On the morning of February 17, Liang Rubo, CEO of Beijing-based internet technology company ByteDance, sent an internal letter to all employees, saying that he would adjust the cycle of setting and reviewing of performance targets from bimonthly to quarterly. The cycle of Objectives and Key Results (OKR) and meetings would also be changed.
According to the new cycle, the latest bimonthly meeting within ByteDance will be adjusted from early March to early April. Liang said in the letter that the main reason for this change up is that most of the businesses are relatively mature, and the bimonthly change won’t influence their operations.
In addition, a more flexible schedule could be applied to specific businesses. For example, if a business is changing rapidly or in a critical period, the leader can choose to add a review meeting in the middle of every quarter. If a business is changing slowly, review meetings could be held every two quarters. Some thematic meetings could also be added to deepen the discussion among employees.
Liang has previously pointed out some problems with the bimonthly meetings, such as long preparation times, less new information and quality discussions. But he stated that these phenomena have nothing to do with the frequency of meetings, nor are they the reasons for the latest adjustment.
In fact, he believed that these problems needed to be solved by strengthening overall meeting efficiency, requiring clear and simple documents, and putting in place more useful plans.
OKR originated from Intel, was introduced to Google in 1999, and then became popular with companies throughout Silicon Valley. While most Chinese Internet companies are still driven by Key Performance Indicators (KPI), OKR has been in use at ByteDance since a year after the company’s establishment.
For a long time, ByteDance did not enforce working hours. However, the design and task volume of bimonthly OKR is difficult for employees to finish while ensuring that they get off work on time. According to a World Observation report, a former ByteDance employee once said that OKR set the distance and time for the next 100 meters every 100 meters, and that the player was like a donkey pulling a mill, constantly moving forward. The meaning is that there never seemed to be an end to goal setting.
In the past ten years, ByteDance has maintained a rapid business development with many products such as content discovery platform Toutiao, TikTok and its sister app Douyin in China, and has become a company with more than 100,000 employees. Bimonthly reviews sometimes don’t match the overall pace of business output when companies aren’t growing that fast.