Michael Goitein

Dec 21, 2021

The Real Reason Your OKRs Suck And The Only Thing You Need to Set Them Properly

Objectives and Key Results offer the promise of the most powerful modern goal-setting framework, proven to offer exponential results.

Unfortunately, given most Enterprises' factory-based mindset focused on efficiency and productivity, they've struggled with the new OKR goal-setting framework. In my work coaching teams in 200 year-old enterprises, I've seen them repeatedly lay out their existing Gantt-chart project plans as OKRs.

Management then wonders why teams don't deliver the anticipated results.

Enter Product Thinking

Shreyas Doshi (@shreyas) shared a fundamental keystone to setting better OKRs with his revolutionary Product Thinking concept in this Twitter 🧵:

https://twitter.com/shreyas/status/1471650411341750273?s=20

Shreyas boiled down it down to these five essentials:

https://twitter.com/shreyas/status/1471653151371522053?s=20

  1. Suspend the Project Thinking mindset

  2. Prioritize your real goals

  3. Understand your users' needs

  4. Generate options

  5. Simulate

It suddenly dawned on me that legacy Enterprises are stuck in Project Thinking, and leading with Product Thinking is the key to better OKRS.

Using product thinking to help you set better OKRs

Instead of being inwardly-focused on the Project Thinking values of When, Outputs, and Efficiency, setting better OKRs involves leading with Client-Centricity, Why, Outcomes, and Effectiveness.

Project thinking-based OKR example

Focus: When, Outputs, Efficiency & Internally-focused

Objective:

Get leadership buy-in on the new marketing platform

Key Results:

  • Create 5 use cases in January

  • Architecture designed and fully approved

  • Test data migration and go live

Note that in the Objective, there's no mention of the benefit the new marketing platform might provide, just that leadership needs to buy into it (Pure Output).

Of the above five Key Results, three don't have a number, and those that do don't provide any indication of what benefit might happen from those "5 use cases" or "15 new screens."

Product thinking-based OKR example

Focus: Why, Outcomes, Effectiveness, & Client-focused

Objective:

Provide lower to middle-income clients with the best financial products for them at the right time in their journey, supporting their improved financial future.

Key Results:

  • Increase client new account application starts from .03% to 0.5-2%

  • Decrease declined applications from current 40% to 10-20%

  • 50% of clients state "Yes" to the single-question survey "I feel I'm being provided the best products for my individual needs."

Thanks to Product Thinking, we now have a strong sense of for whom and Why.

The above Objective is far more inspirational than just getting a few managers to approve something - We're now focusing teams on bringing a better financial future to those who need it most, something they can really rally behind. Note the Key Results have numbers and ranges that clearly support the achievement of the Objective.

While the Product Thinking mindset will take time to adopt, it's the key to moving from legacy output focus to deliver meaningful results that matter.

Michael Goitein

Digital writing on product, newer ways of working, and great teams | Enterprise Agile, Product & Discovery Coach at http://key.com | http://michaelgoitein.com/

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