Our previous article advocated adopting the Objective Key Results (OKRs) framework to manage your emerging tech services business. Adopting OKRs is not as much about the mechanics of OKRs but rather about organizing your leaders into a coherent team around OKRs. Tech services founders wishing to lead their companies through the journey should look at the model of Team Formation presented by Bruce Tuckman. According to Tuckman, the stages of development are: forming, storming, norming, and performing. You can read more about this model here. In this article, we'll show you how to navigate your team's OKR journey with this model.
Forming: Getting Comfortable With OKRs And Each Other
New teams gather and form initial bonds. Everyone is polite and reserved, shying away from necessary conflict.
When first integrating OKRs, teams might be hesitant, often creating objectives that simply mirror business as usual. There's minimal risk-taking, and a siloed approach is predominant. Members might avoid cross-departmental collaborations, focusing on individual or departmental targets instead. They don't want to ruffle any feathers and also don't want to look bad in front of others.
Nudge the team out of the safety of business as usual. Challenge the team to create more meaningful goals and have an honest conversation about risks, dependencies, and challenges. Keep driving back to the company vision and goal, using it to challenge the team.
Storming: Facing Interdependence and Challenges
Disagreements emerge as individual perspectives clash. Teams confront differing viewpoints and work methods.
As teams are encouraged to set more ambitious objectives, hesitations arise around dependencies on other departments. The group starts to have difficult conversations. The team likely will not trust each other enough, and it may cause people to become defensive.
Focus on the joint goals as a team. Guide the team in using language that comes off as less blaming. Difficult Conversations and Nonviolent Communication are two excellent books on this topic. Lead the conversations toward creating joint OKRs. Keep ambitions realistic to gain wins and establish trust.
Norming: Building Trust and Collaboration
Teams reconcile differences, recognizing the strengths of their colleagues.
In this phase, a collaborative rhythm emerges. Team members trust and rely on one another, gravitating towards common objectives. With a deeper understanding of colleagues' roles, working and communication styles, capacities, and capabilities, the team crafts balanced OKRs combining input and output metrics. Doubts about motives or skills wane, replaced by a shared commitment to the objectives.
Focus on challenging the team to build on their successes. Create more ambitious goals that require collaboration across business units. Challenge them to think through risks and how to support each other in the goals.
Performing: Achieving Unified Organizational Focus
The team operates efficiently and harmoniously, leveraging each member's strengths.
The team starts to recognize their abilities together. The OKRs align the organization to achieve meaningful objectives. The interconnectedness of objectives across the organization underscores a shared mission, with every member recognizing how their role contributes to the larger picture. This unity propels the organization forward, ensuring both individual and collective success.
Create an ambitious vision for the company. Let the teams self-organize. Focus on enabling the team. Protect the team from complacency, raising the bar on them.
While your team may have been working together for some time without proper planning they would not have challenged themselves to achieve together. OKRs will act as the vehicle to challenge the teams to work together to achieve together. But this is the first time the team will work together in this capacity. In the journey of implementing OKRs you will reform the team. Bruce Tuckman's model of group development provides a framework to help understand this journey.