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OKRs: The Secret to Unlocking Untapped Potential in the Workplace

By Shay Hughes

All of our team members are ambitious go-getters, and always eager to accomplish the next big goal. Since this characteristic is built into the DNA of our team, it has always been sought out during our interview process, and is an essential element to our success as a company. When my son recommended that I read Measure What Matters, a book on goal setting through “OKRs” by John Doerr, chairman of Kleiner Perkins (and an original investor and board member of Google and Amazon), my interest was immediately captivated.

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I read the book cover to cover in one weekend. After reading about the transformative impacts that OKRs had on Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and so many more organizations, I knew we HAD to incorporate OKRs at Hughes Marino. Looking back on when we first introduced OKRs to our team, I can honestly say John Doerr and his OKR system has almost revolutionized how we tackle big goals and accountability as a company.

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We’ve experienced many great benefits from adopting OKRs, but I believe the most transformative impact we’ve had from OKRs boil down to these three wins:

1. Challenging every teammate to clearly identify what the MOST important objectives are that will propel the company forward more than other worthy ideals (which is easier said than done).

2. Providing the framework for a disciplined approach that our team is aligned in doing together on an ongoing quarterly basis.

3. Constant course correcting at the end of every quarter so we challenge what we are spending our time on, hold ourselves accountable to do what we said we were going to do, and reassessing and stating new OKRs on a consistent quarterly basis.

As a result of OKRs, our team is more focused, accountable and conscientious of how they spend their time, which is a huge win for the entire organization. With everyone improving their performance on an ongoing basis, the team’s cumulative progress is exponential.

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The Basics: What are OKRs?

Objectives – The What.

OKRs all start with identifying the big, massive impact goals that you want to accomplish for the quarter, or in some cases arching over several quarters. Objectives are not intended to be identified as daily tasks, but bigger picture goals that help move the needle forward for the entire company. At Hughes Marino, we encourage our teammates to identify 1-5 objectives that they want to accomplish for the quarter. OKRs force us to reflect critically on the most important objectives we need to accomplish as an organization, and then hold ourselves accountable to accomplishing them.

Key Results – The How.

Key Results are the “how” you will accomplish your objectives. KR’s identify 1-5 measurable tasks that give the goal setter actionable tasks that will ensure their success for accomplishing the objective. At the end of the quarter, you should be able to identify with a clear yes or no if you accomplished the key result. Did you do it or did you not?

FACTS: The Benefits of OKRs

Focus – A basic, yet fundamental element of OKRs is to keep them limited, and very focused. As everyone knows, it can be a bit overwhelming to have so many big projects going on at once, and sometimes even paralyzing. By only having 1-5 OKRs, it helps team members stay laser-focused on accomplishing their goals for the quarter (and is super rewarding once they are accomplished, too!).

Alignment – Before the beginning of each quarter, we share the overarching Hughes Marino company OKRs with our team. This transparency helps our teammates see the big picture tasks we set out to achieve for the quarter, which help them draft their own based on both the company goals, and also with collaboration amongst teams to accomplish goals together. According to a report by the Harvard Business Review, “Alignment is a strong motivator at work…Once organizations align individuals to long-term goals, they’ll experience heightened retention and better execution.”

Commitment – It has been proven time and time again, by physically writing down professional (or personal) goals and sharing them with others, people are much more likely to stick with them. By tracking our goals in a database for everyone to see, our team stays committed, and are also even more willing to help the whole team win!

Tracking progress – By tracking progress company-wide, we are all able to hold each other accountable, and also keep ourselves accountable. It is incredibly rewarding to mark KRs as completed, and encourages each team member to make progress toward our objectives.

Stretching – We aren’t afraid to think big! By stretching ourselves to aim for very lofty goals, even if we fall short, we most likely will make progress that might not have happened unless we aimed high!

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How We Implemented OKRs

We implemented OKRs in 2018 by rolling the concept out to smaller groups, adding more and more teammates each quarter. Every quarter, I present the power of OKRs to our newest “OKR class,” and the results we’ve seen have been staggering! After an intro to OKRs and reading Measure What Matters, everyone drafts their own OKRs, then shares them with their team leaders, who help to tweak them to ensure everyone is aligned and focused on the MOST important objectives that will have massive impact, both within their own teams and with the entire company. I will admit, it definitely takes a very conscious effort to keep OKRs implemented, but that effort has been such a great investment. From company-wide initiatives in culture and hiring, to technology breakthroughs and business process improvements, OKRs have transformed our mindset on goal setting.

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As a part of our Culture Consulting services, I also speak to companies about the successes we’ve seen with the OKR process, and how to successfully implement OKRs with their own teams. Feel free to reach out to me at shay.hughes@hughesmarino.com to learn more!

As a reflection of the past years, OKRs have truly been our secret to unlocking untapped potential. We hope this inspires you and your team in setting and accomplishing your goals, and we look forward to seeing what successes our OKRs will bring us next!

Shay Hughes is president & COO of Hughes Marino, an award-winning commercial real estate company specializing in tenant representation and building purchases with offices across the nation. Shay writes about business leadership and company culture on her blog, Lead from Within. Contact Shay at 1-844-662-6635 or shay.hughes@hughesmarino.com to learn more.

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