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OKR Cadence: 6 super easy tips to set it right

OKR cadence is the fuel of the OKR framework. Read this blog to get super easy tips to set the right OKR cadence
Sagrika Mehta

Sagrika Mehta

OKR Cadence

OKR cadence is important for OKR success. It’s a fact most of us know. But what is OKR cadence and how to achieve it is known by a few. 

We see executive leaders, CEOs, and COSs center all their focus on building a perfect OKR framework for their organization. And expect it to run smooth. But that’s not always the case.

When it comes to implementing and maintaining the framework they often fall on their faces. And then you get to hear them things like “ OKRs are useless” or “OKRs are not for us”. In most of these cases, OKRs fail because leaders fail to recognize and establish an OKR cadence. 

Click here to read why it is crucial to use OKRs for hypergrowth, remote teams, and startups

What is OKR cadence? 

If we look into the dictionary meaning of the term ‘cadence’, it’s “a sequence of notes or chords comprising the close of a musical phrase.” OKR cadence in this sense implies establishing a rhythmical effect in which the OKR framework runs in your organization. 

Imagine you have just bought a very expensive car say, Rolls Royce. Will that be enough to help you move from one place to another? 

Of course not. right? You will need fuel to help the engine move. 

OKR cadences are the fuel of the OKR framework. It makes the system (engine)  run smoothly and helps your organization (your Rolls Royce) move from where you are to a higher point. 

With OKR cadence, you can create an OKR system of continuous, steady, and committed progress. 

Cadences basically fine-tune the frequency with which your teams and organization set and review their OKRs.

Click Here to read about How to Roll Out OKRs for the First Time

How can OKR cadence bring 10x results to your organization?

OKR Cadence

OKR cadence can have a positive impact on your organization. 

 Here are 5 ways in which it brings 10x results to your organization-

  • Adapt the program to their culture and unique business situations.
  • Maintain continuity and create scope for continuous learning.
  • Keeps the fire burning and drives employees for better results.
  • It makes the process of reviewing and updating OKRs a part of how the company runs.
  • It automates cooperation and accountability in the organization.

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Short OKR cadence or long OKR cadence?

With short OKR Cadence, you break larger goals into smaller tasks. It helps teams stay less overwhelmed and always on track. It makes the OKR framework more fluid and creative. It keeps employees engaged and motivated.

Companies, with less uncertainty, are more likely to rock a longer cadence to reach their goals. In that case,  cadence has to be maintained consistently across all teams or departments.

“…If your business deals with uncertainty or your market change too quickly, longer OKR cycles will not help you.” Felipe Castro

You can also choose a middle ground and mix both. And go for “dual cadence” You can strive for a longer OKR cadence at the company level and keep the teams and departmental OKRs more agile and flowing.

How to set the right OKR cadence?

Here’s a list of 6 best practices to set the right OKR cadence-

1Understand your requirements

Depending on the type and scale of business the OKR cadence will vary.  For example, some startups might require to roll out monthly OKR cycles. While organizations with business stability will need a longer OKR cycle.

OKR cadence will also depend on the stage of your business, the goals, the role of the employee. You also need to understand industry dynamics. If the market you are in has the tendency of disruption, shorter cycles will work best for you.

2Find the right frequency

Cadence also refers to the frequency of OKRs. How frequently should your OKR cycles be?-  Annual, quarterly, or monthly?

The answer to “how often?” depends on your company vision and goals. While some objectives can be attained within a quarter some goals require a longer period of time to achieve.

Establishing OKR cadence requires planning. And planning takes time. More frequent cycles (like monthly or weekly), therefore, can quickly become overwhelming.

You can therefore start with a nested approach for OKR cadence. Set the strategy and strategic priorities first. You can set the bigger goals as objectives for annual cycles. And break those high-end goals into small parts as objectives for the quarterly cycles. 

3Have an OKR champion

Establish OKRS cadence teams first need to be educated on OKRs and how the framework work. OKR champions will do the work for you. They make the OKR cycles function smoothly and drive the entire process to help you get optimum results.

Coordination and alignment are necessary to establish OKR cadence. You can therefore build a group of OKR champions who will work as representatives of their respective teams and get the job done for you.

Click Here to check: Essential Guide for OKR Champions in 2022

4Be Flexible

Don’t strictly stick to rules. As what has worked for others might not do the magic for you. Make your OKR framework Flexible and forgiving to achieve cadence.

Start simple and keep updating the process as you learn. Make “Trial and error” your friend.

If you are an organization new to OKRs, adapting an incremental rollout can help you establish the cadence from the very beginning. Shorter cadences also work wonders when you are just starting out. And then move towards longer cycles as you learn. Flexibility won’t let your teams feel overburdened.

5Establish STC

STC refers to Strategic cadence, Tactical cadence followed by Check-ins. Each requires a unique rhythmical pattern to establish OKR cadence. And thus needs to be treated differently. 

A strategic cadence is achieved with the long-term OKRs of the organization. This high-level OKRs help you see the bigger picture.

Tactical goals are set at the team and departmental levels. These OKRs usually change at a much faster pace. Hence they tend to be shorter cadences.

As Salim Ismail wrote in his book, Exponential Organizations: organizations are now shifting towards high-frequency OKRs, i.e. “a target per week, month, or quarter for each individual or team”

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 For example, Spotify uses strategic cadence for six months cycles and tactical OKR cadence for six weeks cycles.

Check-ins- provides an opportunity for course correction. It helps in evaluating the status progress of OKRs. You can also get hold of how confident your employees are regarding OKRs.

You can also capture what is holding people back and what doesn’t need any change. To establish the right check-ins cadence, it’s also important to make the system transparent so that employees have access to the pulse of performance.

6Establish OKR meeting cadence

OKR check-ins

OKR meeting cadence facilitates the process. It helps you make sure everything is going well and everyone’s on the same page. If not, you get the chance to make changes before things get out of your hands.

You can have a daily OKR meeting cadence to establish a system of sharing information, coordinate daily activities, and find out issues that need immediate attention. The fast you deal with this issue is the smaller they will be.

In weekly OKR meetings, you can review the key results and evaluate the progress. Weekly meetings are also helpful to monitor actions and assign/ allocate work. It lets you check and follow- to make sure the jobs are done well. It also helps you tackle important issues arising at the moment. 

Monthly OKR meetings help you set the operational cadence to solve issues, review data, and understand the long-term implications of OKRs. In monthly meetings, all the major decisions are taken. And new initiatives are proposed to refine the OKRs if needed.

Quarterly meeting cadence can help you improve the strategic management process. In the quarterly meetings, the overall strategy is reviewed. You also get to find out what’s working and what’s not. You can then use your lessons learned to define OKRs for the next quarterly cycle.

Conclusion

Finding the right OKR cadence can be tricky. Mostly because there is no ‘one size fits all. Moreover different goals have different styles and paces of rhythm. You need to find out what best works for your organization. And create your own goal structure. You must customize OKRs cadences and shape them as per your requirements. 

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