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How OKRs and Change Management Work Together

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11 min read
Two transparent circular diagrams representing OKRs and change management

The ever-evolving business landscape makes change a constant business challenge. And with 70% of change initiatives failing, the right approach to change management can set you apart from the competition. 

Effective change management ensures seamless business transitions, enabling your organization to realign its processes, structure, and culture to emerging opportunities. Without a robust change management process, employees may push back against change or struggle with implementing it. 

Companies must adopt a structured change management approach, like objectives and key results (OKRs) to avoid these issues. As a framework for setting and achieving ambitious goals, OKRs can help you drive change whilst ensuring organizational alignment both internally and externally. 

Establishing objectives and key results to drive change management delivers engagement, alignment, and prioritization at every level of your business. Change management OKRs orient resources and efforts toward top-priority change initiatives.  

In this article, we take a closer look at what makes OKRs and change management a perfect fit, covering: 

  • The definitions of OKRs and change management  
  • Why change management and OKRs go together 
  • How OKRs support the change management process  
  • Change management OKR examples 
  • Why you should use OKR software to deploy change management OKRs 

What is change management?

Change management is an organizational approach for planning, adapting, and executing strategic shifts. It facilitates smooth organizational transitions, aligning processes, systems, culture, and strategy toward a desired end state. 

It’s important to note that change management isn’t limited to large-scale, organization-wide efforts — it can also manifest at lower organizational levels, with varying degrees of intensity. 

Types of change management 

  • Developmental change involves the continuous and incremental improvements of processes, structures, and capabilities. For example, implementing a weekly training program focused on improving employees' digital skills. 
  • Transitional change is a temporary change typically linked to specific projects, strategic adjustments, or reorganizations. For example, restructuring the marketing department to adapt to a new market segment. 
  • Transformational change represents a profound, organization-wide change that involves fundamental alterations to an organization’s structure, culture, or core processes. For example, shifting from a hierarchical to a flat organizational structure, altering the entire culture and workflow dynamics.  

Change management phases

All change management processes unfold in three phases: 

1. Preparation 

This is where you lay the groundwork for change. It involves understanding where your organization stands, defining the need for change, setting clear goals, crafting a strategic plan, and getting stakeholders on board. Think of it as the foundation for the business changes you are about to make. 

2. Implementation

The second phase involves putting your plan into action. It involves effective communication, strategic execution, monitoring progress, and addressing resistance. This is when you’re actively driving change within your organization.  

3. Sustainability 

The final phase focuses on integrating change into your organization’s culture. It’s about ensuring that the change initiative becomes a natural part of your daily operations, instilling lasting commitment, and celebrating milestones. You want to make sure that the changes endure over time.  

what is change management

What are OKRs?

OKRs are defined as a framework for setting ambitious, time-bound, and measurable goals at every level of your organization in alignment with the organization’s broader business strategy and vision. 

The OKR framework uses two key components to achieve this: 

  • Objectives: A short, qualitative description of what you’re looking to achieve, highlighting the “what” of your goal. 
  • Key results: 3-5 quantifiable indicators measuring progress toward each objective, serving as the “how” of progress measurement. 

Get an in-depth look at OKRs

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Why change management and OKRs go together

OKRs effectively complement the three phases of the change management process. 

In the preparation phase, OKRs help with setting clear objectives and promoting engagement with key stakeholders to build support for change.  

During implementation, OKRs break down objectives into specific, measurable key results. This simplifies progress tracking and proactive issue resolution, keeping your change initiatives on course. 

Finally, in the sustainability phase, OKRs ensure your change initiatives are long-lasting. They provide a means of measurement while cultivating continuous improvement, fostering commitment and sustained momentum for change. 

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”  

— Buckminster Fuller 

OKRs and the 6 steps of change management

Let’s look at how OKRs support each step of the change management process. 

Step 1: Identify the need for change

The first step of the change management process involves recognizing the need for change, using insights from data such as market research and employee feedback to pinpoint areas for improvement.  

Questions to ask during this step: 

  • What specific challenges or opportunities require change? 
  • Have we thoroughly assessed the root causes of the issues and the potential benefits of the opportunities? 
  • Have we considered key stakeholders’ takes on the need for change? 

OKRs help by clarifying change management objectives. The transparency embedded in OKRs not only emphasizes the need for change but also streamlines their communication, enabling you to pinpoint, communicate, and kickstart the change initiative. 

Step 2: Create a comprehensive plan in line with actionable goals

During this step, the focus shifts from brainstorming to taking action. Change management initiatives translate to specific, actionable goals, with detailed plans covering resource allocation, responsibilities, timelines, and potential challenges. This includes setting measurable targets and collaborating with stakeholders to create a flexible roadmap for change. 

Questions to ask during this step: 

  • Are our goals achievable given the resources and capabilities of the organization? 
  • Do our goals provide a precise picture of what needs to be achieved and when? 
  • Are there any potential obstacles we must account for? If we encounter them, how can our change management plan address them? 
  • Is the plan flexible enough to adapt to unforeseen circumstances? 

OKRs establish measurable, time-bound change management objectives. These act as goalposts for your change management timeline, breaking down goals into actionable key results and allowing you to track progress, proactively identify blockers to change, and adjust actions accordingly. 

Step 3. Engage stakeholders

The third step focuses on gathering support and commitment from relevant stakeholders. This entails effective communication, collaboration, and clearly defining roles and responsibilities. Engaged stakeholders are essential to minimizing resistance and driving cohesive efforts toward shared goals.  

Questions to ask during this step: 

  • Have we clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each individual or team involved? 
  • Are we addressing potential resistance or concerns among stakeholders? If so, how? 
  • How are we fostering a sense of accountability? 
  • How are we communicating with stakeholders to keep them informed and engaged? 

OKRs emphasize the importance of involving stakeholders and collaborators in the goal-setting process. By assigning each contributor specific objectives and key results, OKRs ensure everyone understands what they’re working toward and how they contribute to the end goal. Moreover, OKRs are outcome-focused — a huge part of the "why" of change management. Clearly understanding the why, what, and how of change is crucial for gaining stakeholders support and commitment.  

Check out our article on using OKRs to drive employee engagement. 

Step 4: Implement the change management plan

With the groundwork laid, the next step of the change management process involves putting your defined goals, plans, and tasks into action. This requires seamless collaboration, ongoing monitoring of results, and addressing challenges to ensure progress aligns with the established timeline. 

Questions to ask during this step: 

  • How can we ensure that employees leverage the necessary skills, resources, and support to carry out the change management plan effectively? 
  • How is the plan being executed compare with the expected timeline and milestones? 
  • What roadblocks or issues affect smooth strategic execution? 

OKRs are a real-time monitoring and coordination tool for your change management plan. They enable continuous tracking and updating of key results, ensuring that change is executed and adapted accordingly. Additionally, the transparency of OKRs streamlines communication and collaboration, while giving employees insight into how their efforts impact the business. These steer change in the right direction while keeping motivation high.  

Step 5: Provide feedback and iterate 

The fifth step focuses on gathering feedback, evaluating progress, and making necessary adjustments on a rolling basis. This requires you to actively listen to employees, customers, and relevant stakeholders, alongside analyzing feedback trends and adapting your plan as needed. 

Questions to ask during this step: 

  • Are we actively collecting feedback from employees, customers, and other stakeholders regarding the change initiative? 
  • What trends or patterns emerge from the feedback, and how are we addressing them? 
  • How should we adjust the change management plan or process based on the feedback received? 

OKRs streamline the feedback and iteration stage by systematically collecting data and feedback. The regular check-ins and retrospectives promoted by the OKR cycle provide insights into the impact of change and potential areas for improvement. Moreover, having a framework in place for regular updates enables real-time dashboards for analyzing progress, meaning you don’t have to ask for updates. This supports systematic progress assessments and ongoing change optimization. 

Learn more about the feedback driven OKR cycle. 

Step 6: Embed changes into the company culture

The final step aims to integrate changes into your organization’s culture and daily operations for long-term sustainability. This involves reinforcing the desired behaviors, processes, and attitudes developed during the change initiatives, aligning these with your organization’s values, missions, and overarching business strategy. This step is essential as, without it, employees risk reverting to old practices and losing the change transformation benefits. 

Questions to ask during this step: 

  • How are we promoting the new behaviors and practices as part of our organizational culture? 
  • Are employees consistently demonstrating the desired changes in their work? 
  • How are we measuring and reinforcing the integration of these changes into our company’s values and norms? 

By establishing outcome-focused OKRs that directly relate to integrating new behaviors, practices, or strategies into the company’s culture, you can ensure alignment with desired cultural changes, making these central to your organization’s norms and values. 

“While companies experience immediate gains after implementing OKRs, the benefits do not diminish several years later. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but continuity and discipline pay off.” 

— Elie Casamitjana, OKRmentors 

A graphic showcasing how OKRs support the 6 steps of change management

Change management OKR examples

Now that we’ve covered how OKRs and change management work together, we’ll cover a few change management OKR examples to inspire your own. 

Change management OKR example 1: Adopting new technology

  • Objective: Propel our outcome-culture with adoption of new strategy execution platform 
  • Key result 1: Achieve a 95% completion rate of mandatory training program on new strategy execution platform 
  • Key result 2: Increase the percentage of employees who log in to the platform at least once per week to 90% 
  • Key result 3: Increase the percentage of employees who rate the platform as "easy to use" or "user-friendly" to 75% 

Change management OKR example 2: Driving innovation 

  • Objective: Make innovation central to the organization 
  • Key result 1: Increase the percentage of new product launches that are the result of an internal innovation process to 10% 
  • Key result 2: Reduce the time from ideation to launch for new products by 20% 
  • Key result 3: Increase the percentage of new products that achieve their sales targets within one year of launch to 60% 

Change management OKR example 3: Spearheading sustainability 

  • Objective: Promote sustainable employee practices 
  • Key result 1: Increase the percentage of employees who commute sustainably to 25% 
  • Key result 2: Increase employees’ participation in recycling program to 75% 
  • Key result 3: Reduce food waste by 20% 
An image showing 2 change management OKR examples

Take your change management OKRs to the next level with OKR software

You can uplevel the effectiveness of your change management OKRs by implementing them using OKR software.  

OKR software seamlessly weaves your change management OKRs into your daily operations, making them an integral part of your organizational fabric. It’s a centralized hub for setting, tracking, and managing your change management OKRs. Moreover, it keeps everyone on board by facilitating effective communication across your organization. Everyone is in-the-know about progress updates, understands next steps, and sees how their efforts contribute to the bigger picture. 

“In the beginning, start simple and integrate OKRs with your existing stack of solutions. But don’t underestimate the importance of easy reporting and tracking for teams and leaders. A streamlined solution can be a game-changer for mid-size and large organizations.” 

— Elie Casamitjana, OKRmentors 

Discover the must-have OKR software features  

An image of a diagram alluding to OKR software

Case study: Rose City Rollers 

The case study of Rose City Rollers (RCR) — a women’s roller derby league and non-profit organization — showcases how OKR software can support, streamline, and elevate change management initiatives. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rose City Rollers needed to adapt quickly by finding new sources of revenue, such as hosting skating events and drive-in movies. At the same time, they had to ensure the safety of their community and keep everyone engaged. 

RCR turned to Quantive's OKR software tool, Quantive Results, as their solution. Using Quantive Results, they established a systematic approach to setting clear, measurable, and accountable goals through OKRs. As a result, they improved communication, aligned their strategies, and boosted transparency. They not only overcame the hurdles brought on by the pandemic but also thrived financially, revealing the power of OKR software for change management initiatives. 

Get started with OKRs and change management

Effective change management goes beyond a one-time effort. Sustainable change involves adopting a systematic approach that actively engages core parts of the business — one that ensures change stays adaptable and aligns with the company's overarching strategy. 

OKRs offer a robust methodology for implementing change, allowing for continuous, cyclical, and feedback-driven efforts that align with internal and external circumstances. Implementing change management OKRs using OKR software like Quantive Results enables the seamless integration of these change management objectives into the heart of your business. They become integral to your operations, with OKR data shared across your tech stack, daily tasks linked to OKR progress, and weekly check-ins ensuring your OKRs are at the root of business efforts.

Quantive empowers modern organizations to turn their ambitions into reality through strategic agility. It's where strategy, teams, and data come together to drive effective decision-making, streamline execution, and maximize performance.  

As your company navigates today’s competitive landscape, you need an Always-On Strategy to continuously bridge the gap between current and desired business outcomes. Quantive brings together the technology, expertise, and passion to transform your strategy from a static plan to a feedback-driven engine for growth.  

Whether you’re a visionary start-up, a mid-market business looking to conquer, or a large enterprise facing disruption, Quantive keeps you ahead — every step of the way. For more information, visit www.quantive.com

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