Why we implemented Objectives & Key-Results (OKRs) at PXR
PXR intends to grow and will continue to do so. We want to become the leading law firm in Germany in the tech sector. That is an ambitious goal. And while on the one hand this creates many opportunities for our company and the employees of PXR, rapid growth also presents us with great challenges. After all, growth always brings change in the first place.
From a management perspective, three essential questions arise during growth:
- How do we preserve our corporate culture?
- How do we create transparency and alignment? Or in other words: How does everyone know what the others are working on and how do we ensure that everyone recognises their own contribution to the "big picture"?
- How can employees develop individually?
Company goals as Objectives & Key Results (OKRs)
With these questions in mind, we decided to first look for a framework that would allow us to give ourselves transparent company goals, while also fitting PXR as a company and our culture. We decided to use Objective & Key Results - in short: OKR.
Of course, we are not reinventing the wheel with this. OKR is widely used as an agile management method. I am deliberately refraining from summarising OKR as a method here. You can find a lot of information at Google Ventures or Workpath, among others.
In essence, we wanted the following:
- Define PXR's long-term goals ("Where will we be in 5 years?").
- Break these goals down to a clear timeframe (one year) for the whole company ("What do we need to have achieved in one year to realistically get closer to our long-term goals?") and
- Translate the annual objectives of the company into objectives for the individual teams ("What contribution do each teams make to the company's success?")
The OKR system requires that the goals are concretely defined in each case. This means that during a later evaluation we can objectively determine whether we have achieved our goals or not. Furthermore, all objectives and key results are visible to the entire company - so everyone knows their own objectives as well as those of the other teams and employees.
Where to start?
A new system is not implemented overnight. Precisely because it was our ambition not to simply define the corporate goals top-down for the entire firm. Because one thing was clear to us from the start: we did not want to simply impose our idea of the company on the employees without ever discussing it in detail. This would create a culture that is as opaque as it is demotivating. There would simply be no buy-in from employees. It is not for nothing that we have defined transparency as one of our core values at PXR.
So what did we do? We first met with our more experienced staff, discussed our shared vision of the framework, had a lot of debate and ended up defining the first draft of our objectives and associated key results. These staff members then took the result further into their respective teams to discuss - and re-discuss - both the OKR methodology and the concrete objectives with their team colleagues. Does anyone disagree with the goals? Are there points we missed in the small group? We wanted to have these questions clarified for the whole team.
In addition, we agreed on fixed evaluation dates right at the beginning, in which we check after some time whether we have come closer to our major goals, which interim goals we can tick off and which points we need to readjust.
And what will happen next?
It is clear that it will take time and practice before we have fully integrated OKR into our work processes and developed a precise sense of how we define and evaluate our goals. Our common expectation is also not that everything else will go smoothly on its own. We will still have to work on one or two things. Nevertheless, I am already very confident that OKR will be instrumental in maintaining our course in the long term.