Cascading and Breakdown
Performance Metrics form a similar hierarchical tree as the Organization Chart:
Company-level KPIs (such as ARR) break down into team-level KPIs such as:
a. Pipeline value (for demand generation) b. New annual contract value (for sales) c. ARR per enterprise customer (for product)
When KPIs (such as $ Pipeline value) need significant improvement, their goal achievement breaks down between existing KPIs and new OKRs:
a. Baseline expected pipeline value (from demand generation) b. Operational improvements in demand generation (becomes OKR for lower-level team in demand generation) c. Launch new digital marketing capability (becomes top OKR for demand generation)
Company-level OKRs (such as “Sales from Africa”) often break down in team-level Objectives such as:
a. Obtain African standards approval (for product) b. Start marketing campaign in Africa (for demand generation)
c. Sell first 3 deals in Africa (for sales)
How to cascade KPIs and OKRs
The key with setting up cascading responsibility is to think in a slightly different order. Don’t start from the breakdown but start from the ongoing accountability at each level.
This way we also think less of top-down and bottom-up, and more of each level defining OKRs for their own responsibility/KPIs. But only to the degree necessary. It is fine and normal that certain teams only have KPIs and no OKRs.
- KPIs (mostly permanent)
- What are our Company (cross-functional) KPIs, actuals and targets?
- How do they break down into Functional KPIs, actuals and targets?
- How do those break down into Frontline Team KPIs, actuals and targets?
- Gaps (situational) and OKRs (prioritized)
- On which, if any, Company (cross-functional) KPI(s) do we need to close the biggest gaps? Should we set a company (cross-functional) OKR?
- On which, if any, Functional KPI(s) do we need to close the biggest gaps? Should we set a functional OKR?
- On which, if any, frontline team KPI(s) do we need to close the biggest gaps? Should we set a frontline team OKR?
- Breakdown (mostly exceptional)
- Which of the higher-level OKRs need sub-projects that should be considered a full OKR for a lower-level team? Eg from company to functional, or from functional to frontline team. NB this should be the exception, not the rule. It can quickly lead to OKRs that are too broad in scope.
- Consolidated accountability
- How many targets (KPIs + Key Results + sub-Key Results + any metric from any other source if used) does each person need to deliver?
- If a person has more than 5 (for executives), 3 (for middle managers) or 1 (for individual contributors), can we prioritize their list and drop KPIs/KRs/other metrics to keep the total under that number?
- Do other people on the team feel these accountabilities accurately reflect what they expect from this colleage?
- If a person has no clear accountability, can we give them some? Or should we review this position?
Every team should have one or more “steady state” KPI that they’re always going to responsible for. And the lower in the organization, the more likely it is that your work will be just drive that same KPI over and over again.
OKRs only represent the change that needs to be made from/above the current working practices, to reach results that you otherwise wouldn’t reach.