Goals & OKRs

Goals & OKRs flow throughout the organization to ensure purpose, mission, and strategy alignment.

Why Cascading Goals & OKRS at Axelerant?

As past goal setting and tracking have been disjointed, Axelerant's clarity across the organization needs to be improved, especially in helping people know how they fit into and relate to the organization. With Leapsome Goals, we can readily create a picture connecting people, groups, and Axelerant.

Therefore, let us conceptually reconsider how organizational objectives cascade through Axelerant.

  • Strategic goals are derived from Axelerant's purpose and mission.

  • Organizational objectives descend from Axelerant's strategic goals.

  • Departmental objectives relate directly to organizational objectives.

  • Group (team) objectives correlate with departmental or organizational objectives.

  • Individual objectives relate directly to group objectives.

Note: An objective might be the desired outcome of a level above.

Understanding Goals & OKRS

How Goals & OKRS Relate

Goals are a kind of long-term strategy or guideline. They explain what Axelerant wants to achieve and are usually long-term and global.

OKRs are short-term quarterly goals split into Objectives and Key Results.

🎯 We’ll make progress in pursuit of [OBJECTIVE] by achieving [KEY RESULTS].

The essentials of objectives and key results

Objectives Defined

Objectives, or what, represent Axelerant's purpose toward an organizational direction or a mission-supporting goal.

For example, increase customer satisfaction.

Objectives are bold and ambitious but not entirely unrealistic. They're qualitative and have the power to unite team members.

Objectives build transparency and alignment, spreading the intent of working towards the same goal across the organization.

Warning: Objectives shouldn't be a simple expansion of something we've already mastered–they should be groundbreaking.‍

Key Results Defined

Key results, or how, are pieces of the objective's bigger picture. They tell us when teams are going in the right direction and how far we still have to push.

For example:

  • Hire three additional Customer Success Managers

  • Increase NPS from 83% to 90%

  • Decrease response time to 3 hours

Key results must be quantifiable, measurable, and balanced. They should guide, fuel, and not compromise our audaciousness.

Warning: Key results shouldn't be easy to reach; they should be meaningful enough to be celebrated when achieved. E.g., Is it worth pushing to #celebrate or #learn?

OKR Best Practices

Be open to recalculating.

Goals don't always go as planned, and there's no shame in reevaluating objectives and key results during an OKR cycle. We may realize that a set of key results was unrealistic or not audacious enough. We may find that an entire group of OKRs doesn't move the needle for company-wide goals as expected.

Be open to learning as a team; don't wait until the end of a cycle to ask for support or raise red flags.‍

Discuss results & focus on learning.

Each OKR cycle should invite questioning and curiosity. Encourage all managers and contributors to evaluate key results when an OKR cycle approaches its end.

Meet as a team to discuss results and learnings, aligning all stakeholders as they create more refined OKRs for the next period.‍

Involve team members in creating the next OKRs.

After agreeing upon individual and department-specific OKRs for a new cycle, schedule a retrospective and planning workshop with more stakeholders for more transparency and an even smoother alignment of cascading goals across the organization.

Expectations of Leaders, Managers, and Team Members

Create company, team, and individual alignment using OKRs.

1. Define company-level goals.

Who: Directors and up, including CXOs.

Starting with a clear purpose and priorities for the year ahead, we translate those into three or four core company goals.

Company-level or parent goals provide the starting point for increasing the granularity of OKRs that align the entire organization via a cascading goal methodology.

Even when working with quarterly company OKRs, parent goals are often considered annual strategic OKRs.

Some common company goals areas are:

  • Acquisition

  • Branding

  • Hiring

  • Revenue

2. Discuss group-specific contributions.

Who: Department managers and up.

It's time to understand each team's role in reaching Axelerant's parent goals. Top leadership should talk with every relevant leader to discuss how they can push Axelerant's purpose forward.

For example, the marketing department could support hiring goals by working with People Operations to launch an improved careers page and promote the team member experience across social platforms. Marketing could also support revenue goals by driving more sales leads to our service representatives.

3. Set a quarterly timeframe.

Who: Team managers and up.

Though company-level goals might take a year or longer, let's break them into sequential quarterly cycles for team-specific OKRs to make them less daunting.

Goal cycles with a quarterly cadence are easily divisible into 13 weeks. You can aim to progress by 10% each week, plus a 2–3 week grace period to get started or overcome setbacks.

4. Choose 3-5 objectives.

Who: Managers and their teams.

Between three and five objectives per OKR period is a reasonable amount to keep each department and team stimulated without feeling overwhelmed. With fewer, it may feel limiting and not quite motivating. With more, we risk focusing on too much at once and not achieving anything.

These questions can help us identify good objectives for each goal.

  • What changes can we make to move Axelerant forward? Pinpoint changes that must be made to progress the strategic purpose and mission.

  • Why are these changes significant now? Evaluate the urgency and relevance of the goals. When the importance of an objective is not explainable, it's probably not a priority.

  • What challenges are preventing us from achieving our mission? Identify every obstacle in the way to assess how realistic our objectives are.

  • What's our team's role in helping achieve this objective? Start breaking down organizational objectives into the team and individual ones.

5. Break each objective into key results & assign ownership.

Who: Managers and their teams.

Nurture engagement and yield a common purpose by asking team members for input instead of presenting a fixed plan. In doing so, people are empowered toward ownership through increased transparency and trust in the team's ability to accomplish OKRs.

Consider a team's size and the objective's scope to structure an appropriate challenge. Avoid easy, impossible, too few, or too many key results that create distraction rather than concentrated effort.

Leaders should discuss with teams how they can contribute to objectives versus assigning top-down responsibilities—some conversation starters.

  • How will we know if we're improving? Create measurable key results. It is an automatic fail when we can't measure impact.

  • What factors can we measure weekly, monthly, or quarterly? Decide which measurable metrics and scores demonstrate progress. For example, will we measure customer satisfaction by average or median rating? Which overall rating means we've met the target?

  • What factors indicate we need to change our strategy? Decide which milestones highlight progress and which show our objective is at risk.

Let teams focus on the objectives while giving people autonomy over their work through key results. The following questions help align team members' actions to meet company goals.

  • What's our starting point? When having more than one objective, we must decide which to tackle first. We can do so based on importance or what's most doable. 

  • Which are our highest priority initiatives? Consider which areas deserve more attention than others. We might focus on one objective because it's more challenging or requires fewer resources.

  • What is each team member responsible for? Help the team organize its initiatives and break down team objectives into individual ones.

Remember: OKRs must align with Axelerant's goals. Although their people scope team OKRs, those OKRs require organizational alignment validation by the performance management team.

Bonus: In assigning ownership of team OKRs, you may create individualized goals and OKRs that extend support toward Axelerant's growth and purpose.

6. Track progress & recognize achievements.

Who: All stakeholders.

Keep OKRs in shape by regularly monitoring progress, making your goals an ongoing conversation, and recognizing every accomplishment. Praising team members and giving constructive feedback are excellent ways to engage everyone and keep OKR's potential in mind.

Schedule OKR check-ins with your team at least once a month using the Check-In–Goals/OKR meeting template. During the check-in, the team can review results and roadblocks, increase accountability, and work on solutions together.

More on https://www.leapsome.com/playbooks/how-to-run-okr-check-in-meeting.

Using Leapsome for Goals & OKRS

Leapsome's Goals module allows Axelerant to smoothly set, track, and align intent and effort across the organization. While goals are the end target, OKRs are the framework to hit them unitedly.

The following links will guide you through the Leapsome Goals system.

Visibly Aligning Goals & OKRS Across the Organization

Top company goals have related annual company OKRs, inspiring sequential quarterly OKRs supported by the team and individual OKRs. Conversely, an individual OKR must align with a team OKR that must align with a company OKR that must help an Axelerant long-term strategy or guideline.

For example, let's consider Axelerant's goal of enjoyable customer experiences as a 2024 objective with sequential quarterly objectives of reliably knowing what a customer thinks of Axelerant and proactively adapting to customer needs.

Those quarterly company objectives are jointly related to Sales and Delivery efforts.

For Delivery's objective, reliably knowing…, it might have the key results of selecting a customer survey practice and a customer feedback owner.

A delivery team's objective of selecting a customer survey practice might break down into the key results of research, assessment, selection, implementation, and retrospection.

An individual objective might be researching customer survey best practices.

Axelerant's mission alignment is efficiently and transparently visualized using Leapsome's goal tree.

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