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Advice on OKR best practices?

Hi everyone,

I'm Head of Strategy & Ops at Mad Paws (pet sitting startup in Australia), and was hoping to get some OKR best practices from industry experts! We've already utilised the Atlassian OKR playbook, however, there are a few more questions I'd love to get insights into!

Thanks so much in advance!

  • Who usually owns the entire process (organising OKR cycles, progress updates, chairing meetings, sending reminders to the team, etc)?

 

  • Company OKRs:
    • Objectives: who sets them? CEO or entire Exec team?
    • Key results: who decides? Who is owner?

  • Key results:
    • who measures them (the owner or data department updating all KRs for everyone)?
    • how frequently are the numbers updated?
    • What if you want to measure something that you are currently not measuring / don’t have means or report to measure?

  • Progress updates:
    • Company OKRs:
      • How frequently are they reviewed
      • Reviewed in a meeting or just email with progress updates sent out
      • Who is part of the review (just exec team or all team members)
    • Department OKRs:
      • How frequently are they reviewed
      • Reviewed in a meeting or just email with progress updates sent out
      • Who is part of the review (just relevant department, or is entire team present)

    • OKR setting for new cycle:
      • Spread out over several sessions over several weeks, or all done in 1-2 days?
      • Company OKRs: are they set beforehand?
      • Offshore teams (in different timezones): are they part of OKR setting or how do they participate?

    • Product roadmap vs OKRs: does the roadmap dictate the OKRs, or vice versa?

    • People & Culture OKRs: how do you measure them?

1 answer

Hi Tahnee Claeys,

You are asking a lot of questions, I will try to answer them.

Who usually owns the entire process (organising OKR cycles, progress updates, chairing meetings, sending reminders to the team, etc)?

If your company is big then it will take a while before everyone will understand the process and its benefits - I recommend to pick someone who will be a Sheppard (you may need more than one) of the process, make that person read Measure What Matters from John Doerr. They should take care of the process and they will be go-to persons to ask for advice about objectives or key results. 

 

Company OKRs:

  • Objectives: who sets them? CEO or entire Exec team?
  • Key results: who decides? Who is owner?

It is up to you, you can adapt this process to your needs. What is quite common, is to reflect the structure of your organisation. CEO as the person highest in the hierarchy creates and owns the top-level OKRs, however, this should be a collaborative process (CEO based on inputs from the exec team, but not necessarily only from exec team). As to the key results, the owner of the objective owns the key results - think of objective and its key results as a single unit, there is only one owner. However, what is often the case, the key results of CEO objectives cascade down and become an objective for someone below the CEO. Check the example from John Doerr book mentioned earlier about football team:

Image result for okr football team example

 

The football GM has his objective and key results, but his key result of Win Super Bowl cascades down to the Head Coach and becomes his objective.

 

Key results:

  • who measures them (the owner or data department updating all KRs for everyone)?
  • how frequently are the numbers updated?
  • What if you want to measure something that you are currently not measuring / don’t have means or report to measure?

As I mentioned earlier, the owner of the objective is also the owner of the key results. 

The values of key results should be updated as often as possible, I recommend to do it once a week and connect it with a review with the team - take a look at the new values, analyze how you are doing with given objective, discuss if there are any blockers, possible improvements, new opportunities, etc.

When it comes to the last dot, there is no single "fit all" answer, it depends on a specific case. Usually, you prepare OKR before you start working on it and you know upfront that you want to measure something that is currently no measured - you have ~2 weeks to start measuring it.

 

Progress updates:

  • Company OKRs:
    • How frequently are they reviewed
    • Reviewed in a meeting or just email with progress updates sent out
    • Who is part of the review (just exec team or all team members)
  • Department OKRs:
    • How frequently are they reviewed
    • Reviewed in a meeting or just email with progress updates sent out
    • Who is part of the review (just relevant department, or is entire team present)

As I mentioned earlier, once a week will be ideal but it depends on your company and your OKRs. The best would be to review them in a meeting but if organising a meeting will be extremely hard (different timezones, too many ppl involved due to the flat structure) then emails will be better than nothing. You should gather ppl directly involved in given OKR for the review, from the example with a football team, the head coach will invite defence, offence and special team coaches (and optionally the football GM).

 

Product roadmap vs OKRs: does the roadmap dictate the OKRs, or vice versa?

Both and none at the same time :) Roadmaps are usually built based on many measures, customers feedback, input from sales teams, external requirements, etc. You don't set OKRs just for fun, they are based on your existing knowledge and they will probably be based on the same measures as the roadmap. Once you decide on OKRs they are showing the focus for the next period of time, usually, the quarter, and your roadmap should reflect this focus.

Very good answers here @Arkadiusz_Głowacki thanks.

Can you share the top issues or change aversion situations you have dealt with when introducing or setting OKRs?

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