OKRs and an Agile Mindset

Disengage employees killing your Agile transformation progress? One way to get employees engaged is by giving them the empowerment to make decisions. When employees are given the empowerment to make decisions around their key results, they take more ownership of it. How do OKR’s tie into the Agile Mindset you ask? OKRs help provide employees with empowerment, the organization with transparency, and alignment of everyone to the single organizational vision and mission, with the ability to pivot on a quarterly basis.

Mechanics of it all

When creating OKRs, the organization creates objectives that align with it’s vision and mission. Once the objectives are in place, individuals on the team break them down into specific stretch goals we call Key Results, which help the organization get closer to the objectives. The Agile aspect of using OKRs are simple, let individuals come up with their Key results as long as they align with the organization’s objectives, let there be transparency by broadcasting all the Objectives and Key Results via information radiating walls/television screens or monitors (BetterWorks is great for this), and revisit the key results every quarter to inspect and adapt.

OKRs should be updated on a quarterly basis to help the organization adapt to change. The more important thing is that team members are given a higher level of autonomy and empowerment to figure out what they want their key results to be, this helps with the employees taking ownership of the Key Results and becoming more engaged, while living the organization’s Vision and Mission. People become more engaged because they are given the autonomy help reach the level of mastery they want after the organization has defined a clear purpose.

How not to use OKRs

People will very quickly realize how to make quick wins instead of the long term gains, so as to make the next promotion or bonus happen. Don’t use OKRs to measure people. If you have 12 minutes, watch this video on what drives people, based on a book by Dan Pink.

“We know money is a motivator but in a strange way when you are dealing with knowledge workers, if you pay them enough they are thinking about the job not the money.” – Dan Pink

Said another way; bonuses don’t motivate people if you pay them enough. That is why ORKs are absolutely decoupled from any form of performance management or bonus potential conversations. Once you take money off the table regarding OKRs, people start working toward OKRs for the correct reason, driving value to the business and not self-serving completion.

People doing things that deliver value to your organizations customers is key when you establish employee alignment, and agile is all about value creation. This would align well with the agile principle that states…

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable service

Kris Duggan

I was fortunate to have a conversation with Kris Duggan, the CEO of BetterWorks a company that provide software as a service for organizations interested in implementing OKRs as a measure of employee performance. I am not being paid for this little bit about them, and I see them as doing a really good job with the most effective way to get organizations going in this direction.  Think about it, what would it look like if the organization stated its objectives for the quarter and the employees came up with the key results that would be needed to meet the objectives.

In the video below Kris speaks about being agile and how organizations that use OKRs can adapt to changes sooner, rather than later. The good thing about OKRs are, they can pivot depending on what the organization needs are. Larger organizations keep straying away from the annual reviews, and there is a good reason for it. There is no real way to change if annuals goals are set up. Feedback over a one year period will not help as much as feedback on a more frequent basis. With OKRs in place, not only does the organization have the ability to align as a  whole, but also to pivot as needed.

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