Transcript: OKRs Meetup

In July 2017, Product Talks Sydney held a Meetup dedicated to Objectives and Key Results. Below is the transcript from the panel discussion. The panellists are:

Ian Morgan, Director Strategic Delivery, CHOICE

Michael Le, Product Designer, Pivotal Labs

Bernie Ferguson, Program Manager, Atlassian

The moderator is Jen Marshall, CEO, Brainmates

Objectives and Key Results Meetup

Jen Marshall:                     

So let me start just by getting a little bit of context from you guys. Just a little bit of an intro from each of you, who you are, what you do, and where are you at with OKRs. Ian.

Ian Morgan:

Okay. All right. Good evening. So, Choice is probably about maybe a month into their OKR journey. I say a month because that’s when OKRs kind of officially kicked in at the start of the new financial year, but there’s been about six months worth of build up to that moment.

So we’re probably about seven months into applying OKRs, and we’re not just applying them at a product team level, we’re applying them across the whole organisation. SoChoice has about 150 people and we’re using OKRs to essentially execute our strategy through our business plan.

Jen Marshall:                         What about you Michael?

Michael Le: 

Hi everyone. My name is Michael. I work at Pivotal Labs. So unlike Ian, we’re actually more on the consulting side. So we actually help companies work towards and develop their OKRs. We work with some small startups, like 200 people sized, to financial institutions, insurance companies back in Europe where I started with Pivotal Labs.

And what we did with them is actually help define what their OKRs are. And we’ve been doing this for about a year now. So we’re not that heavily into it yet, but we’re working along with understanding how companies can move and develop better road maps using OKRs as well.

Bernie Ferguson:   

Cool. Okay, my name’s Bernie. I’m a Programme Manager from Atlassian. How long have we been using OKRs for? I would say in the order of 12 to 18 months. What we found is that we wanted to go into this model after doing some research because we wanted to set stretch targets for teams.

Like, we thought KPIs were really good, but they had two sort of major problems is that they were sort of backward facing, and they tended to be binary. It’s like you could hit it or not. And what we found is that teams are generally, “Oh, okay. That’s good. Now what?” And there was never a what else. So we wanted to set those stretch targets, and push teams, and encourage teams to really consider like how would you overachieve with this? And then use the Objectives and Key Results to have that discussion. And then considering like an over achieving objective, like strategizing ways to navigate your path towards reaching those stretch targets.

If I look back to 12 to 18 months ago, I would say we were probably terrible when we started. And we’re a lot better. I think there’s a quantum leap that we’ve sort of gone through, but it’s been one of those things if you try and get right first off, you won’t get anywhere. You won’t start. So definitely, start is my advice, which I’ll probably try and reiterate through the next hour. But like, trying to build that capability and that competency within teams is definitely something that I think just by starting, you can get into.

We found that it sort of started in different teams. So like, hey this is pretty cool. Let’s try this. And then one team will do it and then they sort of become an advocate for it. And you get people like me, who’s like, “Hey, let’s jump up and down and write blogs and all this stuff and go around to all these teams and try and encourage as much people to get involved as what.” And that sort of started to build a bit of momentum.

And now, we use it across the board. So similar to what you mentioned, Michael, around Pivotal Labs. We use it across our strategic and operational planning, right down into individual teams and how they set themselves up to be clear on the outcomes that they want to achieve.

Jen Marshall: 

That’s good. Let’s stick with that theme of starting, and unpack that a little bit maybe. And maybe, Michael, if you could share with us. How do you prepare an organisation to implement OKRs? So you’re working with companies. How do you start that?

Michael Le: 

Yeah. So how do you start OKRs? How do you define the goals, right? Like a lot of stakeholders are going to say, “Oh yeah, we know what our goals are.” But when actually ask them what are their goals … And then we had this in the scenario of our workshops that we run, is that one stakeholder will say one goal and the other stakeholder will say another goal. And they don’t match.

And what we kind of do to prepare organisations to think about OKRs is tying it back to their whole vision strategy and working towards their road map. So we ask them what their vision is, work on the strategy. And then use OKRs as that linking piece to say, “Okay, if this is where you want to go, how are you going to know when you going to get there?” So that’s where the key results come in. And a lot of companies will say, “Oh, we just want to make a lot of money.” Or, “We just want to get a lot of users on our platform.” But trying to use the key results and actually use customer behaviour things.

So if you’re familiar with pirate metrics and things like that, we try to get executives to start thinking like that. And like, okay, maybe acquisition is one thing, daily usage and things like that. And trying to get those metrics up. And also thinking about, okay, if that’s what’s pushing my team, how could they game it? And thinking about metrics as lagging metrics as well. So having that conversation at the executive level is a real game changer in getting their mindset prepared to go down this journey of OKRs.

Jen Marshall:  

Does that resonate with you, Ian? You’re into that process right now.

Ian Morgan: 

Yeah, absolutely. The starting point for us, because we’re doing it at an enterprise level rather than at a team or individual level, and that’s the kind of decision you need to make in how you want to implement OKRs. We absolutely needed to get buy in from the CEO and the board. Without that, it just wouldn’t have happened. And in order to get that level of buy in … I mean it’s a fairly big change. You’re changing the whole way that the organisation is going to execute its strategy.

You’re moving away from KPIs, which most executives are comfortable with, and proposing something new that’s even … You know companies like Atlassian have only been using for 12 to 18 months. That’s a big change.

So if you don’t sell the board and the CEO on the need for change, then you’re going to struggle. So that was absolutely the main piece of preparation that we needed to do, was kind of vigorously make the case to the board and the CEO about why we needed to do this.

Jen Marshall: 

I think you said, Bernard, you just need to just start. So let’s imagine we’ve got the executive buy in. And what happens next?

Bernie Ferguson:

Yeah, it’s interesting. And his point, like, the top down support definitely helps. But I also say that, almost as a complementary to that, or at the same time is teams just need to keep it going and try. Like progress leads to momentum, which leads to success. Don’t write that down. Said probably nobody ever.

Anyway, but I think teams just getting in, having a go, and trying to change the way that they work, and approaching it almost from a mindset approach. It is a bit of a change in mindset because there’s a lot of behaviours …

Two things that I’ve said, is there’s a lot of behaviours that if you go from KPIs and you bring them to OKRs, it’s going to smell the same. Like, you’ve all been in teams before. I used to be a project manager, and programme manager at large enterprise. You know that.

Jen Marshall:                         That’s true. I know.

Bernie Ferguson: 

And it’s like, oh if I under promise and I over deliver, hey, bonus time they’re going to love me, right? If you try and do that same thing with OKRs, it’s not going to work. You’ll soon find out on the scale that you’re not setting your stretch targets. Like if you turn up every quarter and you’ve got 1.0 in terms of your scores, I’m going to task you the question, like, “You’re not setting enough of a stretch goal.” It’s like, “Go back and then sort of strategize a way to be even better.” I think-

Jen Marshall:                         So what’s the 1.0, you said? So spell that out.

Bernie Ferguson: 

Yeah, that’s the scoring. Yeah, okay, you ready? We’ve had some good chats about this internally, and then we’ve sort of evolved it a little bit.  But I think we stayed true to what the intent is. Like, you should set your target as if you wanted to achieve a 1.0. And that should be a stretch target. So if you think it’s feasible to have, say, a 10 percent increase in page views, or a 15 percent increase in like, signup rates, or whatever the metrics that you find are important, go for … If your 10 percent seems reasonable, go for 30 percent. Push yourselves outside of your comfort zone. It should feel uncomfortable. When you write it and you press save, you’re like, “Oh, there’s no way. I’m not too sure that’ll happen or not.”

And then what you’ll do is the goalpost is now out here, and you’ll try your best to strategize ways to get there. And if you end up at the end of the quarter and you go, “Well I actually got to 0.7.” You were only trying to get to 10 percent and you actually got closer to 20 percent, so that’s actually really good. Well done. Awesome. So that’s pretty much the comfort zone.

And I often have this conversation with some of my colleagues around wanting to score them in colours. Do you know? Like the rags status, red, amber, green? And everyone loves their colours. I’m not a big colour … Like throw your crayons away and just focus on the numbers because that allows you to go, it’s okay to get a 0.7. It’s okay. Actually, you get a 0.4 and you’ve let these things in. You’ve tried to stretch yourself. It’s probably not that bad a result. So I wouldn’t necessarily mark that down as red.

So that’s this thing around the scoring. It’s really trying to push your teams out as far as you can to focus on the outcomes that you want to achieve.

Jen Marshall:

Have you, Ian, had any chance to sort of see how that scoring plays out at Choice?

Ian Morgan:  

We’re not using it. So it’s a fairly, you know, Bernard’s right. It’s how you score OKRs. But I don’t think we’re there. We’re not far enough along in our implementation to be able to impose the scoring system on individuals in particular.

However, having said that, we’ve absolutely taken the concept, which people have found really useful, of that kind of two out of three times. I won’t say the song. But two out of three times is actually pretty good. And that actually, your KPIs don’t need to be as binary as they have been in the past, where you either fail, or succeed. And that actually, you want to be setting targets that you can hit two out of three times. If you’re hitting them three out of three times, the target’s too easy. If you’re only hitting them one out of three, they’re too hard. So two out of three times is about right.

Jen Marshall: 

So, in your current state, you’re not using the scoring at all?

Ian Morgan:  

No. I mean it may be that we use them about how we want to report on the business plan to the board. But I don’t think they’re ready to give up their … And one of them is in the room, so I’ll try and be nice about it. Are ready to give up their crayons just yet.  That might be next year.

Bernie Ferguson:                 I’m the anti crayon guy.

Ian Morgan:                          Yeah. It’s a great phrase.

Jen Marshall:

Michael, what can you share with us about scoring? How have you seen this style of scoring achieved more than before?

Michael Le:  

Right. So scoring is kind of like tracking your progress, right. I like to use the analogy of like, you know, you set your New Year’s resolution to go to the gym, and your first attempt at it is just like going to the gym, right. And then after that you start measuring, oh I ran for 2kms, 5kms.

Or I started lifting X amount of weight. But the first phase is just getting out and trying to do that, which resonates with what Ian’s doing and with what Bernie’s just been saying. That you know, the team should just get out and do it. Once you start doing it, and you can use, like if you have three key results, if you hit two out of three, that’s easy to measure.

Then, you can get more granular and thinking about, okay if I aim for 30 and I got 20 percent, what is that in like scoring terms? So companies that we worked with, we always start off with like, “Don’t worry about the scoring right now. Just here are your key results. Let’s see what happens.” And then as you progress and build that capability, and that understanding of OKRs …

Changing that mindset. I think that’s the key part here. ‘Cause organisations we work with, banking and insurance, they’re used to KPIs, used to like, you said something, you gotta deliver it. And so it’s changing that mindset and using OKRs as that conversation of okay, this is where we’re at.

Bernie Ferguson:  

Yeah, sorta to the point that I was mentioning before. Like if you start with like the under promise over deliver and all that sort of stuff, and you bring some of those things with you, like you probably won’t get the value out of it, ’cause it’s essentially an output of planning. Like if you try to build that mindset and change and adopt this approach as a methodology, then you’re more likely to have success.

And I like the fact that you’re not scoring, actually, in that way, because it shows that you’re on a journey. Like, you’re starting there. You’re going to give it a go. You’re going to learn from it as much as possible. You want to set those stretch targets. Then you’ll start to feel uncomfortable that you didn’t set them far out in the middle. And hey, maybe if we aim for that further, and what’ll happen is I think you won’t hit your 1.0, and no one will be disappointed for that. They’ll be like, “Oh, that’s pretty good. 0.7 seems cool.”

And that’ll become like a sense of safety or that’ll feel like that’s okay. And then that’s when you’ll start to see better use and adoption as teams-

Ian Morgan:

And we’ve been really transparent about that, that we’re on a journey. So we’ve said it to the board that we’re trying to say, oh, let’s see how we go. Let’s see what we can learn. We’ve said it to staff. So we’ve kind of stood up and said, “Look, this might not work, but in the spirit of experimentation, we’re going to give it a go.”

And so I think one of the kind of key criteria that you need to have in place before you start OKRs is a culture that’s accepting of that kind of risk taking and innovation. If you haven’t got that, you’re probably going to struggle.

Jen Marshall: 

That kind of seems like quite a large jump for some organisations potentially. And the word, mindset comes up, and culture comes up. So what are some of the things that any of you have done, that you can actually do within your organisation, to help move that forwards?

Ian Morgan:

I think Bernie’s right. Is it Bernie, or Bernard? Sorry I want to get it right.

Bernie Ferguson: 

My mom calls me Bernard when I’m in trouble, but I go by Bernie.

Ian Morgan:

Bernie. So Bernie’s right. There’s kind of two ways that you need to do it. You need, absolutely, you need that top down, executive support, and absolutely, you need it to be driven by the teams. And shifting the mindset in those two streams is really critical. And the way that we found it is just prosecuting the case for change, why it needs to happen. What’s the problem that you’re trying to fix?

Why are OKRs any better than KPIs? Why do you need to do it differently? And if you can’t make that case, if your answer is, “Because everyone else is doing it.” Or because Google does it, then you know, you’ve got no chance. You need to be a bit more considered than that.

Michael Le: 

Thanks for kicking that off. Yeah, from our side, like we work with a lot of companies changing the way they work from like a waterfall process to an agile mindset. So you first start doing like continuous deployment, and then you do lots of experiments, and then suddenly you have this issue where stakeholders at the top don’t understand why you’re doing all these various experiments. And there’s the product team, and the executives that are kind of like struggling to understand each other.

And what we’ve found is OKRs gives them this level ground of like, okay, what we want to achieve in your strategy, we’re going to measure it by these key results. And then, we’re going to leave it up to the team to decide how they’re going to approach, and how they’re going try to navigate, or as you were saying, achieve these goals.

So when the stakeholders have this level playing ground to actually see that, then they can actually see how these experiments bubble up to what they want to achieve. And it takes a mindset change. So that’s why we say that if we don’t get buy in from senior execs, that we’re not going to run this because it’s going to fail. And yeah, by doing that and actually seeing that in effect over time and having those conversations, that’s how you start seeing the mindset changing.

Jen Marshall: 

I was going to pick up on what you sort of said about the connection between the senior executives and the product managers. And this is going to be a question for you, Bernard, because the way we see it happen in some corporates is that programme management actually is having that discussion and feeding those things up. So how does OKRs fit with programme management?

Bernie Ferguson:  

I should know the answer to that. I’m a programme manager. We have essentially evangelists and people who are really championing that sort of discussion. One of the things that I want you guys to consider when you’re doing key results, don’t make it a task list. It’s not a list of stuff to ship. Like, if you look through your key results and they’re like, deliver this, and make that blue, and then make sure this happens, you’re not going to the right level of impact.

What I want you to focus on when you’re doing Objectives and Key Results … Objectives, make them aspirational, like this is the top of the mountain. We’re going over here. Like that’s the thing we’re aiming for. Key results should be talking to the impacts that you need to have to deliver onto that mountain, right.

So if your key results speak to output and not to outcome, that’s when you know it’s a good time to review them. And just run it for a quarter, or run it for a duration, and see how it goes. And when I say output, right, versus outcome, I think a few people probably nod their heads, probably on the same page with me there.

But say, for example, I wanted to do a customer interview, and I wanted to find these three insights around how customers engage in my product. If I put the key result as around 20 interviews with these different customers to make sure I get those insights, that’s an output measure. ‘Cause if I can do it in five, I shouldn’t do the other 15 interviews. So don’t do them.

However, you want to get that insight so that’s the outcome that you’re ultimately aiming for. So put your key result around that outcome. By the end of this quarter, we want to have this outcome and this is how we think we’ll measure it. So I think that is really important.

And as a programme manager, to answer your question, ’cause I want to answer your question, but I think my job has been really to evangelise that, and then challenge teams. Like, why is that as a to do list? I don’t want a to do list. I want a whole impact so you think that you can have to contribute to that overall objective. And that’s when the discussion goes from all the things I’m going to do and this is product backlog, to the impacts that you’re looking to have, and ultimately, the customer experience that you’re trying to drive.

So my job is a lot around challenging. It’s around facilitation. And it’s around making sure that our teams are comfortable to set their barriers that wide, and then helping them through introspection and review at different checkpoints to go back and see what they learned, how they can apply it, and how can they improve for the next experience. So, can I do my plug now or later?

Jen Marshall:                         Yeah, go right ahead.

Bernie Ferguson:                 All right, cool. Is it all right?

Ian Morgan:                           All right.

Bernie Ferguson: 

Cool. So you’ll be using this anyway. You’re going to love it. So at our last one, we built a playbook. It’s essentially a hope for practises for teams. And one of the practises that we have around there is OKRs. So it’s essentially like a 30 minute agenda where you get your team in a room together, and you come out at the end of that 30 minutes with Objectives and Key Results. Yeah, I know. 30 minutes sounds crazy right?

But like, teams spend hours and hours and weeks and days on this. But I think through that session, you can pretty much get a good view on objectives with the sort of right amount of research and effort to go into it before that session. And then you could start to think about what are the impacts that you want to have, and key results that you have.

So I’ll share it with you, Jen, and maybe we can share it round. But that’s a practise that you can use, and when you talk to ask the question around, like how do you start? This is a great way for getting your team together, get in a room, have that conversation, and that will start to lead you to other progress around trying to deliver on impacts.

Jen Marshall:                         Ian, any great resources you’ve come across?

Ian Morgan: 

I mean, before I answer that, just to kind of build on Bernie’s point about outcomes and outputs. I mean, that was really the critical argument of why, for us, OKRs were better than KPIs at every level, in strategy, business plan, team plans, individual plans, getting people to focus on the outcome that you want people to achieve, rather than ticking KPI boxes and outputs and delivering this piece of functionality by Q2, delivering that project by the end of Q3, et cetera. When you’re planning out for a year ahead, the rest of the world’s changed. And your idea of what was relevant a year ago, is no longer relevant.

And so, if you focus on the outcome that you’re trying to achieve and allow the team to build their own solutions in response to what they’re seeing in front of them in the world at ground level, then you have a much more effective approach. Which is why we went for OKRs, because we felt that that framework allows that approach in your business planning, which a lot of others don’t. So it’s really interesting you say the same thing. Because that’s exactly how we ended up with OKRs, was a move away from outputs to outcomes.

So sorry, resources about OKRs. So they’re a bit thin on the ground-

Bernie Ferguson:                 Unless you have a team playbook.

Ian Morgan:  

Until I hear about the … Where were you when I was trying to spend six months putting together the OKRs? So there’s a really good book called, OKRs Driving Alignment and Engagement, by a guy called Paul Niven. That’s really good. That was a lot of the theory, if you like, about OKRs. There’s the hour and a half long Google Ventures video if you’re really masochistic. But it’s a kind of baseline for understanding OKRs. And there’s a few other blogs and things out there.

But I would really recommend that you do your own research and really understand the intent behind OKRs. Because you can implement the process of OKRs, but if you don’t understand why you’re doing OKRs, then you’ll fail. It’s really important that your champions, and if you’re the people who are driving OKRs, understand why you’re doing them, why they’re effective, and so that you don’t end up just kind of … I think one of your questions is about OKR theatre, so that you just don’t end up doing that.

Jen Marshall:  

Well let’s get to that. I’ll just … Any resources come to mind for you Michael?

Michael Le:  

All right. Resources. I guess if you don’t want to watch an hour and 30 minute Google video and you want to like, read a story, or listen to a story, Christina Wodtke’s, Radical Focus, is a great book on OKRs. It talks about a team going through a journey of OKRs and the conflicts that may arise. And it’s really applicable to real life.

I guess Felipe Castro’s stuff on Lean Performance, and he talks a lot about OKRs and the terms of agile goal setting. And I guess, thinking about OKRs as like, a way to get towards outcomes, not outputs. And when you read other people’s stuff, like Sense and Respond by Jeff Gothelf, a lot of his thinking is you can use the spirit of OKRs in that sense too. So seeing other ways of aligning business through impact mapping and things like that.

Jen Marshall: 

So let’s take a little bit of a turn through the dark side and see where we get to. Has anyone seen … This is a situation where somebody’s tried to implement OKRs, but they’re really just pretending. OKRs theatre. We’re going through the motions. Does that happen?

Bernie Ferguson: 

I’ve got an answer. Yes. See you later. No, I’ve seen examples. We did a fair of amount of research, like did the roles and talked to people and all that sort of stuff, and we’ve spoken to some of our customers who have tried to use OKRs. And then they’re sort of going, “Oh, it didn’t work for us. It’s not for us. That’s cool.” And then moved on.

But they didn’t, to your point, Ian, they didn’t really try to think about their mindset and their approach. Like, they didn’t answer the why. Why are we doing this? And then they revised that sort of discussion, and they’ve come back and they’re trying again. So, yeah, this is an organisation we all know. Listen to music on them. So, they’re an example of trying to do it.

But inside that last … You need to anticipate that last example, we’ve had different teams try and fail, and then come away, and like just build that capability over time too. You’ll see different pockets of adoption within your teams and with your stakeholders and how you get engagement. So, yeah, I think it’s one of those things. Like if I had to ask or have a discussion with a board member, or an executive team member to say, like I want to do OKRs. I’m really passionate about it. One thing is I was ask for is a degree of patience.

I remember like trying to write my first sort of set of Objectives and Key Results, and I come out with my task list. You know, like come on Bernie. You can do better than that. And then I try to speak to impact and then at the end of the quarter I go, “There’s no way of actually measuring that.” So it’s not a good key result. Like your key results should be quantifiable. You need to be able to measure it. And they’re like, “Well, that was a bad key result.” But I try to build that capability time and time again.  So the patience side of things is pretty good.

The other thing I definitely encourage, and that last thing, one about values is open company, no bullshit. And I can say bullshit in Australia, but no BS if I was in America, right. So, when we build them, and we share them, that’s one of the great things about it. ‘Cause as with my teams, what I’m thinking about is this, and then another team will be thinking about that sort of stuff. And we’ll try and share.

And if you can get to this like an advanced state, where you have two different teams with the same objective, and they all take different key results to deliver on that objective, like kudos to you. That’s awesome. Because that builds that sort of connective tissue between teams, and that share alignment of delivering that outcome.

And that means that the outcomes that you’ve got, like the objectives that you’re targeting, really are impactful. Like if you’ve got more than one team doing that, then that’s great. You might be in one product team, but you might want to have a really good customer experience across all your products. And you might do it with other things, or within different parts of your product experience. So if you can get to that state, I think that’s sort of good.

And we’re starting to get a little bit of that as we get better and better at it. So, it’s definitely that I’m working to continue to develop.

Jen Marshall: 

Are either of you aware of any sort of horror stories, OKR horror stories, or even just mildly bad stories?

Michael Le: 

I’ll take this one. I guess for us, it’s like, you know, you have that session. You’ve got your key results and your objective, and you’re like, great. We’re going to go do this. You set your priorities on the week, and then Friday happens, and then you’re like, “Oh did we move the needle anyway?” And it’s like, “Oh I need to go speak to this department for that number.”

And so it becomes such a hassle to get the metrics that teams are just like, “We can’t be arsed to do this.” And you know, it takes like a day or two to get the numbers from everyone. And that was too much pain. And then, after a while you kind of just leave it there, this whole set it and forget it thing.

And then near the end of the quarter, you’re just scrambling, and like, “Oh we’ll do this, this, this.” And then you’re like, “I don’t know. I don’t know what happened for the last two months. Like where are our key results?” And it goes down to the whole idea of measuring things. And how do you make that easy?

Even in large enterprises, lots of big systems, but are you actually measuring customer value or impact? Most of the time, not. So what we’ve done in those situations is actually set OKRs to get you to a baseline. So not looking at customer value right away, but maybe just action based.

Let’s say we can measure 80 percent of the system, or we can measure 90 percent of whatever. And then you add zero now. So that’s a stretch goal already and you’re kind of getting there. And you need to be conscious that these are your internal measurements and you’re not thinking about the customers at the moment. So once you get to that maturity and you have those metrics, okay, let’s start thinking about the customer again.

So it requires a little bit of consciousness of okay, what can we measure right now? If we can’t do that, maybe there is no OKR to get us to that level. You know, it’s an aspirational goal. We want to be like Google or Atlassian, and we want to use this playbook, but we can’t now. So I think, yeah, getting teams to do that and finding time in the whole backlog to actually say, “Okay, you know we’re going to dedicate resources to measure our system.”

Jen Marshall: 

I think the word that’s come up a couple of times is patience. And we talked about timeframes, and it feels almost like, you know, from an Atlassian perspective, we’re still evolving what we’re doing. So what are the timeframes? Like what could people expect at the first quarter, at the first year, and so on? What should it look like?

Bernie Ferguson:  

I would have to say it’s contextual. So apply what you think is best to your environment. Like, most of the time, time frames are arbitrary anyway. So we set objectives that will generally last 12 months for a financial year, and then we’ll do organisational level objectives at that level. And then our teams will do that on a quarterly cadence. And then they’ll review every month. And the important part about the review, it’s less looking in the mirror backwards and more looking forwards.

So when you do your monthly review, the score is sort of not that important. It’s like the discussion that you have, and the lessons that you take from that that you immediately apply that day for that next month, so you can improve that for the coming month, and hopefully, by the end of the quarter. So if you’re really talking to impact in your key results, and you’re reviewing them monthly, what it allows you to do is build different tactics to get to those results. You don’t have a list of stuff to do anymore. You’ve got a list of impacts that you want to have you’ve got to be adaptive with the tactics and things that you try.

So that review should be always as much looking forward as you can. Learn from the past. I do a little mini-retrospective. Learn from that and try and push yourself forward into that next month and see what you can do to help do that.

Or, you might get to month one and go, “Hey, what were we thinking?” That’s not a good. Okay, I’m just going to write that down as a 0.2, or a 0.1, and we’re just going to actively de- prioritise that, which allows us to focus on the things that we now know is actually going to have a bigger impact.”

Michael Le:

So I guess what the common theme here is you’re actually talking about your goals, right. Like before using OKRs, a lot of companies set like annual goals. Like, “Okay, this year, we’re going to do this. This financial year, we’re going to do x, y, z.” And then it’s like a ghost town for the rest of the product team and organisation. Maybe some senior stakeholders have QBRs and things like that, but the people actually doing the work, next time they hear it is at the Christmas party, or the next annual review.

So, yeah, OKRs provides you that framework to keep these things front of mind, like monthly check ins, or quarterly check ins, or weekly depending on some teams. You know, you’re keeping it front of mind and having that conversation and you’re using this framework of having this Objective and Key Results, which is really three, four sentences sometimes, to have a discussion with stakeholders and the whole business about how things are going and allowing you to adjust to the market needs. ‘Cause what you’re set in a year will change, so it kind of like allows you that maneuverability.

Ian Morgan:

Yeah. I’d agree with that. I think where there’s different levels of again, whether you’re applying OKRs at the organisational level, department team, or individual level will dictate your cadence and what’s appropriate, and also, where you are in your kind of OKR journey. So for us, we’re fairly early on and you know, the literature says everything OKR should be quarterly.

But that’s not appropriate for every team at Choice. To go from a kind of annual planning cycle, go right, we now do quarters, is quite a big step when you also bundle all the cultural changes, all the mindset changes, to do it all at once is a bit much.

So we’ve kind of said there will be quarterly OKRs in this plan. We will still have some annual ones, and individually, we want you to begin to think in terms of a quarterly cadence, but we’re not mandating that yet. We’re not ready for it.

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