OKR Determination Methods-1
In this post series on "OKR Determination Methods," I'll discuss the various OKR facilitation methods that we commonly employ in the digital realm.
We talked a lot about what an OKR is, where it's used, and how it's utilized in different places, but we didn't talk much about how to determine OKRs and methodologies. Anyhow, for those who are wondering what is OKR, I'm leaving a small 3-minute video here :)
We've had lots of OKRs at different organizations and levels during the past roughly two years. I had anticipated that adapting this method, which began prior to the pandemic, to the internet environment would be challenging, but experience has proven otherwise. In this series of articles, I'll show you how to employ several OKR facilitation methods in the digital environment.
Before going into the details of the methods, I would like to briefly mention what I paid attention to when designing an OKR facilitation. Indeed, it is not always useful to copy a method exactly. That's why I usually try to progress by mixing several methods. Prior to each facilitation;
- I, first review the factors such as participant segment (Team, management, Tribe, Chapter, etc.)
- The number of participants
- Purpose (Getting innovative ideas, uniting the team(s) around a goal, individual development, etc.)
and I prepare a flow accordingly. That's why brainstorming streams differ a little from what we do at the team level to the OKRs we do at the Tribe level or the streams where we extract individual OKRs. In particular, the 1st and 4th items draw the general framework, while the 2nd and 3rd items are more directives in time management. Also, if you are doing it for the first time, or if you still don't fully understand what OKRs are, or even 1 person in the audience does not have enough depth about OKRs, I highly recommend you to give a lecture on the following topics for 15-20 minutes at the beginning of the stream: What is OKR? Why it is used? What it is intended for?
The method I'll discuss in this post first appeared during the start of the pandemic last year when we were preparing to set new quarterly targets within the constraints I stated earlier. Despite the fact that we use it on a team level, we can argue that it has evolved into a very general and adaptable method. For those who are curious, we utilize Zoom for video conferencing in this and all other OKR streams, and Mural for all of our visualization, writing, and other tasks. All of the images you'll see here were created in Mural as well.
In the process, we call "Team Up OKR," we begin with the vision. It is also helpful for teams who are new to OKR to remember the vision sentence in terms of both remembering the vision and proceeding with it or otherwise determining the vision and starting from there.
After gathering everyone around the vision, we use one of my favorite methods of Liberating Structures: Critical Uncertainties. In this stage, we'll figure out the two biggest concerns the team had on their way to achieving their vision. For this reason, I normally go to the team with a suggestion based on what I've observed, or I go to the Product Owner and move forward, but I always acquire everyone's consent before moving forward. I take one of these two uncertainties as to the X-axis and the other as the Y-axis and place the endpoints of both in the table below.
Let's say the team's two most important issues are the ability to act quickly and the ability to be a team. In this case, I can fill my table as follows;
Then we name the colored areas in this table. For example, since the yellow area is the intersection of the Individual and Slow parts, we call this area Turtle; or since the blue area is the intersection of the Fast and the Individual area, we call it Speedy Gonzales and we use a post-it to mark the areas. While doing so, I either divide the participants into 4 groups based on the number of people there and ask them to name these areas from each group, or we decide collectively if there are only a few people present.
After deciding on the names of the fields, we write the indicators of each field by saying "What kind of behavior do those in this field exhibit?". Of course, depending on the size of the group, we do this in small groups or with the entire group.
Since the part up to this point (except for OKR narration) is the most entertaining part, I usually try not to limit too much time, but it takes about 20 minutes on average and it helps everyone to get involved in the subject. Then we do 2 successive Dot Voting. In the first, we vote on “Which of these four areas do you think we are in?”. The critical point here is, to be honest with yourself :) I wouldn't be lying if I said this is the most critical part of OKRs. It is critical to look in the mirror in order to set the correct goals. After we understand where we are, we make our second vote by asking "So where is the place we want to be?” Thus, we see ourselves objectively and meet at the same point as a team about the area we want to each.
In the next step, we ask the question "What should our target sentences be so that we can go from this field to the next?" If the areas we are and want to be are the same, this time we ask, "What should our goals be in the next xxx period so that we can maintain this?" We allow everyone a few minutes to identify these target sentences, first alone and then in groups of a few (see Liberating Structures 1-2-4-All) It becomes a place where each group's ideas are exchanged, and if there are any commonalities, they are integrated, and all ideas are shared and expanded. This step, where ideas come together, is probably my favorite, but things can get a little messy at this point. The most common mistakes are to write target sentences numerically as key results or as action sentences such as initiatives. In this case, I usually try to direct my comments and, if possible, be a little more involved so that better OKRs can be written. We try to test whether we have written a good target sentence with the following questions:
- Does it show what we want to achieve? (Why do we want to achieve this?)
- Is it inspiring?
- Is it understandable and clear to everyone involved?
Of course, at this point, a lot of sentences can come out. For this reason, through a vote, we try to keep the target sentence number between 3-5.
Since setting goals is an important part, I recommend you to spend at least 30 minutes here. In particular, sharing and discussing ideas is very valuable for teams to unite around the same goal.
After determining our target sentences, we determine 3-5 key results for each target with the same method. The most common mistakes made in Key Result sentences are the lack of measurable sentences or writing small actions. Hence, we use the following questions to see if we've created good key result sentences:
- Will achieving this be worthwhile?
- Is it measurable?
- Does it show whether we are moving towards the goal or not?
- Is it challenging enough?
We can say that this phase takes about 30 minutes. In truth, we've already defined our OKRs up to this point, but I believe it's still necessary to decide which initiatives you'll use to reach your OKRs if you have time. In terms of both people's adoption of OKRs and their ideas to feed the team, it is very important to offer the teams some time to talk about what ideas and projects they have and to gather them in a table like the one below.
Of course, we need to take one more step to assess these ideas. We evaluate each initiative/idea by placing it in the table below in terms of the value it will produce and the effort it will require. Thus, we prioritize the most valuable and easily implementable ones.
If you made a vote of confidence at the end of the workshop and made sure that everyone was comfortable with it, you have left behind challenging but extremely useful facilitation :)
This flow is a variant that we normally utilize in teams that are doing OKR work for the first time, as I described before. In the future days, I'll try to publish versions where earlier OKRs are evaluated or OKRs with different focal points. I hope it will be beneficial.