Goal Setting

Monthly Goals in Remote Work: A Strategic Pivot from Quarterly OKRs

6 min read

Making remote and hybrid work requires change. What you relied on when everyone was co-located isn’t going to work. Businesses are facing the challenge of maintaining productivity and building greater trust within their teams without being able to rely on some of the short cuts being together provided.

As remote work reshapes our workspaces, quarterly OKRs are giving way to more dynamic monthly goals. We explored the shift from quarterly OKRs to monthly goals with Luke Freiler and Brittany Traufler of Centercode, who recently steered their team towards this new goal-setting rhythm.

There is no question that consistency is important when establishing an operating cadence for goals. We know that simply talking about goals weekly will increase your chance of meeting them by 95%. Changing your system should not be taken on lightly. 

That said, if the way you set and manage goals is no longer working, it is worth revisiting.

Understanding the Challenges and Bridging the Gap

While initially sold on the practice of setting OKRs quarterly, the move to remote had the Centercode team questioning its efficacy in their new environment. Luke described a common scenario where, towards the end of a quarter, most of their OKRs were only partially completed.

If you’re using something like OKRs it never encapsulates all of your work. It encapsulates a fraction of it. And that fraction becomes very reportable, but everything else isn’t. So we ran into this situation where we’d be into the last two weeks of a quarter, and most of the OKRs are somewhere between zero and 25% done.

Luke Freiler, CEO Centercode

 Despite the likelihood of eventually completing these objectives, this situation led to two significant issues. Firstly, there was a constant sense of anxiety over whether tasks were being accomplished on time. Secondly, this often resulted in team members being pushed into a high-pressure, ‘crunch mode’ to meet deadlines—a situation that wasn’t planned for and had negative implications.

Building a trust-based environment where productivity is transparent is essential. One effective approach is the implementation of smaller, more frequent goal-setting cycles, like monthly goals. This not only provides a clearer measure of productivity but also helps combat issues such as procrastination and the anxiety associated with larger, less tangible objectives. It’s about creating a system where progress is visible and measurable, yet allows employees the autonomy to manage their work.

As Freiler notes, adopting monthly goals at Centercode was a strategic response to the challenges of remote work, aiming to provide a clearer, more frequent measure of productivity.

Evolving Approaches to Goal Setting

At Centercode, the switch to monthly goals was about more than just frequency; it was about making goals more manageable and aligned with the new remote work dynamics. 

The initial shift saw goals that were too ambitious, as team members struggled to adjust their workload from a quarterly to a monthly mindset. They found themselves setting monthly goals that were unrealistically large, as they were still mentally operating on a quarterly framework. 

“The other thing we did was try to reel in our goals to be a little more objective and be less aspirational, more actionable…and that will then require them to kind of dial down their ambitions a little bit. And I do think there’s something lost in that, but I think the pros outweigh the cons in that.”

Luke Freiler, CEO Centercode

This challenge underscores the need for both a mindset and procedural shift in goal setting. In remote work, understanding the ‘why’ behind goals is crucial. It’s not just about task completion; it’s about crafting a shared vision, propelling progress, and instilling a sense of purpose. Goals are key in tracking progress, informing decisions, and aligning individual efforts with the organization’s wider goals. They are a blueprint for both personal and organizational growth. When the rationale behind goals is clear, teams are more engaged, motivated, and committed.

Managerial Roles and Responsibilities

Managers play a vital role in guiding goal setting and ensuring that goals are ambitious yet achievable. In dynamic environments, it is impractical for HR to oversee each individual’s goals, thus placing the onus on managers to ensure goal alignment. 

Centercode links goals to performance reviews. This heightens their employees’ investment in their objectives. Managers are accountable for making sure that these goals align with broader company objectives. In their model managers do not have personal goals but rather hold the team’s goals.

In this framework, the role of managers becomes more crucial. As Brittany suggests, managers must ensure that goals are both ambitious and realistic, balancing the company’s aspirations with achievable targets. 

Connecting goals to our performance reviews has given people a lot more investment in those goals. We’re really putting it on our managers to make sure that their people are setting the right goals. And that’s sort of how we are able to distribute accountability for the quality of the goals.

Brittany Taufler, Head of People Operations Centercode

Cultural and Structural Adaptations

Centercode’s experience highlights the benefits of shorter goal cycles, like increased agility and better collaboration. Monthly goals foster a more immediate and collaborative approach to achieving objectives. Teams can more readily adjust goals in response to changing circumstances, and the shorter timeframe makes it easier to coordinate and align efforts with others. 

We found that when we had quarterly goals, we’d pivot off them all the time. And when you cut the timeframe down to a third, that’s going to happen, a minimum of a third as often.

Luke Freiler, CEO Centercode

This agility is particularly beneficial in a remote work environment, where rapid response to change and effective collaboration are key to maintaining productivity and momentum. Overall, the evolution of goal-setting approaches at Centercode underscores the need for companies to continually reassess and adapt their strategies to fit their unique contexts and objectives.

This shift towards more frequent and collaborative goal-setting is an ongoing learning process, requiring a balance between structure and adaptability. As teams evolve, so must their goal-setting practices, maintaining relevancy and achievability. A culture that values learning and development as part of goal attainment fosters a dynamic, engaged workforce, ready to face the challenges of a changing business world.

Conclusion: Embracing Adaptability in Goal-Setting for Remote Work Success

This journey from traditional to agile goal-setting in remote work environments underscores the importance of adaptability and continuous improvement. In a world where the lines between home and office blur, and where the traditional metrics of productivity may no longer apply, companies must be willing to reassess and reinvent their approaches. 

By doing so, we can turn the challenges of remote work into opportunities for growth, innovation, and enhanced team collaboration.