Objective Acquired, Part 4
As unrelenting as Skynet and its attempts to wipe out humanity, I'm at it again, with a new post that should wring the last bit of value out of my OKR experience.
Summarising the story so far:
- The first thing I did was introduce goal setting and OKRs
- Then I wrote about my experiences rolling out OKRs in a company
- After that, I wrote about how and why we failed
This is the end, the finale of the series, where I put down my final thoughts on the subject.
Prepare yourself, because its going to get rambly.
What Is It That Makes Us Human?
I think I invested a lot of myself into rolling out OKRs. I was involved from almost the very beginning, I helped to shape our strategy, I did a lot of the leg work and generally acted as the irritant around which hopefully a pearl of goal setting would eventually form.
I don't think I was fanatical about it. Just...determined.
What I saw was a way for us to clarify what actually mattered, to be clear and transparent about what that was and to be able to track our progress, adjusting as appropriate.
So, when it all fell apart I was pretty sad and disillusioned.
We were just getting started, and what appeared to be the perfect opportunity to really show what OKRs are capable of, was instead their death knell.
I don't like to give up on things, especially things I've invested myself in. I think its because I assume that if I've chosen to care this much about something, it must be the right thing and that I should just push through. It happens all the time with books that I start reading or video games that I start playing and then just feel obligated to finish.
So being forced to give up on something, being caught up in everyone else's wake of abandonment was tough for me.
But I got my revenge.
The Devils Hands Have Been Busy
Man, that lead in sentence was pretty dark. It sounds like I burnt down the building or something.
I can assure you that I didn't.
Instead, my revenge was that I continued to use OKRs for my own purposes, specifically for the projects that I owned and executed.
Ignoring the objectives part of OKRs (because the projects were the objective), I doubled down on the key results. The aim was to identify good metrics that would indicate if the project was progressing in the right direction and once complete, if it had delivered any of the expected benefits.
During this process, I split key results into leading and lagging indicators. Leading indicators being those things that were likely to change visibly during the project itself (usually things that the team had full control over) and lagging indicators being the things that were likely to change afterwards (the things the team had less control over).
Even considering the experience that I'd gained being one of the driving forces behind OKRs at the company, I was still pretty bad at setting good measures. Being stubborn, I pushed on, kept iterating and eventually got better.
For example, the image below shows the OKR sheet for one of the last projects I worked on. It clearly shows the leading/lagging split and is generally a pretty solid set of measures, regularly scored and trending in generally the right direction.
Then I left Console to pursue other opportunities.
Give Me Time To Protect The Future
Speaking of which: Atlassian uses OKRs, so that's nice.
I haven't really given them much thought yet though, so that is probably probably less than ideal.
Of course, I'm still relatively new, inexperienced and focused on my immediate surroundings, so its probably just a matter of time before they become more important to me.
Don't get me wrong, the OKRs are definitely there, they are definitely publicised and they are definitely being talked about, just not at the level of my team and the work that we are doing.
Once I understand why, its almost certainly something for me to change. I want to be able to draw clear, unambiguous lines between the things that we are doing (our projects) and the various OKRs in effect throughout the company.
That sort of context, that feeling of belonging to a greater purpose and being able to see the progress towards that greater purpose is important to me.
This War Ends Tonight
And thus my story about OKRs comes to a close.
I honestly think that my adventures with OKRs have helped to make me a better manager. To this day, whenever I engage in anything, I always start by asking the question "What will change when we're done and how will we know?".
In fact, the frustration that I felt when no-one else seemed overly interested in applying the same thought processes to their work was one of the contributing factors to why I chose to leave Console.
If I have one regret, its that I didn't write this series of blog posts sooner. I suspect that my memories have faded due to the passage of time, and the content is probably not as accurate as it would have been if I wrote it while the memories were fresh and undiluted.
Ah well, its written now, so future Todd can at least come back and read it later.
Here's hoping future Todd doesn't read this and immediately facepalm because he made the same mistakes again.