Your Success Guide: Run an OKR Workshop

Holding an engaging OKR workshop for your company

A few years ago, researchers at the Dominican University of California discovered that people who wrote down their goals, sent their lists to friends, and made progress reports were nearly twice as likely to reach their goals than their less systematic counterparts. 

We believe in the effectiveness of a similar system! By implementing the popular Objectives and Key Results methodology (OKRs) in your organization, you can leverage similar results. But first, you should make sure everyone is on board.

As an OKR champion, or someone in a leadership position at the company, chances are you'll want to run an effective OKR workshop – so let's start with one quarter.

With an "end-of-quarter crunch" coming up and you're feeling overwhelmed with running your first OKR review session, we've got you covered!

What Is an OKR Workshop Anyway?

Let's say your company has been working with OKRs for a quarter now. You made your initial plans three months ago and with the current quarter coming to a close, there's a question your internal stakeholders keep asking:

"What are we doing next?"

An OKR workshop is a full-scale, all-hands-on-deck meeting scheduled for the express purpose of reviewing past OKRs and drafting new ones. To maximize the impact of this goal-setting approach, you'll have to run sessions that are informative, productive, and engaging for the whole company.

If that sounds like a big job, it is. But don't worry – once you make a habit of holding these brainstorming sessions, you'll be a pro!

Why Should You Run an OKR Workshop?

Ultimately, this workshop fits into the quarterly planning stage of your OKR process. At Weekdone, we've seen businesses generate huge results using objectives and key results. Even Google has been crushing it with the framework!

Here are our top 3 reasons why OKR workshops are an absolute must for businesses.

1. Increased employee engagement

According to Gallup, 85 percent of employees are disengaged while at work. If these folks were showing up and being hyper-productive, there would be no problems. But this lost productivity is costing businesses roughly $7 trillion.

For companies, the moral of the story is pretty simple: employee buy-in matters! More importantly, people need to understand how their day-to-day work contributes to the larger goals of the company.

These meetings force you to set aside time, get everyone together, and offer an opportunity for discussion and sharing ideas. Giving individuals that ownership is all it takes to make them feel they have some skin in the game at your organization.

2. OKRs Can Make You More Profitable

Have you ever run into a brand that isn't sure what it wants to be? Maybe the ads are trendy and modern while the site is incredibly old-fashioned. Perhaps the email is promising you a SaaS solution for solopreneurs while the landing page was clearly written with B2B clients in mind.

Either way, if the company disconnect is so deep that even the buyers can see it, imagine how bad things must be on the inside. And although a few slip-ups might not seem like much, these inconsistencies can cost you big. According to statistics, consistent brand presentation can boost revenue by as much as 23 percent.

These meetings help you get that list of properly vetted, ambitious objectives with measurable key results that guide your team for the next 3 months. Less inconsistencies and more alignment.

3. Focus on what matters

In a 2021 survey, workers reported spending about 58 percent of their days on busy work. Once this cycle sets in, it can be extremely difficult to get your team back on track.

OKR workshops force teams to focus on the big picture. Get everyone clear on what the top priorities are going forward so that individuals and teams are planning and working on activities that advance the company's cause.

How to Run an Engaging OKR Workshop

If this is your first time facilitating an OKR session, don't panic. We've broken the workshop-planning phase into several components that will help you pull this off like a pro.

Before the Meeting

With any good plan, you probably spend time validating the strategy, defining the scope of the project, and defining some short term metrics.

Similarly, your OKR workshop will have company-wide ramifications and you'll want to go into the meeting room with a plan. Here's a step-by-step "prep" guide:

1. Clarify the Company's Vision and Goals at the Executive Level

Chances are, at the beginning of the year – the organization has communicated their long term annual strategy – sharing ideas on where they'd like to allocate resources this year and just giving an overall focus for the year.

So, before your workshop – clarify with your executive team that the pre-determined annual strategy still stands. That way, in cases where the vision has changed or the company Objective should be adjusted, you'll clarify that in a pre-meeting to save time and eliminate confusion.

2. Talk to Employees

As you set the agenda for your OKR workshop, don't forget to ask various team members from each department for input. You'll want this session to be informed by team's opinions. After all, they're executing the day-to-day work toward accomplishing those strategic goals.

Make sure that you give teams the chance to review their previous quarter's OKRs alone. Asking the questions:

  • What problems did we focus on?
  • What did we learn?
  • What went well?
  • What improvements could we make, or how would we do this differently?
  • What lingering questions do we still have?

This allows them to come to the session with details and provides context to others on what's happened – giving a big picture overview of the past to make suggestions for the future. For example, teams can use our retrospective miro board and present them during the meeting when the time comes.

3. Gather existing data and make it presentable

Now that you've spoken to the leadership team and solicited some honest opinions from the staff, you can pull your company data from the current quarter and decide how you want to present it.

Where is your data? If you're using software like Weekdone, you can easily use the TV dashboard feature and present with this during the meeting. Or maybe you're using a free template, chances are – you'll want to then create a miro board (or whatever tool you decide is best) to share information in a more visually appealing way.

4. Create a Meeting Agenda

OKR meetings can be extremely overwhelming without a clear direction. It's not uncommon to have debates and you may even need to extend the meeting. But with a set agenda that highlights what you want to talk about, you can keep distractions to a minimum.

A week before the official meeting date, you'll want to send a copy of the agenda to everyone who will be coming. It'll give attendees a chance to compose their thoughts. And you'll be able to do some high-level preparation.

During the Meeting

The big day has finally arrived. What will you do and how will you facilitate the session?

By following these steps, you'll leave the meeting on a high note. Let's get you running the most productive workshop!

1. Set the right environment

The right environment is one that you know your employees will be comfortable in. As previously mentioned, these OKR setting and planning workshops can last about two hours, depending on the size of your organization of course – so comfort is key!

Everyone has the agenda, they are on time – maybe even schedule 10 minutes in the beginning to settle in and chat. Throw in some group ice breakers, offer snacks or coffee to get the group geared up for a constructive conversation.

2. Start With a Review

Once everyone is settled in, you'll want each team to present their retrospective template responses. Have the team leader speak and present the teams achievements and learnings. Once finished, leave room for others to chime in, ask questions, and share ideas.

All teams should go through their findings with the same format. Be sure that during this time you are presenting something on the screen for everyone to see Team Objectives and their Key Result targets.

3. Present the Big Picture

Now that you have the information from teams, it's time to share with them the first draft of the Company Objective. Share them the initial ideas for the trajectory of the next quarter and gather input from them.

Maybe your leadership team wants to reimagine its customer relationships. Maybe you're focusing on marketing and brand positioning. Perhaps you're trying to launch two new products next quarter. How do your workers feel about this? Do they have enough resources? Did you learn something from their reviews that should require more time?

You can ask the CEO or someone on the executive team to lead here (if it's not you). Since there is likely a lot to discuss here, and you want top management to hear every opinion. This is usually the section with most debate time since it will set the direction for team priorities over the next quarter.

4. Brainstorm Team OKRs

From this last section, you may have learned that a Company Objective that seemed like a great idea during the preparation phase didn't stand up to scrutiny. Maybe the Objective just needed different phrasing – whatever the case. Now that you've agreed upon the immediate future path of teams, put some ideas on paper!

Have your team members divide and conquer the ideation of their Team OKRs. These should align with the agreed upon company Objective. This portion may take some time, but having a drafting ideas worksheet will help simplify it.

Think of this like a brainstorm sprint. You should feel the energy and excitement as everyone thinks about their new objectives and how to achieve them.

5. Present Drafts and Discuss Key Results

What makes the OKR framework so powerful is the fact that OKRs are tied to action plans and metrics. The ideation template gives the following:

  • Description of the Objective
  • Expected outcome
  • Prioritization levels by impact on revenue
  • Effort hours for each team member
  • Execution details like: initiatives and next steps

Since teams will share this information with others in the company, they can get immediate feedback about initial ideas. Does someone have an idea on a metric to follow for an expected outcome? Does the Marketing team want to contribute or work alongside Customer Success for one Key Result? This is this time to share and inspire!

6. Write your first objectives and key results

Finally, as the workshop comes to an end, every team or department should have a working OKR they can set for next quarter.

Maybe individuals need a break, or aren't completely sold on the phrasing of their objective, or want to meet again internally with their team to agree on the best metrics to measure their key results. Regardless, having something written down is a great outcome from this session.

Tips and OKR Session Best Practices

Don't miss these final tips to ensure all the hard work pays off.

1. Give Yourself Runway

If there's one thing that separates OKR workshops from other types of work meetings, it's the fact that OKR sessions are often way more collaborative. But when you've got tasks to complete and a growing inbox of customer inquiries to deal with, letting every person say their piece can be agonizing.

To avoid the uncomfortable feeling of clock-watching during your own meeting, you'll want to give yourself more time than you think you'll need. Remember the focus here is on creating a comfortable, open environment to set the best OKRs and take the organization to new heights!

Stay relaxed, clear your schedules, and enjoy the process.

2. Follow up

Just because the session is done and everyone knows their role and responsibilities – it's just the beginning! The work being put into the Company OKR is being achieved by employees on a daily basis. And as facts on the ground change, OKRs can become seemingly unreachable. 

Fortunately, there's a simple way to get ahead of potential issues, by continuing with the process and developing a system for regular check-ins and follow up.

If you're a team leader managing individuals who are working towards their key results – don't miss the opportunity to share the progress being made during your weekly check-ins. These quick check-ins give you the time to ask:

  • What are your plans for the upcoming week?
  • What progress is being made toward the team objective?
  • What problems are you facing?

By reconnecting weekly plans, progress, and problems to the quarterly objective, you'll find more focus, greater efficiency and productivity overall.

3. Use OKR Software

Between the accountability, ownership, and various levels in your organization, there's a workflow difficulty you've probably noticed.

It takes a lot of effort to keep track of OKRs. And while you could rely on spreadsheets to get the job done, you can make the process easier by standardizing and tracking your OKRs with software.

It becomes a lot easier to facilitate these meetings and keep track of everything when you have a dedicated OKR software solution. Some notable Weekdone features you may find useful are:

  • Interactive dashboards with company data
  • OKR alignment and linking
  • In-product tips and example OKRs
  • Free unlimited OKR coaching (for paid users)
  • Status reporting and automated progress reports
  • Commenting, feedback, likes, and more
  • Integrations with Slack and other tools you already use!

We're so convinced you'll love our product that we'll let you give it a two-week test drive.

Crush Your Quarterly Goals

Making a company successful is tough. And keeping everyone productive can be even tougher.

OKRs make it possible for you and your team to innovate and pursue major achievements within a single framework. And the OKR workshop is one mechanism you'll use to make it happen.

Even so, your OKRs are only as effective as your ability to track them. From status updates to collaborative features and tracking, we've designed our software to help corporations succeed.