Field Book Preview: OKRs Training Workshops

In the last OKRs Field Book preview article, I reflected on why and how I developed “OKRs deployment parameters” as the foundation for a successful OKRs program. In my early days, my clients and I were often tempted to begin the OKRs coaching engagement with a training workshop to get started drafting OKRs. Doing so is a mistake as detailed in the story about the trip I made to Paris in the prior post. Don’t make this mistake. Instead, begin your engagement with a few deployment coaching sessions to align on the ten universal parameters. While agreeing on these parameters serves as the foundation for a successful OKRs training workshop, there is more to be done.

Chapter 4 of The OKRs Field Book gets into how to develop and deliver an effective OKRs training workshop. I answer many of the questions that coaches often ask me when preparing for workshops: (1) What are the types of OKRs training workshops? (2) Can you share an actual agenda from an onsite training workshop? (3) How can I best deliver remote training? (4) Who should attend? (5) What interactive exercises work best and how do I facilitate them? (6) What pre-reading or homework do I advise my client to complete in advance? (7) What materials do I need to create and deliver to my client?


Theory and Application: The Two Parts of an OKRs Training Workshop

Let key members of your audience introduce themselves before diving into your training content. Participants tend to be more engaged when they get to speak first, plus you get the added logistical advantage that latecomers will not miss critical information if they arrive midway through introductions. We find two-minute introductions work best. Each participant states their name, tenure, title, and how they feel OKRs can benefit the overall organization and their specific team. Next, introduce yourself and present the agenda for the workshop on a single slide with two parts: 1—Theory and 2—Application. If your client has already started with OKRs, provide a brief assessment of what’s working well along with areas for improvement. The first part, theory, is relatively short and features you doing most of the talking. The second part, application, is an interactive workshop that gets everyone applying theory and often includes breakout groups.

Training Part 1: Theory

Theory begins with an overview of OKRs and concludes with a section summarizing how your client is deploying OKRs. We often start the overview with a slide that details why organizations deploy OKRs in general followed by an interactive discussion to confirm why your client has decided to deploy OKRs.

The overview covers: (1) the history and definition of OKRs, (2) examples of what OKRs are and what OKRs are not, and (3) tips for avoiding common pitfalls at each step of the OKRs cycle. Overviews are more engaging when they emphasize areas critical to your specific client’s situation. For example, if your client is considering setting OKRs at the individual level, include a slide summarizing the pros and cons of setting OKRs at the individual level.

Incorporate brief interactive exercises to engage workshop participants throughout the overview. Audiences tend to drift after fifteen minutes in lecture mode. Two interactions that work well include (1) distinguishing between a key result and a health metric and (2) asking how to make a poorly written OKR better. Here is a sample exercise to help your client distinguish between a key result and a health metric:

Sample exercise from an OKRs workshop to engage your participants

Instructions for Sample Workshop Exercise

  • Ask participants to share several metrics that they are currently tracking
  • Classify each metric as a health metric or a key result
  • Key points to reinforce:
    • Just because you measure it, does not mean it is a key result
    • Health metrics often take priority over key results if they move out of their ‘healthy range’
    • A given metric may shift from a key result to a health metric over time and vice versa

The theory section concludes with an analysis of your client’s deployment parameters to align on how your client will deploy OKRs. We often present each deployment parameter on its own slide. As you review each parameter, reinforce the concepts introduced in the overview that are most critical for your client’s success. For example, after introducing the importance of starting with a small set of OKRs, you might share your client’s decision to limit each team to a single objective to start. While theory is important, allocate most of your workshop time to application. Remember the OKRs coaching mantra, the only way to learn OKRs is to do OKRs.

Training Part 2: Application

The OKRs Field Books summarizes three distinct types of OKRs workshops; however, I have identified a fourth workshop that is designed for key result champions as well as a potential fifth workshop that focuses on check-ins and reflect & reset, steps 2 and 3 of the OKRs cycle, respectively. Each workshop features a set of desired outcomes and is intended for a certain audience. It is vital that you and your client align on the audience, duration, and goals before scheduling workshops. The three workshops include: top-level workshop, expert-training workshop for internal coaches, and team-level workshops. In this book preview, let’s dig into the top-level workshop.


The Top-Level OKRs Workshop

Starting at the top provides context for lower-level OKRs. Include a select group of key leaders, including the CEO if possible. We recommend limiting the theory section to at most two hours. Leadership teams often want to start working on their OKRs within the first hour, so adjust the timing accordingly. When feasible, schedule this workshop as part of an existing planning retreat to review long-term strategy. A strategy review provides context for creating OKRs.

All top-level OKRs workshops share the common goal of drafting an OKR. Most also have the goal of refining an OKR. Your client’s deployment parameters inform how you structure the nuances of the workshop. For example, if you are using our recommended pre-scoring system, encourage your client to refine a key result that specifies the commit, target, and stretch. Most of our clients conduct a short preview or “dry run” of the training workshop with a few key participants including the executive sponsor to review open items.

For a full-day onsite workshop, you may have time to draft several OKRs and refine one or two. For a half-day onsite workshop, we advise you to manage expectations by limiting the goal to drafting a single OKR and refining one key result. If you are facilitating a remote workshop, consider breaking this workshop into two separate sessions that each run roughly two hours. The goal of the first session is to introduce OKRs theory and begin drafting. The goal of the second session is to refine OKRs. Here is a sample agenda.


Sample Agenda for an Onsite Top-Level Workshop

Part 1 – Introductions/OKRs Theory

  • 9:30–10:30 am: Introductions, CEO on why OKRs
  • 10:30–11:15 am: OKRs 101 (benefits, definitions, examples, etc.)
  • 15-minute break
  • 11:30–noon: Our OKRs deployment plan
  • Noon–1:00 pm: Lunch

Part 2 – OKRs Development/Application

  • 1:00–2:00 pm: Group drafts key results for top-level objective
  • 2:00–3:00 pm: Round 1 breakout to draft key results for an objective
  • 3:00–4:00 pm: Report backs, feedback on draft key results
  • 4:00–5:30 pm: Round 2 breakout and report back to refine key results
  • 45-minutes: Breakout groups refine key results
  • 45-Minutes: Report backs, each group shares 1-2 improved key results
  • 5:30–6:00 pm: Wrap up—feedback, next steps, and key takeaways

For more agendas, sample workshop handouts, and more, get your copy of The OKRs Field Book!


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