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What if the Apollo 11 Moon Landing Mission had OKRs?

It’s been just over 51 years since the United States put a man on the moon with Apollo 11. The main objective for NASA was to get astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin to land on the moon, walk on the moon and then return to earth safely. This simple achievement of what was accomplished, as defined by author John Doerr in Measure What Matters-1 was significant, concrete, action oriented and very inspirational.


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Why measure an Objective?

For many of us, we learned about using PI Objectives with software development through the Scaled Agile Framework. These PI Objectives helped provide common language for communicating with business and technology stakeholders. One of the ways we measure the PI objective in Jira Align is through assigning a ‘Planned Value’ and ‘Delivered Value’. PI Objectives are a great starting point as organizations start to focus on business value and customer centricity. Jira Align has reports like the ‘Progress By Objective’ report that helps us track the delivery of these important objectives. As powerful as PI Objectives can be, they don’t measure outcomes or key results that we are looking to achieve, as we deliver and deploy our technology to our customers.  Check out this article on OKRs in a scaled agile transformation from Atlassian.


What’s an OKR?

To learn about OKRs, check out this Agile at Scale article written by Rich Sparks, one of our experienced Jira Align Solution Architects. Atlassian also has an ebook on ‘The definitive guide to OKRs’. As we start to focus on delivering value in our organizations, we need to connect our work to business results. Mik Kersten in Project to Product-2 defines a way to measure these key results through value, cost, quality and happiness.

So what kind of Key Results would NASA and the Apollo 11 Mission have created? As you know, no one had ever been on the moon, so what kind of space suit would be needed to keep the astronauts safe and alive? The story of the Apollo spacesuit is described in the book Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo-3 by Nicholas de Monchaux and through Atlassians' very own Teamistry Podcast “The Team that Fashioned Apollo 11”. The story talks about how a company that was making bras, won the contract to build spacesuits for NASA.

One of the OKRs for the spacesuit could have been something like this:
Objective: Build a space suit for astronauts to walk on the moon.
Key Results: The cost of the suit should be no more than $2M to produce (cost). The suit must not weigh more than 62 pounds without the life support backpack (value). The suit must be of the highest quality fabric and seams to support an operating pressure of 3.7 psi (quality). The astronauts wearing the suit must be able to accomplish key tasks easily and comfortably on a rating of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest NPS rating for comfort and usability (happiness).

As you can see by these example Key Results, NASA would have tracked the delivery of the space suits to meet their engineering requirements and to meet the objective. Ultimately, the astronauts were the end user and customers of this critical piece of equipment, and if it didn’t meet their needs, then the outcomes of the Apollo 11 mission could have been disastrous and a failure.

OKRs in Jira Align - “The Eagle Has Landed”

Maybe it’s time for your organization to start to move beyond just measuring the work your teams do and focus on the important customer outcomes you are trying to achieve, through defining and tracking OKRs in Jira Align. You have the ability to create Team, Program, Solution and Portfolio Objectives and see the relationships between them all in the hierarchy objective tree.


You have the ability measure the progress of the objective with the work progress through the Features and Portfolio Epics or key result progress or both. The Objective has an overall score that rolls up the individual key result checkins and updates.


This is where we can define, track and view trends of the key results.


This shows the detailed Key Results we are identifying and tracking in Jira Align.


Continuing the conversation!

Atlassian is continuing to define and evolve OKR functionality in Jira Align, so keep an eye out for future articles as well as the Jira Align product release notes. We’ll be posting some additional articles here on best practices around OKRs and other ways to track outcomes, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, we’d love to hear from YOU! Please post your response to the following question…

How does your organization look at Objectives/OKRs/Goals and do they help you move towards the outcomes you’re seeking?


1-Doerr, John., Page, Larry. Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs. United States: Penguin Publishing Group, 2018.

2-Kersten, Mik. Project to Product: How to Survive and Thrive in the Age of Digital Disruption with the Flow Framework. United States: IT Revolution Press, 2018.

3-De Monchaux, Nicholas. Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo. United Kingdom: MIT Press, 2011.


Thanks @Tom O_Connor

Great article. Head's up that the ebook link is broken/not accessible externally 

Like Tom O_Connor likes this
Mandy Ross Community Manager Sep 14, 2020

Jira Align does such a great job at handling OKRs! Nice work, Tom and team!

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@Karalee Kikiros thanks for the heads up on the link.  I'm working with marketing to update the URL with a valid external link for you to download the ebook.  Here is the new link!

Very nice article!  As someone who is newer to OKRs, what advice can you offer to differentiate OKRs from a Requirement Specification?  Do you have any tips on how to prevent OKRs from turning into a Requirements Spec with thousands of lines?   Thanks again!

Tom O_Connor Atlassian Team Nov 24, 2020

@jasonmvictor I think that is the challenge for many organizations that are moving away from traditional portfolio management with requirements specifications (big up front design) and undergoing an agile transformation struggle with.  It's a change that has to be understood and accepted across the whole organization.  Even today, we at Atlassian sometimes struggle with how our team OKRs should align to our organization and enterprise OKRs.  The biggest part of this is what and how to measure these.  I'll refer to the Measure What Matters book and their website that continues to evolve on how organizations can better define and measure OKRs.  OKRs are still evolving as we continue to inspect and adapt.  Look for future articles and functionality in Atlassian products to support this evolution.  

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