The O in OKR Should Also Trigger Outcomes

(and Not Just Objectives)

Hello everyone! Happy February. Happy Valentine’s Day! Happy New Year (lunar calendar, the year of the ox)!

We’re in the middle of the first quarter in 2021. I’m hearing from friends and colleagues who I’ve worked with in the past that they are busy doing either of two things – one set is doing strategic planning for the year. The other set is gearing up for upcoming performance review cycles. (And there are a few who are doing both – heavens! Who thought of combining both of these in the same quarter? Talk about stress and cognitive overload.) 

I see and hear a myriad of people using Objectives and Key Results (or OKRs) to plan out what they are doing for the new quarter. Using OKRs, which Andy Grove invented at Intel, helps teams and companies proceed with focus and achieve results. You can find several videos and writings out there about OKRs. The talk given by John Doerr at TED Talk is one that many people find useful as an introduction. 

Using OKRs can give you the drive and results. However, I find a lot of teams and companies have not fully harnessed their power. Why? Instead of measuring the outcomes, I see many of them measuring output for their OKRs. The OKRs they write are couched in terms of releasing something on a particular date.

What's up with the feature & date?

Therein lies the problem. A release date doesn’t make an OKR – the impact that happens after a release is the one that does. What did your release do? Did it make your customers happy or sad? Did it help sales sell more, or are sales still scrambling to meet their quotas? 

KR means Key Result – but most people still think that releasing a product by a date is a key result. It is not – it’s an event, a milestone point in time. So how do you create measures that you can track after something releases? A lot of metrics like sales numbers are lagging indicators that can take a few months. 

Impactful OKR Metrics Drive Outcomes

One example of a better metric that one of my teams used is tracking the rate of adoption. We had outcome trackers to see how many of our customers deployed the new software release to their enterprise. We also measured the time they took from the release to actual deployment. 

We also looked at incoming calls to our customer care – if there was an uptick in either issues or negative feedback from our customers. In a nutshell, we created counterpoint OKRs alongside our main OKRs. We do this so that we don’t negatively impact current metrics and make them worse.

We used all these metrics since we could gather on our own. We collaborated with teams who were immediately and directly impacted by our release (like customer service). The end result – we changed the focus away from releases during our quarterly planning and instead concentrated on actual results and impact.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of the ideas I presented here. 

Till next time,

-JF

 

PLAYING WITH DASH

Apologies, I have not been posting anything the past few weeks. I’ve been hit with a double whammy. One is that I’ve been attending with several engaging webinars and MeetUps. The other is that I’ve had to debug my website. One of the plugin updates caused some javascript problems that prevented me from creating or editing blog posts or pages. I have since disabled the offending plugin while I get support.

Image of DASH Mural

One of the fabulously fun and engaging sessions that kept me busy was the 5-day DASH Demo led byRobert Skrobe. He’s one excellent Design Guru. He created DASH, a mash-up of Alberto Savoia’s pretotyping (see his book, The Right It), his mathematics behind probabilistic success, and Design Sprints. It’s a fantastic way to see if your start-up idea might just fly with actual data to back it up. With DASH, you don’t go entirely with gut feel only – you run a lightweight signal test, get user feedback, and through statistics, see how viable your idea actually is. Doing this can help you decide if your idea is worth pursuing, pivoting, or discarding – depending on the results of the signals.

The five days I spent with a few other participants provided Robert with enough feedback to finalize the Mural templates and the instructions or process of running a DASH. The templates should be out on creative commons soon for people to use.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in seeing what transpired in the five-day session I went through, click on the playlist below (each video in the list is about 1.5 hours long, FYI).

And if you want me to run one with you, please let me know. I’m more than happy to facilitate one with you and your team.​  I just ran a session with a client of mine, and they liked the whole endeavor. We’re now building something out and seeing what the signals return to us.

Living an Outcome-Driven Life Using Mobius Loop

I have been using and espousing Agile for a very long time since I first applied it in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Invariably, friends and coworkers ask the question — do I use and practice Agile in my personal life?

Why, yes, I definitely do! I initially didn’t start that way. I was just using Scrum on the teams I was a part of. At some point, it kind of naturally fell into place into my life. I initially didn’t set out to use it. I started using sticky notes to keep track of items I wanted to do in my home life. I then started prioritizing and figuring out what mattered to me and adjusted. Agile took over, unconsciously and subtly.

 

Enlarged Mobius

 

Today, I’m more intentional about using Agile in daily life. I have Trello board and use personal Kanban to manage both home chores and personal passion projects. I prioritize my travel plans and my hobbies, for example. I have overall themes about the various things in my life that I want to do, sort of like guardrails. I make sure to set boundaries, so I don’t overemphasize one thing over another.

And I don’t do for the sake of doing. One of the things that I see when people start doing Scrum or Kanban is that they initially measure success with being able to release something consistently and continuously. Yes, we finally shipped! We finally got it out the door! We’re shipping every two weeks!

That’s great for when you first start and succeed with Agile. But that’s not a correct success metric long term. You just released something – how has that impacted you and your business? What truly matters, when doing Agile, are the outcomes, not the output. The results of what you released are what drives value.

I take the same approach when applying Agile to my life. What are the outcomes I want to achieve? My life outcomes don’t have to be physical and tangible. They can be aspirational and experiential, like the thrill that I get when seeing something for the first time in my life. I can vividly replay in my head the first time I saw the Aurora Borealis ever, during my trip to Iceland.

 

 

A dear friend and a long time Agile mentor of mine taught me to use Mobius Loop, an outcome-based framework. And I’ve applied it to my life in spades! Take a gander at how I’ve used it from the video above (forward 12:50 into the video if if you want to see how I’ve used it personally),

 

 

Head over to the Mobius Loop website if you want to learn more about the framework and how you can use it in your business. Or your life for that matter, just like I did. 😁