New Work may be one of the most pressing topics of our time. It will probably have a significant impact on your life during the course of the next few years.
The boundaries between work and life will become increasingly blurred.
Optimistically-speaking, people will be able to organize their time in a way that ensures their private lives don’t suffer from work (and vice versa). That’s due to concepts such as flexible working hours, job sharing, and remote working. Essentially, these are all New Work models that focus on a greater degree of trust, openness, and transparency.
One of the most important factors when implementing New Work concepts — if not the most important factor — is good leadership.
And as a leader, it eventually comes down to two things: motivating people and ensuring they have everything they need in order to achieve their goals.
Goals cannot simply come from the top-down.
Employees need to develop their own goals and align them with both the company goals and other teams. For that to work well, management needs to share the long-term vision, mission, and strategic path of the company.
Only then can employees clearly define their goals in a way that aligns with the bigger picture. At last, everybody can focus on their goals and work towards them independently.
Both sides know what they are committed to and regular alignment becomes really efficient — it can easily be done via a video call if necessary.
This regular alignment, coupled with transparent documentation, ensures that everyone is on the same page and allows them to effectively discuss problems and make decisions together.
Of course, that all sounds quite reasonable and easy to comprehend. But everybody who has ever tried to change the mindset of a company knows what a huge challenge that can be…
Therefore, we want to introduce a framework that supports this change effectively. One that can help you to really incorporate transparency, open communication, and a radical focus in your company.
Objectives & Key Results — OKRs — are a framework for agile leadership.
The framework includes many elements from other agile concepts like Scrum or Kanban. But while Scrum and Kanban organize processes within teams, OKRs organize the entire company.
You start by taking into account the most important “Objectives” of your company for the next three months. Including input from your vision, mission, and strategy (top-down), as well as input from your teams and employees (bottom-up).
Once the leadership team has distilled the company OKRs out of all of that input, teams and individuals define what they will contribute to the company goals.
Essentially, you want to ensure that all your efforts are aimed in the same direction.
When you do a good job of defining your OKRs, you achieve a radical focus on key topics and define how you allocate resources more efficiently. Everybody knows what they need to contribute and what to expect from their colleagues and other teams.
And even more importantly, you know which topics not to focus on. That immediately leads to less stress and increases productivity.
The OKR framework offers you a foundation for transparent and effective communication; everybody can see their colleagues’ OKRs, alongside those of every team. Thus you have a better understanding of the company’s progress and can exchange information more efficiently.
During the quarter (or OKR sprint), you “only” need to think about how you achieve your results. Not about what you could do, as if it does not contribute to your OKRs, you simply don’t touch it.
In order to keep your focus on the OKRs and track your progress, your employees meet with their team lead every week in order to define the next steps. This can be virtually or in-person. These meetings are not meant to be some kind of weekly supervision. Rather they are a productive exchange in which you discuss issues, solve problems, and support employees with their own decision-making.
Once this system is up and running, there’s really no need for further alignment in-between meetings. More importantly, you have laid the foundations for working remotely and more productively at the same time.
You can stop simply reporting input and focus on output and outcomes.
Where and how the progress is made is your own responsibility — within the boundaries of values, budget, timelines, and so forth.
OKRs allow you to easily implement New Work concepts like home office, remote work and flexible hours.
These concepts, in turn, foster transparency, trust, and focus within your company. On the whole, everyone has a lot to gain.
– As an employer, you become a lot more attractive. You are no longer dependent on a “cool“ company location in order to attract top talent.
– Employees feel an increased level of trust and take on more responsibilities.
– New ways of thinking are encouraged and lead to better results.
– You eliminate one of the biggest causes of stress: trying to balance work and private life — especially for employees with a family.
The list of potential advantages is long and diverse. From offering more opportunities for self-fulfilment, to numerous health benefits through less stress.
What’s certain is that New Work will become increasingly important in the near future and that employees will continue to demand more flexibility and freedom. As with every change process, there are risks and opportunities.
Both sides — leaders and employees — need to get used to the changes and settle into their new roles. Effective communication and the right mindset are the keys to making a smooth transition.
That’s where OKRs can have a huge impact: you set up a clear framework and then encourage everybody to think, experiment and reflect in order to achieve the most important goals as best they can.
With that focus and a common understanding of your ultimate goals, you are ready to successfully implement New Work models in a way that benefits everyone in your organization.