OKRs for Startups

A 4 stage guide to adopt the Objective and Key Results framework in your organization.

Getting fast feedback loops on OKRs

How to make your business more agile by checking progress early and often

👏 👏 We've made it to our final tutorial!

By sharing progress early you create new opportunities to adjust the strategy, and fix things before it gets too late.

fast progress

In this post we'll see what you can do to create these fast feedback cycles and increase transparency and accountability in your organization.

Audience

stage 3

You're in stage 3 of goal setting:

  • You have quarterly OKRs.
  • Your teams contribute to goal setting.

Requirements

✔ You have a Tability account and workspace.
✔ You have quarterly OKRs in Tability.

What we'll do

Moving to stage 4 is all about introducing weekly reviews of progress.

In this guide we will:

  • Make sure that we have the right update cycles in Tability.
  • See how you can run the reviews with your team.

Step 1. Picking the right feedback cycle

The feedback paradox

The last thing that you want to do is overwhelm your team with updates. Every piece of feedback that your team has to do will come at a cost. A good update should answer the following questions:

  • Where are we today?
  • How does that compare to our expectations?
  • Do we need to do something differently?

Answering the first question is easy, but providing good insights on the last 2 takes time. You need to think about the future, anticipate your growth, understand what the rest of the team is doing, and draft alternative options if necessary.

The more of these updates your team has to do, the less they will be able to do the work required to achieve these goals. Or, the less value you'll see in the updates as they'll be rushed to focus on deliverables.

Some feedback will help you go faster, but too much feedback will hurt productivity.

Key rules for a great feedback cycle

Let's start by looking at the length of the goals and Key Results in your plan. There's no need to have weekly updates on a goal that spans over 3 years, and a quarterly KR certainly needs more than 1 update per month to stay on top of the mind.

Here's a recommendation for the length of the update cycle based on the duration of your goal or KR.

1-6 months duration 6-18 months duration 18+ months duration
Weekly updates Monthly updates Quarterly updates

Another rule to simplify the life of your team is to not have more than 5 active goals or KRs of each type per person:

  • Maximum 5 weekly updates/person
  • Maximum 5 monthly updates/person
  • Maximum 5 quarterly updates/person

I know that this is hard to do in practice, especially for small teams where you often have to wear multiple hats. Just be really careful and look at how much time your team is spending writing updates, vs. how much time they spend working on achieving their goals.

The purpose of having frequent updates is to make sure people keep in mind what's important, not to burden them with bureaucratic procedure.

Setting the update cycle in Tability

Tability is built around feedback loops. You can configure the update cycle for all the goals in the page by choosing the frequency in the top-right corner.

fast set cycle

Once set Tability will send reminders every week, month or quarter to the owners of the goals and ask them to share updates.

fast reminder

Note that you can also connect Tability to Slack to get reminders and share updates from Slack.

Step 2. Organize reviews with your team

Finally you need to schedule some sessions to review progress with your team. Once again there a few rules that can make that process easier.

  • All Key Results need to be updated before the meeting.
  • It's OK to be KO - make sure that people can communicate their concerns.
  • Meetings for weekly updates should have around 10 people maximum - if more you should break the OKRs into sub-teams.

Running weekly reviews

One drawback of having frequent updates is that it can sometimes make people panic. Progress is never linear and you should often wait a couple of weeks before drafting new plans.

If one of the Key Results has been off-track for 3 weeks in a row you can start asking the following questions:

  • Was the target too ambitious? (Often times we overestimate our ability to move the needle)
  • Are we tracking the right metric? (Maybe we picked a metric that we're not able to influence)
  • Are we doing the right work? (Perhaps we're not working on the right things)

Investigate with your team, and don't jump the gun trying to find a scapegoat. The whole purpose of OKRs and fast feedback loop is to catch things early and improve things. So see it as an opportunity to learn and grow stronger as a team.

Weekly reviews do not have to be shared across the organization, but it's good to keep the content open and accessible.

Monthly and quarterly reviews

Monthly and quarterly reviews should be for your top-level outcomes. It can be your yearly plan or your multi-years vision and it's important that the entire organization is kept up-to-date.

A simple way to do that is to first run a closed session to review progress with the leadership team. This is when people can discuss progress, possibly change the Key Results, and see if the company strategy needs to change.

Then, when everything is agreed upon, I would highly recommend sharing the results of that session with the rest of the company (could be during a monthly all-hands), as well as keeping the pages accessible by everyone.

In Tability you can share a public URL for your top-level OKRs which will let everyone see the latest updates even if they do not have an account.

fast share

That's it! It's going to take a few months to get things right but the benefits of switching to outcome-driven innovation are amazing.

Your team will be happier, more engaged and productive, and you'll be able to focus on solving problems rather than looking over everyone's shoulder.

And with remote teams becoming more and more popular, this is going to give you the right foundations to get a distributed team aligned and focused.

What's next

We write a lot about goal-tracking on our blog. Feel free to check it out, and you can also follow us on Twitter.

Let us know what you think, and don't hesitate to reach out if you need some help!

(Okay, here's an article below if you reaaally want to read something now. 👇)


Send us your questions and feedback via Twitter at @tabilityio