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Managing OKRs in Microsoft Viva Goals: What you need to know.

In the first part of this series, we gave you an introductory crash course on Microsoft Viva. We went over the plug-ins involved and what it means for Microsoft Teams going forward. Today, we're diving into more detail about how to create effective OKRs in Microsoft Viva Goals.

If you've read part 1 in this series, you'll remember that Microsoft Viva isn't a whole new software platform of its own. It's actually a series of plug-ins for the Teams platform, powered by Microsoft 365. Viva is being positioned as an engagement tool for the era of remote and hybrid work.

Some features, like Viva Connections and Viva Engage, are available to Microsoft 365 subscribers. But various others, like Viva Goals, require a Viva subscription to access.

Why 'Viva Goals' is actually 'OKRs in Microsoft Viva Goals'

Despite the name Viva Goals, it's actually a system for managing Objectives and Key Results. So, what's the difference?

Typical goal-tracking is generally used for solo or team projects. SMART Goals are a classic example of this. But OKRs are much broader, which is as true for Viva as it is for Weekly10's own OKR system. OKRs take grand organisational objectives and connect them to relevant goals at different levels of the business.

The overarching company objective connects to departmental objectives. In turn, those then connect to the projects assigned to individual teams. This makes them an efficient means for tackling large-scale projects.

How OKRs benefit organisational cohesion

So, right now, you're probably wondering what the OKRs in Microsoft Viva Goals could do for your business. When done well, a good OKR system can benefit efficiency through collaboration. In turn, that becomes a positive force for workplace culture, which is why Microsoft has chosen to focus on OKRS in Viva Goals.

OKRs show your people their work has value

When you're just one employee in a company of dozen, hundreds, or even thousands, it's easy to feel insignificant. But OKRs are a chance for employees to see the productivity pipeline in action. It shows them exactly how their projects feed into the main mission.

We can't oversell how important that is. If you're doing what you see as a pointless or thankless task, you're less likely to throw yourself into it. But, when everyone knows they have their brick to place, that's how Rome gets built in a day.

OKR transparency can improve collaboration and peer-bonding

OKRs in Microsoft Viva Goals and other systems lend themselves well to things like peer recognition. People coordinating across the whole organisation creates much richer collaboration opportunities. So, in turn, your people are more likely to get peer recognition and feedback from a variety of sources. If you're serious about building a self-sustaining culture of recognition, encouraging it on the peer level is key.

But people thanking each other isn't the only social benefit of OKRs, and it's not just about sharing the successes. You don't merely succeed as a team, but fail as one too. So, when something does go wrong, everyone knows they aren't shouldering the blame alone.

Project managers won't want for updates

With different teams working on the same projects, there's sure to be a steady stream of progress updates. Viva Goals makes use of both manual check-ins and "live data" to keep these updates consistent. This can be great for project managers, providing you don't get snowed under. There's always someone working on something, which means you always have a sense of progression.

That can help curb the urge to micromanage compared to smaller projects. There's always new information, leaving less time and inclination to breathe down people's necks.

Getting the most out of your OKRs in Microsoft Viva Goals

If you're new to all this, you're probably wondering how to get a handle on OKRs in Microsoft Viva Goals. Fortunately, Microsoft CVP and Viva Goals Leader Vetri Vellore has you covered. In an interview conducted by Microsoft 365 Director Jeremy Chapman, Vetri established the basics of running OKRs through Viva Goals.

He uses the example of a video games platform developer trying to become the largest in North America. So, something along the lines of Valve's Steam platform, or EA's Origin.

Initiatives play a key role in OKRs

Despite the acronym only accounting for two, there are actually three parts to a successful OKR. Objectives and Key Results are both important. But it would be hard to advance either one without the unsung third band member: Initiatives.

Your objective is to become the biggest gaming platform in North America. Your Key Result might be to reach 50 million daily active users. But how?

Some initiatives might be running an ad campaign, or an open beta for new features. Looking to Steam's business model in particular, it might also mean a regular schedule of virtual bargain sales designed to reel people in.

Connect your Key Results

Getting the most use out of OKRs in Microsoft Viva Goals means properly organising your Key Results. In Viva Goals, you can group relevant Key Results together. That way, updating the lead result will affect every other KR in its downstream.

You should be able to tell at a glance how a Key Result is doing by the colour-code and text-labelled completion bar. Red means a project is at-risk. Orange means it's behind schedule. And, obviously, green means it's on-time. Organised and linked Key Results can be a nice little time-saver. After all, nobody likes repeating themselves.

Microsoft Viva starts in Microsoft Teams but doesn't have to end there

Like the rest of the Viva plug-ins, you can access OKRs in Microsoft Viva Goals through Microsoft Teams. In Vetri Vellore's own words:

'A common problem is making sure everyone retains focus on those OKRs, so those are not just written and forgotten. In order to be frictionless and right where you work, Viva Goals is integrated with the tools that you already use every day.'

'OKRs are integrated into the flow of work, for example, in Microsoft Teams. If you're a developer, it integrates with Azure DevOps. Additionally, it works with other work management and data tools. And you can expect to see even more integrations with other Viva modules, Power BI, GitHub, and more Microsoft 365 apps over time.'

The purpose here is to ensure a consistent flow of data by allowing you to connect Viva Goals to other non-Microsoft tools. This passive data collection means you aren't solely relying on manual check-ins.

Keep checking in with your people

Viva may have given you shiny new tools for automatic data collection. But that doesn't mean you can neglect your employee check-ins. To really get the most out of your OKRs in Microsoft Viva Goals, you need a combination of both.

And, besides, check-ins are an important outlet for employee voices, and a way for them to raise issues. If you lapse on check-ins because you're harvesting data anyway, your people will start to feel monitored, rather than listened to.

That's pretty much the gist of it. If you want to find out more about Viva Goals, we suggest watching the whole of Vetri's interview. But if you want to learn more about OKRs in general, check out our best practice guide.