|

Precisa de ajuda para escolher o seu
treinamento ou tem alguma dúvida?

Aligning Team Efforts with Organization Strategy: The Team OKR Approach

This article highlights the importance of aligning Team OKR with organizational strategy. It elaborates on a real world example that demonstrates how Team OKRs support corporate goals through scenarios from different viewpoints. Team OKR argues for empowering teams to set and execute their OKRs in line with the broader strategic vision, emphasizing ownership and accountability. It recommends aligning Team OKRs with organizational objectives rather than cascading them, facilitating effective strategic execution.

Main Takeaways

  • Strategic Alignment is Essential: Effective execution of an organization’s strategy requires that team objectives are carefully aligned with broader corporate goals.
  • Empowerment through Team OKRs: Implementing Team OKRs encourages teams to actively participate in defining and achieving objectives that contribute to the organization’s strategic plans, fostering a sense of ownership and commitment.
  • Leadership’s Role in Facilitating OKRs: Leaders play a crucial role in bridging the gap between corporate strategy and team execution.
  • The Challenge of OKR Ownership: A significant challenge in strategic planning is ensuring that all objectives have clear ownership.
  • Flexibility in Strategic Planning: Cascading objectives may not be as effective as allowing teams to align their OKRs with organizational goals. This flexibility supports a more dynamic and responsive strategic execution process.

Sample Organization Strategy

Corporations need to have a strategy. For example, a successful digital product startup from Silicon Valley have the following strategic decision: “We are going to expand to Latin America first, then to Europe.”

This is a clear strategy at the organizational level. However, any corporate strategy depends on the people on the ground making it happen—the teams! Therefore, teams must have their own strategies to implement what the corporation aims to achieve.

Following the example, if the startup is expanding from USA to Latin America, HR will need to hire more Spanish and Portuguese-speaking employees; operations will need to rent office space in Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City; and product development must handle locale and translation capabilities.

The fact that the startup teams are doing these things means they are not doing something else. This is a strategic choice. For instance, HR decides to focus first on finding people who speak English and Portuguese or English and Spanish, instead of only hiring people who speak English, or people who speak English and another European language. The HR team need to maintain the organization’s culture and official language, English. Also, they know the organization strategic direction is not targeting the European market at this moment; therefore, no other European language is a must-have for the new hires.

Organizational and team strategies must be aligned

For an organization’s strategy to be effectively executed, it is essential that team strategies are not only conceived with purpose but also aligned with the broader corporate objectives. For example, HR hiring a French-speaking candidate, rather than a Portuguese speaker, would misalign with the immediate goal of entering the Brazilian market. This goal is highlighted by the operations team setting up in São Paulo and product development team adding PT-BR support. Strategies must be autonomous yet align with the corporation’s broader objectives.

In our example of startup expansion, the current focus is on readying both the product and operational mechanisms for success in Brazil, beginning with a local office in São Paulo. Consequently, recruiting a French-speaking individual instead of a Portuguese-speaking at this juncture would not contribute to the immediate corporation strategic objectives aimed at the Brazilian market.

OKR for Setting and Executing Strategic Goals

OKR, short for Objectives and Key Results, is a powerful framework for setting strategies and executing plans across different organizational levels, including organizational, team, and individual. This article focuses on Team OKR. Let’s go deeper into articulating strategic goals for the startup example and its three specific teams using the OKR framework, providing a comprehensive example to illustrate the Team OKR process.

StartUp strategic goals:

  • Objective: Successfully expand operations to Latin America within six months.
  • KRs:
    1. Launch operations in São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City.
    2. Achieve a market penetration of 5% in the Latin American market.
    3. Establish partnerships with at least three local distributors in each new market.

HR Team Objective: Build a culturally and linguistically competent team for Latin American operations.

  • KRs:
    1. Hire 10 new employees fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.
    2. Conduct cultural competency training for all team members involved in the Latin American market.
    3. Achieve an employee satisfaction score of 80% among the newly hired team.

Operations Team Objective: Efficiently set up operational bases in 3 key Latin American cities.

  • KRs:
    1. Secure office spaces in São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City within three months.
    2. Establish logistics and supply chain networks covering key Latin American markets within three months.
    3. Implement localized operational processes tailored to each city’s regulations and market conditions by the end of the quarter.

Product Development Team Objective: Adapt and localize the product offering for the Latin American market.

  • KRs:
    1. Complete the localization of products, including language translation and cultural adaptation, for the Brazilian, Argentinian, and Mexican markets.
    2. Launch a beta version of the localized product and gather feedback from at least 100 users in each new market.
    3. Implement necessary product adjustments based on beta feedback and officially launch in Latin American markets within six months.

While OKRs are useful at all levels, my focus is on applying them at the team level—TeamOKR—to help teams align, define, and execute their strategies effectively. This distinction emphasizes the importance of team-level OKRs in driving strategic execution.

Scenarios for exemplifying Team OKR

Below are three scenarios illustrating different perspectives for achieving the sample startup’s strategic goals.

Team OKR Scenario 1: You’re on the HR Team

Imagine you’re a member of the HR team and you participated in the workshop to define your team’s OKR, as follows:

HR Team Objective: Build a culturally and linguistically competent team for Latin American operations.

  • KRs:
    1. Hire 10 new employees fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.
    2. Conduct cultural competency training for all team members involved in the Latin American market.
    3. Achieve an employee satisfaction score of 80% among the newly hired team.

During the workshop, you were fully engaged, gaining a clear understanding of the corporate objective to successfully expand operations to Latin America within six months, with Europe identified as the next target. You contributed to writing the HR team’s OKR and are dedicated to its realization. You and a colleague have already started discussing potential approaches for conducting the cultural competency training.

Team OKR Scenario 2: You’re the COO (Chief Operations Officer)

Imagine yourself as the COO, participating in a workshop alongside other C-level executives where you collectively formulated the following StartUp OKR.

StartUp strategic goals:

  • Objective: Successfully expand operations to Latin America within the six months.
  • KRs:
    1. Launch operations in São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City.
    2. Achieve a market penetration of 5% in the Latin American market.
    3. Establish partnerships with at least three local distributors in each new market.

During the strategic C-level workshop, you played an active role, clarifying strategic directions and contributing to the drafting of KR1, which specified the three cities targeted for the initial expansion. After the C-level strategic session, you brought KR1 into the Operations team’s OKR planning. Together with the Operations team, you then assisted in formulating the following Operations team OKR:

Operations Team Objective: Efficiently set up operational bases in 3 key Latin American cities.

  • KRs:
    1. Secure office spaces in São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City within three months.
    2. Establish logistics and supply chain networks covering key Latin American markets within three months.
    3. Implement localized operational processes tailored to each city’s regulations and market conditions by the end of the quarter.

To ensure ongoing progress, you’ve set up weekly Team OKR review meetings. These weekly sessions provide a sufficient opportunity to review the team objectives and maintain momentum.

Additionally, you participate in a monthly C-level meeting where you update on your team’s OKR status. Your C-level colleagues appreciate these updates, as they offer a clear and concise view of the progress towards launching operations in São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City, ensuring everyone is informed and aligned on this strategic objective.

Your C-level colleagues view you as an active and informed leader who has a firm grasp of on-the-ground activities. Your operations team sees you as a servant and collaborative leader who not only represents them in various forums but also trusts them to actively and participatively set and pursue their objectives. This leadership style has significantly boosted your team’s motivation and commitment to their goals, resulting in high morale.

Team OKR Scenario 3: You’re the CEO

Envision yourself as the CEO, participating in a workshop alongside other C-level executives, where you collectively wrote the following Startup OKR.

StartUp strategic goals:

  • Objective: Successfully expand operations to Latin America within the six months.
  • KRs:
    1. Launch operations in São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City.
    2. Achieve a market penetration of 5% in the Latin American market.
    3. Establish partnerships with at least three local distributors in each new market.

KR1 is fine because the COO took it over to her team. However, KR 2 and KR 3, despite being well-written, are not represented in any team OKR, with the startup currently having only HR, Operations, and Product Development teams.

The issue arises when these organization key results lack a dedicated team to take ownership. It’s ineffective for C-level executives to outline objectives like KR2 in our example, which emphasizes achieving a 5% market penetration in Latin America, without assigning a specific team to drive these efforts.

The solution is straightforward: before defining such critical objectives, identify or establish the team responsible for them. This might necessitate the creation of a Sales, Business Development, or Commercial team. Determine the members of this new team, and then allow them to formulate their own Team OKR (work with them, do not cascade OKR to them!). This approach ensures each OKR has a clear owner and a team committed to its achievement.

KR1 was successfully adopted because the COO, present in the discussion, took it to her team and created the Operations team OKR. As the CEO, it’s crucial to ensure that all strategic points—such as what is currently written as the startup KR1, KR2, and KR3—are not only acknowledged for their validity but are also backed by teams capable of execution. Rather than prematurely labeling these objectives as OKRs without designated owners, focus on assembling the appropriate teams. Only then should you ask them to develop their Team OKR.

Cascade OKR versus Align Team OKR with the organization strategic goals

The challenges on the scenario 3 presented above — You’re the CEO —  underscores the importance of crafting Team OKRs that are in sync with the strategic goals at the organizational level. Accordingly, these goals can be articulated as organizational OKRs, as illustrated in the text below:

StartUp strategic goals:

  • Objective: Successfully expand operations to Latin America within the six months.
  • KRs:
    1. Launch operations in São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City.
    2. Achieve a market penetration of 5% in the Latin American market.
    3. Establish partnerships with at least three local distributors in each new market.

Alternatively, simply outline the organizational ‘s objectives:

StartUp strategic goals:

  • Objective 1: Launch operations in São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City within six months.
  • Objective 2: Secure a 5% market penetration in the Latin American market.
  • Objective 3: Form partnerships with at least three local distributors in each new market.

Then proceed to the following steps:

  1. Identify who or which teams will be responsible for each of these objectives.
  2. Allow the teams to establish their own Team OKRs.

When it comes to applying OKRs at the corporate strategic level, I have a distinct stance: I generally advise against using OKRs for overarching corporate strategies. This viewpoint may be less common, but I have reservations about the efficacy of cascading OKRs throughout an organization. Rather than a top-down imposition, I champion the concept of ensuring a clear understanding of the organization’s strategic goals, and fostering alignment and proactive engagement among teams towards these objectives. This approach forms the core of what I call TeamOKR.

At the corporate level, consider articulating the desired goals and then empowering teams to establish their own team OKRs. Each team is responsible for defining its specific objectives and determining key results to demonstrate progress. This method allows for the verification of alignment with the overarching corporate goals without the need for a direct cascade of objectives to the teams. Essentially, it promotes autonomy and encourages teams to take ownership of their contributions towards achieving broader organizational strategic goals, thus fostering a more engaged and responsive approach to strategic execution.

Team OKR: “You Set the OKR, You Make It Happen”

TeamOKR excels as an execution framework at the team level, where the tangible realization of an organization’s strategy unfolds. It mirrors the mantra often attributed to Amazon´s teams: “You build it, you run it,” adapted to the strategic context of team OKR as “You Set the OKR, You Make It Happen.” This principle underlines my viewpoint against the widespread practice of cascading OKRs. While it’s crucial for senior management to outline the strategic vision, they should avoid prescribing the execution tactics if they’re not involved in the day-to-day operations.

If you’re on the team tasked with execution, then you’re in charge of setting the goals (Team OKR) and ensuring their fulfillment. However, if you’re not on the executing team, your role is to articulate the strategy and specify the desired objectives. Following this, it’s essential to engage with the team responsible for accomplishing these goals, facilitating a collaborative approach to strategic achievement.

Addressing Multi-Team OKRs

Concerns may arise when an OKR doesn’t neatly align with a single team. In such instances, revisiting the team structure is advisable to ensure each Team OKR has well-defined boundaries. This strategic review can foster clearer responsibility and accountability (for a deeper dive into this topic, refer to my previous article: “Coordinated OKRs: Navigating Shared Objectives Within Operational Teams“). In situations where initiatives are temporary and don’t justify a permanent team, establishing a “strike team OKR” with a dedicated goal can be an effective strategy. This approach allows for focused efforts on specific, short-term objectives, ensuring even transient projects contribute meaningfully to the overarching goals.

Conclusion

In summary, the TeamOKR framework provides a strategic and efficient method for teams to achieve objectives, emphasizing collaboration and responsibility while aligning with overarching organization goals. This empowerment of teams to craft and fulfill their own OKRs cultivates a dynamic, agile, and committed organizational culture.

This article is part of a series related to team OKRs. More can be found here. For my Brazilian audience, I’ve been offering training sessions and facilitating a study group to enrich our understanding of the Team OKR subject. I plan to launch a similar training program in English shortly. Join the group to receive notifications about when the training will commence.

 

Paulo Caroli

Paulo Caroli is the author of the best-selling book “Lean Inception: How to Align People and Build the Right Product” (the first on a series of books on business agility). He's also the creator of FunRetrospectives.com , a site and book about retrospectives, futurospectives and team building activities. Caroli writes on this blog frequently. Receive the next post in your email. Sign up here.
Storytelling with OKRs

Storytelling with OKRs

This article promotes the use of storytelling to define group objectives and key results (OKRs). The “Storytelling with OKRs” activity is a collaborative method that encourages open discussions and reflection, fostering alignment and transparency among team members. This approach involves understanding the current context, setting objectives, identifying progress indicators, and defining key results. Ultimately, it helps teams work together toward achieving shared goals.

read more
Coordinated OKRs: Navigating Shared Objectives Within Operational Teams

Coordinated OKRs: Navigating Shared Objectives Within Operational Teams

Exploring Effective Shared Objectives within Operational Teams: This article delves into the dynamics of coordinated OKR in operational teams. It highlights the need for collaborative objectives that complement team efforts while maintaining autonomy. The piece emphasizes understanding organizational structures for successful shared objectives and advocates for team-specific goals that enhance each other’s endeavors.

read more

Pin It on Pinterest