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Now a full few months into the new year, many of us find ourselves breathing a collective sigh of relief – 2020 is over, Covid-19 vaccinations are in progress, and for the first time in a long time, there’s hope for a return to (at least some) normalcy on the horizon. At Punch List, like many businesses, this is a period where, as an organization, we regroup, reflect, and set goals for the year ahead.
We find utilizing the OKR methodology in our corporate goal-setting process to be beneficial for everyone at Punch List. Popularized by the likes of Google and Intel, OKR, or Objectives and Key Results, is a goal-setting and management framework that empowers business leaders to guide their team’s progress towards a clear common goal. Here’s a look inside our process with key learnings we’ve found valuable in setting and achieving quarterly and annual business goals.
Look to examples from the past
Before even beginning to set our annual company objectives, we look to examples from our past. What annual goals did we set in 2018? 2019? 2020? And how successful were we in achieving those goals, measuring our success, and tracking our progress? These are important questions and the answers lend themselves to our future success. Particularly for company founders and CEOs, understanding the big picture and how each prior initiative positively or negatively impacted progress towards the goal, overall company culture, strategic alignment and employee engagement is crucial.
Let’s use a real world example to explain my point. One of Punch List’s earliest 2019 Objectives was “Get feedback on alpha version of Punch List app” and a couple of Key Results were “Onboard [Client Name] to alpha build by 8/19” and “Identify list of high friction points and key features necessary for beta launch.” Reviewing these 2019 OKRs in 2021 suddenly put our progress into perspective. Instead of one single customer, we now plan on tens, if not hundreds. And, rather than focus on blockers for launch, we instead are confirming the thoroughness of funnel tracking and app performance metrics. 2019 was all about why the app would falter, whereas 2021 is all about why/how it will thrive.
Clearly define company and team objectives
This one seems obvious, but it is essential to make sure you are strategically aligned on objectives across your organization. Have conversations with your employees and team to determine what everyone considers to be the top priorities for the year. Understanding how your employees envision company success and how they see their work and team supporting that success will empower you to best define a clear company objective. While we recommend setting company objectives for the year, team and individual objectives should be set on a quarterly basis to support progress towards the overall company goals.
Promote employee engagement and accountability
The OKR framework encourages focus, accountability, transparency, and alignment in working towards specific, measurable goals. In order to achieve success, you need to keep employees engaged from the point the goal is defined through execution. Consistently reflecting on team and individual OKRs will not only promote employee engagement, but will also foster enhanced accountability, as employees are reminded of their value and importance in achieving these objectives. Set regular check-ins with your employees to promote growth, engagement and ensure strategic alignment with other team members and initiatives. Creating a cultural shift within your organization to focus on outcomes over output will positively impact employee performance.
Set measurable key results
Setting concrete milestones in the form of key results is fundamental to understanding how successful your strategy is in working towards a given objective. For Punch List, a major objective for 2021 is to grow our customer base by building awareness for our offering among independent contractors – establishing Punch List as a valuable resource for contractors to safely and seamlessly track the progress of remodels with homeowners, and receive payment. As such, some key results we will be tracking include achieving 50% growth in our customer base and building partnerships with at least three national associations for general contractors.
Track progress of initiatives on a calendar
As you’re building out your annual and quarterly strategies, note all initiatives, projects, and tasks that are designed to promote progress towards your key results in a calendar and clearly define the key performance indicators you’ll be tracking. Set times to check in on a monthly basis to determine the success of each initiative and if a change in strategy or direction might be required. Creating a transparent tool to track progress will promote accountability across the board and reinforce focus on achieving the key objective. All initiatives should support the primary goal and it’s essential to monitor progress to ensure continued strategic alignment.
Stay focused on the objectives you’ve set – individually, as teams and across the company – and the benchmarks you all need to hit to get there.