Measuring what matters: How OKRs offer a more transparent, collaborative and accountable way to deliver our vision and mission

By Daryl Hine, Chief Operating Officer, Stellar Asset Management

By improving focus, engagement and collaboration, our move to objective and key results (OKR) performance management has improved our ability to deliver our vision and make a real difference for the clients we serve.

At Stellar Asset Management, we are proud of what makes us different.

By harnessing talent, technology and innovation, we aspire to be the leading provider of intergenerational financial services by offering transparent asset management in robust, diversified portfolios – working towards our vision of delivering tomorrow’s investment management today. This vision for the future remains firmly rooted in our founding mission to put investors first.

In practice, we need to set clear, actionable and aligned objectives to enable us to realise this vision and uphold our values. These objectives take us right through the customer journey, from devoting the time needed to develop a deep understanding of what our investors most want for themselves and their families to providing clear and concise performance reporting so investors can see what they are paying for and the value we deliver in return.

Seeing the big picture

A key question is how we can most effectively mobilise our organisation around these objectives and measure performance against them. Like most businesses, we used to rely solely on key performance indicators (KPIs) to set targets and track progress.

If realistic and understood, KPIs can provide valuable insights. But they can be narrow and rigid – a piece of the jigsaw rather than the whole picture. What would be more useful is a framework that helps us to define what we need to achieve and help teams collaborate more effectively in delivering these objectives. We also need insights that would enable us to measure, manage and influence progress along the way.

Aligning and improving performance

The opportunity to focus on measures that matter and develop the organisationally-aligned steps needed to achieve them is what attracted us to moving from KPIs to a framework known as OKRs.

The catalyst was our adoption of a four-day week [link through to article]. This provided a chance to step back and think about what we need to prioritise to make sure we realise our organisational objectives in the most effective way. What does putting investors first mean in practice? How can we develop the client engagement and investment strategies needed to deliver these goals? How can we keep improving?

Comparing OKRs to KPIs

DefinitionSpecific metrics that track performanceA goal-setting framework that helps define what to achieve and how to measure progress
CollaborationIndividual targetsCollaborative approach  that operates on a company, team and individual level
TransparencyRelies on managers to ensure KPIs are kept top of mindPromotes transparency and accountability for all employees
Progress trackingIdentifies areas that need improvementEncourages regular progress tracking and quick identification of areas for improvement
FocusTracks performanceHelps focus on what is most important by setting clear objectives and key results
AlignmentTracks individual performanceHelps align the goals of individuals, teams and the company as a whole
EngagementTracks individual performanceStrengthens employee engagement by providing a clear sense of purpose and direction
AccountabilityRelies on managers to ensure accountabilityPromotes accountability by setting clear expectations and providing regular progress updates


Joining the dots

The OKR framework brings together objectives, which are clear and measurable goals, and key results, which are specific and achievable indicators of progress.

Key advantages include sharpening our focus on what really counts and aligning the goals of individuals, teams and the company as a whole. The OKR framework also helps to ensure that everyone understands how their work contributes to the bigger picture – joining the dots.

Empowering our people

Further benefits of OKR include strengthening employee engagement by providing a clear sense of direction and purpose that employees can relate to and rally around – a guiding mission rather than dry targets.

OKRs promote transparency by making it clear what the company’s goals are and how progress is being measured. OKRs also promote accountability by setting clear expectations and providing regular progress updates.

Continuous guidance, dialogue and support

As we have found, OKRs work most effectively when they are underpinned by a supportive company culture, open communication and a commitment to continuous improvement.

A key part of the closely aligned moves to a four-day week and OKR management is encouraging employees to be open and constructive about what is going well, what is not and how to work together on solutions.

Following feedback about what works best for our employees, we now supplement annual appraisals with regular check-ins. The informal discussions focus on how the employee is feeling, how they are getting along with meet their OKR goals and what kind of support would them to achieve them. We also explore personal development including how the employee can get the most benefit from their extra day off.

Yes, we might all need help at times. Yes, we might not get everything right. The key is being able to discuss this in a way that helps us to identify problems, overcome obstacles and celebrate mutual achievements.

We support this teamwork with new tools such as Microsoft Viva Goals, which is specially geared to helping teams set clear objectives, align these with other parts of the organisation and measure progress.

Delivering the benefits

As we develop and hone our OKR approach, we are already seeing tangible benefits ranging from stronger collaboration to improved motivation and morale. We are also much clearer about what we need to do to drive performance and continuous improvement and how individual contributions fit into the bigger picture.