Every organization taking on OKRs faces a similar set of challenges. One of the most urgent and common ones is keeping track of your objectives and key results across the organization. This means not only finding a place to store them but making it easy to use, broadly accessible and somehow connected to the rest of the organization.
Depending on the size of your organization and its maturity level with OKRs, the tools you choose will vary. Over time you’ll develop usage patterns within your organization that may require transitioning from one tool to another. In an effort to give you a sense of what to look for, what that growth and maturity requires from tools and a clear starting point, I’ve put together a very short list of 3 tools. Each tool meets the needs of a specific combined level of company size and process maturity. Let’s take a look.
Small company / Low OKR maturity: A spreadsheet
Yes, the all powerful spreadsheet can even fix your OKR tracking needs. Honestly, is there anything it can’t do? For smaller organizations or those experimenting with OKRs with a small number of people, spreadsheets are a great place to start. They’re easy to set up. There are many templates to choose from (I made one for you right here) and you can be up and running with clear inputs immediately. Everyone knows how to enter data in a spreadsheet so there’s no learning curve. While this solution doesn’t scale, it does quickly remove one barrier to getting your OKR effort off the ground.
Mid-size company / mid-level OKR maturity: A Trello board
If you’re working with a larger number of people who need a shared workspace and have gotten comfortable with OKR basics, moving up to a Trello board (ok, a kanban-style board made by any vendor or even a physical board is fine too), is a logical next step. This is a shared environment the entire team (or teams) has access to. It’s kept up to date. And it has a familiar data entry user experience that any software development team should be familiar with. The example I made for you is based on this OKR-focused roadmap design. It allows your teams to track high level strategic objectives, quarter-level key results and the in-flight work the teams are working, testing and evolving as they work towards their goals.
These types of tools allow team members to assign themselves to specific tasks or cards. They begin to add in broadly-visible accountability into the process and function well as “information radiators” for the team as well as its stakeholders who need to see not only where the team is headed but how it’s planning on getting there. (link to the Trello board OKR tracking tool I made).
Large company / high-level OKR maturity: Workboard (or similar enterprise level tool)
Big companies have bigger needs. They need to accommodate lots of people and connect matrixed teams across silos. They need to provide various levels of visibility for folks in different roles and leadership levels. And, perhaps most important, they need to make it easy for folks at any level of the organization to see how they’re trending towards their goals and how those goals impact others in the organization.
So often enterprise teams will set goals only to forget what higher purpose they were serving in the organization. Or, perhaps worse, teams will optimize locally for success without a clear view into how that local optimization is impacting other teams in the organization. Strategy execution platforms like WorkBoard provide these features along with reporting and connectivity into the most common enterprise productivity tools (e.g, Slack, JIRA, etc). This type of integration increases the likelihood that teams will actually use the tool. Enterprise platforms like WorkBoard aren’t as easy to learn as spreadsheets or kanban boards but if the workflow is accessible through various input points, the likelihood of adoption goes up. For enterprises that have validated OKRs through small scale experiments using either spreadsheets or kanban words, these types of platforms are the logical next step.
No one-size fits all
Obviously this post greatly simplifies the “tiers” when a company should switch from one type of tool to another. Your situation, maturity level will undoubtedly vary. There are tools that fit in between these tiers for when you undoubtedly find yourself “on the line” between them. In the case of any tool, resist the urge to broadly roll it out to everyone in one go. Instead, find a team or two to test the tool out, give feedback. Once you have that data you can adjust the tool to better fit your needs and start to slowly scale it out across the organization.
What OKR tracking tool are you using? How’s it working for your organization?