Aligning OKRs is absolutely necessary in the OKR process. However, aligning your OKRs is one of the most difficult concepts to understand. Here, we will cover what OKR alignment does for you and your team and then explain the more practical side of OKR linking and how to achieve it.
The purpose of OKR alignment is to unify your company at every level. Everyone should know what goes on and how it relates to the company’s largest goals. Alignment is the theory of doing this, not the practical implementation of it.
OKR alignment requires you to be really familiar with the structure of your company and OKR levels. As a rule, OKRs can be set at four levels total. These consist of Company, Department, Team, and Personal. You do not need to use all four levels.
In the beginning, you should start out with only two: Company and Team. Later, you can introduce Personal OKRs when everyone is more comfortable with the methodology and individuals know how to write OKRs.
Larger companies may benefit from having the additional level of Departments, or groups of Teams. However, the Department level isn’t necessary for small to medium sized companies.
Aligning vs Linking vs Cascading
Often you’ll hear the term alignment intermixed with terms such as cascading, which refers to alignment from a top-down approach, or linking which is the practical process of numerically connecting Objectives at different levels. Linking is a practical way to achieve alignment. It is not the only way to achieve alignment, however.
Aligning your company can happen 3 ways: either you do it top down, where Objectives are assigned from high level leaders and executives downwards, or bottom up where employees are asked to come up with suggestions for their next quarter’s activities. The third option is to combine the two. We recommend being versatile and doing a little of both.
As a reminder you should try and limit yourself to 1-3 Objectives and 3-5 key results at each level to make sure you stay focused on what matters.
Example Alignment Process
Now lets run through an example of what the process looks like through a company. The beginning of the quarter should start with the upper management coming up with the goals that they would like to set for the quarter. Let’s say the company’s big goals are to:
Increase revenue and improve the quality of the staff.
However, in this case, it’d be really nice if the teams got a say in the direction management went with their big goals. They work closer to the clientele, and therefore, have more experience with the day-to-day changes necessary to make larger goals happen.
So, instead, higher management would meet with the team leaders to inform them about the general direction.
Let’s say we have two teams in this particular example: Marketing and HR.
Each team would then plan out how they can contribute to the two company goals. In this case, the marketing team comes up with a way to increase revenue by offering special summer packages for a limited time. The HR team, on the other hand, will hire 2 new staff members. From there, the team leaders meet with the individuals below them and discuss both the company and team goals. This is a good opportunity to collect feedback on the company and Team Objectives
- Promote and distribute summer package event deal on all social media networks.
- Create a video advertisement promotion for YouTube.
- Interview the top 5 candidates for the new positions
- Read through all application submissions to find the most suitable candidates
After these goals are set, everyone can add additional goals, eliminate goals they feel are not beneficial and tweak goals they already have. Aligning OKRs helps your company accomplish larger goals much quicker by letting everyone see the smaller parts that drive them. Not to mention, aligning Objectives helps people see what needs to be improved on all levels and encourages creative solutions to solve larger problems.