Kicking off OKRs at eyeo: 3 steps that made OKRs work for us
eyeo has grown exponentially over the last year with employees from across the globe. How could we find a way to better align the organization? What we found was OKRs.
OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) is a popular, measurable goal-setting framework used by giants like Google and Amazon. We saw the benefits for eyeo for improving alignment across different areas as well as for increasing focus on strategic goals. While the framework itself seems relatively simple, implementing it within a 200+-person company across the globe has had its challenges. In January 2021, we initiated our very first OKR cycle and wanted to share in this article series our experiences and findings, to learn from any mistakes and discover what will work as best practices. So what did the first cycle look like?
1. Education and training
Upon implementation, eyeo provided education about the OKR framework so that employees really understood the reasoning why this process was chosen and how it could effectively be used. The first step was an OKR training delivered by a qualified trainer for a mix of leadership roles from different areas of the business. This allowed eyeo to build OKR champions, people who could help drive the process throughout the business. The training also provided a space for exploring the nuances of implementation so that we didn’t try to copy other companies but instead figured out a process that worked best for us. The trainer also reassured us that we wouldn’t get it perfect the first time around and that’s okay; it’s a learning process.
The next step was dispersing the knowledge needed to implement the OKRs successfully to the rest of the company. Now that we had our OKR champions, it was important that everyone else received the training. Luckily, we have the support of 11 Agile Coaches, so we were able to develop a streamlined version of the training and roll it out company-wide within a few weeks. OKR training is also now part of the onboarding process for all new employees.
It’s typical for companies to implement something new in the quickest way possible, hoping for instant results. But change through learning doesn’t happen overnight. Making sure people really understand what you are trying to achieve can provide much better results.
Communication was another key factor in the OKR rollout. A few months before the kickoff of the first OKR cycle, our COO, Jutta Horstmann made the initial announcement well in advance during the biweekly, company-wide All Hands meeting. The announcement focused on the reasons why the OKR framework was chosen, gave a specific timeline for implementation and highlighted where people could engage in conversation on the topic. Detailed Confluence pages were written and published with relevant information to help give people time to process the new initiative. An additional OKR channel was created on our internal messaging tool where people could discuss, ask questions and share ideas. The lines of communication were always open for people to engage.
3. A Soft launch
While there’s much more that could be written, the last step that I found especially useful during the OKR implementation was the soft launch for the first cycle. The trainer reminded us not to expect perfection straight away and to attempt the first cycle as a soft launch, meaning we could focus on ensuring everyone was able to grasp the overall OKR process. This allowed each area at eyeo the chance to implement OKRs in a way that made sense for them with the support from the Agile Coaches.
Everyone would try as hard as they could to create the best OKRs but since this was the first attempt, it was about the process of trying and asking for feedback along the way.
As we near the second cycle in the upcoming months, we have made space for reflection and learning so that we improve with each cycle. As expected, our challenges and experiences across eyeo varied between the different departments, but we will use this data for continuous development. We have already gathered feedback from all teams and applied it in preparation for the next cycle. eyeo has also added a bit more guidance for the second cycle to provide the space to focus on cross-departmental alignment. In a follow up article, we will share some of our challenges, learnings and improvements to help continue the refinement of our OKR processes.