What Okrs are NOT and why you need them now!
OKR is an acronym we really like. Three letters, three words, many meanings, a thousand shades and – at least as far as WWG is concerned – a rather precise way of working. With this post we want to share some practical information about the use of Okrs within corporate organizations and product teams. Let’s start with what are not…
It would be nice to smite some information about that delicate (but stimulating!) phase in which you set goals. You usually do this before you start working on a concrete project. Perhaps, just the fact that you have started to think about it is already a way to measure yourself with something new.
OKR as a company engine
We are a software house with a systemic culture, great attention to resources and value of relationships. We believe it is crucial to have a clear framework for work organisation. For this, we will provide examples of how development, marketing and sales teams put the OKR system into practice.
1. OKR is not something individual… but it is strongly collective
Establishing the right business OKR is always a multi-handed job. Each professional has their own OKR, created independently after a process of confrontation with the other members of their team. A chance for structured confrontation and not trivial. The result, however, is so versatile that it communicates with people, brings together forces and resolves problems of confrontation between work groups.
Then there are the team Okrs. Okrs ensure division-to-department alignment because they try to locate a few roads (usually 3 to 5) to pursue a goal. The Okrs are transparent. WWG uses an OKR management software that allows each employee to notice (and update) personal Okrs, but also to check the status of those of other teams.
«Users of a good OKR platform can notice the cross-links between different teams, tasks assigned in a functional cross and understand if there are delegation possibilities»
2. OKR is not a mental construct… but it is the real engine of a company.
Not surprisingly, multinationals such as Google, Linkedin, Amazon, Facebook, Spotify are making extensive use of it. An OKR, well written, measured and revised with good cadence, is not “only” the best operating method available to a professional. Each OKR defines priorities, focuses efforts and helps maintain focus.
OKR, even if it is at the bottom of short statements, is a model. Model that relates the expectations that are defined numerically and the results produced that can be measured and evaluated quantitatively. In addition, it teaches you to adapt quickly. Like all agile and lean practices, it increases some of the skills of those who use it. One of all: to confirm whether or not the Okrs really reflect corporate priorities. In WWG we talk about OKR every Monday for this reason.
«Its systematic measurement is in itself a methodology that will be fundamental to really understand whether or not you are approaching the goal.»
3. OKR is not only a metric… but it is a way to get a path.
Key Performance Indicators (Kpis) are taken into account to really implement a solution and its impact. The Kpis alone, however, are not enough to implement and implement even a strategy. Corporate goals that come from above, those that are not an expression of an agile culture, have the great disadvantage of leaving everyone the freedom to choose the way in which they should be achieved. This increases entropy, complexity, and often confusion.
In WWG we keep the Key Results connected with the Objectives within the OKR update software. Although our boards offer the opportunity to tie the different Key Result to story and epic in every single sprint you prefer to leave the OKR check as a separate activity from the sprints at the end of each quarter.
«If the OKR is born in the right way and has SMART features there will be less need to go into detail too many times and waste time to understand “how things are done”»
04. OKR is NOT a function of the size of the project…. but it can manage its complexity.
Whether they are the Okrs for the construction of Noah’s Ark, OKR for non-profit projects or OKR that can be written in a few minutes, OKR is not a shot in the dark but an arrow fired at a target. There must be a systematic way to achieve your goals and to give them more meaning. If written well the OKR should be an expression of this adventure.
The Okrs create responsibilities, appeal to ownership and improve collaboration. Those who use OKR are not afraid of failure, rather they see it as an opportunity to improve and do not think of hiding their mistakes. Examples of our Okrs for Q1 2021:
«The action plan must postpone as compact as possible the set of projects, tasks and activities to be carried out and that you will have to map in order for your objectives to succeed»
If we consistently achieve our goals, we’re underestimating our capabilities. That’s why we set around 0.7 the score of the stated goals (as Google does for years!) also to understand if they are enough “stretch”.
05. OKR appeals to your ambition… but it won’t make you feel bad if you change before the deadline.
An OKR system is not a list of things to do more or less shared internally between superiors and colleagues. It does not foresee unless in truly extraordinary cases, abrupt changes of strategy. To this end, even if some teams believe that it is better to revisit a few times a quarter it is good to operate the OKR as a calibration tool. They give everyone the opportunity to adapt to new information, to abandon objectives that clearly will not be achieved and to increase the focus on the “limit objectives” that will benefit from additional resources.
As my friend Marco Imperato points out on Product Heroes is a question of hierarchical positioning. The possibility that the Okrs, only apparently written in the stone, are modified is a function of the position occupied in the hierarchy: “First we distinguish between the top of the pyramid and the base of the organizational pyramid. The more you stand at the base, the more changes are related to how you choose to achieve goals that come from above (…) The higher you stand, the more everything you do or say has impact propagates”. And it could impact the targets. In WWG, at the moment, at the end of the first quarter of 2021, it has never happened to change the set objectives.
«It’s hard to suddenly be in a position to change both goals and Key Results.»
How are your Okrs?