Why do we need an external coach for OKRs?

3 min read

You have decided for OKRs in your organization but unsure if you need an external coach?

Here are five questions to ask yourself before you decide on self implementation or hire a coach.

  • Who will lead the change management?

Implementing OKRs require teams to learn new habits and new ways of communicating. Not everyone will is thrilled with a new initiative. Managing the change would need either an internal resource allocation or hiring a coach.

An internal stakeholder working on a change initiative still has his or her regular job to do. Carving out time on a regular basis and maintaining that effort over weeks and months can be a huge challenge. Also, leaders should ensure sure that the right support and incentives are in place to facilitate and reward that extra effort.

An external specialist is your dedicated resource to bring everyone along. He or she should work with business leaders, managers and employees to ensure it is not a “tell them” approach. It is more of a rally & electrify to build consensus around the change.

  • How will we communicate for OKRs before implementation?

Think of internal communication the same way you would think about product communication to your customers. The purpose is to get engagement and buy in.

You will be investing considerable time, money and resources to implement OKRs. A strong communication plan to internal stakeholders will answer the question “why should we care?“

One approach is to have the internal marketing team develop a tailored communication plan.  Use a variety of channels to reinforce the message why the organization is adopting OKRs. Does your marketing team have the bandwidth?

If not, a good external coach should help build a robust series of communications. They should build enthusiasm for OKRs.  Answer many of the questions surrounding them.

  • Do we take risks and give ourselves permission to fail?

The success of OKRs depends on defining the right objectives. Aspirational yet simple objectives need a growth mindset. Teams should be open to taking risks not play safe.

Do most people in your organization naturally think about what they need to do on a day to day basis? Or do they focus on what results and outcomes their work creates? Do your departments or teams have early adopters and strategic thinkers that can own creation of audacious team objectives?  If yes, nominate them as OKR champions and let them lead the change.

If not, then employ an external coach to enable your teams to aim for greatness .

A good coach should propel risk taking and help-

  1. Bring insight and perspective on leadership intentions and key results to layers below
  2. Set high integrity objectives and key results.
  3. Gain true alignment and tie off.
  4. Shift from an activity habit to a results habit.
  5. Achieve better results in their first quarter.
  • Do we practice radical candor?

This is the hardest one for most organizations to answer. The process of setting OKRs requires alignment in each team. Starting from the executive leadership to the frontline leads. It is harder than people expect.

Workshops require a safe space and room for debates. Uncomfortable conversations. Often the hierarchical mindsets result in missed opportunities.  Setting mediocre goals. Some people are too soft or too indirect. Instead of being more specific, more immediate, and more actionable. Some try to do too much. Internal stakeholders leading the process of identifying objectives and key results may not challenge leaders and managers.

An external coach should have no cognitive bias. Coaching workshops are open forums where everyone participates. Collaborate bottom up in setting the objectives and key results.

  • Are we disciplined?

An organization might set the most well-intentioned objectives and use the most efficient platform.  But if they fail to maintain the cadence of weekly check-ins, feedbacks and 1:1’s they will most likely fail at OKRs.

If OKRs are self-implemented, the internal champions must be able to stand guard for all timelines and updates. They should be well-connected within the organization and have a wide reach. They should be able to give all teams regular positive as well as constructive feedback. They should commit to helping every individual succeed at OKRs.

But if internal resources lack the bandwidth or the expertise, bring an external coach. They should be your accountability partner.

Research shows that having a partner or “exercise buddy” can be highly effective at ensuring we will actually work out.  Not just talk about it. And once we work the new OKR muscle for a quarter, it then becomes a habit. Even a desire to work out on our own from the next quarter.

Self discipline is a learned behaviour and a coach is the best way to start to learn it.

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