[Q&A] What might a light OKR approach look like?

Sep 29, 2023

Q: What might a light OKR approach look like?

A: It’s easy to get overwhelmed with OKRs. A “light OKR approach” allows teams to embrace the spirit of OKRs without the risk of staff pushback or overbearing process. A light approach might look like: creating a set of SIMPLE OKRs, creation OKRs for what’s most important to your organization, and starting with a small pilot team.


Great question! Here are a few of the best answers from our Strategy Collaborative Q&A Session!

Starting an OKR process can feel overwhelming and similar to an extensive overhaul. How can you adopt an “OKR Lite” approach before diving in headfirst?

Let’s explore practical insights for adopting a light OKR approach that won’t cause your team to feel like they are attempting to ‘boil the ocean’.

Use OKRs to Look Forward AND Backward

While OKRs do serve as a rearview mirror to see what you achieved over the previous 90 days, they also serve as a way of looking forward. You can see ahead to your upcoming priorities and know how to gain alignment over your time, energy, and resources for the next 90 days.

Easing into OKR introduction ensures that organizations can effectively move the needle closer to their visions and foster sustainable growth, innovation, and continual improvement along the way.

Start Small and Simple

One effective approach is to keep it simple. Organizations traditionally have structures and processes they’ve used for years and may fear that adopting OKRs will mean that they must throw all their pre-existing structures away.

A lighter approach to OKRs might maintain these structures and only adopting OKRs on a few strategic objectives or areas of critical opportunity may prove to be a good way to start. It serves as a ‘soft launch’ of sorts.

This method ensures that the shift to OKRs feels less like an overhaul and more like an integration into the existing strategic plan. It allows organizations to align their leadership team on a few critical organizational-wide objectives without completely re-engineering the whole strategic plan.

Pro Tip:

Even with heavier or more robust OKR plans, it is still recommended that each person gets assigned to manage no more than 2-3 Objectives and 2-3 Key Results per objective

Focus on a critical few

By focusing your OKR adoption on a few critical objectives, organizations can adopt the spirit and discipline of OKRs without getting bogged down by complexity. This focus enables teams to align with the organization’s bigger picture and long-term goals, mitigating time management issues and stress.

It highlights the importance of a quarterly review cycle for recalibrating strategy and implementation based on what has been achieved and what lies ahead. This strategy ensures that the organizational approach remains agile, impactful, and aligned with the overall vision.

Pro Tip:

Once you dial your OKR process in on a smaller level, then you can begin to migrate and adopt these broader initiatives within the organization.

Begin with a Pilot Team

Another practical approach is to pilot the OKR methodology within a dedicated team, ideally one that reflects an innovative and early-adopter mindset. This pilot team allows organizations to learn, share, grow, and make necessary alterations to the OKR approach based on real-time feedback and results

It allows a particular team with an affinity for the innovative aspects of OKR adoption to serve as the internal champions for the initiative.

They’ll speak for the program from experience and passion. For instance, FedEx piloted OKRs within a specific team before broader organizational implementation, allowing them to model and refine their approach successfully.

Avoid Tying OKRs to Compensation

Pro Tip:

Once you dial your OKR process in on a smaller level, then you can begin to migrate and adopt these broader initiatives within the organization.

Avoid tying OKR performance to compensation, at least initially. Doing so can potentially skew the objectives and key results, leading to a strategy driven by personal gain rather than genuine organizational growth and improvement.

Wrapping Up

A light OKR approach should be about keeping it simple, focusing on a critical few, and starting with a pilot team. This strategy allows organizations to embrace the spirit of OKRs without the risk of staff pushback or taking on a cumbersome shift in organizational processes.

By making OKRs a collaborative and integrative tool rather than a burdensome additional task, organizations can unlock their full potential, enhancing communication, alignment, and achievement across all levels.

Additional Resources to Consider

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