“Those who want to build high towers must spend a long time on the foundations” (Josef Anton Bruckner)

Do you sometimes ask yourself which factors of success you should focus on for effective strategy work? Which factors are important for successful implementation? And what are the advantages and practical tips for strategic management with the OKR approach?

The basis of effective strategy work in an organization begins with a coherent explanation of why it exists and what its goal is. In our view, this requires a strong narrative that starts with ambition, vision and purpose. A strategy is therefore a story that provides orientation for managers and employees.

One of the success factors for contemporary strategy work is well thought out involvement of key people. This includes strategy experts both inside and outside the organization, as well as employees who are true connoisseurs of the company. Through them, the strategy process benefits equally from insider knowledge as well as a high degree of identification and commitment, in all phases of the strategy work. The more diverse the perspectives considered in the development of a strategy, the more consistent the results and the feasibility of implementation will be. Dialogue-oriented work formats are needed here, such as focus groups, story co-creations, idea workshops, as well as pilots and speedboats, in order to turn strategy work into a collaborative task. If non-experts are to contribute to strategy work, they must be able to present strategic contexts clearly and simply.

The aim of the strategy process is to find ways for all interested and active people in the company to work more efficiently (to become more focused and effective in their daily activities). This always requires more personal responsibility and enabling of all participants. This can be achieved through honest dialogues and management training formats. Top management is faced with the task of sharpening its role of providing guidelines and setting an example accordingly. The strategy process thus becomes a cultural and organizational development process.

“It is not the strongest species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one that responds best to change” (Charles Robert Darwin)

Another success factor lies in a change of perspective: Away from numbers and forecasts, towards more action competence. Focusing on the “small signs” of change within an organization and its environment, as well as fast, professional action, become competitive advantages. Furthermore, it is important to learn how to deal with uncertainties and to increase resilience.

Future-oriented strategy work is based on a comprehensive knowledge of customer needs and expectations. It should be geared toward solving customer problems and offering real added value.

Finally, an iterative approach to scenarios should be applied throughout the course of the year. A strategy is not a static plan but needs to be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that it meets changing conditions. Companies should therefore have a flexible and adaptive approach to their strategy work in order to be able to adapt quickly to changes.

Focusing on the right goals and implementing them in the organization is a difficult challenge for many companies. What is often missing are good, simple methods for goal management and sufficient freedom to involve employees in strategic decisions.

A proven system to address this is the OKR (Objectives and Key Results) framework. It consists of several elements and, when correctly interpreted and applied, offers a variety of suitable solutions for the dynamic and complex times that have become the new normal.

The starting point of the OKR framework is seeing the vision and the purpose as a fixed long-term direction for employees and customers. At the operational level, “MOAL Planning” (short for medium-term goal) is used as a link between vision and purpose in the three to four-month implementation cycle. This enables management to set the strategic framework for a year, within which executives and employees can define OKRs, objectives and key results.

What does this actually mean in practice and what advantages are associated with it?

  • OKRs are clear and understandable. They help managers transform strategic challenges into clearly defined and understandable 3-month targets that are easy to comprehend for all employees. This facilitates the implementation of the strategy and ensures a common focus on the contribution to achieving the goals.
  • OKRs promote alignment of common goals and outcomes. In doing so, they help to ensure that all employees can work according to them. Regularly aligning goals across the company improves collaboration and communication between departments and teams, reduces silo thinking and improves the use of resources.
  • OKRs promote ownership/responsibility and self-reflection among employees. By defining clear and measurable goals, they are able to monitor their own performance. This allows them to decide which goals are currently relevant and thus can continuously improve them.
  • OKRs foster entrepreneurship and commitment among employees, as they can clearly see how their efforts and involvement contribute to the achievement of goals and how their progress evolves over time.
  • OKRs are flexible and can be quickly adapted to changing conditions. This allows companies to quickly reorient and adjust their strategy accordingly.

The appropriate introduction to an OKR system is a manageable pilot operation for one to three strategic challenges. The OKR teams should not only consist of people from one department, but of interdisciplinary teams that normally do not work together on a day-to-day basis.

In summary, OKRs help forward-thinking companies implement their strategies and achieve their goals more effectively, develop self-responsibility and an agile work culture, and promote employee motivation and flexibility.