The Eight Milestones to Run an Awesome Viva Goals OKR Pilot

Executing a successful OKR pilot involves agreeing on objectives, selecting participants, planning and running the pilot, and assessing outcomes. And remember to declare victory!

Executive Summary

(Read this summary then drill into only the sections that you need to know more)

Pilots are a low-risk way to test OKRs, but if they are not executed correctly, they will not serve their purpose.

This article is not intended to give you all the details on each step, but rather give you enough information to help you understand what's involved so that you scope your project appropriately.

 We can always talk if you want to know more about any of these ten milestones.

 The essence of great pilots are:

1.      Agree why you are running a pilot – what needs to be proved in order to make a decision on OKRs?

2.      Agree how to end the pilot –what needs to be seen for this pilot to be categorized as a success or failure?

3.      Make sure a pilot is the best way to achieve those goals

4.      Choose the approach and scope

5.      Select the players

6.      Plan the pilot

7.      Run the pilot

8.      Declare victory or failure




1.   Why are you running a pilot OKR project?

While there are many reasons why an organization may run a pilot project, basically they all boil down to minimizing risk. In our experience, the four broad question that organizations what to answer:(in no particular order):

1.      Are there business benefits to using  OKRs?

2.      Can OKRs work with our competencies, organization and culture?

3.      Do you have the minimum requirements for strategy and data?

4.      Do OKRs drive engage all levels of the organization?

Set your “three” objectives for the pilot and get everyone’s agreement.

2.   Agree how to end the pilot –what needs to happen to call this a success or failure – sort out the pilot’s goals (OKRs)

Set Key Results (KRs)  for each of the pilot’s goals.

We have learned that you have no more then three months to run your pilot – any longer than that and bad things start happening:

·      The Project Sponsors cannot claim success from the pilot,

·      The team becomes disengaged because they are not seeing benefits for their hard work,

·      Too many external factors get in the way of definitively attributing the benefits to OKRs,

·      The organization loses interest.

(Hint: In our experience S.M.A.R.T. measures can be used in some cases where progress can be seen in a few months. Areas like shorter and more productive meetings, faster decision making, business improvement in fast-cadence areas like sales, operations, finance

But in all cases quick pulse surveys throughout the pilot give invaluable feedback. Think of one weekly question: NPS– Would you recommend OKRs to the rest of the organization?

If you wanted slightly more detail you could ask: Are you seeing business benefits?, Do OKRs work in your culture?, Dowe have enough data?, Have you seen engagement all levels of the organization?)


Agree what the score thresholds would be on each KR that would declare the project success and failure. Stop the pilot as soon as you get reliable data.


3.   Is a pilot the best way to achieve your goals

There are pro’s and con’s to OKR pilots(Check out this article). The alternative is often call “Big-Bang” – or “Just Do It”. OKRs are only an enhancement to what every organization already does, so why do a pilot? Just do it.

4.   Choose the approach and scope(one area/several areas/ whole org)

You basically have two levers to consider –what “slice” of the organization would you like to test (one department, region, product, the entire organization etc.) and how to test it – narrow scope, but deep detail, or high-level of detail across a wider scope.

Pilots tend to fall into three categories:

Small pilot

One area (department, region, product, etc.), one level deep.

Medium Pilot

Up to three areas (department, region, product), one level deep.

Whole Org

A pilot covering the entire scope of the organization selected, one-level deep.


The selection of your pilot may be based on your goals (question 1, above) and the requirements of each pilot. For a successful pilot you must be able to:

·      Establish well defined boundaries to avoid scope-creep,

·      The active participation of 10to 15 members from each area, collectively with good cross-functional understanding

·      Sponsor, Advisory Committee


5.   Select the players

Every pilot’s success is determined by the team you have. The key roles for an OKR pilot are:

OKR sponsor:

Works to establish OKR credibility and manage the OKR pilot strategy  

Typically the executive in charge of the pilot area. They lend the authority and credibility to OKRs and the pilot.

OKR champion:  

The expert on all things OKR, responsible for the execution of the pilot.

A member of the team who has greater training and interest in OKR and runs weekly check ins with the team and helps resolve issues. Your OKR champion is a highly operational role.

Leadership Team:

It is essential that the senior team within the scope of the pilot area is involved with the pilot, both to ensure a high-quality solution, but also to gain their ownership and support.  This team is typically 7 to 15 people.

OKR Team Members:

OKR Team members do the bulk of the work!  They must be keen to participate in the project, see the benefits of creating alignment of goals, prioritizing our actions, measuring and monitoring performance and understand the cultural aspects of change. Together they should represent a good cross-functional mix,solid understanding of the core processes and projects within the scope of the pilot OKR area and should feel some degree of ownership of the pilot’s success or failure. OKR Team is typically 10 to 15 people.



6.   Plan the pilot

We have established plans for each of the three pilot types. They all have the core phases of:

1.      Capture the area’s strategy and strategic priorities,

2.      Translate the strategy into operational terms aligned to the core process owners within the OKR pilot scope

3.      Write awesome OKRs

4.      Operate using OKRs

5.      Weekly retrospectives and refreshes

6.      Keep score of the pilot.

7.      Repeat steps 4 through 6

The trick, as we said before, is to complete Steps 1 through 3 in about three days.

7.   Run the pilot

This step is easy once you have done the previous 6 steps!

8.   Declare victory or failure

You would be amazed at the number of successful pilots that eventually end up as train wrecks because they were not closed down once they had achieved their objectives. It is a science to correctly bring pilots to a conclusion, either way, once the learning curve flattens out and the pilot begins consuming more resource is can benefit it feeds back to the organization.


There is as sales expression that goes “Once you’ve made the sale, STOP SELLING”. The same goes for your OKR pilot.


Obviously we’d love to talk to you about making sure your Viva Goals pilot is a success


Brett Knowles

Brett Knowles is a thought leader in the Strategy Execution space for high-tech organizations. His client work has been published in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fortune, and many other business publications.

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