OKR Software for Startups: The Do's and Don'ts
August 24, 2021

As the leading Strategic Planning platform for high growth companies, our team at Elate has the opportunity to work closely with companies at every stage of the OKR journey. While any goal-setting framework, such as OKRs, is just a piece of the overall Strategic Planning process, there's no question that the framework plays an integral role in how companies execute their Strategic Plan. 

While a company can choose to implement OKRs at any point throughout the year, Q3 is a particularly busy season for teams looking to introduce OKRs or modify their current operating framework. With Q4 right around the corner and next year quickly approaching, there isn't a better time for companies to look into whether OKRs are the right fit for their teams. 

So as we head into the fall planning season, here are the do's and don'ts for those looking to learn more about OKR software for startups and how to set your team up for success in rolling out a platform. 

Do: Streamline Your Structure. Simplify for Employees.

Strategy and Operations leaders are diligent. Rarely do we meet with a Strategy and Operations leader who hasn't done their research on OKRs and communicated how the structure will work at their company. Whether it's getting executive team buy-in, outlining OKR examples for their team, or even reading Measure What Matters and doing diligent research on how the Google OKR framework can provide direction for their company, Strategy and Operations leaders come into the conversation prepared. 

However, for as much research as strategy and operations leaders have done on OKRs and the OKR software market, the rest of your employees have probably never even heard of OKRs. Even worse, they might be coming off the heels of a really poor experience from OKRs at a past company. 

So when we meet with leaders from startups or companies looking to introduce OKRs, we like to propose one phrase: Streamline your structure. Simplify for employees.  

Far too often, companies try to roll out an overly complex OKR framework designed on best OKR examples or practices implemented at other companies. The reality is that the more complex your structure, the less likely it will be for your employees to use. Cascading every objective, building dependencies, and scoring OKRs based on an equation are all examples of great best practices for OKRs. However, each of these examples adds more complexity and confusion for your employees. 

We recommend keeping your early stage startup OKRs easy and frictionless, so that employees adopt the structure. Getting adoption early on is more important than starting with the perfect OKR structure. Over time you can continue adding valuable best practices, but don't try to do everything at once. 


Don't: Settle for an OKR Warehouse 

As we shared earlier, OKRs or any goal-setting framework are an important part of the Strategic Planning process. However, the goal-setting framework is just one part of a successful operating framework.

At Elate, we think of Strategic Planning in three parts: Build, Execute, Review. And then repeat. Strategic Planning isn't a point A to B journey. It is a flywheel that can create momentum for high growth companies. 

So when Strategy and Operations leaders think about implementing an OKR tool, they are usually only planning for one part of the process. Executing. However, when you only think about the execution portion of the process, you hinder your ability to execute. 

Rather than executing against a Strategic Plan, companies often become fixated on just building OKRs for that quarter. It's usually a super intense, manual process. Further, they aren't thinking about things like, 'How does this transition from quarter-to-quarter?' or 'How do these OKRs tie into our long-term vision?'. That's why it's critical not to lose sight of why you are looking to implement OKRs in the first place. 

There are countless OKR software free trials you can sign-up to try at your company. But there's a reason they're free. Usually, they are little more than better visualizations of spreadsheets that employees dump OKRs into, never to revisit. 

As you think about introducing an OKR SaaS model at your high growth company, don't settle for a warehouse that provides no value to you or your employees. 

Do: Start with the Why for Employees 

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One of the most frequent suggestions we make to companies is taking the time to start with explaining the 'why' behind your OKR framework to employees. Just as you might have started your journey into OKRs by researching, 'What are OKRs?' or 'What is OKR Software?', employees will appreciate the context and purpose behind why you are introducing an entirely new motion into their day-to-day work. 

We often like to highlight that a goal-setting framework isn't simply for leadership to gain visibility into everything going on across the business, but more importantly, it's a commitment to providing transparency, clear expectations, and direction for employees. 

If you think of many of the common OKR examples for operations, isn't that the point of an OKR framework to begin with? Many of the leading Strategy and Operations leaders we work with are tasked with connecting the long-term vision with tactical execution. They are bringing together leadership and employees in a way that drives alignment, collaboration, and provides clarity. 

So by starting with the 'why' behind your OKR framework and the value it provides employees, as well as leadership, you are bringing employees into the conversation. Frankly, it makes it a more meaningful commitment to continuing the framework when things get tough.

As your company grows and evolves, your framework will feel like it no longer works. Instead of casting it aside or giving up, this is the time where you can enhance the OKR framework in a way that helps serve as a catalyst for continued growth. 

When you have collective buy-in and understanding as to why you are making changes, it will make change so much easier. 

The Leading OKR Software for Startups 

For those looking at introducing or evolving their OKR framework, our team is here to help. 

Elate is the leading Strategic Planning software built to help high growth companies communicate their vision, create alignment, and track performance all in one place. From working with leading strategy and operations leaders at all stages, it's no surprise that Strategic Planning and OKRs are becoming an advantage for leaders committed to building great companies. 

If you're interested in learning more about how Elate can help your team, feel free to reach out today. We'd love to share how we can help!