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Navigating a post-COVID hit 2021 with OKRs

Post by
Alex Teoli
Navigating a post-COVID hit 2021 with OKRs

It's the undeniable truth! Whether directly or indirectly, COVID has drastically changed the way we live our day to day lives. The challenges brought on with the onset of COVID and lockdown has created a level of uncertainty and anxiety in our lives which many of us had never before experienced.

The same can be said about business and our work lives in general. Companies had to adapt to a new way of functioning, navigating their way through an uncertain future and a volatile economy. That’s not to mention the stay-at-home orders with many employees having or even choosing to work remotely until the situation improved. Although necessary for our safety, this caused teams to be separated from their colleagues with projects and deadlines having to be postponed indefinitely.

Now, COVID has been with us for a while now but with proper social distancing and mask-wearing, some semblance of normality has been resumed. Furthermore, the introduction of several vaccines in recent months will surely only speed up this process to normality. 

However, until then, we’re by no means out of the woods yet. Under the best of times, it can be difficult to predict what the future harbors and now under these circumstances that holds true more than ever.

That’s why when it comes to a post-COVID hit 2021, you need to take action and be ready for change. And to do that, having clearly defined OKRs is vital. Now more than ever you need to ensure that your products are relevant and meeting customer needs in a post-Covid environment, whilst also ensuring these goals are aligned with your business goals.

What are OKRs?

As an acronym standing for Objectives and Key Results, OKRs are two-fold. The first part being Objectives. These need to be aligned with the company’s vision and strategy. They also need to be clear, leaving no room for ambiguity as everyone needs to be on the same page. An example of an objective for a gym app would be to increase monthly sign-ups. It’s clear, simple and yet also challenging to obtain. Now, the second part of OKRs are the Key Results and these need to be focused around the Objective. A key result is something which is quantifiable. It’s a way of measuring how successful or unsuccessful a product/initiative has been. 

Using the same example as above for monthly sign-ups, some key results around that would be to cut account creation time from three minutes to just one minute, thus making it a lot more user friendly. Another could be to increase monthly sign-ups by 5% or cutting the amount of steps for account creation from eight to four. There should always be around three to four key results for each objective.

So, in a nutshell, OKRs give a business its direction via outlining clear, measurable and ambitious goals that are quantifiable and can be tracked for progress using KPIs (Key performance indicators). OKRs ensure that the needs of the customers are met whilst also staying aligned with business goals and the overall vision of the company.

Align and motivate your team around clear objectives

Align and motivate your team around clear objectives

OKRs in a post-Covid world

With this in mind, one begins to see why OKRs are so vitally important to a company’s success, particularly during such times. Here are some helpful tips and things to remember when creating OKRs with your team.

Be concise, get rid of clutter

If there’s one important takeaway from this blog, it’s to be concise. Your team needs to focus on what’s important and what’s achievable in this current climate. In uncertain times, you need to prioritize your resources and funnel your investments. You can do this by setting up weekly or bi-monthly meetings (whether online or in person) to reevaluate objectives and key results.

This means getting rid of any clutter, irrelevant goals. You can’t afford complacency, you need to be ruthless and not be afraid to make changes. You also need to use this time to reaffirm goals that are still relevant.

Meetings - Finding the goldilocks zone

With many people still having to work from home, it can be easy to lose sight of what your goals are as well as the sense of urgency. Therefore, it’s important to keep the motivation levels high and you do this through proper lines of communication. Everyone has a role to play.

Now, this is not to say that you need to have a meeting every single day or even twice a week. Too many meetings and your team will get distracted, even bored. On the other hand, too few meetings and your team might feel lost with no sense of direction or what needs to be achieved. You need to find that goldilocks zone, a perfect balance between the two. Now, this depends entirely on how urgent the objective is and whether it is a long term or a short term goal. There’s no point holding several meetings a week over a year long objective.

However, when you do have these meetings, you need to make the most of them. Everyone needs to be on the same page. It’s not just a matter of people understanding what your role is, but also understanding what the roles of other people/departments are towards realizing your company’s business goals. This is particularly important when it comes to cross-functional teams.

For most of us going back to office cannot come too soon

For most of us going back to office cannot come too soon

Brainstorming - discussions and documenting

Don’t just start brainstorming when the meeting starts, you can also do this in your own time. Write some drafts and get the ball rolling. That way you won’t show up empty handed. That’s not to say you need to show up with a full PowerPoint presentation on how you plan to increase profits ten-fold, but having some notes on a piece of paper can give your team a point of reference from where to start from. You can then critique whether the plan has any legs to it.

Furthermore, have your teams set up schedules and document the process thoroughly. In doing so, this further cements what needs to be done or what has been done. Remember, no room for ambiguity. Documenting can also help teams learn from past mistakes.

Change doesn’t mean failure

Having to reassess, change and sometimes even scrap certain objectives or key results all together doesn’t equate to failure. Quite the contrary, if done in the right way, it’s a sign that your teams are adapting to unforeseen circumstances. Under normal conditions, it’s ok to adjust goals and objectives and under these unpredictable times, it’s absolutely necessary to reassess and align new objectives towards your company’s vision. 

So, take action and don’t be afraid to make changes. You need to be realistic, the worst thing you can do is pretend it’s business as usual.

Don’t overdo it

With all this information, it can be easy to get ahead of oneself. But every now and then you need to take a step back and question whether your team or yourself is being overloaded. Your targets must be timed well and it’s important not to set too many goals and key results that your team becomes overwhelmed and overstretched. It’s about funneling your efforts and prioritizing what is essential. After that, the rest will come.

2020 was very much adapting to survive, 2021 can and should be a year of rebirth and growth. Good luck!

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