Intel Corporation is well renowned for being the cradle of the Objectives & Key Results (OKR) movement. Andy Grove, then CEO of Intel, introduce OKRs in 1968 and ushered in an era of incredible innovation and success.
In this exclusive interview with an ex-Intel leader of 10.5 years Edwin Manica, we explore what are his 7 most impactful OKR tips for enabling success within your organisation.
Before we get into it, it’s worth noting Intel applies OKRs at the individual level, rather than team level.
1. Objectives alignment with company values
Done well, company values empower employees to create radical outcomes while behaving like one. At Intel, every objective must align with, and make meaningful progress on the company’s values. Aligning each objective to a value, you’re creating a supercharged recipe where employee success demands that everyone is living the values.
Intel has 7 values (Quality, risk-taking, and an inclusive great place to work, discipline, customer orientation and results orientation), which means that not every value can be represented at once. This gives focus, allowing leadership to double down on certain values where the need arises.
2. Consistency of cadence and structure
OKRs are set in a consistent cadence with a consistent structure at Intel. This both reduces the overhead of setting the OKRs and increases ease of understanding. OKRs are communicated during a company and divisional town halls, ensuring clarity and alignment between teams.
3. Align execution to your OKRs
Each Intel team member creates a document with their OKRs, capturing the key initiatives they are planning on working on in order to achieve them. This creates a document into a “Statement of Work” between the team member and the team leader. With their goals aligned to execution, team members have an ultimate plan for success in that quarter.
With clarity on the planned work, team leads can ensure the team member is set up for success, with impediments unblocked. This document is updated monthly and aligned across all team members working on the same initiative. Thought such a mechanism even separate chip plants can be aligned.
4. Embed OKR discussions in your one on ones
Intel leaders coach their team members to create incredible outcomes by coaching their staff on OKR execution. Unlike traditional performance management plans which are created and forgotten about for 12 months, team members at Intel actively measure their success using OKRs. This increases the likelihood of radical outcomes while ensuring the values are lived.
5. Incentives balanced between Individual and Team performance
At SKILLFIRE, we’re strong believers in setting team-based goals. Intel, however, has found success in setting the OKRs at the individual level. They’ve not forgotten the criticality of teamwork. Intel incentivises staff with financial rewards based on both the individual’s OKRs being successfully met, as well as the team-based goals. The greatest proportion of their financial incentives are based on individual performance, however, failure of the team means the failure of each individual.
Drawing focus on team success ensures team members contribute to the greater good of the organisation, rather than their individual needs. Further, Intel is very careful at choosing incentivised OKRs, as this has time and again shown to create undesired consequences.
6. Score OKRs one on one
If you’ve been exploring OKRs for some time, you’ll understand the concept of scoring with an average success rate of 70%. At Intel, it’s no different. Often, there is a subjective element to OKRs (even where they have clear metrics), therefore it’s important this is done in conjunction with others. At Intel, the team lead sits with each of their team members to score the OKR at the end of the quarter.
7. Consistency by Quarter
It’s difficult to make meaningful progress in a quarter. This is where Intel maintains consistency of themes behind each objective in a manner which creates focus on the company values and strategy until the opportunity is obtained.
Bonus Tip: Don’t set them annually
You may have heard people describe the modern business and political landscape as “VUCA”. This stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous, which in brief, reflects the rapidly changing nature of the world. Intel understands this better than anyone and therefore set OKRs quarterly.
Curious to explore OKRs at your company or individually? We love all OKR things, so feel free to reach out for a chat!