The research and development department is one of the most crucial units to the growth and development of a company or organization. While the R&D team works to advance the company and improve its strategic advantage in the market, they often encounter many challenges.
Companies, organizations, and businesses can overcome these challenges by adopting the OKR framework, a goal-setting and management methodology. In this article, we will investigate the topic: Can OKRs help research & development teams?
Before we do so, let us look at some of the challenges faced by R&D teams.
Challenges faced by R&D teams
- Lack of clear objectives and alignment
One of the main issues facing teams in the research and development department is a lack of clear direction and alignment. Without clear objectives, an R&D team would spend valuable time and resources chasing unproductive and futile tasks.
In a similar vein, it is equally crucial for the team to be aligned with the company’s long and short-term vision. A team may have clear objectives and a meticulously planned timeline but develop a product or service that provides little to no value for its customers and target audience due to not being aligned with an overarching vision.
- Poor collaboration
Another problem that can affect R&D capacity is poor teamwork. In some cases, research teams work in silos-which creates the problem of poor communication and collaboration between other teams and departments- This can lead to duplicate work, retardation, and low productivity in general.
- Poor planning
In many ways than one, poor planning sets a team up for failure. The problem stems from having obfuscating objectives and company-wide alignment, inadequate stakeholder engagement, collaboration, lack of expertise, etc.
- Progress tracking
Tracking progress and establishing is a difficult task for research teams, given the nature of their job. A team may fail to reach targets and stay on track due to the factors mentioned earlier.
- Lack of training
Research and development teams suffer due to employee incompetence and a lack of training.
How can OKRs help Research & Development teams?
OKR stands for Objectives, Key results. It is a comprehensive goal-setting, tracking, and management system invented by Andrew Grove in the 80s. Since its conception, the methodology has revolutionized how companies, organizations, and businesses set and achieve their objectives. One of the strengths of the objectives and key results methodology is that it focuses on outcomes that measure progress rather than output. This ensures that organizations take a different approach to tracking and achieving said goals, which is pertinent for improving team productivity and performance.
Companies that adopt OKRs use them to increase R&D capacity, i.e., the maximum output of a team. The benefit of adopting this strategy is that the methodology addresses all the challenges highlighted above.
- OKRs set clear goals and objectives: One of the fundamental principles of OKRs is setting clear and time-bound goals or objectives- This eliminates confusion, improves focus, and fosters better planning among all parties involved.
- OKRs improve focus and productivity: some of the knock-on effects of using OKR is an improvement in focus and productivity.
- OKRs can help track or monitor progress: To tackle the issue of progress monitoring, teams should take advantage of OKRs’ short-term effectiveness. For instance, an R&D team can set a monthly or quarterly cadence to review OKRs, progress, and alignment.
- OKRs can help with employee training and development: To help bridge the gap between employee knowledge/skills and the demands of the market, they need to be adequately trained. An organization can do this by aligning training R&D objectives to equip employees with the technical know-how to work at their maximum capacity- This includes understanding their customer market, research methodologies, team building, data analysis, competitor analysis, etc.
Research & Development OKR Examples
Here are examples of how a company or the R&D department can set OKRs.
Objectives: Improve usage and market acceptance of our newly launched product.
- Hire two additional employees with experience in market research.
- Conduct Three market surveys before the next quarter.
- Improve market acceptability for our product by 20%
Objectives: Improve the productivity and capacity of the R&D team.
- Hire three experienced R&D employees to bolster the department.
- Implement five industry-relevant training programs for employees.
- Ensure 99% attendance.
How can OKRs decrease the workload of R&D Teams?
Besides improving productivity and ramping up R&D capacity, OKRs can help decrease the workload on R&D teams through the following ways.
OKR promotes accountability: OKRs hold teams accountable and ensure everyone is pulling their weight. This is because the methodology can be used across different teams that share a common goal. Proper planning and delegation through OKR ensure that a team is overburdened with work and provides its fair share of output.
OKR improves communication: One of the effects of better teamwork and collaboration is the free flow of valuable information and ideas- This clears up bottlenecks, reducing workload and improving productivity.
OKR is a robust goal-setting methodology that can revolutionize company operations and practices. Such is the same for R&D departments. The OKR methodology helps set clear goals and objectives, improve focus and productivity, reduce team workload, help track or monitor progress, and can help facilitate employee training and development.