Recently, I had a conversation with a COO about a potential project. He shared his biggest challenge: OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) may look good on paper, but people struggle to make them work. They read the sentences, then revert to their chaotic work habits or simply ignore the goals.
Here's the truth: Companies don't care about OKRs, Scrum, SAFe, or any other methodology we propose.
They care about solving problems like slow delivery, unpredictable work, lack of collaboration between functions, and scaling difficulties. They crave simplicity and practical solutions, but often, we provide complexity and theories.
So, what are the common mistakes we make when setting OKRs?
Cascading OKRs: The typical approach is to cascade OKRs from company to department to manager to team to individual. This creates unnecessary complexity.
Instead, think of OKRs as a network. They can be horizontal, like product OKRs involving multiple functions, or specific to a team. What they all share is alignment with the business strategy. If you don't have a clear strategy, start there.
KRs Should Be Numbers: Key Results (KRs) are often seen as numerical targets, but they can also be clear objectives. For instance, if your Objective is to launch a beta product to the first 100 users by the end of Q2, your key results can be detailed steps to achieve this goal:
- Deliver all major features to the first 100 users by the end of May
- Launch the product with zero major bugs or issues reported within the first 30 days
- Define and validate product requirements based on user feedback and market research
- Run marketing strategy to bring min 1000 qualified leads by the end of Q2.
- Develop a scalable architecture that can handle at least 10,000 active users within the first 3 months
- User satisfaction to be above %95
See? Not all of them are numbers. ;-)
Adding All Tasks to OKRs: Instead of listing every task and feature in OKRs, use initiatives linked to the OKRs. This avoids micromanagement and aligns better with agile methodologies.
So, if we take the OKR from the above, your initiatives can be:
- Conduct a thorough requirements analysis to identify and prioritize all major features correctly.
- Implement Epics with high priority and risk from product roadmap Q1.
- Set up a continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline to streamline feature development, testing, and deployment.
- Conduct user acceptance testing (UAT) to ensure the features meet user needs and expectations before releasing them to the first 100 users.
OKRs Are Not KPIs: OKRs are for goal-setting and providing direction, while Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) measure ongoing performance. Understand the difference and use them accordingly.
For the case above, the KPIs could be:
- User Retention
- Feature completion rate, % of features
- Active users
- User satisfaction score
- Conversion rate
- Lead Time
- Time to market
- Feature adoption rate, % of users
- Deployment frequency
- Bug rate
- Revenue $$
- Load time
- Code coverage
OKRs Should Work from the Beginning: Implementing OKRs is a journey, and it's okay to stumble at first. Many companies grasp the concept fully after several attempts. Don't be discouraged by initial failures. Most companies grasp the best understanding around the fourth cycle.
How to Start with OKRs:
- Explain the "why" behind OKRs.
- Set the agenda for discussions.
- Establish ground rules, such as no right or wrong, seek understanding, and assume positive intent.
- Reflect on past results and identify learning opportunities.
- Brainstorm what can be done differently this time.
- Review strategy, roadmaps, and areas for improvement in the upcoming quarter.
- Define clear directions for the quarter.
- Prioritize based on impact and difficulty.
- Craft a set of OKRs that everyone aligns with.
- Define the next steps and ensure visualization using a tool, ideally integrated with your team's workflow (e.g., OKR for Jira add-on).
Now, go ahead and create effective OKRs for your company.
Adding structure, details, and measurability to your direction-setting process empowers your teams to work autonomously with a clear understanding of their goals and purpose.
This approach will improve communication and drive results.
Hope this helps. :)
Whenever you're ready, there are 4 other ways I can help you:
1. Follow me on Linkedin to get daily tips on #agile, #team coaching, #scrum master growth, #agile leadership, #agilecoaching #culture
2. 💥Join our community to taste our recipes to help you grow as an agilist and help your teams improve performance!
3. Join the Ultimate Team Performance Toolkit: a compound collection of 30 exercises, templates and strategies to measure and improve team dynamics and performance.
4. Join the Agile Team Accelerator Program: A targeted coaching- facilitation system to help Scrum Masters and Agile Leaders to identify team hidden obstacles and turn those into a growth plan in 30-60 days.