Integrating OKRs with Project Management for Improved Team Performance

• Team

The requirements of effective project management have evolved from simply managing constraints, people, and timelines. Nowadays, the ability to align the project vision with goals, results, and outcomes is among the most sought-after qualities in a modern project manager.

OKR is a simple yet effective framework to boost your productivity by increasing transparency and alignment in your team. The framework has a history of success in several top-tier organizations like Alphabet, Samsung, Dropbox, and Amazon. We’ll see what the OKR framework is and how project managers can use it to improve the way they handle projects.

What are OKRs?

OKR – Objective and Key Results is a simple tool to help you set and define goals. It helps organizations focus on the most important things for success by aligning the simple day to day tasks with a specific organizational goal.

The principle behind OKR is quite straightforward. The management identifies certain objectives along with three or four key results to measure your performance. In this framework, transparency and accountability are paramount for success. Each key result has to be measurable and precise and should not leave any room for ambiguity.

To understand it better, let’s consider an example of an app development team. If the objective is to launch a top-rated application on the app store, the probable key results can be getting a specific number of downloads and a specific percentage of 5-star reviews in the first six months. Meeting or exceeding the specified number of downloads and positive reviews would mean you were successful.

OKR and project management

OKRs and projects are quite different.

  • Objectives deal with your long-term goals and the key results indicate if you have achieved a specific objective or not.
  • Projects, on the other hand, are temporary endeavors that are divided into a series of specific tasks.

In simple terms, OKR focuses on the future and uses key results to measure performance, while projects deal with short term goals and consist of a series of tasks. Generally, companies use a combination of projects, activities, and initiatives to reach a specific objective.

It’s quite common to mistake task completion for key results, causing people to write something resembling a project plan instead of OKRs. Check if a statement quantifies the value being delivered. Tasks are the activities you perform in hope of achieving a specific result. Key results, however, are not supposed to be under your sphere of influence.

Consider a content marketing team for example. A task would be publishing six blogs a month. Key results would be getting 10,000 visitors.

Setting up OKRs for a project team

Despite their differences, the OKR framework and project management work together splendidly. OKRs define the bigger picture that almost every project manager talks about.

Using OKRs with project management is quite simple. The first stage is to define the objectives you want to achieve and then work on the key results. Once you have finalized those, it’s time to take a closer look at your current projects and identify the objectives they are linked with. By aligning your projects and objectives, you can streamline all your processes and make sure that your team is always contributing to the growth of the organization.

Developing long term goals allow project teams to stay focused on the organization’s vision and allows them to understand their role on a larger scale. Many managers use objectives and key results as a motivational tool. Getting everyone on the same page and collectively working to achieve a common objective can have a positive impact on your overall productivity.

The following are some tried and tested ways of making OKRs successful for a project team.

Set clear and inspiring goals

Having a clear and understandable objective is perhaps the most important aspect of the OKR framework. If your team doesn’t understand what it’s trying to achieve, it won’t be able to achieve that. However, you must remember that the objective statement must not be dull. An inspiring objective statement motivates the team to think out of the box and come up with innovative solutions.

Stay transparent

Project transparency is one of the most important requirements of the OKR framework. If your team members don’t know or understand the organization’s goals, they are not likely to perform with the same zeal. Only then, they’ll be able to commit to it.

Measure your success

Identifying project objectives and committing to them is not enough. It’s also important to define the criteria for success and failure. The key results you identify along with the objective help you measure your performance and keep you on track.

Be prepared for failure

No one can guarantee success all the time and it’s unrealistic to expect that from your team. Some managers do not know how to handle failure and resort to blaming or punishing their team members. This demotivates everyone involved in the process and prevents them from gaining a lesson from the experience.

As a manager, your job is to constructively deal with failed objectives. Identify the weak areas respectfully and work together with your team to address those weaknesses. Your team might fail in some of the objectives you set for them, but going through the process will make them perform better in the future.

Present a challenge to your team

Building on the last point, the objectives you set for your team shouldn’t be too easy to achieve due to a fear of failure. OKR is a tool for growth and you can’t grow without testing your limits through ambitious goals.

Closing thoughts

OKR is an excellent tool for determining goals and project management is excellent for optimizing your processes. When combined, these two frameworks can give you a comprehensive setup to focus on both the macro and micro aspects of the company.

The rapidly changing business environment demands flexibility from managers. To achieve success, they need to achieve harmony between short-term goals and long-term ambitions of the company. By giving everyone a clear direction, you make sure that everyone works together to give you the desired results.