OKR Implementation Case Study in an International E-commerce Corporation

Certified OKR Coach, ICF Coach, Product Coach and Transformation Consultant
OKR (Objectives and Key Results) is a critical thinking framework that can bring enormous benefits to an organization if implemented correctly. However, successful implementation requires considering various factors such as organizational maturity, agility, industry, market trends, company size and goals, as well as the specific problems you aim to solve with OKRs. Learning from OKR practitioners and examining case studies is crucial for achieving success in implementing an OKR program within your organization.
OKR Program Implementation Goals: The primary objectives of the OKR implementation were to achieve transparency in strategy and connect it to execution, reduce organizational complexity, facilitate alignment between teams, enable teams to focus on the most critical value drivers, and enhance teams' understanding of current organizational priorities.
Company Portrait: The business unit was two years old and inherited the culture of its parent company. The organization was characterized by high complexity, with approximately 600 employees globally and operations in ten countries.
Industry: The company operated in a competitive industry heavily influenced by technology trends and rapidly changing consumer preferences.
In this article, I will describe a recent case in which I acted as an OKR Program lead in an international e-commerce corporation.
Here are the details of the case:
Based on this case study, I have the following recommendations to reduce organizational complexity:
1. Simplify OKR Levels:
It was decided to adopt three levels of OKRs: Company, value streams, and teams. To reduce complexity and enable faster value delivery, individuals working on the same product but in different teams were integrated into virtual teams based on value streams. Additionally, individual OKRs were not implemented to avoid replicating the organizational structure.

2. Adjust Check-in Frequency:
While many authors suggest conducting OKR check-ins weekly or biweekly, it is not always necessary. The purpose of a check-in is to track progress, but measurable progress often requires more than one week. For example, development teams' progress depends on release frequency and user engagement. Thus, some teams conducted check-ins only once a month. This pragmatic approach minimizes unnecessary meetings and team frustrations.

3. Determine OKR Cycle Length:
The ideal length of an OKR cycle varies across companies, ranging from 1 to 12 months. Shorter cycles (up to 6 weeks) are typical for startups, while large enterprises in mature industries may opt for monthly cycles. In this e-commerce organization, a traditional 3-month cycle was chosen to strike a balance between minimizing overhead and allowing flexibility for change during the rollout period.
To achieve focus, consider the following recommendations:
1. Start with Simplicity:
If OKRs are initially challenging for teams to understand and embrace, it can be helpful to start with one objective and 1-3 key results per team. Although this approach won't cover all the team's work, it allows gradual adoption and learning of OKR mechanics.

2. Optimal Objective Count:
It is recommended to have three objectives per team per cycle, although it could be fewer but not more. Initially, clustering unrelated team activities into three objectives may be difficult, as teams often work on various tasks. It is advisable to allow 4-5 cycles for teams to learn how to focus effectively.

3. Skipping Cycles:
Teams can skip a cycle if their focus remains on maintaining current operations rather than driving change. In this case study, no cycles were skipped because the product was experiencing rapid growth, and new ideas needed consideration every quarter. However, creating OKRs for products that are not yet live and lack associated data can be challenging. Therefore, for products in the discovery phase and considering the organization's maturity, it was decided to focus on OKRs in the background rather than run them explicitly.
Recommendations to achieve alignment:
1. Utilize OKRs as a Communication Tool:
Leverage OKRs as a means of communication with top management and business stakeholders at the initial stages of the process. This helps align OKRs with strategic goals and enables the organization to reject demands that do not align, unless a change in strategic direction is warranted.

2. Split OKR Drafting Workshop:
Instead of following the typical single workshop approach, we divided the OKR drafting workshop into two parts. The first workshop focused on writing OKRs, where teams consolidated and aggregated the opportunities identified by themselves or their stakeholders that could support them in achieving their goals. Subsequently, teams were given a week to clarify any open questions and align with each other. Finally, the drafting process was concluded with a final workshop.
As it can be concluded from the case study, there is no one clear OKR guideline that fit everyone. It all starts with the problems your organisation is trying to solve. To reduce organizational complexity, it is important to establish clear OKR levels and integrate teams around value streams. Flexibility in OKR check-ins and cycle duration allows for realistic progress tracking and adaptability. Achieving focus involves starting with simplicity and gradually expanding OKR coverage. Alignment is fostered through effective communication and a structured drafting process.
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