CFRs : Giving OKRs their human voice

Conversations feedback and recognition Mesh

Conversations, Feedback, and Recognition (CFRs) are like the powerhouse for OKRs. They provide a context for important discussions around critical team and organizational objectives — they are the why behind the what. They are particularly important because CFRs help get buy-in, assess motivation and ability, and help leaders estimate the psychological needs of their team members as they work together towards their goals.

What are CFRs?

Conversations, Feedback and Recognition (CFRs) are a core building block to an effective OKR (Objective and Key Result) solution. CFRs help to seamlessly integrate OKRs into company culture and enable them to realise their full potential. 

In Measure What Matters John Doerr defines CFR as follows:

  • Conversations: an authentic, richly textured exchange between manager and contributor, aimed at driving performance.
  • Feedback: bidirectional or networked communication among peers to evaluate progress and guide future improvement.
  • Recognition: expressions of appreciation to deserving individuals for contributions of all sizes.

The occurrence of CFRs must be continuous ie.  should be happening throughout the OKR cycle within the space of one-on-one sessions between an employee and their leader. Along with that, they should also occur at the end of an OKR cycle where the conversation should be in person. In the new normal of remote work, this could mean a video call. Conversations should include goal-setting, reflection, and ongoing progress updates. The feedback should be risk-free, specific and constructive. 

In order to meet ambitious goals set during the OKR process, it’s likely many employees will need to develop new skills. Conversations, feedback and recognition help them do that. Because of this CFRs add a human element to the OKR system by providing an organized way to motivate individuals and teams. CFRs allow a team to go beyond the question, “Was the goal achieved or not?”. And so Doerr described CFRs as “giving OKRs their human voice.” It emphasizes that achieving success with OKR takes a lot more than simply setting and tracking your Objectives & Key Results.

What’s the main difference between an OKR and a CFR?

Objectives are what you want your team to accomplish. Key results describe how you will do it. Objectives are significant and action-oriented. Key results are specific and measurable. OKRs can only be graded with “complete” or “incomplete.” CFRs, on the other hand, are the result of public, transparent OKRs and afford a larger vocabulary. You could say that OKRs are what exist in the binary black or white and CFRs would lie in the very insightful grey area.

OKRs and CFRs work in tandem

We know, when executing the OKR system, the objectives represent the goals of the organization, teams, and individuals and the key results provide the metrics to assess performance.

How CFRs integrate into this is:

Conversations and Feedback of CFRs relate directly to these performance measures. Bi-directional Feedback on progress to identify roadblocks and obstacles are discussed in platforms such as check-ins, conversations, and regularly scheduled team meetings. These feedback and conversations sessions are crucial in establishing a rapport and gaining trust as they serve as a vehicle for coaching and mentoring team members. They encourage and enable recognition of team’s and individual’s performances.

CFRs encourage managers to take on the role of mentors and coaches, rather than micromanagers thus making it a vehicle for continuous performance management. Opportunities for growth and forward momentum are discussed, and the road forward is mapped during Conversations. Ongoing education and additional training are identified and implemented. 

CFRs critical in the virtual environment

CFRs enable leadership of what needs to be accomplished. Remote work has done away with ad-hoc information we used to gather from unstructured conversations throughout the physical interactions we had daily. So the frequent use of CFRs allows a safe space for employees to ask questions of clarity and propose approaches. Here leaders can better understand the additional resources and supports that the employee needs that are “below the radar” of most leaders. 

It ensures visibility, not the way OKRs provide in terms of who is working on what, but allows employees and team members to feel seen and heard. Physical cues were a huge indicator in pre pandemic times, but attaining such cues may have gotten more difficult due to remote work. 

Lastly, in the shift toward asynchronous work – recognition within CFRs help enable teams and employees to have the confidence to work in an autonomous and accountable manner. 

In times when remote workers could be feeling isolated or poorly supported on what they were supposed to do, try establishing company instituted CFRs at the team and employee level.

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