How Agile helps you set OKRs in 2021? Practical examples for industries, teams, and individuals.
A shortcut to fully understanding the meaning and benefits of the OKR framework is to see it in practice. If you'd like to learn how to prioritize your goals, keep them updated, and connect them with actionable plans, you've come to the right place. We are here to share our insights and help you accomplish this in an Agile way.
First, you need to make sure you have a solid understanding of the framework’s components, what’s their purpose and why they are so important.
What are the Objectives in OKR?
Objectives are short and concise sentences that help you envision your company’s mission. They are descriptive, bold, inspiring, and action-oriented. They need to be accessible and visible to each and every company member.
Tip: When creating your objectives, make sure to write them in a way that they answer the following questions:
What are the Key Results in OKR?
The Key Results represent the measurements of your progress. They are the path leading toward your goal completion. They are measurable, verifiable, and time-bound. Similar to the S.M.A.R.T. goals framework, Key Results should be specific and attainable.
Tip: When writing down your key results, make sure they answer the following questions:
There is no doubt that setting your first OKR examples will take some rewriting and adjusting, at least in the beginning. However, for now, let’s explore how you can polish your OKRs and spread the goal-setting technique across your team and organization.
Image credit: https://www.whatmatters.com/
The Agile mindset creates a perfect environment for setting focused and reliable OKRs.
The use of Agile practices such as visualizing work brings company-wide transparency on one end. Introducing feedback loops and focusing on customer needs and expectations, on the other hand, helps teams shift their attention from maximizing output to producing customer value and adapting to changing requirements. In that way, Agile and OKRs’ coexistence fosters the alignment between strategy and execution.
To achieve that, a method such as Kanban offers the right means to represent and emphasize that alignment. It aims to bring transparency, efficiency, and continuous improvement. Let's take a closer look at how that happens in practice and how Kanban complements the implementation of OKRs.
Through the use of its practices, the Kanban method is focused on achieving visibility and workflow improvement. That being said, it offers a straightforward way to visualize work not only on a team level but across the company’s management too. The Kanban method "sees" organizations as interconnected value streams that you should look to visualize and continuously optimize.
In practice, this can happen with the help of a network of related Kanban boards. Talking from an OKR perspective, you can think of the top of this network as a management hub where you can map your high-level objectives and connect them to their respective key results. Going further down, the idea is to break down the key results into actionable projects which will be distributed across multiple teams on their team Kanban boards.
This is how objectives are mapped and connected to key results and their execution. It enables high-level transparency which allows all stakeholders to stay on top of both the company strategy and its execution. Setting OKRs in an Agile environment will help you reach a company-wide alignment with your vision. It will also boost people’s engagement by allowing them to track their work progress and contribution to the team or strategic objectives.
Crucial to the objectives and key results method is bringing focus to work. The OKR framework calls for thinking of what’s most important and what is the priority now, which forces us to set a limited number of goals at a time - the ones that matter the most. The Kanban practice to set limits to your work in progress further prevents you from overburdening with too many objectives, losing focus, and interrupting your work rhythm.
Objectives are action-oriented, they require people’s creativity, therefore they imply regular feedback exchange. The execution of both strategic and team OKRs is highly dependent on people’s input. Their regularity gives you an idea if you are walking down the set business path or you need to change course. The Kanban cadences help you establish regular feedback loops and provide a solution to both management and teams.
The Service Delivery reviews, for example, allow teams to incorporate lessons learned into their workflows on a regular basis and decide on further actions to satisfy their key results. The operations monthly review on the other hand is designed for team synchronization and making decisions on improvements.
The output from there serves as a basis for the strategy review where strategic-level management is setting objectives and the company’s path. Keeping this close alignment between team and management brings agility and makes a company capable of responding promptly to necessary changes.
By making work policies simple, visible, and well-defined, you can streamline your work processes and encourage self-organization. Using the practice of setting up explicit policies, the Kanban method to project management further boosts transparency, makes processes clear, and lays the foundation to bring more value to your customers.
The OKR framework, on the other hand, aims to bring everyone on the same page with the strategic goals and have a clear understanding of the necessary actions to achieve them. The practice of making process policies explicit in Kanban helps to bring just that shared understanding of the work execution and thus foster workflow stability.
As discussed, one of the most profound benefits of the OKR concept is the alignment between the company goals and their execution. Let’s look at some industry-specific objectives and key results examples coming from strategic management.
Note: The following examples are used for exploratory and descriptive purposes to demonstrate how the OKRs framework works. Actual OKRs are unique and dependent on the company’s stature and goals.
Once you have mapped your strategic priorities and set your key results, you can now look at how these goals cascade down into the separate departments.
Applying the OKR framework in an Agile environment leads to enhanced transparency, greater accountability, focus, and alignment with the high-end goals across the company.
You can breakdown the format of good OKR examples into answering specific questions about each of the framework attributes:
Objectives should describe what matters most:
Key Results should answer how are we planning to achieve our goals:
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