You can’t achieve your OKRs if you don’t track them (here’s how)[wtr-time]
Setting goals defines a successful and high-performance team and company. At Hypercontext, we’re no strangers to the world of OKRs.
In our teams and our product, we believe that OKRs are fundamental tools for growing a thriving business. In fact, according to our report, The State of High Performing Teams in Tech, clear goals and expectations have an impact on productivity.
In case you need a refresher: OKRs are a simple, actionable way to set goals. OKRs are typically set for the quarter but can be set monthly, quarterly, or even annually. No matter the timeline, OKRs should encourage you to define clear objectives, key results and the milestones needed to achieve them, ultimately boosting your chances of success.
While so many companies understand the necessity of setting broad OKRs, many need to improve their tracking, measurement, and accountability towards them.
It’s not enough to make an OKR; The purpose of OKRs is to guide your daily and weekly work in order to hit these ambitious goals. And, according to the science (more on that below) the absolute best way to increase your odds of hitting OKRs is tracking and discussing them consistently with your team.
Why is tracking OKRs important?
Tracking OKRs is quite possibly the most important part of implementing OKRs at your company. It helps leaders manage which teams and employees keep to their goals and which don’t. It allows employees to connect and drive their work home and to understand their impact on the company. Implementing a tracking and measurement governance process around your OKRs ensures you can move the things that matter most around OKRs: accountability, goal alignment, and focus.
But Tracking OKRs doesn’t mean you just update numbers weekly, it means you’re consistently reviewing and keeping them top of mind as a group.
When OKRs are set the assumption is that they are the most vital things you need to do for the year or quarter. So checking in on them regularly and marking progress is a natural step. If you’re ahead/behind other teams can adjust which could mean the difference between a good and a bad quarter.
But mainly, it creates a culture of accountability that can resonate and support your overall company culture. Having an accountability partner/system (likely you’re manager) increases the likelihood of hitting them by 65% — but we can get that even higher (to 95%) with a few small tweaks to how you’re tracking.
How often do you need to track OKRs?
Okay, now we understand why you should be setting and tracking your OKRs – but as a busy leader, how often should you be monitoring your OKRs? Generally, checking in and tracking progress on any goals should be done weekly at a minimum.
I always like to think of these goal checkins as “chances”. How many chances would you like at hitting your Quarterly goals? 12, 3, or 1. If 12… set your tracker up for weekly progress.
How many OKR check-ins should you have?
The best practice is to discuss the state, changes, and learnings of your OKRs in your 1:1 or team meeting – depending on the goal itself. These existing meetings serve as a great chance to hold eachother accountable to commitments and coach through blockers.
According to our report on the the State of High Performing Teams in Tech, discussing goals weekly or bi-weekly increases your team’s confidence in hitting them by 2.7x.
Further, the added check-in of OKRs increases connection significantly. And as we all know, as leaders, disconnection can undermine even the most productive teams. Setting a standard for OKRs, including frequent check-ins and revisions, creates a sense of ownership within teams, improving accountability when advancing company-wide goals.
But, most importantly, ASTD found that the chance of successfully reaching a goal rises to 95% when you’ve established a cadence of ongoing check-ins with your team or an accountability partner.
Five best practices for effortlessly tracking OKRs
To give you the best odds of achieving your OKRs, follow these tips.
1. Make them clear from the start
Clarity is key! Keep your objectives and key results as well-defined, actionable, and straightforward as possible when goal setting. Leave no room for misinterpretation, and ensure everyone understands them clearly. Keep them succinct, concise, and digestible.
Keep objectives straightforward, and the key results should ideally show what’s being tracked and exactly how you’re tracking it in simple terms.
In our blog on writing effective OKRS, we go deeper into the science behind practical goal setting, including what makes a goal most effective:
2. Make them accessible to everyone
Assign specific individuals to update their or the team’s OKRs each week. Stay diligent about ownership and accountability here. It should be crystal clear who owns them, and they should speak about the progress week over week.
This will have an unintended positive side effect. Bringing each team member along and giving them ownership can help increase feelings of belonging and accountability. In fact, according to this article reviewing several studies on in-organization ownership and accountability, “when an individual feels ownership, it not only enhances his or her sense of accountability and responsibility but also perceived rights.”
Make it easy for your team members to access and impact your OKRs and watch an overall sense of job satisfaction, ownership, and belonging grow as they contribute and involve themselves more in the process. Give them easy access points to managing and tracking these OKRs.
3. Check-in weekly
Add OKRs to your weekly recurring meetings. Whether it’s a company, team, or 1:1, OKRs should be a permanent fixture in your meetings. They should be a welcomed guest in your everyday workflows rather than some dusty document left on the drive that’s revisited only once a quarter.
Reviewing your OKRs regularly is the best way to ensure progress and review real-time accomplishments. Set weekly, biweekly, or even daily meetings (depending on your timelines) to discuss your OKRs as a group.
One study found that the chance of successfully reaching a goal rises to 95% when you’ve established a cadence of ongoing check-ins with your team or an accountability partner.
4. Ask “why”
As you track your OKRs, be critical. If you’re failing to keep up with results or milestones week over week, it’s time to dig deep into why.
Turning a critical eye to each goal can help you and your team understand how they succeeded or why they might fail at a task or goal. Getting to the why can help shape future plans, define objectives and replicate success in the future.
5. Discuss learnings along the way
Regular OKR tracking should come with a conversation. Keep bringing up key learnings to understand what worked and what didn’t. For instance, one Key Result might have been to reduce the number of churned customers by 9%, but you may have only decreased it by 3.5%.
Deep dive with your team, discuss why the Key Result may have fallen short, and take those learnings forward for your next OKR sprint. The learnings can shape how to tackle upcoming OKRs or help you find creative and different ways to tackle challenges. Need help developing your next OKRs? Check out our library of over 360 OKR examples to get inspired.
As a leader, remember: not all OKRs will be met. Stretch goals and setting a high bar is vital for innovation and growth. As Sam Prince from Measure What Matters writes, “conservative goal setting stymies innovation. And innovation is like oxygen: You cannot win without it.” The act of goal setting considers that targets and circumstances may change, so staying flexible and continuously learning will make all the difference.
Tools to help track OKRs: Google Sheets vs. Hypercontext
For any goal to be successful, you need the proper support. Make tracking your OKRs simple using a spreadsheet or goal-tracking program. Here are some of our best practices that teams can use to make their OKR tracking easy and embed it into their day-to-day.
Keeping your team informed about OKR progress is one of the main reasons we built Hypercontext. Our platform allows you to add your goals to the top of your respective meeting agenda and track your weekly progress. So the urgent tasks don’t make you lose sight of what’s most important. Try it out today!
We love Google Sheets – but it’s not without its limitations. The upside to using Google to track your OKRs? Your team’s already familiar with how to use it, making onboarding simple. It can also be comprehensive (or as detailed as you’d like!), and to top it off, it’s free! On the flip side, it’s another spreadsheet you’ll have to add to your repertoire.
Other downsides include creating a unified and robust system to track what really matters. It can also become cumbersome and difficult to navigate. More importantly, using Google-affiliated programs presents complex challenges to data security – many companies expressly forbid its use for this reason.
Interested in trying out the spreadsheet OKR tracking method? Try this template to get started.