How to Implement Effective QBRs & OKRs

How to Implement Effective QBRs & OKRs

How to Implement Effective QBRs & OKRs

How to Implement Effective QBRs & OKRs
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A common gripe I hear about QBRs (Quarterly Business Reviews) and OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) is that the process for implementing these each quarter is 1) cumbersome, 2) goals don’t feel aligned with larger strategy, and 3) staff is not engaged with the process.

In speaking with dozens of Chiefs of Staff looking to implement or revamp their company’s quarterly planning, I found myself coming back to a visual I was mimicking with my hands: ^ (formally known as the circumflex symbol) to describe how QBRs and OKRs can be executed efficiently and in a manner that is repeatable each quarter. I introduce to you, the C-Flex Framework for more effective QBRs and OKRs.

The C-Flex (^) Framework

is based on the “^” symbol name, Circumflex, and is a combination of bottom-up and top-down approaches for retros (QBRs) and goal setting (OKRs).

Core benefits of this framework:

  • Makes the retro + goal-setting process more palatable, transparent, and repeatable
  • Ensures that staff voice is heard during planning
  • Ensures goals, at every level, are tied to company goals

Left Side of the ^: QBRs

How It Works:

This process happens at the end of the previous quarter

  1. First, Department Leads retro the quarter with their teams and develop Quarterly Business Reviews highlighting: 1) Wins 2) Learnings, and 3) Next Quarter Focus.
  2. Next, Department Leads share their QBRs with the entire Exec Team (often during an Exec offsite)
  3. Last, Exec Team reflects on cross-team findings and begin to understand the necessary focus for the next quarter

What This Allows:

  • The ability for staff to provide their perspective before goals for the following quarter are decided
  • Creates space for Department Leads to highlight wins (big or small)
  • Allows for discussion on learnings and how to integrate them into the following quarter

Right Side of the ^: OKRs

How It Works:

This process happens at the start of the new quarter

  1. The Exec Team decides on the topline Objectives and Key Results for the quarter, ensuring they tie back to the Annual Strategy
  2. The Exec Team communicates the OKRs to all staff to begin the laddering/cascade process.
  3. Department Leads work with their team to ladder their own OKRs to those of those Execs (e.g. an Exec Key Result becomes the Objective for the Department)
  4. The laddering process continues: Teams OKRs are laddered from Department OKRs and Individual OKRs are laddered from Team OKRs

What This Allows:

  • An understanding of how goals, at every level, are connected to the annual strategy
  • Staff understand the relevance of their work
  • Laddering/cascading OKRs allow for focus, accountability, transparency, and visibility.

Alternate Cadences

The image below shows a typical planning cycle - quarterly reviews followed by quarterly goals (the C-Flex), with a deeper dive review and planning cycle at the end of the year. This cadence ensures each quarter is planned out and ladders back to the annual strategy. However, it also creates planning fatigue as staff are asked to provide their goals/input goals 4x a year.

An alternate cadence to consider is bi-annual planning. Similar to the image above, this cadence has a deeper dive review and planning cycle at the end of the year. However, instead of quarterly reviews and goal setting, this cadence has a mid-year check-in and goal-setting moment. This cadence reduces planning fatigue and creates more spaciousness, but risks misalignment of company work to annual strategy (a problem that can be solved through light touch review mechanisms).

About the Author:

Aarti is a startup operator turned Executive Coach for Chiefs of Staff and Operating Leaders. Her practice is tailored to Chiefs of Staff and Operating Leaders because Aarti has lived these roles as a former two-time Chief of Staff and Head of People Operations. In addition to coaching, Aarti provides Executive Placement services to streamline a team’s search process by filtering out the noise and using her extensive network to find the best candidate. Lastly, she operates as a fractional "Chief of Staff" and consultant for CEOs in the company building journey. Her clients include Patreon, Airbnb, Guild, KPMG, ServiceNow, SandboxAQ, Fullscript, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Gigs, 50CAN, Tennesseans for Student Success, and Kaizen Labs.

How to Implement Effective QBRs & OKRs

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