Team Management

How To Use OKRs In A Remote Team


As part of our remote working series, today we explore a topic that is crucial to evaluate a remote team: goal and performance tracking.

We’ll talk about this by exploring how the OKRs methodology applies to a remote setting, and how to implement it correctly.

Let’s dive in!

First things first: What does OKRs mean?

I’ll borrow a definition of OKR from Weekdone, a SaaS solution designed specifically for tracking :

Objectives and Key Results (OKR) is a popular management strategy for goal setting within organizations. The purpose of OKRs are to connect company, team, and personal goals to measurable results while having all team members and leaders work together in one, unified direction.

Goals give people direction and motivation to move forward. To make sure these goals don’t end up actually impossible or unreasonable (resulting in undermining all the team’s efforts), leaders and managers must be very attentive in the goal-setting phase.

The SMART framework for goal setting is a starting point in defining the characteristic the goals should have to be actually attainable:

smart acronym
Learn more about SMART goals here

The OKR methodology takes it to a new level by putting the goal in the company context and in relation to each other. The objectives are the main goals that need to be achieved, while the key results are the metrics to keep an eye on to make sure the objective is within reach.

okr examples
Image source:

Should Remote Teams Use OKRs?

If you’re a manager o CEO in a remote team, you’ve probably trying to choose the best way to track goal and performance.

Is the OKRs methodology the right choice for a remote team?

To be honest, a lot depends on the team itself, the structure, what product/service you make, and the context of work.

It’s hard to make a blanket statement and say that OKR is a “one-size-fits-all” for all remote teams.

However, this methodology brings a series of benefits that apply well to the remote context:

  • Every goal and metric is clearly defined
    If the team is remote, clarity is crucial to make sure all team members are on the same page. OKRs make it clearer than ever what are the objectives and expectations for the team;
  • It’s easier to report on progress
    With the communication in remote teams often taking place asynchronously, it’s not possible to constantly check in with the team and see what progress has been made. Tracking OKR makes it easier to see progress and changes in the metrics;
  • Easier to analyze and adjust
    While the team works, if one specific metric doesn’t move or it moves negatively, those changes will stand out immediately and you’ll be able to reset the course;
  • All metrics are in one place
    Thanks to OKRs tracking software, which is most usually cloud-based solutions, all the data is easily accessible for managers and team members alike.

How to implement OKRs in your remote team

The Timeneye team went remote during the COVID19 pandemic, and coincidentally this is the year we decided to implement OKRs for the first time.

These are the steps we’ve followed in the last few months, which I think will work for any manager of a remote team.

Step #1:  Set the main Objectives

First thing first, you have to select your main objective(s).

To do so, you basically have to answer the question:

“What needs to be accomplished?”

The answer to this question will be your objective. When you select the objective for the team, make sure it’s aligned with the company goals.

Your objectives can vary depending on the type of business you’re in. Let’s say, for example, that you’re working at a SaaS company trying to make the business profitable. One objective can be:

Increase Monthly Recurring Revenue by 20%

Ideally, you should have no more than 3 objectives at the time.

Step #2: Set the Key results

If “What needs to be done” is the objective,

“How am I going to get this done ?”

is the key result. Basically, it’s metrics you’ll have to check to make sure you’ve achieved your objective.

If we go back to the SaaS example, some key results from our MRR objective could be:

Increase trial to paid conversion rate by X
Have at least 1000 monthly leads

And so on.

Step #3: Share with the team

Remote teams rely on communication and trust.

Your team members should always be aware of the team's (and company's) objectives and what’s expected from them. It’s crucial that you share your thoughts on the goals before and after you have created them. Not only it will support a culture of transparency but you’ll also get some feedback on the attainability of the goals from other people.

Make sure your team understands their role in the bigger picture of the company goals, and empower them to manage and update their progress.

Step #4: use a goal-tracking tool

Tracking is a fundamental part of any goals strategy, even more so with the ORKr.

There are a lot of software solutions out there to easily gather share and track OKR. If you’re part of a remote team, make sure to choose a tool that’s accessible online and easy to use.

In Timeneye, for example, we have been using Koan, which has a useful “Weekly reflection” feature that we use to update our weekly progress. Other popular tools for OKRs tracking are Weekdone, Perdoo, and Gtmhub.

Since you won’t be able to just walk to your teammates’ desk and watch them work (which you shouldn’t do anyway, but that’s another story), you can track the progression of their work using a time tracking tool.

Timeneye helps you see how your team has been allocating their time, keeping track of deadlines and time constraints.

project time monitoring
A Team report in Timeneye, that you can use to keep an eye on the team’s productivity

Step #5: track, review, and adjust

Now you can start tracking how the team’s doing!

  • Don’t micromanage the team, instead, let them update their own goals weekly:
  • Schedule team check-ins so that everybody gets updated on the work progression;
  • “Weekly reflections” will help commit the team to keep everybody else updated, and also quickly report potential troubles/setbacks;
  • Run periodic reviews and reports on how the team’s doing and prepare to adjust your OKRs.

How do you track goals in your team? Let us know in the comments!

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