Successful companies successfully master the ability to execute their business strategy. More specifically, they succeed in aligning and mobilizing their teams to translate their corporate strategies into objectives and results that guide everyone's actions on a daily basis.
Nice concept you might say, but how can I implement such an approach in my business? To answer this question, I asked Matthew Cassar, co-founder and co-CEO of Sherweb.
Founded in 1998, Sherweb is an international leader in the cloud computing solutions sector. Today, it employs 1,200 employees, supports a network of 6,500 partners and is present in nearly 100 countries. For 3 years now, Sherweb has experienced strong growth, which has put pressure on its team and its management. “The more complex a company is, the more difficult it is to keep the focus on what is most important, to encourage interdepartmental work and to ensure clear and effective communication,” says Mr. Cassar.
Following reading John Doerr's book "Measure What Matters", its leader decided to make a major shift and implement the "OKR" approach, an acronym for "Objectives and Key Results". and Key Results in French. The approach requires formulating objectives which are achieved by achieving key results formulated in S.M.A.R.T mode. “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely”. When this strategy is deployed throughout the organization, the result is increased clarity, total focus and agility rooted both individually and collectively.
As Mr. Cassar says, “OKRs are a structuring management framework that empowers leaders and managers to deliver what is important and priority for the organization.” In addition, the co-founder notes that the OKR approach forces debate and discussion and he insists on the importance of taking the time to align. The result translates into a higher level of interdepartmental collaboration, an essential condition for success in the execution of business initiatives.
OKRs are at the heart of Sherweb's management framework which is driven by a cadence which, as a whole, forms the ability to execute teams. This cadence includes annual strategic reflection, mobilizing people to achieve common objectives and quarterly review of OKRs. Through quarterly review cycles, teams ensure continued alignment of targeted results, as well as maintaining agility with regard to opportunities and risks that may arise during the period.
As mentioned in my article, Wanted: time wasted in meetings, the management committee focuses the majority of the time on the obstacles to the advancement of key results which will lead to the achievement of the company's strategic objectives, and the identification of possible solutions and actions to take.
To facilitate communication, updates, review and measurement of the progress of OKRs, Mr. Cassar recommends, from the start of implementation, to digitize the management framework with the use of platforms digital OKRs. There are several solutions on the market such as Five15, Profit.co, BetterWorks and Perdoo.
After 3 years, what are the challenges, benefits and lessons learned? Mr. Cassar emphasizes that the biggest challenge is “that the shift is part of the culture and DNA of the company.”
To achieve the desired level of maturity, the management style of the sponsor of the initiative must evolve, its commitment must be total and be at the heart of its concerns. This means that OKRs are a constant topic of discussion throughout the organization. For the management team, OKRs must be part of their daily life; however, discipline and rigor of updates must be there.
For Mr. Cassar, this shift resulted in success and “what matters most is that my executive team, from the start of the project, found the approach excellent, there was no resistance and even today — we want to continue doing it.” He also maintains that he does not believe that there is a better management alternative, while specifying that he does not know of one personally.
For all companies considering the OKR approach, Mr. Cassar suggests: “Don’t delay, the younger you start in your company, the more you will see long-term results.”