3 Questions… for Paul Niven

3 Questions… for Paul Niven

To start with, a few general questions: What makes OKR a good tool for organizations? What advantages does it have compared to other strategy execution tools? Why should organizations switch to this tool?

You’ve probably heard the acronym VUCA, which stands for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. That’s the world we live in today – change is the only constant, and it’s accelerating. Given that environment it’s absolutely critical that everyone in an organization have the ability to demonstrate their unique contribution to the execution of strategy. That’s what OKRs do – they provide a platform for focus, alignment, and engagement through the identification of objectives (what we must do) and key results (evidence that we’ve achieved our objectives). The framework has many advantages over other systems, most notably its’ cadence, which is typically 90 days, and its emphasis of focus on just the critical few things that matter most. Regarding the cadence, that’s an important differentiator. I often say to my clients that OKRs provide the opportunity for a mini strategic planning and execution exercise every quarter. In other words, you operating at the speed of modern business.

Starting from scratch: What are the most important aspects to consider when implementing OKRs in an organization for the first time? What are common mistakes?

Interestingly, many of the most important considerations are “soft” or change management related. First and foremost, has your senior executive communicated a clear and compelling answer to the question, “Why OKRs and why now?” Everyone is busier than ever, and perhaps the scarcest resource in any organization is attention. You have to make it crystal clear why you’re implementing OKRs, and why now, should you hope to break through the attention barriers of most employees. Beyond that, executive sponsorship on an ongoing basis is vital to ensure all employees see the “boss” is committed to this effort. You also have to recognize that OKRs are simple (a lightweight framework) but not simplistic. Without a doubt, the most frequent comment we hear from organizations that have attempted to create OKRs on their own is, “This isn’t as easy as it seems!” OKRs require governance and must be implemented in a systematic fashion to prove successful.

You’ve worked with private companies like Mercedes-Benz or Adidas, public sector institutions like the US Navy, and NGOs like World Vision – what are the differences in implementing OKR systems between the private sector, public sector and NGOs?

There can sometimes be scepticism with public sector and NGOs when it comes to systems like OKRs. There is a tendency to think, “This was designed with for profit companies in mind, so it can never work for us.” But that’s certainly not the case. Although there are obvious differences between private, public, and non-profit organizations, at their core they should all create strategies for success and deploy systems to effectively execute their strategies. OKRs can work in any environment when implemented with rigor and discipline.






Paul Niven is a US OKR coach and author. For more info visit his homepage: https://okrstraining.com/paul-niven/