OKR is a well-known framework that allows teams to set measurable goals and track their outcomes. However, with the ever-changing environment and business priorities, some argue that result-oriented OKRs may leave your company processes unattended and in a decline. Instead, they offer to apply a new approach – a process-oriented OKR.
So, let’s see what is the difference between the two and why some decide to choose the latter.
What is the OKR framework?
The OKR was first introduced to the business world by Andrew Grove in the 1970s. Essentially this term covers a framework that allows the team to set their goals. This is done by defining two measures – the team Objectives and the team Key Results. Thus, forming the term OKR – Objective Key Results.
The objectives are various goals that the team aims to achieve in the near future. These are usually larger undertakings that require input from several team members.
The key results are 3-5 smaller initiatives that help the team complete the objective. By counting the completed key results, the team can measure how close they are to achieving the overall objective.
This is the traditional result-oriented view of OKRs. If you want to learn more and see how to visualize OKRs on a Kanban board, read our previous post:
Now, some project management professionals are starting to question whether this approach allows the company to apply continuous learning and improve its processes. The idea is, that by focusing too much on the result, we forget to review the process, and thus they may become stale and ineffective.
To counter the result-oriented OKR approach, there is a new suggestion to apply a process-oriented OKR framework. Which would allow the company to focus on its process, learn and improve it with each effort.
To understand how the alternative approach would work, let’s analyze it through a typical project cycle.
The planning stage
At the beginning of any effort, you need to set your objectives or in other words the overarching goals of what the team will be working towards. With the result-oriented OKR, teams usually set the objective and then decide on 3-5 key results that must be achieved for it. So, the main focus then shifts from achieving the overall objective to achieving the key results and thus completing the objective.
Alternatively, the process-oriented OKR suggests the team focuses on choosing the best process to achieve the objective. This way, keeping the focus on the larger objective and defining the best way to move towards it.
The execution stage
As we move on to the execution of the OKRs, there is no defined way to achieve the key results with the result-oriented approach. In other words, the team uses its standard method of working regardless of what is being done.
Contrary, the process-oriented OKR would ask the team to learn all the steps of the chosen process for the specific objective and fulfill them. Thus, working in a way that is specified for what is trying to be achieved. And possibly being more effective at it.
The analysis stage
Lastly, in the analysis stage, the result-oriented teams would check if the key results and the objective have been achieved. In the case they weren’t, those objectives and key results would be then worked on again. However, there is no deeper analysis or understanding of what in the team’s process led to this result.
With the process-oriented OKR, the team would know what exactly has been done to try and achieve the objective. Thus, they would be able to analyze and understand what worked and which process steps should be updated to perform better in the future. Giving the team a possibility to learn and improve their processes.
Result-oriented vs process-oriented OKR
When looking at the OKR framework from this perspective, it seems there is validity to the process-oriented approach. It allows the team to focus more on how things are being achieved and spot errors in their process to improve. However, abandoning the result-oriented approach altogether may not be the best idea either.
Ideally, you should become more aware of your processes and track how things are being done. Focusing solely on results tells only part of the story and there are valuable insights, problems, and possibly improvements hiding in the processes. Discuss how things are being done, analyze performance metrics, and improve your results in such a way.
Looking for a tool to help you track all this valuable data? Check out Teamhood for a visual and collaborative solution.
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