As a tech leader you have most likely heard of the different goal setting frameworks like SMART Goals, EOS, KPI, V2MOM and are even possibly using one. This corroborates with the fact that the technology sector is more goal-oriented than most other departments. In fact, over 80% of technology professionals use a goal setting methodology in their day-to-day work and spend time every week to check-in or update their goals.
Some frameworks like SMART goals are focused on the individual while others like The Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) are designed for entrepreneurs and the founding teams needs.
In today’s dynamic work environment where technology and product teams are global, work across different time-zones, part of the team works from home while some geeks enjoy working from an office or co-working space, using a goal framework that accommodates the business and individuals’ needs is fundamental.
SMART, an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely is a goal setting framework that is designed for an individual and helps him/her focus their efforts and increases the chances of achieving the set goal.
|Works well for short term results||Narrow Focus|
|Evaluates individuals’ strengths and weaknesss||Impractical in dynamic work environments|
|Used as a performance enhancement tool||Not designed for long term success|
As a tech leader, using SMART goals for your team might not be the best idea since this methodology heavily focuses on an individual, does not necessarily include business needs, and is not designed for long term success.
In reality, it may also create unnecessary pressure for your team, inhibiting creativity as you end up being extremely focused on short term goals.
Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS)
EOS, devised by Gino Wickman in his book Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, is designed to guide entrepreneurs to help them achieve their personal visions for their businesses. Focused on SME’s the goal methodology focuses on Vision, People, Data, Issues, Process and Traction.
|Provides effective operational structure||Is Complex|
|Helps hire right people for right roles||Slow to adopt and deliver results|
|Ensures everyone is on the same page||Difficult to get buy-in from entire company|
Tech leaders are skeptical about choosing the Entrepreneurial Operating System as it is complex, expects everyone – from management, leadership and employees to understand the system, be open, honest and vulnerable for the system to work. It also takes up to 3 years to implement in larger organizations.
Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
The origin and first rudimentary use of KPI’s is believed to date back to emperors of the Chinese Wei Dynasty (3rd century) who rated performance of family members. KPI as we know it today evaluates how well a business, individual project, department or strategy is achieving it’s goals and helps track and compare against competitors or previous initiatives.
|Target oriented||Does not consider quality of work|
|Tracks Results / Output||Designed for Short term goals|
|Easy to reward and linked to bonus||Not linked to a larger goal / initiative|
Tech leaders use KPI’s for specific projects and initiatives. But given the nature and design of KPI to only look short term, it’s not the best goal setting mechanism to track annual plans on product or engineering.
The short-term focus and result oriented mindset do not allow a KPI practitioner to think big, incorporate new ideas and be agile, which today is the norm. The road to success is never straight but full of twists and turns.
The “secret management process” that propelled Salesforce from a startup to a company with over 65,000 employees, V2MOM an acronym for Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles, and Measures was founded by Marc Benioff, founder, CEO of Salesforce. The cascading goal setting framework was used since the inception of Salesforce and even today has a fan following amongst technology leaders.
|Cascading goal mechanism||Is heavily reliant on communication|
|Can be used for teams and individuals||Not the preferred choice for Enterprises|
|Preferred by early stage startups||Time consuming|
As a product or engineering leader, you think agile, run sprints and want a goal setting methodology that aligns to this thought. In this context, V2MOM might not be a tech leaders preferred choice. While the management process is a sure shot path to gain massive long-term success, it isn’t as malleable to today’s dynamic needs.
OKRs originated at Intel by then CEO Andrew Grove and was popularized by Google as it was used since it’s inception. Since then a ton of tech companies are using this framework to run their business.
OKRs stand for Objectives and Key Results where Objectives answers the WHY and Key Results capture the WHAT. The methodology has a cascading effect and by design has a lot of positives to offer which we will explore in the next sections.
The CEO has penned down their big picture for the year.
As a tech leader, your annual goals are defined based on the CEO’s big picture and hence they are 100% aligned.
The annual plan is broken down into 4 quarters.
And you detail each quarter to the T.
Your interns / engineers / developers / team leads / project managers / product managers have 100% clarity on why the big picture, what’s the plan for the year, how this plan is broken down into smaller chunks, what is expected at the end of each quarter and how they are going to go about achieving it.
Now, this is an ideal scenario which is far from reality and if you expect OKRs to make your life as simple as this, you are dreaming.
In reality, plans are made on paper and very soon we see ourselves adjusting to achieve the end goal.
The WHY remains a constant and it’s clear to everyone in your team. This is what OKRs do so well. It creates a common WHY that your entire team can get behind.
Every team member knows what to focus on for this quarter and why certain thought or idea is being pushed to the next quarter.
They are able to see the big picture and know what lever are they moving.
The team’s effort is seen as one and is aimed and aligned towards one big audacious goal.
Weekly sprints and team meeting conversation revolve around tactical items.
When there are holidays or unforeseen delays, the team can adjust since OKRs are designed for each quarter (3 months). The pressure is not less but can be better managed.
The team thinks BIG and executes in an AGILE manner.
Choosing the right OKR Product
With over a dozen products to choose from, it often gets confusing. Do I choose a feature-rich product or go with one which ensures the OKR initiative is successful?
Tech leaders who evaluate Unlock:OKR decide to move ahead for 3 reasons
Can I Blend OKRs with my existing goal setting framework?
Not everyone is ready to hop on to the OKR Bus. Some of us are hesitant and would like to take it slow.
Does this lessen the impact of OKRs?
At Unlock:OKR, we have made sure that our product is designed for the hardcore OKR Fans and those who are getting started.
You get the ability to set objectives that are Aspirational (read Big Audacious Goals) or Committed (similar to KPI’s)
Here is a detailed post on how one can make OKRs and KPI’s work together
How long does it take to set-up?
If you and your team are familiar with OKRs, the setup is going to be a breeze.
This is not the case with most tech teams.
Typically, we recommend 60 to 90 days for a team to adopt OKRs.
Yes, there is going to be a learning curve but we will hand-hold and ensure you don’t make rookie mistakes.
Our implementation plan has been designed for just this reason
My team has no clue “How to Write OKRs”
The key to successfully adopting OKRs begins with writing a good one.
Here is a cheat sheet we’ve created for you
And here are a few examples to get you inspired
OKR Examples for Engineering Leadership
We know tech teams LOVE (and hate) Jira and spend a considerable amount of time in it. If you are looking for someone to advocate you getting off JIRA, don’t look here.
Implementing OKRs in Jira will many times get you further away from your goal of implementing OKRs.
Can you do it – Yes
Will your OKR initiative be successful – No
A similar tool like Jira is Excel or Spreadsheets.
We have multiple CEO’s and tech leaders who tell us,
“We want to switch from Jira or excel because
- it’s not scalable
- there is no reporting “
Unlock:OKR’s product experience is always going to triumph a Jira experience by a mile. Period.
Ultimately, OKRs help tech leaders work “ON THE BUSINESS”.
A successful OKR implementation will transform the way tech and product teams’ function.
With tech and product teams spread across the globe, working different time-zones, the biggest benefit a tech leader can provide the team is making sure each team member knows WHY they are doing what they are doing, ensuring the teams energy and effort is ALIGNED to one common goal and bring in razor sharp FOCUS by design.
Business Impact for Tech Teams that choose Unlock:OKR