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  • Joe Ottinger

Why OKR Implementations Need OKR Champions

We receive a significant number of calls from senior leaders requesting help as they roll out OKRs within their organizations. Sometimes their OKR implementations are stalling because it feels too burdensome or like a waste of time to set and track them every month or quarter. Sometimes it feels like the company just created a master task list, and they are frustrated by the lack of business outcomes for which they had hoped.


While many throw up their hands in frustration, they miss the root cause for their lack of success, which is that implementing OKRs correctly involves a lot of change.


Here is a partial list of some of the major changes that OKRs create within an organization. Most of them are positive changes creating accountability, alignment, and agility. However, successfully achieving positive results from these changes is the challenge.




In my recent past, I had the pleasure of co-founding a firm with Harvard Business School professor John Kotter, called Kotter International. Professor Kotter is one of the world’s leading experts on how to lead change within organizations. He developed, and we implemented, the most well-adopted framework for successfully leading change in the world.


One element of the process involves creating a guiding coalition of change champions. In our blog post, titled OKR Pitfalls, Failures, And Restarts, we identified the lack of a change leadership approach as one of the most significant pitfalls leading to failure, and the support by internal OKR Champions as one of the keys to success.



Change Leadership Framework


The change approach developed by Dr. Kotter has three stages: 1) Developing a climate for change, 2) Engaging and enabling the organization, and 3) Sustaining and institutionalizing change. The elements of that approach as it relates to OKRs are identified in the diagram below. As you can see, identifying OKR Champions is part of the first stage.




The Role of OKR Champions


OKR champions have a number of roles and responsibilities as part of a successful OKR implementation.


  1. Facilitate the successful implementation of OKRs - Working with the senior team, OKR Champions support the successful rollout of OKRs, identifying and knocking down barriers to success.

  2. Power users that train others - Much like Lean, Six Sigma, and Agile leaders, OKR Champions are power users who master the use of OKRs and then help to train others, facilitating the effective use of OKRs by teams throughout the organization.

  3. Develop an internal center of excellence - Change champions support the development of an internal center of excellence relating to OKRs and other agile business methods. An OKR center of excellence can include a directory of certified internal champions and external resources, eLearning and other educational materials, company-specific tools, templates and job aids, and an overview of how to use your OKR software system, among other elements.


Change Champion Certification


Similar to the mastery of any methodology, we recommend going through a reputable OKR Champion Certification Program to develop mastery of the methodology and best practices for being an effective OKR coach, educator, and facilitator of the process.


You can learn more about the OKR Advisor Champion Certification Program and upcoming training dates here.




About The Author

Joe Ottinger is a co-founder of OKR Advisors, a training and management consulting firm helping companies achieve the promise of business agility now. Prior to OKR Advisors, Joe was a co-founder of Kotter International along with Harvard Business School Professor John Kotter. Joe has published books and articles about OKRs, business agility, innovation, change, and leadership, which have appeared in Forbes, Chief Executive Magazine, The Financial Times, Worth Magazine, and Stanford's Center for Social Innovation.

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