The OKR Cycle

Using OKRs in your business is a continuous process that has three distinct phases and typically takes place over a three-month or four-month cycle. Following this cyclical pattern is important for making OKRs an habitual process that drives the way people think and behave in your business.

Plan: the planning phase is where OKRs are created. When you first implement OKRs, this can involve quite a lot of effort because everyone is new to the OKR process and must learn how to formulate good objectives and KRs. You also need to ensure these OKRs are aligned to the business’s wider strategic goals. Sometimes this involves a voyage of discovery to understand and articulate a business’s strategic goals! Planning should take place at the beginning of each cycle and involve everyone who has responsibilities for setting and achieving OKRs.

Perform: the performance phase is where the work gets done, and occupies the bulk of the cycle. There are four distinct elements to the performance phase:

a. Pursuing objectives – undertaking initiatives aimed at achieving objectives

b. Monitoring – using KRs to track progress towards objectives

c. Reporting – reporting on progress; identifying and preemptively addressing problems

d. Making tactical adjustments – trying new initiatives to achieve the objectives or fine-tuning current initiatives

Review: the review phase is where a (quarterly) retrospective is undertaken to assess progress against targets, learn lessons, and consider what changes need to be made to OKRs for the next cycle. No business operates in a static environment and all OKRs should be reviewed at least quarterly to consider whether they are meeting your needs. Typical review questions to ask include:

a. Is the objective still relevant? Has it been achieved and/or is it something we still want to achieve?

b. Are there new objectives that should take priority?

c. Is an objective ambitious enough, or too ambitious? Do we need to adjust the KR targets?

d. Are the associated KRs accurate or sufficient measures of an objective’s success?

e. What initiatives need to be undertaken to achieve an objective?

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