Any company or team forming part of a multinational organisation would have asked these questions at some stage during their existence: how do we translate our parent organisation’s strategy into something practical for us? And how do we ensure that we balance our effort appropriately between pursuing their strategic goals versus our strategic goals, whilst still performing business-as-usual tasks? 

When the Standard Bank Group made some changes to their strategy, their offshore operations needed to align behind this new strategy. The offshore operations cover a wide range of products including banking, investment and fiduciary offerings. It also operates across many countries, which doesn’t simplify the process to arrive at a cohesive strategy with a clear set of goals.

The challenge was that leaders in the company had large portfolios, some being country heads, each with their own set of goals. This caused way too many goals to be pursued, sometimes without clear accountability. Then, because of the change in strategy, there was a requirement to understand which goals will drive this strategy forward, compared to business-as-usual goals – and how to manage each. Lastly, goals were typically set annually in the past, but there was an understanding that times are changing fast and these have to be reviewed and updated more often.



OKR Implementation


6 months


Financial Services

Step assisted in drafting the strategy for the offshore division. This is both a “top-down” and “bottom-up” exercise – understanding the Group strategy and where the offshore division will play a role, as well as gathering and collating the elements that the business believes they need to focus on, irrespective of the Group focus areas.

The gather and collate process is critical to ensure buy-in from the teams that will be responsible for executing on the strategy. These teams know and understand their business, and know what will be required to succeed. Step provided an objective lens on these priorities, and ensured coherence amongst the different team members. The team then conducted various workshops and one-on-one sessions to prioritise – what are the most important elements that need to be progressed to successfully execute on the strategy?

These elements were then converted into practical goals using the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework. OKRs were drafted at a company level first, and then at a team level for every department. Each OKR had clear ownership, accountability and deadlines. Business-as-usual goals were split out to create a focus on progressing the strategy.

A regular meeting rhythm was implemented to ensure these goals aren’t “set and forgotten”. After one quarter of executing on these goals, the team was brought back together to reflect on the process, implement any learnings, and reset the OKRs for the next quarter.
A simple tool was used to track progress, ensure traction, increase clarity and promote transparency.

By using the OKR framework, a few critical elements were addressed:

  • Company level goals became clear – there was alignment behind the most important things for the team to focus on, not just around individual goals.
  • Accountable individuals understood their role – they are not doing all the work, but it was clear that they are accountable for driving delivery and raising risks and roadblocks.
  • A results-oriented mindset was initiated – instead of just being busy with a lot of tasks, the question was posed “what business value is this adding?”. Shifting mindsets from tasks to outcomes takes effort and it was agreed that the first steps were taken, but requires continuous focus to make this a lasting change into the future.
  • A habit of resetting goals was introduced – goals became more dynamic as the quarterly cycle of reflecting and resetting on OKRs was started. The corresponding deadlines drove a sense of urgency and early progress.

Over time, we believe that sticking to the habits and constantly improving on the process will lead to the team contributing significantly to the success of the Group.

Through following this process and the elements introduced through OKRs, we were able to find a rhythm where our meetings became cleaner, responsibilities became clearer and it’s become easier to manage the priorities in the business.”

Will Thorp, CEO, Standard Bank ICS