How to sell OKR to employees?

Author Denis Tuchin
Certified OKR Coach, Enterprise Agile Coach
When my colleague and I started implementing the OKR goal-setting system in one company, we found that there are a lot of articles, books, and trainings on the market, that talk about the benefits of OKR for top management, but nothing about the benefits of OKR for middle and line management. And we had to invent our own training for them from scratch.
Do you know what will happen if you try to tell the line management the same advantages of OKR as in a training for top management? We foolishly tried and got strong hate from Product Owners, who decided that now they would be forced to work 30% harder. Of course, we didn’t say anything like that, they just have a different prism of perception.
Exactly for the same reason why you tell why you are implementing any other change in the organization: if employees do not understand how this innovation will make their life easier, then they will actively or passively resist changes, even if it is obvious to you that the change will be useful for them.
Do you know why you need to sell OKR to employees?
To understand what OKR can be useful for middle and line management, we used the Design Thinking practice “stand in the customer’s shoes” and here’s what we got:
1. Focus on a small number of goals and not run in 10 directions at once.
2. Be able to adjust quarterly and annual goals if you guessed wrong when setting them.
3. Have the opportunity to set goals for your department/product yourself, and not just receive them “from above”, as well as the opportunity to adjust the goals dropped from above, if they are too detached from reality.
4. Understand the directions of business development in general and a specific product in particular.
5. Plan work that depends on other departments of the company together with these departments to increase predictability and reduce stress from emergencies.
Especially for Product Owners, it was also:
6. Move away from the race to achieve KPI and focus on generating ideas for multiple growth.
With such messages, the training went great. After that, we formulated OKR, initiatives, and noted dependencies.
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