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Organizational Change – The Art of Successful Transformations
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  • #Organizational Change
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Coaching for org re structuring
  • #Coaching
  • # Org Re-structuring
  • #Trust

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Role Transition and Core Tasks
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Organizational Change – The Art of Successful Transformations
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Coaching for org re structuring
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  • # Org Re-structuring
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Role Transition and Core Tasks
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By Ivy & Alex

THE PRACTICALITY OF OKRs

APR 2021

The OKR (Objectives and Key Results) methodology is a highly successful and time-tested framework for defining and tracking objectives and their outcomes. It is extensively used by many multinationals including Google and LinkedIn. Recently, it has been increasingly adopted by domestic companies in China. In this talk, GloCoach’s executive coach and OKR expert Ivy Zhou will share her understanding of OKRs and best practices for implementation.

Alex: Can you first share your background experience with OKRs?
Ivy: In early 2018 I was with a brand-new business unit within my company. One of the challenges I faced was that compared with other business units, there are fewer mature business models to refer to. The opportunity was that the corresponding market was developing rapidly, and more opportunities needed to be explored. I found that in this changeable and ambiguous environment, KPIs can hardly play a role - the team needs a mechanism to bring everyone together, focusing and integrating the limited resources to quickly seize the market opportunities. It was during this time I discovered OKRs, and was deeply attracted by its concept. I began to dig into the framework, seeking assistance from external resources, and began to promote OKRs within my business unit. This brought immediate impact to the whole business unit, and cohesion to the team. I decided to devote myself to the promotion of OKRs, conducted more in-depth and comprehensive learning, and began to train and implement OKRs in different industries and companies. I firmly believe that OKRs are suitable for any company, and can help the majority of enterprises succeed, I also found that the effectiveness of OKRs can extend to one’s personal life, and now I even use them to effectively manage my life goals.

Alex: What is the biggest appeal of OKRs?
Ivy: OKRs have many bright spots. Here are two points that I resonate most deeply with: First, OKRs are a tool to help companies focus on their core goals. The tool requires organizations to make serious choices about key objectives to be achieved each quarter. The team will need to coordinate and communicate with each other, and regularly communicate and track progress. In my opinion, the success of an organization's operation depends largely on whether the company focuses on its most important key tasks at every stage. Focus will depend largely on whether the leaders and employees have a clear alignment of key tasks and implement them in their daily work. In this aspect, OKRs are just the right tool to help organizations focus on their core goals.

Secondly, OKRs are not only a set of target management tools and methods, but also a new culture that challenges the traditional KPI performance appraisal. It has become increasingly difficulty for employees to set KPIs. On the one hand, there are policies and countermeasures, on the other hand, it is more difficult to set reasonable KPIs for work that tie with innovation and creativity. OKRs allow the employees to challenge meaningful and difficult goals while realizing their own value and growth, so that the company can develop and grow. It systematically supports the top-down and bottom-up setting of challenging and meaningful goals for the company, and makes them become the habit and culture of the company by means of transparency, open commitment, fixed tracking, etc. We call it the “OKR Culture”.

Alex: From your practical experience, what is the biggest difficulty in implementing OKRs?
Ivy: The biggest challenge is to get persistent support from top management.

After implementing OKRs, employees tend to be uncomfortable and will take time to adapt. As mentioned above, the OKR culture is different from the corporate culture trained by KPIs. OKR culture encourages challenge, openness and transparency - it allows constructive failure, and cooperates to achieve the same corporate goals. KPI culture - afraid of bonus deduction, makes employees more conservative and independent. Cultural transformation is a long process. At times it can be difficult to focus on the important tasks ahead when only concentrating on the immediate tasks to complete at hand. A considerable number of companies are still in the discovery process on their path to transformation. Managers can get distracted by other things, lose sight of their focus and OKRs gradually drift off their radar. Therefore, the most critical factor for the success of a company's OKR transformation is the determination and support from top management.

Alex: Can you share your most impressive OKR project?
Ivy: The background of the project is that the CEO feels that employees are more KPI driven, and the company lacks vitality and passion. Everyone is just focusing on completing their KPIs year after year.

During the initial preparation period, we discovered the company had little to no vision and people were not used to talking about it. Before we set OKRs, we used a series of activities to spark the enthusiasm of the employees, such as encouraging them to draw a vision of the company in 5 years. Although the drawings were not necessarily beautiful, everyone was willing to chip into the company's appearance 5 years later, and the company's "vision" gradually became clear. The meeting room was filled with everyone's kindled enthusiasm, and not long after we found the most important objectives of the company for its near future.

Next, we found that after reaching an agreement on the target Os, the KRs written after several rounds of communication were still vague. After in-depth exploration, we found that the crux of the problem is that the communication and mutual trust between the CEO and the senior management were obstructed, which led the team to deliberately avoid talking about certain KRs that may cause conflict. To alleviate the problem, we designed a coaching curriculum around helping the CEO and the top management team to build effective communication and constructed "difficult" dialogues to bring out the elephant in the room. When these topics were finally put on the table, the team was able to have a transparent and fruitful discussion and set clear OKRs. At the same time, the trust and communication between the CEO and the senior management team also reached new levels.

The reason why this project impressed me is through the generation of Objectives and looking at larger, longer-term goals, the team found resonance with the company’s future. On the other hand, with the ambiguity of OKRs - through coaching the team realized the root problem and replaced avoidance with communication and trust. Through this project, while bringing great value to the company, also allowed me to witness the chemical reaction that sparked from the combination of OKRs and coaching. This kind of transformative journey really stuck with me.

About Ivy:
Ivy Zhou began to explore OKRs in 2018. After the successful application of OKRs in her own business unit, she began to actively explore and promote OKRs in different fields and industries. Combining OKRs with coaching techniques, Ivy helps organizations implement OKR tools and OKR culture at the same time. Today, Ivy’s OKR coaching program is one of Glocoach's star programs.

Sign Up for the GloCoach OKR Workshop here