I’m a recent convert to Objectives and Key Results (OKRs).

“The OKR approach to setting goals has been used at Google, Linkedin, Zynga, General Assembly and beyond and is spreading like wildfire across successful Silicon Valley companies,” explains Christina Wodtke in her excellent post on subject.

Use OKRs to galvanise your team around big, inspiring objectives, tied to concrete key results that get the team thinking creatively.

Using OKRs, the team does not seek to predict with accuracy what it will achieve by a certain date – and then track variance with its prediction. Rather, the team defines an inspiring, heart-felt objective and a set of quantitative, time-bound ‘key results’ that would represent an awesome outcome for the team. The team deliberately chooses results that are difficult, but not impossible; the purpose being to stretch the team’s notion of the possible. A rule of thumb for teams using OKRs would be a 30% success rate in achieving results. 

 

Think shoot for the stars, land on the moon.

 

So what does the PMO make of these?

How does this map to the ‘benefits tracking’ used in traditional Project Management Office (PMO) practice? A premise of OKRs is that a team achieving its results (or even getting close) would be of significant benefit to the larger organisation. By observing how the team did against its key results at the end of a given period, the team effectively tracks the benefit it has delivered to the company. 

The team does not concern itself with tracking how it’s doing against key results within a period, or make predictions about when any results might be achieved. They wait until the end of a given period; measure outcomes against the key results, reflects on what went well and what didn’t go well; then starts again with a new set of objectives and key results for the next period.

Again, this may be anathema to the predict-and-track paradigm,  but it does serve the underlying desire to have projects holding themselves accountable to goals that will benefit the organisation.

Conclusion

I found that mashing OKRs with the Lean principle of ‘seeing the whole’ and getting all of the OKRs onto a single page worked brilliantly. At a glance, everybody knows what the goals are and exactly how we’re defining success. Some may find the stretch element of them a uncomfortable, but that may be worth it when this happens (verbatim from a recent client):

 

It’s incredible to think that we have met our stretch objectives and key results, which we regarded with such incredulity and disbelief when you first pushed us to set them. Nine months on and we’ve proved you right!”