Our first iteration of the OKR process started in a very humble manner.
- We started with four monthly goals, however, changed it to a three-monthly cycle quickly to map to larger business & financial planning cycles
- Each team member identified & published a quarterly OKR over email. There were no guided norms on goals, outcome or the number of OKRs one can take
- We reviewed the same with the project-leads at the quarter’s end
It was a simple approach and gave us innumerable learnings.
- There was no top-down goal setting. Each individual was responsible for ideating, creating & answering for OKRs for herself & the function she/he led. This process encouraged the team members to take ownership & be accountable for the outcome
- Emails are easy to use, but they do not enable transparency. Any new joinee (and we had a lot of them in this phase) struggled to get a view of the OKRs
- While we had regular sync up on progress on various projects, these OKRs themselves were reviewed only at the end of the quarter. Any support to impact the outcome was highly dependent on the individual owner’s ability to raise hands in case of any challenges
Lack of transparency had other critical business & org impacts as well — imagine creating revenue plans based on product features that are not even in the pipeline & priority list for the product teams. They happen all too often than we would want to admit.
This need for creating visibility took us to the next phase of our OKR system. We relied on another easy to use tool this time — google sheet. A couple of simple instructions around how to write OKRs & ideal number of OKRs to chase helped simplify the shared view massively.
Transparency — anyone can see each other’s OKR anytime. You can see OKRs for everyone and get to know their area of focus & collaborate better. In a fast-growing company, where there are no organizational structures & elaborate onboarding sessions, this can be a massive enabler for any newcomer
- Structure — By having a set template in google sheet helped people structure their OKRs better (Objective — Key result — Team)
- Focus — In identifying the top 3–4 OKRs, each one of us had to put extra effort to rank our goals, which forced us to think about the efforts we put in or the impact we expect
- A popular measurement scale, the RAG scale (red — not met, amber — partially met, green — met/on-track) is what we used to evaluate the status of these goals
This process worked well for us for almost a year. We became a team of 100 by then and were working rapidly on multiple projects & streams. We faced some new challenges & learning as well.
- Shared google sheets can be messy — accidental delete/update for someone else’s input is a real problem.
- Tracking was still people dependent. Those who were disciplined and self-driven would review these & problem solve. We did solve for a part of this by introducing an employee self-filled mid-quarter check along with a comment note
- Impact measurement was inconsistent in different pockets. Many times it is possible that individuals will draft & achieve very elaborate goals. However, the end outcome will still be elusive. John Doerr had clearly warned about this as a big challenge with the typical goals setting system — without a clear structure on impact measurement & governance we had the risk of operating OKRs like the traditional goals
Now that you know what we started with, we believe you would be able to empathise how thankful we are to Morpheus! Here is the link back to the original blog.