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OKRs Are A-OK

A system of objectives and key results creates clarity, alignment and job satisfaction, and ultimately drives revenue.

OKRs Are A-OK
OKRs can be used in any size business, from single-doctor practices to larger referral hospitals.

Veterinarians are some of the most passionate and dedicated professionals you will find. Most of them knew since childhood that they wanted to help animals. Veterinarians are also some of the most goal-driven people, having completed a long and complicated journey from a bachelor’s degree to veterinary school, to a veterinary degree, to perhaps specialty certifications. They have always had clear targets that helped them reach their ultimate goal: Practice veterinary medicine.

Veterinary leaders need to recognize that fueling this overachieving nature of veterinarians is essential to keeping them engaged and motivated. Cascading goals using the objectives and key results (OKRs) system could be an unobtrusive way to achieve it. With this goal-setting framework, increased practice performance will be a pleasant byproduct of increased employee satisfaction. OKRs can work for any size of a business — from small individual practices to large multilevel corporate groups.

Create a Cascading Goal-Setting Framework

The objectives and key results (OKRs) system is a great way to improve operational efficiency and help team members see how their work contributes to the practice’s overall success. Once the strategic goals are defined on the leadership level, letting the teams set their own goals to reach a big strategic target is a form of bottom-up management that boosts creativity and motivation. OKRs is a goal-setting framework first embraced by Google and used effectively by companies such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Uber and Microsoft.

Here is the framework.

The top organization level sets clear objectives, or goals, that are directly linked to two to five key results — specific and measurable action items — at the next level. These key results become that level’s objectives, from which the next level’s key results are developed, and so on down the ladder. The cascading OKRs all lead back to the top objectives and help the business reach its goals.

An effective OKR consists of two elements:

  • Objective: What needs to be achieved?
  • Key results: How do we get there?

By definition, objectives are significant, concrete, action-oriented and (ideally) inspirational. They don’t contain a number but represent a destination such as “Increase practice revenue.”

  • Specific and measurable: A key result should be a clear metric that can be used to benchmark performance. For example, “We want to have better client satisfaction” is not a measurable result, but “We want our client satisfaction rating to increase by 20%” can be measured.
  • Time-bound: A designated period should be established for executing OKRs — typically quarterly — after which they are revised and the results evaluated.
  • Aggressive yet realistic: Google co-founder Larry Page said, “If you set a crazy, ambitious goal and miss it, you’ll still achieve something remarkable.” Key results should be doable, but not easy, and should encourage team members to expand their knowledge and skills.

Finally, OKRs must be public on all hospital levels. Everyone must have access to everyone else’s OKRs, starting from the very top.

Why Objectives and Key Results Work

OKRs successfully help motivate teams for a number of reasons:

  • They bring teams together around a common set of goals. Teamwork fosters a culture of community and togetherness because team members will feel a sense of personal responsibility, and it will encourage their coworkers to grow. When team members achieve challenging OKRs, they will feel a sense of accomplishment and celebrate together.
  • They engage team members. Employees who understand how their role contributes to the business’s overall success are more motivated to succeed and are less likely to burn out.
  • They focus team members at every level. Having team members involved in setting attainable goals for their role helps them focus on key targets that will not only benefit them but also the business overall.

They encourage accountability. OKRs essentially become a social contract for your business that should be shared with team members at every level. Visibility allows team members to encourage one another to meet goals, regardless of their level within the organization.

An OKR Template for a Veterinary Business

OKRs can be used in any size business, from single-doctor practices to larger referral hospitals. Here is an example of an OKR goal-setting structure for a multisite veterinary hospital.

Let’s say the hospital wants to increase revenue, the high-level objective. Say leadership has conducted an audit, determined four main profit centers, benchmarked them against the industry, and identified a key result: Increase dental revenue by 10% over the next quarter.

Dentistry is one of the most underutilized opportunities for patient care and practice growth. By 2 years old, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of periodontal disease. At the same time, only about 3% of total practice revenue comes from dental care services. It can be an enormous growth lever and a competitive advantage; exploiting it takes time and commitment, but the rewards can be significant.

Here is how OKRs can be cascaded to unite the hospital teams around the same goal.

PRACTICE MANAGER

  • Objective 1: Ensure the practice has the necessary resources to provide more dental services.
  • Key result 1: Find a vendor and purchase additional equipment.
  • Key result 2: Upgrade available space into “Х” dental stations. Renovate the necessary number of exam rooms.
  • Objective 2: Generate demand for dental services.
  • Key result 1: Find a marketing agency and Launch a marketing campaign to generate “X” new leads.

MEDICAL DIRECTOR

  • Objective 1: Organize additional dentistry training for veterinarians.
  • Key result 1: Identify continuing education courses on dental radiograph interpretation and minor oral surgery.
  • Key result 2: Have all veterinarians complete the training courses during the quarter.

VETERINARIAN

  • Objective 1: Complete additional dentistry training.
  • Key result 1: Complete the dental radiograph interpretation course.
  • Key result 2: Complete the minor oral surgery course.
  • Objective 2: Increase the number of dental services provided.
  • Key result 1: Promote scheduling follow-up dental services during every wellness appointment, aiming for 50% conversion.

HEAD TECHNICIAN

  • Objective 1: Organize additional training for veterinary technicians.
  • Key result 1: Identify a dental prophylaxis course.
  • Key result 2: Have four technicians complete the course.
  • Key result 3: Raise hourly pay by $2 for technicians who pass the course.

VETERINARY TECHNICIAN

  • Objective 1: Complete additional dentistry training.
  • Key result #: Complete dental prophylaxis course with a grade of 80% or higher.
  • Key result 2: Begin providing improved dental prophylaxis procedures by the end of the quarter.

HEAD OF CLIENT SERVICES

  • Objective 1: Generate more dental service appointments.
  • Key result 1: Train client service representatives to convert client conversations into dental prophylaxis appointments.
  • Key result 2: Develop an incentive program for CSRs who achieve a 20% conversion rate or higher.

CLIENT SERVICES REPRESENTATIVE

  • Objective 1: Generate more dental service appointments.
  • Key result 1: Complete training on converting client conversations into dental prophylaxis appointments.
  • Key result 2: Convert 20% of client conversations into dental appointments.

Finally, OKRs are not limited to business. Individuals can use the same system to set personal goals — for example, to improve work-life balance.

This template, or a similar structure, can help set clear, achievable goals that will engage your team, boost creativity and motivation, and lead to long-term business success.

Ryan Leech is director of sales at Veterinary Integration Solutions, a business consulting company and solution provider helping corporate groups in veterinary and other domains to systematize the acquisition, integration and improvement of practices. He co-hosts a podcast for veterinary leaders called “Consolidate That!”

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