Five Mantras for the OKRs Coach

by | Oct 29, 2020 | OKRs Coaching, OKRs Tips

We are about to publish the first edition of The OKRs Field Book, the first book by OKRs coaches for OKRs coaches. Dean Burrell, our editor, suggested we call out these mantras to reinforce OKRs coaching fundamentals and best practices.

Based on the collective coaching experience of certified coaches and the founding members of the OKRs Coach Network across hundreds of organizations and thousands of teams, these mantras summarize universal tips for the OKRs coach. We find that following these mantras consistently translates to success with OKRs.

Here are the five mantras we believe you need to know to be an effective OKRs coach. Memorize and incorporate them into your practice and we believe you’re on the path to success!

1 – Less is more.

Define a small set of OKRs. Communication with OKRs is negatively correlated to the number of OKRs. So, the fewer OKRs you have, the better the communication. And, people are more likely to pay attention when they know there is less content to absorb. A small set helps increase focus and makes check-ins more efficient throughout the cycle as well as reminding everyone that not all work needs to be reflected in OKRs. Once upon a time back in the 1990s, organizations defined 5 +/- 2 objectives (i.e. 3-7). Now we advise 2 +/- 1 (i.e. at most 3 objectives per team).

2 – Crawl, walk, run.

Deploy OKRs piecemeal. Begin with pilot teams rather than a full-scale deployment across an entire organization. In the first cycle, emphasize learning about OKRs. Reserve the second cycle to explore how best to scale the program. Niket Desai, who played the OKRs coach role at FlipKart, provided this guidance after deploying OKRs quickly across their entire organization of over 30,000 employees at the time. For more, see the case study in chapter seven of Objectives and Key Results.

3 – Outcomes, not output.

Write key results that mostly reflect outcomes (results) rather than output (amount of work delivered). As an OKRs coach, you ask questions to help your client translate draft key results that often look a list of tasks into effective key results. You guide your client through a series of questions to design effective key results that reflect measurable outcomes. You ask the fundamental task-to-key-result question: “What is the intended outcome of the task?”

4 – OKRs are not everything.

Write OKRs that reflect the most important areas to make measurable progress rather than attempting to reflect everything you do. Distinguish OKRs from tasks and health metrics. Health metrics are monitored and important to track, but, unlike key results, they are not the focus for near-term improvement. Remember, just because you are measuring a certain metric does not mean that the metric should be included as a key result.

5 – The only way to learn OKRs is to do OKRs.

Allocate most of an OKRs training workshop to drafting your client’s real OKRs rather than discussing theory and presenting OKRs from other organizations. Our clients do not want to see examples of OKRs from other organizations, they want to see their OKRs. As an OKRs coach, you facilitate a process to enable your client to develop their OKRs. This process is what drives learning, not theoretical discussions and examples.

The OKRs Field Book is now available for pre-order


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