Episode 3

OKR rollout: what every organization should know

Published on: 15th February, 2021

In theory, OKR (Objectives & Key Results) is simple. However, it can be a challenge when rolling out the OKR framework across an entire organization.

We spoke to Kathrin Hafermas, the OKR Ambassador at Proemion, who has a wealth of insights to share with you based on her learnings while implementing OKR at Proemion.

Let's take a look at what an OKR rollout process looks like. What we'll discuss in this episode:

  • Why Proemion decided to implement OKR
  • The OKR rollout process
  • Challenges faced
  • Approaches taken to overcome those challenges
  • How Proemion has benefitted from OKR
  • Best practices you should keep in mind when implementing OKR

A key takeaway: OKR won't be an overnight success — it requires planning, commitment and effort. Get this right, and you'll be successful.

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If you're new to OKR or are just getting started, download The ultimate guide to OKR. We'll walk you through everything you need to know to get started with Objectives & Key Results.

Start tracking your OKRs (& KPIs) for FREE! Create your own Perdoo account here.

Transcript
Zahra:

Hi everyone, I'm Zahra from the marketing team at Perdoo and

Zahra:

I'll be the host for today's episode.

Zahra:

With me is a very special guest, Kathrin, who's the OKR ambassador at the company

Zahra:

she's currently working at, and she's here to share insights with us on what

Zahra:

an organization-wide OKR rollout can look like, and will be sharing with

Zahra:

us, her learnings, the challenges that were faced and best practices

Zahra:

that she's picked up along the way.

Zahra:

So let's cut to the chase.

Zahra:

Kathrin before we get into the details, please tell us

Zahra:

a little bit about yourself.

Kathrin:

Hi Zahra, hey everyone!

Kathrin:

Thanks for the invitation to join this podcast.

Kathrin:

And yeah, as you already mentioned, my name is Kathrin and since one and a half

Kathrin:

years, I'm the OKR ambassador at Proemion.

Kathrin:

Proemion is a medium-sized enterprise.

Kathrin:

We have around 150 employees and we are located in the middle of Germany.

Kathrin:

We are in the telematics industry and we develop and manufacture

Kathrin:

devices for off highway OEMs.

Kathrin:

Those devices, they read the data from the vehicle scan bus.

Kathrin:

And then the data is brought to our cloud.

Kathrin:

We also have a big team developing and maintaining our data

Kathrin:

platform and our cloud solution.

Kathrin:

Well, before I joined Proemion two years ago, I've worked several years as a

Kathrin:

project manager in the automotive industry with a strong focus on e-Mobility..

Zahra:

Thank you so much for that little introduction, Kathrin.

Zahra:

We are so happy to have you on our show today.

Zahra:

And both of us already have mentioned that you're the OKR ambassador at Proemion.

Zahra:

Does that mean that you've been witness to the entire OKR rollout

Zahra:

process from the very beginning?

Kathrin:

I work in the area of operations.

Kathrin:

Half a year after I joined Proemion, we decided to implement the OKR framework.

Kathrin:

So from that point of time on, I was doing operations and being

Kathrin:

the OKR Ambassador in parallel.

Kathrin:

I was responsible for the rollout and also for the implementation throughout

Kathrin:

the company right from the beginning.

Zahra:

All right.

Zahra:

And that probably means that you are very much aware and were a part of

Zahra:

the pains that your organization was encountering, that in fact, led you

Zahra:

to even consider working with OKR.

Zahra:

So what were the few touch points which triggered you to even implement OKR?

Kathrin:

There were two challenges we needed to overcome.

Kathrin:

First, we had strong silos in the organization.

Kathrin:

That means that there was poor alignment between the different groups.

Kathrin:

So the software team, the hardware team, production and cloud solutions.

Kathrin:

They all were strong teams in itself, but there was poor alignment

Kathrin:

between the different groups.

Kathrin:

So this was really a big challenge.

Kathrin:

And a second challenge was that we had no tool or no means to give transparency

Kathrin:

to everyone in the organization about the company's goals and strategy.

Kathrin:

So it was simply not properly communicated.

Kathrin:

So that the staff didn't know about the direction we are heading to as a company.

Kathrin:

It was more of a chance that our COO, Robert, he got in touch with

Kathrin:

the OKR framework and he immediately realized that with the help of OKRs,

Kathrin:

we can overcome our challenges.

Zahra:

Yes.

Zahra:

And that's really great that Robert encountered OKRs, because

Zahra:

once you realize the value of effectively working with OKR, you

Zahra:

understand that it's a multifaceted tool that brings an organization

Zahra:

closer in so many different ways.

Zahra:

And that's simply because it's a medium of communication on all levels,

Zahra:

which solves for that challenge of transparency that you just mentioned.

Zahra:

And it gives everyone in the organization that little bit of clarity, if not a

Zahra:

lot, and that purpose that may have been lacking before and, I've also seen

Zahra:

that it encourages collaboration on all levels and that in itself breaks down

Zahra:

those silos that you just mentioned.

Zahra:

So I think both of us can vouch for the fact that OKR brings a plethora

Zahra:

of benefits to an organization, but we also know very, very well

Zahra:

that achieving those benefits requires some hard work and effort.

Zahra:

So I think you have a lot of insight on this.

Zahra:

So please walk us through the OKR rollout process in your organization

Zahra:

and just give us a little bit of a feel of how it is and what it's all about.

Kathrin:

Yes, I will do so let me think back.

Kathrin:

Well, we all started in summer 2019 and in July and August, 2019, we

Kathrin:

mostly focused on choosing the right tool and define a rollout concept.

Kathrin:

So, we evaluated four OKR tools.

Kathrin:

And we finally chose Perdoo.

Zahra:

That's great.

Kathrin:

Yeah, it is.

Kathrin:

And we are still happy with the decision and , also how to do the roll

Kathrin:

out — we drafted it on a paper and let me walk you through how we did it.

Kathrin:

So first we put together a small team that was responsible for the rollout.

Kathrin:

It was so to say, as a rollout team, it was me being the main responsible

Kathrin:

person as the OKR Ambassador.

Kathrin:

It was the head of HR, Christine at those times, supporting me.

Kathrin:

And for sure, Robert, our COO.

Kathrin:

So, he was strongly involved right from beginning.

Zahra:

That's great.

Kathrin:

Yeah, it was a really big help.

Kathrin:

And, we decided to start then with a small rollout group and this

Kathrin:

rollout group consisted of like five high key performers at Proemion.

Kathrin:

They are all on the lead level and, there were known to be

Kathrin:

critical in a positive sense.

So that is:

they challenge the ideas for management and they

So that is:

ponder and reflect wisely.

So that is:

And they are really strong advisors.

So that is:

And the head of HR Christine and myself, we drafted some inntroduction

So that is:

slides about getting started with OKRs.

So that is:

And then we gave the first introduction meetings about the OKR

So that is:

framework to this rollout group.

So that is:

And this all happened then after summer break in September, 2019.

So that is:

And, after the rollout group , they were then familiar with the idea of

So that is:

the OKR framework and we asked them to draft their first team OKRs in Perdoo

So that is:

and aligned to the company objectives.

So that is:

At this point of time, together with Robert and also with the help of

So that is:

Daniela, she is our Perdoo coach.

So that is:

We already had drafted company OKRs in Perdoo.

So that is:

To be honest, at this point of time, they were not finalized.

So that is:

We wanted to challenge them with the rollout group, but those OKRs

So that is:

were precise enough to ask those teams for the first alignment.

So that is:

Yeah.

So that is:

And, the aim was not to strongly work on the OKRs, but get first experience

So that is:

with thinking about good Key Results, understand the company strategy,

So that is:

challenge the company strategy and give feedback on it and also to become

So that is:

familiar with the Perdoo software.

So that is:

So to summarize, I can say that this was the first milestone being

So that is:

accomplished in the rollout phase, like at the end of October, 2019.

Zahra:

Okay.

Zahra:

So you took a slow gradual approach.

Zahra:

That's usually very important when the organization is completely

Zahra:

new to OKR and that helps in avoiding any pushback that you get.

Zahra:

I think you also took a very good approach in having that team, kind

Zahra:

of work on challenging the company strategy and the company OKRs.

Zahra:

That's always a good way of involving your team and really getting them

Zahra:

as a part of, you know, seeing where the organization is going.

Kathrin:

Exactly, yeah I can, I can strongly say that

Kathrin:

it's not a top down- process.

Kathrin:

It's bottom up and parallel.

Zahra:

And that approach is key in making sure that everyone is on the same page

Zahra:

and in the long run that helps not only teams, but individuals as well in knowing

Zahra:

what they need to do, which aligns essentially with the company strategy.

Kathrin:

Correct.

Zahra:

So you've mentioned that you started in the summer of

Zahra:

2019, and this first milestone was accomplished in October, 2019.

Zahra:

So that was around a four month process, which is in fact great.

Zahra:

And so once you had the process rolled out to that first group, how did you roll

Zahra:

it out to the rest of the organization?

Kathrin:

Yeah, after this, we defined then more rollout groups.

Kathrin:

Teams of each 6 joiners and we trained them on how to get started with OKRs.

Kathrin:

And we also asked them to discuss then with their teams, the OKR

Kathrin:

framework, and makes the teams familiar with the framework.

Kathrin:

I would say that this was a second, milestone being achieved

Kathrin:

successfully at the end of 2019.

Kathrin:

That is that all head offs or group leads and all team leads were now onboarded.

Kathrin:

And we asked them to also strongly involve the teams.

Kathrin:

Christine and I were thinking about offering OKR trainings on team

Kathrin:

level, but, we decided this is not mandatory for the team members.

Kathrin:

So it was only for those teams asking for it.

Kathrin:

And in the end, some teams reached out to us and asked for training

Kathrin:

sessions and some did not.

Zahra:

That's good.

Zahra:

I mean that some did at least.

Kathrin:

Indeed.

Kathrin:

At the beginning of 2020, we had our New Year's breakfast.

Kathrin:

It's quite a famous thing.

Kathrin:

We have it every year in the second week of January, but it was a

Kathrin:

first time that in the New Year's breakfast, everybody was informed

Kathrin:

and updated on the company strategy.

Kathrin:

We opened Perdoo and we went through all the company OKRs and Robert informed our

Kathrin:

employees about the direction and goals.

Kathrin:

And since they all already joined our onboarding sessions, they could

Kathrin:

easily follow and they could easily understand what the company strategy

Kathrin:

is about and how they can align and support with their team OKRs.

Kathrin:

And from that moment on, I would say that the rollout phase could

Kathrin:

be described as being completed.

Kathrin:

So yeah to summarize, I can say that well altogether it took us around eight

Kathrin:

months to roll out the OKR framework.

Kathrin:

At the beginning we spent those two months on our own investigation, and

Kathrin:

then we had a really tough period of six months to do the rollout

Kathrin:

and the trainings with the team.

Kathrin:

And, I must also say that Robert, Christine and I, we did this not

Kathrin:

in full-time, it was an additional project while we were focusing on our

Kathrin:

businesses as usual tasks in parallel.

Zahra:

That's a huge milestone to reach though, Kathrin.

Zahra:

Especially rolling it out at that number of people.

Zahra:

So I'm sure you celebrated that win at the breakfast.

Kathrin:

Yes, we did.

Zahra:

Now you've mentioned that you had a tough period for six months and

Zahra:

you know, OKR is seen as an inherent cultural shift and in a way requires

Zahra:

a switch in mindset to a certain degree to actually be successful.

Zahra:

So tell me a little bit about that tough period that you had and

Zahra:

what were the main challenges that you faced during implementation.

Kathrin:

I remember that at the beginning, some colleagues raised concerns

Kathrin:

about the measurement of Key Results.

Kathrin:

So they asked me how shall we measure our progress if we have no figures

Kathrin:

and idea at all, what we are doing.

Kathrin:

And, another big challenge was to overcome the resistance about

Kathrin:

another tool being introduced.

Kathrin:

So as every company, we have a lot of tools being used for our

Kathrin:

projects, planning and for sharing code and developing code, and

Kathrin:

those teams who already are using those tools every day, they were

Kathrin:

questioning the sense of another tool.

Zahra:

Those are very fair concerns that your colleagues

Zahra:

raised in fact, and I think.

Zahra:

A lot of organizations would feel the same way.

Zahra:

So how exactly did you tackle or overcome those challenges?

Kathrin:

About the measurement of Key Results we communicated that we

Kathrin:

will start with what we have and that we will have to estimate progress.

Kathrin:

So it's more based on gut feeling, let us see how far we will get.

Kathrin:

And then step-by-step, we will better understand what we can achieve and what

Kathrin:

are realistic or even ambitious goals.

Kathrin:

So drafting Key Results is a great means to learn about the

Kathrin:

figures and what you're doing.

Kathrin:

And, another advise is that it's absolutely okay to also draft objectives

Kathrin:

about gaining some figures and get first experience with measurement.

Kathrin:

And to overcome the resistance about the next fancy tool.

Kathrin:

We highlighted again, that we the Perdoo software it's not

Kathrin:

about project management at all.

Kathrin:

It's a goal management tool, which everybody in the company can access.

Kathrin:

So every body can see everything and here it simply helped to stress again the great

Kathrin:

benefit we will all have while aligning our goals to the company strategy.

Zahra:

That's a great approach that you took, especially since

Zahra:

it really takes time to just warm up to such changes and processes.

Zahra:

And with both situations that you encountered it really is

Zahra:

about just getting started and learning with the process.

Zahra:

And as it may become more rooted in how you approach work in general, I believe

Zahra:

the easier and more beneficial it gets.

Zahra:

Now, having said that, with the OKR rollout behind you, what

Zahra:

would you have done differently?

Kathrin:

Well, to be honest, I would start with some great slides about what

Kathrin:

the benefit of the OKR framework is.

Kathrin:

Looking back, I think it was too theoretical to start with those

Kathrin:

theoretical slides and theoretical learnings on the OKR framework.

Kathrin:

And I would start with some great icebreakers about the OKR framework,

Kathrin:

so how it can help us to overcome the organization silo mentality.

Kathrin:

And that it will also be a great help to be more efficient and to have more fun

Kathrin:

working together across the organization.

Kathrin:

With those great icebreakers, people are more curious about, what the

Kathrin:

OKR framework is, then listen to all the little theoretical details.

Kathrin:

And I guess I missed a great ice breaker at the beginning and I

Kathrin:

would do differently next time.

Zahra:

Okay.

Zahra:

And you would do this ice breaker slide session with the entire

Zahra:

organization or with smaller groups?

Kathrin:

With all of them — the entire organization.

Zahra:

Alright, so just have a very holistic introduction to OKR

Zahra:

and then go with the same gradual process that you took initially.

Kathrin:

Exactly.

Kathrin:

And then goes through all this theoretical steps you need to learn, but start with

Kathrin:

some great icebreakers at the beginning.

Zahra:

That's great advice for anyone listening who may just be getting started.

Zahra:

So do take note, as it may be helpful in getting that buy-in from everyone

Zahra:

that will be working with OKR.

Zahra:

And perhaps even by highlighting the benefits from the get-go, you

Zahra:

may avoid any additional resistance to adopting the framework.

Zahra:

Anyway with having overcome all of this and now with OKR being well integrated

Zahra:

into your organization, what changes has OKR brought to your organization?

Kathrin:

Oh, well, there are some.

Kathrin:

So first we started to think about outcomes instead of outputs.

Kathrin:

And this is really new because it was always usual to think about

Kathrin:

things that need to be done instead of questioning the business outcome.

Kathrin:

And, it's actually a big change, which drives our

Kathrin:

business in the right direction.

Kathrin:

Yeah and another big change is that, now everybody is updated about the

Kathrin:

company strategy and also about how the company will measure success.

Kathrin:

And this transparency did not exist before at all.

Kathrin:

Now our management is also forced to focus on a couple of strategic objectives,

Kathrin:

which is great because we focus on the essential goals we need to achieve.

And in terms of changes:

now with Perdoo we also have a tool where all teams

And in terms of changes:

can align in shared Objectives and they can work together for a quarter.

And in terms of changes:

And this is pretty nice in Perdoo because you can define owners and contributors

And in terms of changes:

and you can allocate different key results to different owners, all under

And in terms of changes:

the umbrella of a shared Objective.

And in terms of changes:

And this gives great transparency on what is expected: from whom?

And in terms of changes:

For what reason?

And in terms of changes:

Let me think about change.

And in terms of changes:

Yeah.

And in terms of changes:

So you mentioned this cultural shift and to regarding how OKR can help

And in terms of changes:

changing the company's culture.

And in terms of changes:

I can say that OKR is really a great communication tool.

And in terms of changes:

So at Proemion, we are happy to see slowly a cultural shift happening that is

teams:

they talk to each other frequently.

teams:

They reach out to each other to ask for help.

teams:

They align on shared OKRs and we definitely are leaving

teams:

the silo mentality behind.

teams:

So this is done.

teams:

And well, as the ambassador, I have slowly pushed for that change and I'm

teams:

more than happy about the cultural shift that OKR is bringing to us.

teams:

So you might know that cultural shift, they are so hard to achieve

teams:

and now we can see it happen.

Zahra:

That's great.

Kathrin:

Yeah, it is.

Kathrin:

Well, and last, but not least.

Kathrin:

It's pretty nice that in Perdoo, everybody can see everything and we can all

Kathrin:

update ourselves on what other teams are focusing on and what the results are.

Kathrin:

And this is also a big change, which came with the introduction

Kathrin:

of the OKR framework.

Zahra:

That's so great, Kathrin.

Zahra:

Also, you can finally say that after all the effort and challenges that the

Zahra:

outcome was and is positive and I'm sure being the OKR ambassador, this is

Zahra:

a great achievement for you alone, to kind of see your organization pulling

Zahra:

in the same direction and in fact, benefiting from it on a large scale.

Zahra:

Yeah.

Zahra:

I don't want to keep you too much longer, but before we end this episode, what

Zahra:

would be your number one advice for those who are looking to implement OKR,

Kathrin:

You definitely need C-level management to support the roll out

Kathrin:

and stand behind your OKR concept.

Kathrin:

So without a great help of our COO, Robert, the rollout team

Kathrin:

would have not been successful.

Kathrin:

So the OKR framework must be part of the management DNA and

Kathrin:

then you will be successful.

Kathrin:

Definitely.

Zahra:

So C-level buy-in is a must have.

Zahra:

Yes.

Zahra:

Thank you so much, Kathrin.

Zahra:

I myself have learnt so much from your insights and I'm sure

Zahra:

everyone listening has too.

Zahra:

If anything, you've given those starting off with OKR a little bit of security

Zahra:

in knowing that yes, it does take time and perseverance to successfully

Zahra:

implement OKR, but just hold tight and the outcome will be positive.

Zahra:

So now I'd just like to summarize the key takeaways from your experience.

Zahra:

So, first of all, a step-by-step gradual rollout to small groups work

Zahra:

very well for your organization, right?

Kathrin:

Yes, that's correct.

Zahra:

And yes, you did encounter challenges around using another tool and

Zahra:

measuring progress using Key Results, through which you overcame those by a.

Zahra:

Reinforcing the benefits of working with OKR and a related tool to help you

Zahra:

visualize your strategy and your goals and help you collaborate on a larger scale.

Zahra:

And for the second challenge it was to get started, even if it meant

Zahra:

just starting with the Objectives.

Zahra:

And if you could have done something differently, it would have been

Zahra:

to introduce the idea and benefits of OKR to your organization as a

Zahra:

whole, from the very beginning, before the actual rollout process.

Zahra:

In terms of benefits, you've seen transparency, the company as a whole

Zahra:

is pulling in the same direction.

Zahra:

Better communication and collaboration and an overall cultural shift.

Zahra:

Yes.

Zahra:

This is a graduate process, but you have seen it begin and not to forget executive

Zahra:

buy-in is crucial for a successful.

Kathrin:

It is.

Kathrin:

Yep.

Zahra:

And now that brings us to the end of this episode.

Zahra:

Thank you so much again, Kathrin for being here and thank you all for listening.

Kathrin:

Thank you Zahra for the nice podcast, it was really

Kathrin:

a pleasure to talk to you.

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About the Podcast

Goal Diggers: OKR, KPIs, strategy, and growth.
A podcast on strategy, goals (OKRs & KPIs), and growth.
Goal Diggers is a podcast on strategy, goals, and growth.

With the industry’s experts and greatest thought-leaders, we'll cover topics on Objectives & Key Results (OKRs), Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), strategy and everything in-between.

This podcast is brought to you by Perdoo: The OKR platform used by tomorrow's market leaders to turn strategy into results.

For more information about Perdoo, head over to: www.perdoo.com.

About your host

Profile picture for Zahra Currimbhoy

Zahra Currimbhoy

As a part of the marketing team at Perdoo and having worked with goals, especially the OKR framework, for a little over 1.5 years now, I couldn’t be happier to bring you insights on helping you and your organization in being successful!