OKR Consulting for Startups

🎯 OKR Planning
Jun 15, 2021
OKR Consulting for Startups

Andy Grove developed a management and goal-setting system, called OKR “Objectives and Key Results” and helped Intel become among the most valuable companies by 1997. The core belief behind OKR systems is that accomplishment and output is valued over mere ideas. When properly aligned, OKR examples for growth (like the ones below) can help startups and scaleups change business culture, for example, to reward for doing a good job instead of rewarding just because the job is done.

How OKR Consulting can transform a startup to a scaleup?

The Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework helps startups reach product market fit faster, and for scaleups to achieve long-term sustainable growth. A product market fit can be defined as the extent to which a product satisfies a high market demand. This is the first step to building a successful venture, as it allows a company to interact with early adopters in order to gather feedback and as a result, understand its target audience.

In order to achieve this objective, business leaders are required to focus on what matters, to be agile and assertive, eliminating waste and thereby maximising the limited resources available. Due to the changes that COVID-19 pandemic brought to businesses, startups and scaleups that are growing at a faster rate are finding it difficult to stay on track and meet their team goals.

With an entrepreneurial mindset, for acceleration of growth, and engagement at scale your metrics and execution must be systemised. You need to adopt a growth system that is predictable, efficient and fast. This can be done by adopting the OKR framework.  

Objectives and Key Results (OKR) Consulting

To launch and build out a successful business is like baking a cake. OKR consultants are like head chefs working with you to identify the right ingredients in the right proportion.

We understand that no two startups have the same scaling up journey. At 7startup we work with you to design a tailored engagement uniquely suited to your needs.

According to the 2018 People Management Survey , 58% of workers say they have a problem with managers who don't “communicate clear expectations.” (peoplemanagingpeople.com)

Our OKR Coaching and Consulting Services introduce a growth mindset and expansion strategy to focus on the:

  • The right model
  • Team OKRs
  • Product
  • Growth strategy
  • Organizational Goals

Making mistakes is an important part of the process as your business transitions from product market fit to a scaleup. To scale, you need to do the right thing at the right time. This depends on the targets that your business needs to hit.

And of course, your team needs to be focused on measurable, growth-based initiatives aligned to the strategic direction of the business. Employee engagement in cross-functional teams aligned to business objectives with frequent feedback and financial performance help to realise ambitious objectives. 

I’d recommend healthy skepticism before diving into the latest fad management system for startup founders and startup growth. If it seems too good to be true – it probably is! However, Objective and Key Results (OKRs) have been around since 1983, becoming popular; more recently, OKRs have been implemented by leading tech ventures – LinkedIn, Uber, Twitter and more.

What is Objective Key & Results (OKR)?

What is Really Different About OKRs?

For startup and scaleup leaders to be successful in this post-pandemic world they need the ability to measure and improve on all areas of the business. Well-defined OKRs create clarity across the entire business on strategic priorities and direction. Enabling alignment and for teams to meet near-term goals while driving towards the larger company vision.

All high-performance OKR systems have these commonalities:

  1. The ability to track results on a quantitative basis - key results should be not subjective, include numbers to make it clear how much has been achieved.
  2. Make it something people look at, every quarter, every week, every day – turn goal-setting into habits for all your people, natural milestones that makes each team member think about what you need to do next
  3. They have to be a stretch – company objectives should be ambitious enough to push everyone beyond their limits. When this is done collectively, it forces the tough conversations about what's truly needed to beat expectations.

A well run OKR implementation ensures ruthless prioritisation of the most important objectives. Illustrating a true picture of the capacity available across divisions required to come together to deliver company objectives. This is how Objectives and Key Results (OKR) methodologies work to increase the odds of success and meet the stated objectives.

OKR consulting – Do you need it?

Designing and implementing OKRs in your scaleup isn’t just simply copying the way Google uses them. OKR Consulting done the right way can transform your business strategy into measurable yet  ambitious goals with objectives and key results. High-growth scaleups typically benefit a great deal from external consulting to set an internal goal-setting structure, embedding a culture of growing, scaling, and experimenting. Remember Google spent over 20 years on this path, consulting can accelerate these results for you.

80% of companies fail the first time they try to implement OKRs. (weekdone.com)

OKR frameworks empower founders and their teams to measure what matters and setting ambitious or stretch goals. Stretch goals are powerful but tend to be a misunderstood concept. Google even highlights this in their "Ten things we know to be true" corporate manifesto:

We set ourselves goals we know we can’t reach yet, because we know that by stretching to meet them, we can get further than we expected.

Stretch goals were beautifully used by Google X’s team that recently developed the self-driving cars and to overcome email data storage limitations with Gmail in the early 2000s. OKR stretch goals aren’t just for moon shots, they can be used to power ordinary work to extraordinary heights. If you’re looking to get 1,000% improvement, your team must ask harder questions by rethinking the problems. Whilst you aim for the stars but reach the sky, that’s okay - it’s a work in progress. This mindset and the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) strategy implemented correctly provides a competitive advantage.

While autonomy fuels your startup, the perfect balance of alignment and autonomy will define your impact as a scaleup.

 OKRs are great at providing focus while preserving stretch & agility. And here is how we implement it at 7startup.

  • We set annual OKRs on a company level to align everyone on what matters in the coming year; then each team sets their own OKRs every quarter to signal what they focus on, stretch towards and aim to achieve.
  • One of our company values is “team of teams”, so we do not care much for individual OKRs. Impact is a team effort.
  • All OKRs are open and transparent across the company. While we don’t standardise how each team creates their OKRs, we have clear expectations on how they are shared and reviewed, in a transparent manner.
  • We introduced OKRs by setting annual OKRs for our entire company last year. Then we took an iterative approach to rolling it out to each team — team by team. Allowing each team to iterate on how to do it well. One year later, we’re still iterating, learning and adapting. This is not a quick fix.

Qualify now for a startup consultation at 7startup.

Find out how you can scaleup with our OKR framework here: Startup OKRs to Scale your Business

OKR Tracking

OKRs are adaptable by nature. Like most management methodologies you can use visual aids to show progress toward objective and key results. OKRs are meant to be guardrails, not handcuffs. To track and audit OKRs you have four options at any point in the cycle:

  1. Continue: If you’re on track and the goal isn’t broken, don’t fix it (Green Zone).
  2. Update: Modify ley result or objective to respond to changes in the workflow or external environment (Yellow Zone).
  3. Start: Launch a new OKR mid-cycle, wherever the need arises (Orange Zone).
  4. Stop: Goal has outlived its usefulness; the best solution may be to drop it (Red Zone).

I suggest you ask these questions periodically:

  • What could be done differently to get the goal on track?
  • Does it need a revised timeline?
  • Do we back-burner other initiatives to free up resources for a new one?

For best results, OKRs are scrutinised several times per quarter by contributors and their managers.

Stretch and Become Unafraid of Failure

At 7startup our OKR consulting drives scaleups to succeed and become unafraid of failure. We use our OKR expertise to catapult your product and company to new heights. We want your teams to become “uncomfortably excited” and to hold a “healthy disregard for the impossible”.

Our Mantra

  • Stretching should feel uncomfortable, even slightly painful
  • Stretching takes you out of your comfort zone
  • Stretching may be uncomfortable while doing it, but it makes you feel good afterwards
  • Stretching regularly, you begin to reach farther and farther
  • Take caution, going too far can cause harm

When implemented correctly, stretch goals promote peak performance encouraging calculated risks rather than suppressing them. Stretch OKRs are an intense exercise in problem solving inspiring a new level of commitment, effort, and performance by uncovering hidden strengths. Uncovering these strengths reveals new opportunities.

Speak to one of our OKR experts and take the right steps to go from a startup to a scaleup.

Amit Khanna - 7 startup Advisory
Amit Khanna, Founder, 7startup

Amit Khanna is the founder of 7startup.vc and has 19 years of experience with Startups and the Enterprise, holds an MBA, focusing on Growth and Investments. Amit supports entrepreneurs with every aspect of their business including concept and product development, investor presentations, fundraising, and scaling up.