An interview with Prompto CTO Daan Depaepe.

We introduced OKRs in October at Prompto, because the company has been growing quickly in the last years, and we felt a need to have everyone focussed and aligned on the same goals.


 

I was asked by VOKA (the local chamber of commerce) to give a presentation to other start-ups/scale-ups that are interested in implementing OKRs in their companies. To explain what OKRs are, how we implemented them at Prompto. And most importantly, on which mistakes we made, what we learned from them, and to provide tips on how to avoid them.

 

Presentation at Voka

What are the OKRs?

OKRs are a framework to have everyone in the company work as one team on a common goal. It’s used already by a lot of big tech companies (Google, Facebook…), but other companies as well (e.g. the US Navy). It is a way to bring focus on the company and each of the teams.

The idea is that you set an Objective, an inspiring goal you want to achieve, at the beginning of each quarter, that everybody commits too. You set Key Results for each Objective, that describe how you will achieve it. During the quarter the progress is tracked regularly and is visible to everyone.

Why do you think setting goals is important for Prompto?

When growing from a small team to a larger one it becomes more difficult to have everyone aware and aligned on the company goals. We noticed this at Prompto as well, it became harder to make sure the different teams were all focussing on the same and the most important goals.

Everyone can work very hard, but if it’s on the wrong thing, it doesn’t matter. All that effort gets wasted. So making sure everyone is working on the right things, is very important to be a successful company.

What makes a good set of OKRs?

The OKR framework is very simple, but not easy to achieve. Creating good OKRs is a hard thing to do.

There are a few things that make up a good OKR:

  • The Objective should be inspiring, the team should be excited to jump out of bed in the morning to try and achieve the goal.
  • It should be a stretch goal, something that won’t be easy to achieve, but that is doable. It should push people out of their comfort zone.
  • It should be unambiguous and clear to everyone. The goal is to bring focus and alignment, so if people don’t understand it or interpret it differently, this will be harder to do.
  • It should be easily trackable, and visible to everyone. It shouldn’t be ‘set and forget’.

How many levels of OKRs should a company have? Do we need to have OKRs for each function?

Depending on the size of the company, you will have different ‘levels’ of OKRs. You will always have the main company OKRs, and depending on the company size, have multiple levels of team OKRs. You can even have people create personal OKRs. At Prompto we currently have our company OKRs (1 or 2 main goals), and each team has their team OKRs, that help achieve the company ones.

What are some misconceptions people have about OKRs?

That it is only for tech companies. It comes from Silicon Valley, but it can be used in any industry. There might be some different implementation details, but the framework can work for everyone.

What we found out as well at Prompto is that it takes time to create good OKRs. The idea behind OKRs is simple, but it really takes time and effort to get it right. It’s important to know that you will make a mistake the first few tries and that you need to learn from them and do it better with every OKR cycle.

Thank you, Daan for sharing your insights and experiences with us!

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