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How the OKR Playback aligns your business

Updated: July 7, 2022

Working together to achieve what matters most should be a priority for everyone right? Without alignment that's quite often not the case. Teams end up solving problems in isolation or are reliant on other teams to make progress and end up waiting endlessly.

This challenge is a common reason why organisations turn to OKR. Particularly as they scale and the work becomes more complex. The problem is that OKR does not in itself solve the issue of alignment. It's the forums and discussions which draw out the right discussions which build alignment.

Misalignment raises it's head in 3 ugly ways:

  1. Wasting time - Teams are not clear on current priorities of the organisation and focus on low value work.
  2. Dependencies - Teams are stuck waiting for other teams' help and fail to progress their goals.
  3. Duplication - Multiple teams solving the same problem in different ways.

Does alignment really help?

We know how important it is to work on the right things and solve them in an effective manner. Simply put, avoiding duplication of effort and coordinating execution of projects and plans across the organisation. The result is faster delivery, less wasted effort/abandoned work and ultimately better outcomes. Not only that, but we find it lifts engagement and team performance.

According to Gallup, when teams are aligned and engaged, the whole business sees benefits. This includes increased productivity, faster decision making, improved communication, higher staff engagement and increased agility to respond to external forces.


Aligning with the OKR Playback

The aim of the OKR Playback session is for teams share and seek feedback on their OKRs and validate the plan with leadership. This ensures alignment and allows the leadership team to validate the plan. It is expected that the team’s OKR is not finalised at this point. The closer to being completed the better, but don’t aim for perfection. It's more important to get the right discussions happening.

Collectively discussing OKRs and the supporting work plans allows us to addresses the 3 ugly faces of misalignment:

  1. Confirming the plan - Teams share their OKR and the associated plan giving leadership and other stakeholders to confirm the team's plan is fit for purpose.
  2. Identify dependencies - Teams share what areas they're dependent on and their plan to collaborate to achieve the outcome. What if a team isn't aware of a dependency? Well this forum acts as a catch all to ensure dependencies have been uncovered.
  3. Collaboration - Where common themes appear between teams, we can join forces to maximise outcomes. 

During the playback, each OKR Champion or Team lead will have a few minutes to talk about their OKR and why it’s important. Feedback & questions will be captured throughout the session for follow up offline. 

Who attends the OKR Playback?

You'll want to consider how you get as much of the business involved as possible to maximise the benefits. It's best when the whole business meets, but for large organisations you may need to limited it to one department at a time.

The team lead or OKR Champion typically presents their Team's OKR, so it's critical for them to attend. While it's not mandatory for all staff to be present, it can be a good idea to invite them in case they're like to listen in and contribute.

If you're doing this for a single department, it's important for key leaders and stockholders from across the business to be present.

The OKR Playback agenda

Each team will share their OKR by answering the questions below. Depending on the size of your company or department, you'll have approximately 5 - 7 minutes per team. Just make sure you allow enough time for open discussion and Q&A at the end.

Here's how the session is structured:

  • Executive team recap on the company OKR along with any changes
  • Each OKR Champ presents their OKR, covering:
    • How do you see your team contributing to the company OKR? If not able to align, what’s your reasoning?
    • What are your OKRs for the quarter?
    • What are the key activities planned to achieve the OKR?
    • Who are you dependent on?
    • Ask for feedback or dependency callouts
  • Close: Wrap up with a brief Q&A and summary of next steps