How to build CULTURE of Accountability through effective OKR check-ins

CULTURE of Accountability

When you harbor a culture of accountability, your employees work collaboratively to find solutions to organizational problems and deliver the desired results. If something falls through a crack, you’d want your employees to learn from it and not pinpoint at each other. Accountable culture yields developed and improved employees, which in turn helms your organization towards the big picture. 

You often find yourself sitting at your desk, scratching your head and thinking, what in the world went wrong? You thought you were quite fair and clear. You repeated it countless times and even jotted it down on the whiteboard of your organization! So, how can it be possible that your teams still couldn’t do what you expected them to? You provided them with full autonomy for delivering the results along with all the ingredients they needed to flourish, innit?

CULTURE of Accountability

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Well, one critical thing that you overlooked was your responsibility of establishing a culture of accountability. Well hey, you’re not alone. It is this popular complaint that pops up invariably from all sorts of organizations operating in all types of industries and environments – from startups and scaleups to large corporations, not many businesses get spared from the blow of fruitless accountability expectations. Even the organizations that have OKR and agility at their core were not spared! Yes, OKRs are critical for establishing alignment and pushing organizational development forward. But determining OKRs is just the start. As they are meant to be the tools for accountability and bridging the gap between the setting of goals and attaining them, progress reviews have to be a top priority within OKR cycles. 

So, what went wrong? How can you build a culture of accountability through effective OKR check-ins? Well, let’s find out but first let’s understand what OKR check-ins exactly are! 

Check-ins are one of the most critical pillars on which the goal-setting methodology of OKRs huge rely on. OKR check-in refers to a quick meeting where you along with your team contemplate the progress made on the team OKRs and revamp the priorities for the next week. Check-ins turn your work towards attaining objectives and key results into a weekly routine. Its purpose is to facilitate progress, transparency, and accountability. In addition to this, a best-practice framework for OKR check-ins helps your organization with:

1. Identifying hindrances before it’s too late

2. Having a bird’s eye view of the present state of affairs

3. Establishing an alignment within all the organizational teams

4. Determining high-impact objectives and focusing on them

5. Measuring confidence in the completion of OKR

6. Calibration of the expectations

7. Supporting each other and solving problems as a team

How to build a culture of accountability for my organization with OKR check-ins? 

1. Picture the end game 

A renowned technique used by numerous athletes before their competition is to envision themselves from the start to the finish – to imagine what they will do and when. Visualization is a paramount factor when it comes to establishing accountability. How do you paint the picture of the desired end result? When are the deadlines, what needs to be completed by the deadline and why is it significant for the particular task to be done by its deadline? What is the domino effect of the team members? Visualization can be practiced in any form from having a visualization map to a diagram. Divide it into quarterly months with the objectives of each team marked out. This will also help in making everyone clear about who is operating on what deliverable. 

2. Reiterate the purpose 

“What is the significance of this goal and why exactly are we prioritizing it?” – Your employees need to be cognizant of the organizational vision and strategy along with how their work is contributing to the bigger picture. During your weekly check-in-ins, you don’t just have to communicate but briefly mention the connection of your team with the overall strategy, mission, and vision of the organization. Repeating this discussion each week will foster a sense of accountability and your employees will become conscious of how their work connects with the work of other teams and the organization as well. 

3. Be a leader, but act as a mentor

As a leader, you have to ensure that your employees receive a consistent flow of feedback to aid them in performing adequately. As per Gallup, it was found that just 47% of the employees received feedback from their managers just a few times during a year. Only 26% of the employees felt that the feedback they received was momentous enough to help them improve. During the check-ins, you have to take the responsibility of removing obstacles, roadblocks and acting as a resource for your employees. It is very possible that your employees are not entirely familiar with what they have to do – this is an opportunity for you to lead, guide them and offer your valuable feedback. 

4. Cross-team & departmental check-ins

Stay away from the blunder of just doing team-level OKR check-ins. Do consider doing cross-team or departmental level check-ins as well. For instance, if you have a large tech team, then the OKR check-ins will establish a well-structured alignment of OKR initiatives. When your teams develop an understanding of their dependencies on other teams on weekly basis, they become more accountable to each other. Your OKR check-in can include the whole of your product development department. If you are a start-up leader, having your whole organization involved in the check-in is the optimal route for you. 

5. Influence is the compass 

If you want your OKRs to be effective and your teams to be accountable, your teams must be allowed to have an influence in the delivery of their OKRs. Think about it – How can an employee or team be held accountable if they have little to no influence on the final results? Set those OKRs for your teams that are directly influence able by them and don’t end up assembling a mismatch. Let’s say, one of the key results for your software product development team is to increase the Net Promoter Score. In all likelihood, the team will find moving that needle quite unplayable. The reason is, this key result will require them to have a collaborate with marketing, customer support, and sales department for driving the number up. 

6. Gauge progress

As described in the last point, visualization plays a critical role in establishing a culture of accountability. The added benefit is that it will help you to fall back to whenever there will be a need of referring back to previous results during the check-ins. Keeping the gauge of the progress not only keeps you on track but enumerates the benefit of generating satisfaction and motivation to drive forward. Without keeping an eye on the progress it is quite obvious that you cannot establish accountability. Moreover, the word progress is a double-edged sword as it can turn into a drawback if not done properly. Generally, when one tracks the progress of OKRs and doesn’t see positive results, they are likely to get demotivated. More often than not, the reason for this is using the wrong metrics for the KRs.  

OKR programs have been in the buzz for quite some time now and rightly so! Set the goals, align your teams, regulate the progress and provide in-time feedback to them. If this wasn’t enough OKR provides a highly effective framework that enables your organization to work on its desired results even when your teams are working remotely. So, contact us today to guide your organization in achieving all of its high-impact goals!

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Gaurav Sabharwal


Gaurav is the CEO of JOP (Joy of Performing), an OKR and high-performance enabling platform. With almost two decades of experience in building businesses, he knows what it takes to enable high performance within a team and engage them in the business. He supports organizations globally by becoming their growth partner and helping them build high-performing teams by tackling issues like lack of focus, unclear goals, unaligned teams, lack of funding, no continuous improvement framework, etc. He is a Certified OKR Coach and loves to share helpful resources and address common organizational challenges to help drive team performance. Read More

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