Mastering OKRs: One crucial reason behind your team’s OKRs struggle no one will explain to you

OKRs is a strategic tool. But what does it really mean? Simply, you just have to approach it differently then a Planning.

Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

When it comes to a strategy, (to simplify it a bit) you are betting on a certain outcome, together with a set of situations, systems and practice to get you to it. You are charting a way, with the abovementioned destination on top of your mind, betting that all the supporting elements are the right ones. You don’t pen down all the details like who, when or how will happen.

On the flip side, Planning aligns more with what you (and your agile teams) are already good at. As (co-)owners of the Backlog, you are thus well prepared for a Planning. You understand limitations, have an idea of what needs to be done. Usually, you also have idea on how to tackle the items from Backlog. The level of details known is rather high (this also apply to each team member). Most importantly, each item in the Backlog becomes your direct responsibility during the upcoming Sprint.

I hope you are starting to see the difference here. In Planning, you prepare details of what and how will be happening. When it comes to a strategy, you are plotting a set of expectations that will be executed, but you don’t know for sure how it will go, because these expectations are out of your direct control and responsibilities (note: you are still accountable for the outcome). The stark contrast between these two approaches might becomes staggeringly evident only when viewed side by side.

Anticipating that your colleagues can seamlessly transition between Planning and strategizing mindsets might be a considerable expectation. A coach and a facilitators can help. However, to prevent potential misunderstandings that could stifle creative energy, I recommend establishing clear expectations and explaining the distinct nature of each “game” early on. Providing guidance and clarity on these approaches should be among your initial steps.

For a team, starting with difining OKRs, let’s invest few minutes in drawing a clear picture to differentiate between:

  • Planning — team is responsible to carry out the work — who, what and how are up to them to decide and execute, and
  • OKRs (as a strategy tool) — team is accountable to choose goals and measures of progress towards reaching them.

If there is a worry for a lack of responsibility — it will come later, when defining the Initiatives. They will immediately feel as a return to the safe harbor of Planning.

Mastering OKRs: One crucial reason behind your team’s OKRs struggle no one will explain to you was originally published in ableneo People on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.