by Peter Kerr, MD of AuxinOKR, a leading UK OKR coaching consultancy
Ambitious tech start-ups share many common character traits and challenges in their drive for growth.
While growing to be strong they’re also at their most fragile and vulnerable. Culture, productivity and alignment can be in a state of flux. At worse this volatile mix can prove lethal for a young tech company. In the world of financial tech companies, or fintech, there’s the added matter of complexity. These companies and their products can be very complicated; and with complexity it’s easy to add confusion into the mix.
All too often they start with a great idea only to then lose focus. As soon as their well-prepared plans first encounter a real customer there can be a tendency for the leadership team to change direction and deviate from the original strategic vision. Fintech companies can also have a diverse group of investors backing the project and it’s important to maintain clear communications to maintain their trust and support.
While there is no magic formula for managing the pains of growth there are goal-setting processes that the most successful companies often turn to.
At AuxinOKR we work with those companies that have turned to an increasingly well-known tool – OKRs. This management framework, built around objectives and key results, is as easy for a start-up to adopt as a large corporate. In truth, it’s probably easier for a high-growth start-up because they’re not yet weighed down by cultural behaviours and inflexible organisational structures.
OKRs are flexible enough to work for fintech start-ups and powerful enough to scale as the company grows. There is no one-size fits all. You have to work out how to make OKRs work best for you. That’s where our coaching can help. Common to all high growth companies is the need to maintain agility as they expand their numbers of staff.
Our fintech clients are finding OKRs highly valuable as they pursue the goals identified within their scale-up strategies. From Curve who are going through C series funding to Nivaura who are at the beginning of their growth journey, having secured the backing of the London Stock Exchange and three of the Magic Circle law firms in the City.
The fact tech companies are usually founded by those used to using agile methods in tech development is a real advantage especially if they can maintain their agility as they implement strategy as they rapidly expand.
One of the big powers of OKRs is their ability to help drive communication from internal teams to external stakeholders. They can be the perfect way of explaining to employees what you want to get done and a way to keep everyone moving ahead as a team.
For those companies with investors on board, OKRs have the advantage of creating transparency across a business and accountability for decision-making. They bring clarity. They allow the owner or senior management team to articulate to all employees a company’s strategy and mission but in a way that’s relevant to them at a personal level.
OKRs are a tool to motivate people. It’s very easy for those working in fintech companies creating products and digital platforms to operate in silos; and then for one silo not to communicate with another. OKRs, when executed properly, introduce transparency and prevent silo working.
Such open working methods also ensure that everyone is clear about priorities and who is doing what; it ensures that the CEO can quickly see everything that’s going on in a complex organisation at any one time.
All high-performance OKR systems have some similar features:
- Key results always have measurable results that can be tracked
- Goal setting becomes a habit and changes how people think about their work
- Objectives are ambitious and stretch everyone beyond their limits.
Sometimes, although perhaps not often, increasing revenue might not be the most important objective within a fintech company. If, for example, it’s about increasing user retention on a platform, you need to be able to communicate this message to everyone in an organisation from teams to your board and to investors. OKRs give you that power.