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How to run an OKR workshop | Free agenda + checklist

Updated: April 25, 2023

A great OKR comes from a great OKR workshop. We're setting the tone for the quarter, so we want to make sure we get the right OKRs, make it a load of fun and equip you with everything you need to run it with confidence.

This ultimate guide covers everything you need to do before, during and after your OKR Workshop. I’ve broken it down for you as it is a little bit different depending if you’re setting a Company OKR or Team OKR. Get ready to run a killer OKR workshop!

Preparing for your OKR workshop

Set your OKR workshop up for success by getting the foundations right. Here’s a few things you’ll want to do in advance, regardless of whether you’re running this workshop to set a company or team OKR:

  1. Pre-work: Send out the pre-work below. It's slightly different for executive teams vs other teams.
  2. Educate: Get the team familiar with supporting material, such as the OKR Cheatsheet or our free on demand OKR training.
  3. Location: We want to spark as much creativity as possible. Getting everyone out of the office is one of the best ways to do this. Exec teams often have the budget to book a location offsite. Regardless, if you don't have the cash find a local quiet space you can meet. Plenty of cafes have quiet areas to have meetings.
  4. Invite: Consider who needs to attend the workshop. It's not always just the team members. If you need help from other teams or individuals, it's not a bad idea inviting them.
  5. Have your kit ready: Have everything set up to facilitate, with either your virtual facilitation space or sharpies and post its for something in person. When doing this in-person, get the OKR Facilitation Kit to make your OKR setting a breeze.

There can be a lot to remember. It can be a little easier using the OKR Setting Checklist to keep track of everything and making sure you're prepared.

Pre-work: Company level OKR Workshop

You're setting an OKR for the business when running an OKR workshop with your executive team. This requires a different approach to setting OKRs with teams as you need to be having the right discussions in advance.

Company OKR workshop Pre-work:

  • Bubble up priorities: Talk to your team members in advance to identify key priorities and problems to solve. Pro tip: If they run a large team, consider running a survey to capture the priorities.
  • Draft an objective: Draft an Objective for the quarter based on what you believe is most important. This must answer the question of “If nothing were to be achieved this quarter except for one thing, what would that need to be?”
  • Target metric idea: Capture what you believe is the most important target we need to achieve this quarter for your objective.

Pre-work: Team level OKR Workshop

If you’re running the OKR workshop for your team, you’ll need to take a slightly different approach to running it for the company. That said, the agenda outlined below is basically the same. You’ll want to make sure the team is clear in their head regarding what is most important to them.

Team OKR workshop Pre-work:

  • Review the company OKR: Review the company OKR prior to our workshop. Consider how we can contribute to this OKR. Also consider whether there are other priorities which need to address.
  • Draft an objective: Following the reflection above, draft an Objective for the quarter. This is based on what you believe is most important. The Objective answers the question: “If nothing were to be achieved this quarter except for one thing, what would that need to be?"

Get your head in the game with these facilitation principles

On top of the usual pre work, you’ll want to get yourself ready. Be in the zone ready to lead a killer workshop. Here’s my 5 principles for running an incredible workshop:

  1. Prepare for success – Be organised and make sure the team has done the pre-thinking.
  2. Bring energy to the room – Your role is to lift everyone up and get them engaged.
  3. Invitation to contribute and balance power – For some people, speaking in front of a large group can be pretty terrifying. Your role as the facilitator is to encourage open discussion and be conscious where power imbalances get in the way of good discussion.
  4. Equal contribution and share of voice – It’s also critical to ensure everyone gets a say and are actively participating. Ask powerful questions to have everyone contribute. If an individual really doesn’t want to talk, sit with them or buddy them up to ensure their ideas are captured!
  5. Consensus without solving everything – Time is limited and we can’t action everyone’s idea. In any workshop, move fast, capture deeper discussions for follow up afterward and regardless of personal opinion, align on the path ahead. Amazon do this best with their “Disagree and commit” approach to differing of opinions.

The OKR Workshop Agenda

Here's a typical OKR Workshop Agenda. To get the most out of it you'll really want to tweak it to suit your needs. Adding your own flair makes it a lot more fun for the team and will result in everyone getting more value out of it.

Speaking of fun, don't make the OKR session a high-pressure workshop. Not everything needs to be perfected! Think of it this way: The magic is in the contributions from the team, the art is refining the OKR after the workshop.

Coming out of the session with a draft OKR will feel more successful than a perfectly crafted but half done OKR. Keep the pace moving and capture everyones input.

Workshop time: 2-3 hours, but allow more time for additional activities.

When: Ideally 2-3 weeks before start of quarter

Example OKR Workshop Agenda

We have a lot to cover in the OKR Goal Setting Workshop, so we'll want ensure we've done the right preparation and keep everyone on point during the session. Use the following agenda points as a guideline, while being careful to not fall rabbit holes. The best way to handle deep dive discussions which do not need to be solved immediately is to capture them in a "Parking lot" for follow up after the meeting.

Your OKR Goal Setting Workshop should be broken down as follows:

  1. Score previous quarter and discuss outcomes (20 minutes)
  2. Retrospective on lessons learned (20 minutes)
  3. Break – 15 minutes
  4. OKR setting for the next cycle – 2 - 3 hours  
    1. Discuss strategic priorities - 30 minutes
    2. Define the objective for the 6 weeks - 45 minutes
    3. Identify Key Results for the objective - 45 minutes
    4. Identify key initiatives needed to deliver on the OKR - 30 minutes
  5. Communications plan – 20 minutes
  6. Close & retrospective on the day – 20 minutes

How to run an OKR Workshop with Miro

We run a very similar style OKR workshop with our team, regardless of wether it's in person or distributed. In this video, I explain exactly how we do it.

Breaking down the OKR setting

This activity will generally take about two hours. It seems like a large time investment, but remember: You’re engaging your people with purpose. This will engage your people and cut noise, saving a huge amount of time throughout the quarter.


1. Create “What we need to achieve” statements

These are your objectives. If each team member has done this in advance, you can move pretty quickly. Ask each team member to share their objective one at the time. Be clear about what a great OKR looks like. Make sure they’re time bound to be completed for this quarter. The OKR Cheatsheet can give people a guide for what good looks like. Keep them moving fast and avoid going into detail.

A powerful question to ask them is “If nothing were to be achieved, except one thing, what would it be?” This is much more powerful than asking what is most important as it forces people to take pause. Everything is important, but this question makes us ask what really is important.

Ask them to write it on a post it note or digital whiteboard if remote. Ask them to group common objectives into themes. This is a technique taken form Design Thinking (an innovation framework) known as affinity mapping.


2. Vote on the most impactful statement

Give everyone 3 votes to choose on which Objective has the biggest impact and is most critical. They can vote how they wish: spread their vote across cards or put it all on one topic.

Allow the group to vote on affinity themes rather than specific cards. As long as the outcome is clear, we only need to be clear on voting for intent.


3. Write the top voted statement as an Objective

Make this a fast activity. Don’t try and wordsmith the objective, that’s an activity a few people can do after the session. If you’re choosing a group of objective statements in an affinity, simply choose the topic which best resembles the intent.


4. Objective story exercise

This may seem a little left field, but stick with me here. OKR is intended to connect us with purpose. This requires clarity of the why behind the OKR and our work. Bringing meaning to your objective with a story is one of the most powerful ways to do this.

There’s many ways to do this activity, but here’s the simple version using the template below. We’re using a format called Think, Pair, Share:

  • Think: Individually, reflect on the template below taking a focus on who this OKR will benefit. Ideally this is the customer! What they’re trying to achieve, what’s getting in the way of this and how the OKR will address this problem or opportunity.
  • Pair: Ask the team to discuss their thoughts with the person next to them, and fill out the template below. This will spark some creativity and help bubble up the most engaging stories.
  • Share: Now each pair has had a chance to discuss, it’s time for them to share their stories to the broader group. Simply have each pair share their story with the broader group. Keeping the pace is critical here, so make sure you limit the pairs to share their story in one or two minutes.

Now we’re connected with the why behind our OKR, let’s create some Key Results


5. Ideate measures and targets for the Objective

When it comes to writing good quality Key Results, there is a real art and science to it. It’s probably the second biggest mistake when it comes to OKR (the first being failures in change management).

We’ve spoken about what it is create a high quality Key Result, so here’s the really really short version:

  • Make sure they’re measures, ideally from a baseline and going to a target. Example: Increase the reorder rate from 45% to 70% for San Fran Small Business.
  • They should be about challenging ourselves, but achievable. You’ll want to achieve about 70% of your Key Results on average.
  • Indicate progress with leading indicators, it should be a metric you can move throughout the quarter. This is how you know you’re heading down the right track.

Ask the team to write down Key Results ideas, making sure they follow these guidelines to write the best possible Key Results. We’re also want to capture how we’ll measure the Key Result. It may sound obvious, but so often we see Key Results set, with no way to measure them. Simply capture the data source or report where the metrics can be derived from. It’s ok if that source doesn’t exist. We just need to call that out!

The aim of the game here is to draw out as many good Key Result ideas as you can. Keep prompting the group as to write good quality Key Results, but also ask for volume. Once we have a bunch of options, we can choose the right Key Results for us!


6. Vote on the best metrics

Using the same method as voting for the objective and grouping them into affinity maps, give the team some time to vote on the Key Result. If there is a lot of varied ideas and groups, give them some time to review and ask any questions they might have.

Once everyone has voted, you should have a pretty good idea of what you Key Results will be. The risk here, is that during the exercise group think has kicked in an we’ve missed some good ideas. Ask the group if there is anything we’ve missed or anything they think we should add. Remind them we’re setting the tone for the cycle ahead, so we’ll want to get this right! It needs to be exciting, engaging and meaningful!

Let’s capture all this as our OKR!


7. Draft your OKR

We don’t want to spend too much time on this during the session, but we do want to come out with the best OKR possible for the time we have. So take a moment to draft the OKR and discuss whether it reflects what’s most important and passes the pub test.

What’s the pub test? Well if you’re at the pub sipping on your favourite beer, and you tell a friend within the company what your OKR is, do they get excited? Does it sound interesting and inspiring? If not, back to the drawing board! If it does hit the mark, the final step is to work out what we’re going to do to achieve the OKR.


8. Identify activities (initiatives, tasks, anything else)

This is where you capture all of the key activities you think is needed to achieve the OKR. It can include projects, tasks, actions or anything else which is needed to deliver on that OKR.

Remember, the OKR represents the outcome. If the work we’re doing is not delivering on the outcome, then we need to revisit the plan. Adjust your approach needed to achieve the OKR.


Once the OKR Workshop is finished

You might as well give up on your OKR right now if you don’t have buy in. Time to build up this good will! After the OKR workshop, make sure you’re ready to communicate out the OKR and seek feedback on it.

Be sure to make changes to the OKR based on the feedback you receive. If you’re setting the OKR as a team (rather than for the company) make sure you connect with other teams you’re working with.

You’ll want to have your OKR in a relatively final / stable state by 2 weeks into the OKR cycle. Yes, it doesn’t need to be perfect at the start of the quarter! Once you’ve kicked off your OKR, you need to embed it into your operating rhythm by checking in on it weekly!


Embed your OKR: Weekly confidence score

You need to be living and breathing your OKR if you’re going to achieve it. You’ll want to be checking in on your OKR as a team by doing a confidence vote on each Key Result on a weekly basis. This is where each team member gives a score against each Key Result on how likely they believe we are to achieve each Key Result. This can simply be emojis:

😊 = Looking good,

🧐= It needs focus,

😣 = Not looking good – we need help!

or done on a scale of 0.0 to 1.

This is one of the biggest tips to making OKR successful. Even if you set the wrong OKR, checking in weekly will let you identify the issue and correct it sooner. Check out our complete guide on weekly OKR check-ins.

Bonus: 5 tips for making your workshop a load of fun

The outcome from the workshop is obviously the top priority. The reality is if you want to be invited to facilitate in the future, you’ll want to make the session a lot of fun. Here’s our top 5 tips:

  1. Bring energy to the room! It’s your role as the facilitator ⚡ 
  2. Run an icebreaker and bring the learning back to the purpose of the day
  3. Use virtual breakout rooms to stimulate discussion (format: Think, Pair & Share)
  4. Use a prop (physical item) to make a point or remind people of something (eg a troll as a reminder not to talk over each other)
  5. Have live polls / quizzes & temperature checks throughout!


Taking this further

This should give you the foundation for running an incredible OKR Workshop. All it takes is the right preparation, a clear agenda and following up with an operating rhythm that scores your OKR weekly.

If you’d like to learn more about facilitating OKR for teams, then check out our Free Online OKR Training or if you’re looking for additional support, check out our OKR Quick Start to get rolling with OKR quickly or Contact us for OKR coaching.

Finally - use this cheat sheet

Give it to your participants - it will make your OKR workshop so much easier!