Few things are as unproductive as a status-update meeting with a large number of participants. For this reason, there are no pure status-update meetings in our OKR framework. All OKR meetings are working meetings and serve to share information quickly and/or solve problems efficiently. There are leadership-, team- and one-on-one meetings in the OKR structure, all of which have the same agenda. The meetings are completely focused on the operational topics that lead to achieving the OKRs. Additional meetings purely for coordination should not be necessary. Of course, projects etc. can be developed or implemented in separate meetings.
The meetings are to be explicitly prepared by each participant. The agenda is accessible to everyone in advance and all points to be discussed can be amended by all participants. This ensures that the various stakeholders actively bring their respective perspectives to the meeting. Since this is a working meeting, not a status-update meeting, all participants have different interests that they can can address in the meeting. The main purposes of these meetings are a quick exchange of information, the opportunity for joint decision-making, and the identification of solutions to problems that may have come up. A Confluence page, for example, is an ideal tool to use for the preparation and documentation of these meetings.
The following example shows the structure for a specific key result:
The structure of an OKR meeting is very easy to remember using the O.K.R.S acronym. The following points are to be reviewed during the meeting:
O: Objectives and Key Results
O: OBJECTIVES AND KEY RESULTS
The first item of the meeting is concerning the OKR set. If several people are sitting at the table, the "highest" (in terms of organizational OKR structure) of the present OKR sets forms the base of the discussion. For example, if the marketing team is gathered together with its team lead, the team lead’s set (which is also the team’s) is discussed and not the sets of the individual team members. If the team lead is in a one-on-one meeting with a team member, then the set of the team member is discussed.
Going through the Objectives and their corresponding Key Results provides the structure to discuss the appropriate operational tasks. If the OKRs and their corresponding tasks are being tracked in a task management system such as Asana, this provides an ideal structure for the meeting since the individual tasks are already assigned to the KRs. The subsequent details can then be documented directly in the individual tasks. A summary of all the relevant details should be documented in the shared OKR agenda to provide a clear overview both for participants and those who were unable to attend.
Building an OKR Structure in Asana:
For the Key Result "7% increase in the conversion on the landing page of the online course," ie. the topic of integrating a Google Tag Manager can be discussed in the weekly meeting as it would be required to measure the conversion rates. Since this is a task, it is – of course – not part of the OKR set. However, it isdiscussed in the context of the key result in order to ensure quick coordination within the team to complete this task and thus come closer to achieving the goal.
In order to quickly identify and solve problems and to channel information efficiently into the right directions, it is very helpful to implement a continuous improvement process in the weekly review. The aspects to be discussed can be divided into the following areas:
· Progress (results, not the use of time)
· Problems and decisions (blockers)
· Next steps (focused on the next result, not just the topics you want to deal with)
By condensing the problems and decisions down to succinct points, the process of discussing these points and finding possible solutions is made much more efficient. Relevant learnings should be shared either with your own team or with other teams or levels. In order to ensure a rapid flow of information, the team lead who is responsible for establishing the connection between the individual teams or levels, should bring these topics onto the corresponding meeting agenda (for example for the leadership meeting).
After covering the operational tasks, theconfidence levelof each KR is updated. On a scale of 0 to 10, this metric describes the confidence in achieving a result of 70% or better at the end of the quarter(10 being certain it will be accomplished). In other words, the confidence level is a statement about the probability that the planned KR will occur as expected. (Attention: the confidence level is often confused with a progress report (like effort or milestones) or the result achieved so far: this is incorrect.)
Following the OKRs, the KPIs of the respective team should briefly be reviewed. This point serves to ensure the regular consideration of the most relevant success drivers. Even if there are no KRs in this quarter that influence important KPIs, they should still regularly be made transparent to the team to ensure any arising need for action can be identified quickly. It is important to remember that KPIs – by definition – are "evergreens", ie., values that are in constant need of improvement. Since these should not be occurring in the same way every quarter – with slightly different numbers – we restrict ourselves to review the KPIs briefly in the regular meetings and focus on our OKRs in order to drive them into the right direction.
The “resources” agenda item addresses all open questions concerning people or budget. It can be used, for example, to discuss whether a new position should be created or how to fill a vacancy left behind by a retiring team member.
All topics relating to the organizational structure or processes fall under the agenda item “structure.” During the review of OKRs under agenda point “O,” often procedural or organizational weaknesses with room for improvement are revealed. To keep the meeting agenda clear and efficient, only the operative points are discussed under agenda point “O” and all topics relating to processes and/or organization should be moved to agenda point “S.” This avoids distraction during the discussion of operational tasks.
In our experience, we’ve found that a team meeting usually requires one to two hours for the weekly meeting. The one-on-one meetings can usually be completed in 30 to 60 minutes. As a reminder, we would like to reiterate that the point of these meetings is to reach agreement and make decisions. The time invested here should result in less e-mail traffic, telephone calls, and spontaneous meetings throughout the rest of the week. If you find this is not happening, the OKR meetings should be analyzed to assess whether they have degenerated into a status-update meeting or whether the wrong content is being discussed with the wrong participants.
Should the discussion arise that managers are sitting in OKR meetings all week long because they have so many direct reports, this usually indicates that it is a good time to reconsider the organizational structure and/or the manager’s job description. This is often an indication that the responsibilities of the manager are simply too vast and that operational tasks should be delegated to someone else. In the context of the OKRs, it is critical that leadership responsibilities can indeed be taken on by managers or team leads. If they do not have the time to come after their management responsibilities due to a time-conflict with operational tasks, one should ask, if both is too much for one person? If a full-time employee receives less than 30 to 60 minutes of leadership attention per week, is any significant leadership really happening? Hierarchy-free leadership models tend to have different ideals in this respect. However, the basic principle of weekly synchronization and check-ins usually requires a similar level of attention.
In addition to the preparation and agenda described above, a certain amount of discussion-discipline is necessary in order to use the meeting time efficiently. One should make sure that the topics always have the relevant level of detail for the participants and no more. Decisions are ideally made by the employee him- or herself. If he or she cannot do so, the topic is to be addressed in the one-on-one meeting. If no solution can be found with the lead either, the topic is to be addressed in the team meeting.
We know this all sounds like a lot of effort. In our experience, however, it leads to a significant increase in clarity and alignment between all teams and their members. The written preparation and documentation of meetings is extremely helpful in getting a shared, clear overview and focus on all tasks, problems, information, etc. For each individual, this process has major potential to reduce stressful and excessive demands by focusing only on what’s essential. This focus should spare you ample time by avoiding the flood of unnecessary e-mail avalanches or slack discussions.