Managing with objectives and key results

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Managing with OKR Managing with objectives and key results

Published on 18.02.2020 by Matthias Bucheli, Head of the Digital Commerce Competence Center, Post CH Ltd

More motivated teams, less management, a greater focus on goals and more impact: this may sound like wishful thinking, but it can be achieved by consistently working on corporate culture and management. A central element is discussing goals on the basis of objectives and key results (OKRs).

Contemporary goal setting between equals

OKRs form a framework that links the individual tasks of teams and employees with the prevailing strategic thrusts and intentions. When using OKRs, it is important to develop objectively measurable goals that can be understood by the entire team. These are described as objectives (“What do I want to achieve?”) and key results (“What do I need to do to achieve them?”).

As such, the key results operationalize the commitments. The extent to which the OKRs are being achieved is evaluated jointly every three months. Employees and managers then come together to set the OKRs for the forthcoming quarter. Every team member sets their own objectives and then coordinates with one another, while being guided by the strategic intentions and the desired end goal.

OKRs turn strategic objectives into reality

They give each team member an opportunity to reflect at least once every quarter on how effective their actions are in helping to achieve the underlying goals. Defining the necessary work takes place directly where the expert knowledge is: amongst the employees themselves. The role of managers shifts greatly from being assigners of tasks to inspiring leaders. Their responsibility lies in ensuring each person understands and internalizes the strategic thrusts. Once everybody is transparently contributing their expert knowledge and putting it up for discussion as a group, quality increases and the agreed measures become more effective. Self-determination ensures greater motivation. A coordinated team achieves more impact and success.

The more dynamic, the more meaningful

Of course, OKRs are not beneficial in every working context. They are particularly suited to expert organizations where the necessary disciplines are developed rapidly and dynamically. A good example is the marketing department. The opportunities for cross-media, increasingly digital marketing communication are developing rapidly. Adwords were the latest craze just a few years ago, but today everybody’s talking about programmatic advertising and marketing automation. Digital communication experts are more likely to define better measures and coordinate them within their team than their managers. OKRs are generally suited to companies in sectors which are rapidly becoming digitized.

Transparent, joint implementation is central

The introduction of OKRs and delegation to employees must be planned well and implemented in steps. For instance, management needs to communicate the motives behind their implementation to ensure the OKRs are not seen as a monitoring instrument and rejected.

If they are designed and implemented jointly, by contrast, employees will find it easier to identify with the OKRs. When it comes to management, it’s not what you do but the way that you do it that counts.

Employees in modern organizations want to be inspired and play a role in shaping the company’s success. The more freedom they enjoy, the more successful the company will be. If people are the most important asset, they need an opportunity to develop to their full potential.

Jump in at the deep end

If you’re a manager, you don’t need to fear becoming obsolete by introducing OKRs. Strong personalities to lead and inspire are still needed. Perhaps even more than ever.

Matthias Bucheli

Matthias Bucheli is Head of the Digital Commerce Competence Center at Swiss Post. In this role he is responsible for the strategic focus and development of Swiss Post’s digital commerce services.

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