Setting goals is key to the success of legal teams. But how can you set the right goals in a way that drives performance and productivity? Let’s explore.
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As legal professionals, you’ll already understand the importance of setting goals. And when you work in an in-house environment, driving and sharing results becomes even more important. Identifying, working towards, and tracking goals is a fundamental practice that helps us focus, align our efforts, and ultimately achieve success.
One powerful goal-setting framework helping legal teams accomplish ambitious goals is Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs, as it’s more commonly known. With a focused but agile methodology, OKRs have the potential to transform the way in-house legal teams operate and the scale of what they can achieve.
In fact, 83% of companies agree that OKRs have a positive impact on their organization.
So, what exactly are OKRs? Whether you are new to OKRs or looking to refine your existing goal-setting practices, this article will serve as a comprehensive guide for unlocking success with OKRs in your legal team. Let’s explore everything you need to know about this goal-setting tool as well as how you can start benefiting from it today.
In this article, we will cover the following:
- What are OKRs?
- How do OKRs work?
- Why legal teams should use OKRs
- How to implement OKRs in your legal team
- OKR challenges and how to overcome them
- How can Newton help your legal team and business?
What are OKRs?
OKRs stands for Objectives and Key Results. It is a goal-setting methodology that helps teams and individuals define and achieve their objectives in a way that is fit for purpose in today’s fast business environment.
The framework is designed to empower teams to set ambitious goals while also defining the more tangible steps required to achieve them. They are a strategic framework from which legal teams can improve focus, prioritize resources and work in a more agile manner.
How do OKRs work?
The structure of OKRs is relatively simple yet highly effective.
Objectives capture ambitious and aspirational goals, while Key Results are measurable milestones that demonstrate progress toward those objectives.
Ideally, your legal team should have at most two or three OKRs per quarter, each with no more than four corresponding key results. Why? Well, realistically, it’s only possible for teams to truly move the needle and have an impact on projects when there are limited competing priorities.
You should also decide your OKRs during your planning sessions for the upcoming quarter – that is to say before the quarter begins – and track them regularly to establish progress.
Objectives are the heart and soul of OKRs. They are meant to be inspiring and challenging, pushing your legal team beyond their comfort zone and toward new heights. When setting objectives, it’s important to strike a balance between ambition and achievability. Aim for objectives that excite and motivate your team, while remaining within the realm of possibility.
Key results serve as measurable checkpoints that indicate progress towards achieving your objectives. They provide clarity and, importantly, accountability which ensures that everyone understands what needs to be accomplished and how success will be measured. For best success, key results should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).
The key ingredients
So what does an OKR look like? Well, generally, an OKR will feature one Objective and a few corresponding Key Results. The Objective outlines the high-level goal and the Key Results explain the more granular milestones needed to indicate progression (or lack thereof) towards the Objective. Combined, it makes a cohesive mechanism to translate ambitious goals into actionable steps.
When crafting your OKRs, there are four key principles to keep in mind.
- Choose your timeframe
- Set an ambitious objective
- Make your key results measurable
- Track the progress
Why legal teams should use OKRs
McKinsey & Company revealed that 93% of business units that had fully adopted an agile model before the COVID-19 crisis outperformed units that hadn’t.
As in-house legal teams strive to become valued business partners and drive organizational success, adopting a more strategic direction has become increasingly important. By implementing OKRs, legal teams can unlock countless benefits that elevate their performance and better help showcase the impact of legal on wider business objectives. Let’s explore a few.
Focused and aligned efforts
OKRs provide a clear focus by setting ambitious objectives that align with the overall business goals. For legal teams, this means defining specific objectives that directly contribute to the company’s success. By aligning your work with the broader organizational goals, you’ll be better placed to ensure that your efforts are well-directed, avoiding lower-impact work and focusing on what truly matters.
Better articulate the impact of legal
Where historically in-house legal professionals have struggled to articulate, track and report on the value of the legal department, key results enable them to establish measurable milestones that track progress and success. By defining specific, measurable, and time-bound key results, legal teams can objectively assess their performance and ensure that they are making tangible progress. This transparency fosters a results-oriented culture, fuels motivation and helps the team showcase the impact of legal activities on the business; which can even result in the business investing more into the legal department.
Enhanced collaboration and communication
OKRs promote collaboration within the legal team by creating a shared sense of purpose and direction. By aligning objectives and key results, team members gain a better understanding of how their individual contributions fit into the bigger picture.
Moreover, the strategic alignment with the wider company goals encourages cross-functional collaboration, breaking down silos and fostering a more collaborative work environment. When clear and well-communicated, OKRs also facilitate better communication with stakeholders, ensuring that legal teams are aligned with the needs of the business and effectively addressing legal challenges.
Agility and adaptability
Legal teams often face shifting priorities and evolving landscapes. OKRs provide a flexible framework that allows for agile adaptation. As objectives and key results are regularly reviewed and adjusted, legal teams can realign their focus and (increasingly limited) resources to address emerging challenges and seize new opportunities. This adaptability ensures that legal teams stay responsive and resilient in the face of change, positioning them well to deliver value in dynamic business environments.
Motivation and engagement
OKRs inspire and motivate legal teams by setting aspirational goals that push boundaries and drive growth. By defining ambitious but achievable objectives, legal teams are energized to go above and beyond their regular responsibilities, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and innovation. Clear visibility of progress and achievements through measurable key results also boosts morale and provides a sense of accomplishment, further fueling motivation and engagement within the legal team (and hopefully contributing to talent retention!).
How to implement OKRs in your legal team
We’ve explored what OKRs are, how they work and why your legal team should consider them as your goal-setting technique. Now let’s walk through how you can start to implement them.
1. Create team buy-in
To successfully implement OKRs in your legal team, it is crucial to secure buy-in from all team members. Communicate the benefits of OKRs and how they will contribute to the team’s success. Emphasize the alignment between OKRs and the broader organizational goals to highlight their value and relevance. Encourage open discussions and address any concerns or questions to foster a supportive and collaborative environment.
2. Lay the administrative foundations
Decide on the timeline for your OKRs, whether you’ll follow a bi-monthly or quarterly cadence. Determine where your OKRs will live, whether it’s a dedicated OKR platform, project management tool, or a shared document accessible to all team members. Ensure that everyone has easy access to the OKRs and understands how to navigate them effectively.
3. Business awareness
Develop a deep understanding of the business priorities and strategies. Stay connected with key stakeholders and decision-makers to tap into the organization’s evolving needs to align your legal team’s OKRs accordingly. Regularly communicate with business leaders to ensure your objectives remain relevant and contribute to the overall success of the organization.
4. Setting effective objectives
When setting objectives, focus on creating clear, inspiring, and measurable goals that align with the organization’s strategic direction. Involve the entire team in the objective-setting process to foster a sense of ownership and commitment. Assign an owner for each objective who will take responsibility for driving progress and ensuring accountability within the team.
5. Craft measurable key results
Identify key results that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). Ensure that each key result directly supports the corresponding objective and provides a clear measure of success. For example, key results could be aimed at reducing contract turnaround time, improving regulatory compliance scores, or enhancing the efficiency of legal research processes. Use previous data and benchmarks to set realistic yet challenging key results that drive the team towards excellence.
6. Continually track progress
Regularly track your progress against the key results to ensure accountability and adaptability. Schedule check-ins and progress reviews to keep the team on track and identify areas for improvement. Encourage continuous feedback and open communication to address challenges, make necessary adjustments, and celebrate milestones achieved along the way. This iterative approach ensures that OKRs remain relevant and responsive to evolving circumstances.
7. Simply get started
Don’t delay getting started – trying it out is the best way to learn. Don’t be afraid to experiment and refine your approach as you gain experience with OKRs. Seek feedback from the team and leadership to continuously improve the process. Remain open to new ideas and best practices, and be willing to adapt your OKR strategy if it will lead to better outcomes. By embracing a growth mindset and continuous learning, your legal team can unlock the full potential of OKRs and drive success.
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OKR challenges and how to overcome them
Implementing OKRs in your legal team can bring about numerous benefits, but as with any change, some challenges can present themselves along the way. By understanding these challenges and proactively addressing them, you can set your team up for success. Here are some common challenges when adopting OKRs in your in-house legal team.
Lack of alignment
One of the primary challenges in implementing OKRs is ensuring alignment between legal team objectives and broader organizational goals. To overcome this challenge, establish clear channels of communication with key stakeholders and decision-makers. Regularly engage with business leaders to understand their priorities and incorporate them into your legal team’s OKRs.
Finding the balance between ambitious but achievable objectives
It’s important to set goals that stretch your team’s capabilities while still being attainable. Involve the team in the objective-setting process to gather their insights and leverage their expertise. Encourage them to think big and inspire innovation, but also provide guidance and support to ensure that the objectives remain realistic and actionable.
Taking appropriate action thanks to key results
We’ve discussed the importance of selected measurable key results. Getting these right so they accurately reflect progress and success can be a challenge. To overcome this, focus on using quantitative and qualitative metrics that are relevant to your legal team’s goals. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again; ensure that the key results are specific, measurable, and time-bound. Regularly track and update the key results to stay on top of progress and make necessary adjustments as needed. Taking action based on results is key to success.
Lack of accountability
To ensure your team feels accountable for the success of your OKRs, establish a culture of transparency and ownership within the legal team. Clearly define roles and responsibilities for each objective and key result. Encourage regular check-ins, progress updates, and discussions around challenges and successes. Celebrate milestones and achievements to keep the team motivated and engaged.
Resistance to change
It’s common to face resistance from team members who are unfamiliar with the concept of OKRs or are resistant to change more generally. Overcome this challenge by providing comprehensive training and education on OKRs, highlighting the benefits and rationale behind their adoption. Address any concerns or misconceptions through open and honest communication.
Implementing OKRs can be a game-changer for in-house legal teams. By setting clear, inspiring Objectives and measurable Key Results, legal professionals can better achieve more impactful outcomes faster while also raising the profile of legal within the business.
So, if you ready to embark on your OKR journey and unleash the full potential of your legal team, remember that embedding OKRs requires patience, persistence, and a willingness to learn and adapt. Stay committed to the process, embrace continuous improvement, and leverage the collective strengths of your team to unlock success with OKRs.
How can Newton help your legal team and business?
Newton delivers an easy and intuitive platform to manage and automate your legal entities’ information, governance, and compliance. If your entity management processes are currently creating friction for your team (which they are for many), be sure to get in touch to explore how Newton can help you have everything you need to be in control of your entity portfolio.
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