The simplest way to manage employee goals (better than OKRs)

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is becoming popular as a goal-setting framework. It’s certainly an improvement on KPIs. But many people struggle to implement OKRs - for good reason. 

This article is an extract from the book 10 fatal feedback mistakes that kill team culture. Click here to download a full PDF copy.

Mistake #8. Team goals are not set regularly and transparently

Why is this a problem? 

Without a clear target to lock onto, a submarine’s missile will veer off course, start to spin out of control and eventually just explode somewhere underwater. It might hit something and cause some damage, but will it inflict the killer blow it was intended for? Unlikely. The same goes for goals in the workplace. 

Multiple studies have concluded that publicly shared goals are more likely to be achieved than privately held goals. Deloitte found that companies with quarterly individual goal-setting are 3.5 times more likely to be top quartile performers in their industry. But, according to Harvard Business School Press, less than 10% of employees know what their business’s objectives are and how they are contributing to those goals. That’s a hell of a lot of aimless torpedoes. 

Feedback is how you give regular course-correction. But without giving Charlie clear goals, there’s no direction guiding his course-correction.

Steps to solve it 

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is becoming popular as a goal-setting framework. It’s certainly an improvement on KPIs. But many people struggle to implement OKRs - for good reason. 

Through the 15-20 workshops I’ve led on OKRs, I found that: 

  • 90% of people get confused by the difference between an Objective and a Key Result (understandably); 
  • Team members struggle to set personal goals that “display a 10x-style mindset and shouldn’t be able to be achieved”;
  • The requirement to have every employee set individual goals means it falls apart if C-Suite aren’t fully bought in

I prefer to simplify goal setting with Team Milestones.

Start by clearly defining the four most important health metrics for the team. They might be:

  1. Growth in leads/accounts/users/revenue/costs
  2. Retention of accounts/users/revenue
  3. The value that accounts/users get from your product or service
  4. The growth that your business delivers its employees 

The direction of these metrics should clearly dictate whether the daily activities of team members are having their desired impact and therefore whether your idea/team/business is sustainable.

Once your four most important health metrics are selected, put some milestones behind them for the next month. E.g.

  1. Grow nurtured leads from 80 to 100
  2. Grow new accounts from 25 to 30
  3. Grow monthly active users from 35% to 40%
  4. Grow our employee progress index from 60 to 70

Then, every Monday, have someone update the numbers for the past week and circulate them to the whole team. E.g.

I’ve not yet found an easier, more effective way to create alignment and teamwork amongst team members.