Wondering if your company is OKR ready?

Pilot VS Organizational Implementation of OKRs. How to choose for your Organization

23 December, 2021
5 mins

Objectives and Key Results are in quite a lot of buzz these days. An idea that started as a temporary fix for ensuring goal achievement is now widely used by companies across the globe for fostering their goal attainment strategies. 

OKRs tell you what milestones your company wants to achieve within the given time frame (say in a quarter), conjoining with what to do to stay on the right track or need to shift your focus.

Pilot VS Organizational Implementation of OKRs.

Source: Pexels

Companies that tend to set objectives that inspire the teams and employees are more likely to track and measure them with the challenging key results and emerge as a high-performing organizational culture

However, setting the OKR and successfully implementing them across the organization can seem like a herculean task, and this is where many leaders remain on the backfoot. Companies can either start with OKRs for a particular team, aka Pilot OKRs, as a test basis or roll out the OKR framework for the whole business. 

This decision is influenced largely by the size of the organization. Experts believe that companies that are new to OKRs but have a workforce size of less than a hundred employees should not go for pilot OKR implementation, whereas Companies that have a workforce size of more than a hundred employees can choose a pilot OKR implementation project before drilling it down to the entire organization. Pilot Projects give you the opportunity to understand the ins and outs of OKRs before company-wide roll out, whereas introducing OKRs to the entire organization in the first place brings agility in the organization, keeping everyone on the same page. 

In this piece, we have tried to break down the features of Pilot-wise OKR rollout and company-wide rollout for you to make a legitimate decision for your organization.

Small Pilot vs Company-wide OKRs 

• Pilot with a small team

As the name suggests, Pilot OKR implementation means having a pilot equipped with OKR learnings. The OKR framework is first introduced to the pilot team before rolling out to the entire organization, and then this pilot team helps other people in the organization with the issues and training related to OKRs. This methodology also helps in training the OKR champions for the company.

Pilot OKR is suitable for a team size of 100-250 employees who are committed to the process. 

• Pros and Cons of Pilot OKRs 

Pros:

• Create a guide for the rest of the organization to follow

• Checks if OKRs work right for you

• Finds the best practice of OKRs methodology

• Create a cross-functional initiative for the teams 

Cons

• Takes only a set of people into account

• May give the feeling of fear of missing out

• Risk of silos or different management styles for different groups

Ways to implement the pilot framework:

Implementing at the Executive Level

One way of implementing the Pilot Framework is at the executive level. The framework of a pilot program at the executive level keeps the key stakeholders or the higher management into the pilot team. After three to four cycles, a cadence is established for streamlining the practices through the organization. 

Implementing at Department Level

The pilot team implementation at the department level is commonly for the product team or the team associated with the technology affairs of the company. Now in the departmental implementation, there’s a high risk of formation of silos; this is why most companies avoid using departmental level Pilot OKR implementation.

Company-wide OKRs 

In the company-wide OKR implementation, the entire organization gets the rollout of the goals-setting framework. Getting everybody onboard channels the employee engagement within the organization. company-wide OKR implementation works when the company size is small- citing a few communication hurdles to jump over.

Pros 

• Team Alignment 

• Increased Employee engagement 

• Possibility to learn from other teams at the same time

Cons 

• Can take more time than usual 

• Problems faced at a larger scale 

Things to consider for having the successful OKR implementation

• Consider the company size 

If you’ve decided to have the OKR rollout in your organization, the first thing to keep into consideration is the company size. For newbies, OKRs usually work best with a maximum of 250 users (100-250 employees). However, if your company size in itself is 100-250 users, you should roll out the OKR implementation for the whole organization. Whereas, if your company is bigger in size, you should start with a pilot project of keeping 100-250 employees in the first set of rolling out the OKRs. Now seeing in a broader picture, using a pilot project can make the team feel isolated and give the fear of being missing out to the rest of the teams. The goal of the early stage is to find what OKR process is suitable for the company. Thus, the focus should be more on finding the best practices, metrics, and some key learning to be used for drilling down the process entirely into the organization.  

• Allow time for failures and learning: 

We have preached this many times that OKRs need practice; thus, it takes time to get fully absorbed by the organization. No matter what implementation path you choose, the framework of OKR takes time to get up entirely with the organization, regardless of the continuous training and skill enhancements. Giving training to employees about the OKR framework and best practices may enhance the quality of goal attainment by showing results after a minimum of two cycles of OKR implementation. Thus, it is advisable to keep patience. The Pilot OKR will surely help in forming a stable direction-wise nucleus for the organization to follow further, but it will take months to determine if the initial phase of learning were worth it. 

• Bottom-up or Top-down? Choose wisely

Once everyone in the company is acquainted with the OKR framework, the next step is the strategy for giving the implementation a pathway to flow in. Top-down approach is breaking down the big set of the problem into small chunks at the top level and then sending it to resolve further. Bottom-up, on the other hand, focuses on solving the smaller problems at the fundamental level and then taking the complete solution out of them. The same works with OKRs. In the Top-down OKR implementation approach, the OKRs are implemented layer-wise from top to bottom, i.e. first in the management layers and then steam down to the team levels. 

Whereas, when you implement the OKR framework in the Bottoms-up approach, it grows in both horizontal and vertical directions along with the organization structure. This approach has hugely disruptive potential. When you create OKRs between teams and then make them grow to the upper layers of the management, team-wise alignment happens, leading the learning at every step. So, if you’re still confused about which implementation strategy will work best for you, JOP gets you covered. JOP has OKR experts on board to help you in facilitating the culture of collaboration within the teams for better OKR implementation.