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OKRs and CFRs: How They Work Together

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Successful companies know that staying competitive requires a solid goal-setting strategy, one that keeps a business focused, driven, and results-oriented. According to John Doerr, author of Measure What Matters, coupling objectives and key results (OKRs) with conversations, feedback, and recognition (CFRs) is a practical and effective approach to goal setting. 

The combination of OKRs and CFRs creates powerful synergistic opportunities: OKRs help you create goals and pinpoint their attainment, while CFRs act as a functional conduit for OKRs, adding nuance to OKR tracking, performance, and results. 

To help you understand how these systems work together, this article will: 

  • Define OKRs and CFRs 
  • Discuss the benefits of linking OKRs and CFRs 
  • Cover 14 best practices for combining OKRs and CFRs 

What are OKRs?

The OKR methodology is a collaborative goal-setting system used by giants such as Google, Atlassian, and LinkedIn to set actionable goals that generate results. Comprised of objectives and key results, OKRs help you create ambitious, measurable, and timely goals for your organization — both at the collective and individual levels. For a quick breakdown: 

Objectives: Short descriptions of what you’re looking to achieve, with each objective being supported by 3-5 key results 

Key results: Quantifiable metrics depicting how close you are to achieving your objective 

To keep things simple, here’s a hassle-free formula for writing your OKRs: 

We will (objective) as measured by (key results) illustration

Need an in-depth look at OKRs? See our extensive article on OKRs.

What are CFRs?

Rooted in continuous improvement, CFR is a system that helps you boost business results, gather feedback, and recognize outstanding performance. The three components of CFR can be summarized as: 

  • Conversations: An authentic one-on-one between a manager and contributor aimed at driving performance 
  • Feedback: Mutual and intentional communication among peers to evaluate progress and guide future improvement 
  • Recognition: Expressions of appreciation to deserving individuals for contributions of all sizes 
OKRs and CFRs

Why you should combine OKRs and CFRs

With OKRs generally graded as “complete” or “incomplete,” they are very straightforward in their depiction of success. And while there are some ways you can add more nuance to OKR tracking (e.g., using percentage benchmarks and OKR scoring), they tend to be binary. 

Consequently, CFRs were made to channel OKRs into organizations, encouraging depth and complexity in goal setting and tracking. Moreover, as CFRs are meant to be conducted face-to-face or over video calls, they also add a human component to the OKR process, facilitating connection, engagement, and powerful business results. 

“CFRs supply the energy we need for the journey. Where people have authentic conversations and get constructive feedback and recognition for superior accomplishments, enthusiasm becomes infectious.” — John Doerr, Measure What Matters 

8 benefits of combining OKRs and CFRs 

Using OKRs and CFRs enables the following benefits for your organization:  

  1. Improved organizational alignment: Routine updates ensure managers and employees are working toward joint goals  
  2. Better focus on critical priorities: OKRs set the organizational direction, while CFRs cut out the noise  
  3. Positive company culture: Recognition cultivates a happy and rewarding workplace 
  4. Greater engagement among managers and employees: CFRs encourage continuous communication, helping to drive connection 
  5. Healthier employee-manager relationships: Mutual feedback and recognition facilitate more fruitful interactions 
  6. Heightened productivity: As one of the top drivers of employee engagement, recognition encourages employees and managers to keep working toward their goals 
  7. More profitable business results: Effective procedures, focused priorities, and continuous improvement produce greater outcomes 
  8. Enhanced leadership capabilities: Managers can better navigate conversations with employees 

How can you combine OKRs and CFRs?

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive into how OKRS and CFRs work together. Essentially, combining OKRs and CFRs involves embedding conversations, feedback, and recognition throughout the OKR cycle, with OKR progress being used as a key discussion point. 

OKR and conversations

In CFRs, conversations are one-on-one meetings where managers and employees discuss OKR challenges, progress, and opportunities. As a fundamental component of the continuous improvement process, these conversations cover: 

  • Goal setting and reflection: Managers help employees reflect on previous OKRs, plan upcoming ones, and keep current ones aligned with organizational goals 
  • Ongoing progress updates: Managers look at employees’ real-time progress, applying problem-solving as needed 
  • Two-way coaching: Both parties help each other perform better in their roles 
  • Career growth: Employees are encouraged to develop their skills, identify growth opportunities, and discuss their future at the company 
  • Lightweight performance reviews: A quick recap of what the employee accomplished since the previous meeting, in the context of organizational priorities 

OKR and feedback 

During OKR feedback sessions, contributors create space for mutual feedback. This enables them to promptly address mistakes, issues, and challenges, allowing your organization to reach its goals with fewer disruptions.  

To help you navigate OKR conversations and feedback, here are a few questions to help guide these discussions:

  • How are your OKRs progressing? 
  • What challenges are you faced with when trying to attain objectives? 
  • How/which OKRs should be updated or changed? Why? 
  • Are these the right things for me/you/us to be focusing on right now? 
  • What do you need from me to help you reach your OKRs? 
  • If I/you/we complete them, will it be seen as a huge success? 
  • Do you have any feedback on how I/we could stretch ourselves even more? 
  • And to wrap up the OKR cycle, you can ask questions such as: 
  • What obstacles did you encounter that affected your ability to accomplish your goals? 
  • What did you learn that can be integrated or changed in our next OKR cycle? 

OKRs and recognition 

Congratulating OKR successes is fundamental to a positive work culture. Doing so fosters stronger relationships, emphasizes organizational priorities, and encourages employee engagement, with employees 2.7 times more likely to stay engaged if they’re recognized for their contributions. 

For example, by celebrating each OKR milestone and achievement, you encourage employees to work toward overarching business goals. Moreover, doing so publicly can inspire other employees to focus on their OKRs as well.

One thing to note, however, is that OKR conversations, feedback, and recognition should not replace individual performance management. CFRs are dedicated to assessing OKRs related to primary company priorities, and should therefore be kept separate from conversations about individual compensation, promotions, and day-to-day task management.


See why OKRs shouldn’t be tied to performance management. 

OKRs and Performance Management.png

Best Practices for linking OKRs and CFRs

To help you generate the best results with OKRs and CFRs, we’ve compiled a list of best practices to help you navigate OKRs at each stage of the CFR sprint. 

Tips for conversations

Schedule regular meetings 

An ongoing schedule for conversations helps embed OKRs and CFRs into your organization’s operations. It encourages both parties to discuss and overcome issues before they snowball, while making tracking, updating, and discussing OKRs a regular business practice. 

Reiterate priorities and expectations

Successful OKR-related conversations reiterate organizational priorities, keep organizational goals top-of-mind, and bring awareness to what’s valuable. This clarifies employees’ sense of purpose and encourages mission-oriented behavior. 

Be an active listener 

OKR conversations require active listeners to ensure priorities, goals, and to-do lists are covered with minimal misunderstandings. Beyond this, engaged conversations build rapport, allowing employees and managers to navigate difficult conversations with more ease. 

Co-create an agenda 

A collaborative agenda can help keep conversations short and effective, saving your company time and energy. Moreover, an agenda allows both parties to prepare and prioritize accordingly, with everyone knowing what they’re expected to discuss. 

Tips for feedback

Keep feedback impersonal

Feedback sessions should lens in on OKRs as opposed to the individual. This helps keep conversations impactful by ensuring they’re aligned with the task at hand. 

Encourage timely feedback 

Prompt feedback is critical to OKR attainment, allowing employees to implement changes necessary for improvement. Without timely feedback, changes may be ineffective or irrelevant, resulting in wasted time, energy, and resources. 

Make feedback bi-directional 

Feedback sessions should be an open space for cultivating growth-oriented relationships across your organization, where everyone understands their strengths and weaknesses and can align their actions on an ongoing basis. 

Give specific and actionable feedback

Providing actionable and specific feedback is what makes feedback practical. This can look like, “I noticed you missed your key result for upselling by 15%. To help you attain it, I suggest scheduling meetings with key accounts to better understand current pain points and see how our product can address these.” Such feedback makes next steps concrete as opposed to a guessing game. 

Tips for recognition

Create an outlet for peer-to-peer recognition

Encouraging daily, peer-to-peer recognition can keep everyone’s spirits high. One way to do this is on dedicated Slack or Microsoft Teams channels, where everyone can congratulate one another on their successes.  

Make recognition clear and specific

Like feedback, recognition must be clear and specific. This involves outlining what makes someone’s contributions or achievements so valuable. Providing this visibility helps everyone understand the impact of their work, motivating them (and others) to continue this behavior in the future.  

Document wins publicly

Not all celebrations should remain internal. Sharing wins (in blog posts and newsletters, for example) with stakeholders, customers, and partners can help them rejoice in your internal successes while providing a way to value your employees further 

Tie recognition to company goals

When employee recognition and congratulations are tied to company goals, it helps keep priorities clear and aligned along the way, with employees more likely to repeat these behaviors and work toward what the company values. 

Summary

Driving OKRs using CFRs is a great way to solidify OKRs in your organization. Using CFRs as a conduit for OKRs provides a practical framework for implementing, monitoring, and updating OKRs based on timely conversations, feedback, and recognition. Using the best practices highlighted above, you can effectively combine OKRs and CFRs to improve motivation, productivity, focus, and business results while strengthening relationships across your organization.  

Want to take your OKR and CFR process to the next level? Make the setting, tracking, and updating of OKRs a breeze using OKR software. Check out how OKR software can benefit your organization, or read our guide on choosing the right OKR software for you. 


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