective OKRs.
The more context you give to your team, the easier it is for them to help you.
Look at trends rather than current state
There's another reason why this weekly ritual matters. Isolated data points can give you a false sense of security. In the chart below, it looks like we're doing pretty good: we're halfway through the quarter and above the projected growth line.
Now, the historical progress might be a bit different. Once you plot all the data points, the chart tells a different story.
We're above the projected line, but it clearly looks like we're in trouble.
Reduce friction from the OKR check-in process
Check-ins need to be super easy to do if you want to get value from the framework. Any clicks, formulas, spreadsheet manipulations that get in the way will make your team resent the OKRs process. As a result they'll stop sharing progress, and soon the Objectives and Key Results will be forgotten.
You should look for tools that will keep updates simple with built-in check-ins capabilities. A platform like Tability can take care of the reminders, and will include a progress chart allowing you to see trends out of the box (and when you do your check-ins).
Read our rules to implement OKRs successfully, and check our guide on scoring OKRs.