Artwork for podcast Goal Diggers: OKR, KPIs, strategy, and growth.
What it takes to successfully roll out OKR with Ben Lamorte
Episode 152nd May 2022 • Goal Diggers: OKR, KPIs, strategy, and growth. • Perdoo
00:00:00 00:53:04

Share Episode

Shownotes

Are you looking to roll out OKR to your entire organization and want to know what you may need to consider? Do you feel like it's a daunting task and don't know where to start?

Firstly, we can assure you that it's not as complex as it seems. And we spoke to Ben Lamorte, about everything you need to know to successfully roll out OKR to your entire organization.

Ben is the founder and coach at OKRs.com, co-author of Objectives and Key Results (2016), and author of The OKRs field book (2022). And as one of the first OKR consultants in the space, having helped hundreds of organizations (including companies like eBay, Adobe, Zalando) deploy OKR, Ben has a ton of great insights and experiences that can help you as you get started with the OKR roll out process.

Here are some of the topics we discuss:

01:15 - Intro on Ben Lamorte

07:30 - What is the first thing you should consider when looking to implement OKR?

13:35 - Is there a rollout approach that works best?

22:00 - Rolling out OKR to your entire organization

29:00 - Can any company implement OKR?

32:00 - How important is senior leadership backing when implementing OKR?

35:30 - How can you overcome resistance and ensure company-wide buy-in?

43:30 - How should organizations educate their teams on the OKR framework and integrate it into their work?

50:50 - Ben's no. 1 piece of advice when getting started with OKR

-

Ready to track your OKRs the right way? Head over to Perdoo and create a FREE account.

Learn more about strategy, goals (OKRs & KPIs) & growth — visit the Perdoo Resources Hub.

Transcripts

HJ:

Welcome to another episode of Goal Diggers, the podcast on OKRs, KPIs, strategy and growth.

HJ:

I'm Henrik, founder and CEO of Perdoo, the app that helps ambitious organizations execute

HJ:

Joining me today is Ben Lamorte, a well-known name and personality in the OKR space.

HJ:

Ben, before I give away too much information about you, please tell us a little bit

Ben:

Well, thanks Henrik.

Ben:

And it's great to be back and great to see you again, even though we're across continents.

Ben:

I mean, I think the last time I saw you, it was either in Berlin or possibly it was actually

Ben:

Either way, it's great to see you again, although it's virtual.

Ben:

And what I'll tell you is, look, my journey with OKR is it goes back...

Ben:

I mean, I'm going to give you the quick and dirty version of I get out of

Ben:

By the way my son's about to start college and I'm going back to that age.

Ben:

And I just realized like, I'm sorry, nobody knows what they're doing at that age.

Ben:

I think I thought I knew I was going to do engineering.

Ben:

I think by the time I graduated, I literally concluded the one thing I know for sure is

Ben:

So then I got into graduate school because I knew I wanted to be in school.

Ben:

The one that I knew, I didn't want to get a job.

Ben:

Right.

Ben:

I love school.

Ben:

You know, the stresses of tests seemed a lot better than the stresses of getting a real job.

Ben:

So I went to Stanford for graduate school in management science in engineering.

Ben:

Which by the way, Henrik is really a fancy way of saying I'm an engineer that

Ben:

So it's sort of an industrial engineering management science, kind

Ben:

You know, you're studying probability and financial management.

Ben:

Ended up going into work in management consulting.

Ben:

And I was doing what we call business forecasting.

Ben:

A lot of financial modeling.

Ben:

They put me in front of a spreadsheet and said, go figure all these things out.

Ben:

And it was pretty good, but it wasn't very fulfilling.

Ben:

I knew something was missing.

Ben:

It wasn't until I was probably in my mid thirties getting into my late thirties actually that I

Ben:

Jeff Walker actually was the founder of Oracle applications.

Ben:

So if you go back to the 1980s, when Oracle was a hardware company, $20 million

Ben:

Larry Ellison smart guy, right.

Ben:

Brings Jeff Walker into become the Oracle applications founder.

Ben:

In other words software.

Ben:

And next thing, you know, Oracle five years later is a billion dollar company.

Ben:

I mean Oracle now of course, is a software company, more than it's a hard balance.

Ben:

And so I think even Larry Ellison would say in a way, Jeff Walker was the founder

Ben:

And he used OKRs which he had been taught from Gary Kennedy over at Intel.

Ben:

And Gary Kennedy came from Intel over to Oracle.

Ben:

And they used OKRs back then.

Ben:

I'm still in touch with Jeff.

Ben:

I'm very lucky to have him as my mentor.

Ben:

And here's the conversation that he had that got me into OKRs.

Ben:

I'm going to read directly from my OKRs field book here.

Ben:

So this is Jeff, maybe having like a late thirties midlife crisis.

Ben:

What should I do with.

Ben:

And by the way, Jeff had been my OKRs coach.

Ben:

So he started helping me get more focused on outcomes and so forth.

Ben:

So here's what Jeff says.

Ben:

What is the one thing that you do best that also has significant business value?

Me:

OKRs coaching.

Jeff:

how many hours per week are you doing this OKR coaching on average?

Me:

three or four.

Jeff:

why not make that 30 or 40?

Jeff:

But there's no way to do that, Jeff.

Jeff:

My consulting clients are paying me to build financial models.

Jeff:

stop doing that other stuff and start focusing on OKRs coaching.

Jeff:

If you can't get paid to do it, just do it for free.

Jeff:

Make it your goal to do as many OKRs sessions free or paid as possible.

Jeff:

If you are adding business value, people will start paying you for it.

Jeff:

And if you can deliver significant value, you'll find out just how big the market really is.

Jeff:

Well, I'm not going to read the whole OKRs field book to you.

Jeff:

Don't worry, Henrik.

Jeff:

But the reason why I shared that is certainly..

HJ:

This is the book that just came out?

Ben:

Yeah, this is the OKRs field book that just came out last month.

Ben:

I'm really excited about it.

Ben:

It's coming out.

Ben:

I think it's available in Europe now and it's really the first book written for OKRs coaches.

HJ:

Yeah, exactly.

HJ:

Yeah.

HJ:

I think your other book was called Objectives and Key Results, right?

HJ:

Which came out years ago.

HJ:

It must've been one of the first.

Ben:

Yeah, going back to this, it's a funny story.

Ben:

In 2016, Paul Niven and I came up with a book also published by Wiley, just

Ben:

And it's a funny story because we didn't know what to title the book.

Ben:

And so we finally realized, well, why don't we just call it Objectives and Key

Ben:

Anyway, so that was in 2016.

Ben:

And then this book is really written more for OKRs coaches.

Ben:

And it's really designed not so much to be a book that tells you, you know, why you should

Ben:

or, you know, here's an example of an OKR, but rather wait a minute, how do I really do OKR?

Ben:

So, you know, what are the questions you ask?

Ben:

I mean, I think the part of the book that I'm most excited about is in the epilogue,

Ben:

But anyway, going back to that story that I was giving with Jeff Walker, I remember that

Ben:

said, if you're lucky enough to have something that you think you can do, that's going to

Ben:

Go do it.

Ben:

Don't sit here and tell me that you need to build these financial models.

Ben:

And what happened was when I went out and met with people who were doing, you know, OKRs or

Ben:

Or they had KPIs, but they were trying to maybe reset their KPIs at the time, because

Ben:

I found that those conversations were very very powerful.

Ben:

And, you know, when you ask people the questions, you know, why do

Ben:

Or how will we know we've achieved that Objective?.

Ben:

Or what is the intended outcome of that task, right?

Ben:

If they say we're going to launch the blog.

Ben:

Well, what is the intended outcome of that?

Ben:

It gets them into a critical thinking mindset and that I found well, that was 15 years ago or so.

Ben:

And I, I didn't go into OKRs coaching full-time until about roughly 10 years ago.

Ben:

That's when I really decided to say, I'm just going to make this be my thing.

Ben:

So anyway, Jeff, I think is probably..

HJ:

10 years ago?

Ben:

I hope Jeff is proud, but I'm also very thankful that he challenged me to just do this.

Ben:

And I did a bunch of those free sessions.

Ben:

Like you said, just start doing it for free.

Ben:

And I did.

Ben:

And eventually it started to catch on luckily.

Ben:

Well, I got really lucky as you know, Henrik when Measure What Matters came out in 2018,

HJ:

I think so too.

HJ:

I mean, we have some criticism on Measure What Matters, but..

Ben:

I have a lot of criticism.

Ben:

I have a lot of criticisms.

Ben:

But the one thing that I think we can agree on is at least to create an energy around OKRs.

HJ:

Exactly, yeah.

Ben:

You know, and that's really what we needed.

HJ:

In general.

HJ:

I think the book introduces the concept or at least the benefits of the concept really well.

HJ:

Yeah.

HJ:

Ben, I mean, we have a lot to talk about, right.

HJ:

We were talking to each other again now after what's it been like two or three

Ben:

I want to say maybe even three or four, but yeah, it's.

Ben:

Yeah, but let's, let's do that after the podcast.

HJ:

Cause we do have an interesting and important topic to talk about.

HJ:

The topic that we talk about today is what does it take to successfully roll out OKR company-wide?

HJ:

And you wrote two books on OKR.

HJ:

You've been in this space for such a long time.

HJ:

I mean, you just told me that you started getting into this space already 10 years ago, so it's

HJ:

to hear from your experiences, working with your clients, how they can roll out OKRs company-wide.

HJ:

Right?

HJ:

And the reason that's important, I think there's a lot of companies out

HJ:

I mean, typically I think they start with the leadership team, perhaps maybe one

HJ:

But I think that's where it's sort of gets stuck sometimes.

HJ:

It takes longer than initially planned and that slows the rollout.

HJ:

And therefore, that then slows down the real value OKR can unlock for organizations.

HJ:

So I think it's an important topic to talk about and think you're the

HJ:

First question, and then I'm passing it over back to you.

HJ:

What do you think is the first and most important thing organizations should

HJ:

Yeah.

HJ:

I

Ben:

mean, this is of course the big question that has to be answered.

Ben:

And the good thing is I have the answer.

Ben:

So really what it comes down to is always right.

Ben:

This is my mantra here.

Ben:

Always begin with why OKRs.

Ben:

Really, we have to understand why OKRs and then we have to confirm that it's the right reason

Ben:

So as an OKRs coach, I'll always start with why are we even trying

Ben:

Or if you already are doing OKRs, why did you start?

Ben:

And is it getting you to move in that direction?

Ben:

So for example, let's actually start with some of the bad reasons for why to do OKRs.

Ben:

And in fact, I won't work with organizations that answer questions this way.

Ben:

Right?

Ben:

So if you tell me, well, we really want to do OKRs.

Ben:

Oh, really?

Ben:

Why is that?

Ben:

Well, we read the book Measure What Matters and it's the best practice

Ben:

So we're going to.

Ben:

Or, well, you know, it turns out then Google does OKRs and, you know, Google

Ben:

So this is the idea of imitation, you know, I'm going to do it because the other people do

Ben:

I mean, look, there's companies doing all kinds of weird things that have acronyms, right.

Ben:

And you don't just do that because they're doing it.

Ben:

So that's number one.

Number two is:

okay.

Number two is:

This one maybe is an even worse reason for why OKRs.

Number two is:

And this one I really have to kind of come out and talk a little bit about which is

Number two is:

on performance and hold people accountable for, you know, getting their jobs done.

Number two is:

And ultimately we're going to use OKR as our system for rewarding and punishing employees.

Number two is:

Well, that's like performance management.

Number two is:

I don't want anyone to use OKRs, if that's their number one reason for using OKRs.

Number two is:

If that's the case, you really should be looking at a performance

Number two is:

So with those two things, and by the way, there's a whole story about Yahoo that I don't even

Number two is:

Matters, who was at one point, I believe the CEO of Yahoo, if not the CEO, one of the main

Number two is:

or so early two thousand tens where she adopted OKRs at Yahoo and did it in this way to basically

Number two is:

And there were all kinds of things in there, you know, stack ranking, you know, this group

Number two is:

So we've got to get rid of somebody from this group.

Number two is:

I'll put the link to the business insider article if it's still out there, Henrik, on

Number two is:

It was like OKRs gone wrong.

Number two is:

Okay.

Number two is:

So what are the right reasons?

Number two is:

You know, I mean, if the given organization might tell me, I want to do OKRs because we're

Number two is:

There's so many different things happening.

Number two is:

We need to be able to focus on what matters most.

Number two is:

This is probably the best reason to do OKRs because I've seen it over and over again.

Number two is:

OKRs can really help you narrow the focus and get aligned.

Number two is:

Alignment goes right in hand with what is the most important area to focus and then

Number two is:

So this is the best reason for working with OKRs.

Number two is:

There's others.

Number two is:

Right?

Number two is:

You could talk about, I want to get more engagement.

Number two is:

I want my people to be able to see how their work impacts the bigger picture.

Number two is:

There's some other sort of good reasons.

Number two is:

Transparency.

Number two is:

I've seen those as well, but pretty much focus and alignment are the two big ones and it

Number two is:

Probably one of my very favorite reasons for doing OKRs was from Zalando when I met with their CEO

Number two is:

And he said, you know, we need to have OKRs as a communication tool, because you know, when we

Number two is:

Everybody knew what was going on.

Number two is:

You know, we'd meet in Berlin or wherever they were and have their company wide meetings.

Number two is:

It's a couple hundred people.

Number two is:

Okay, well, we can all be on the same page.

Number two is:

You start to grow.

Number two is:

And the next thing you know, you have silos.

Number two is:

And you want to be able to have this feeling of everybody knows what's going on.

Number two is:

We're all on the same page.

Number two is:

How do we stay in touch?

Number two is:

OKRs creates a common language for people to do that.

Number two is:

So that's, that's a great example of where you will really see success with,

Number two is:

And what I mean by what we, I mean, the CEO has to state: here's why we're doing OKRs.

Number two is:

And then now we have to actually show after several periods of doing OKRs, that it's actually

HJ:

Gotcha.

HJ:

So first and foremost, make sure that you have the right reasons that you know

HJ:

also make sure that those are the right reasons to actually start implementing it.

HJ:

Now there are, of course, different ways you can roll out OKRs to an organization.

HJ:

Do you think there's a rollout approach that that works best?

HJ:

Is one approach better than the other or does it depend on the organization?

Ben:

Yeah, I mean, let me start by saying, I think it's critical that once you know why

Ben:

Which are basically the foundation for the OKRs program itself.

Ben:

So regardless of whether we roll out, OKRs only at the top level, or for example, we pick

Ben:

And it's not, it's not a lot of time.

Ben:

It can be done in a couple hours, right.

Ben:

It's not like this is a big deal, but you need to know what level will we roll out OKRs.

Ben:

So this gets into that question of, you know, do we want to roll that OKRs at the top level, or

Ben:

So let's first of all, focus on that question.

Ben:

But also do we allow multiple OKRs?

Ben:

Right?

Ben:

If you read Radical Focus, you'll hear Christina talking about you get one objective.

Ben:

Well, maybe we're going to allow three objectives or at most four or whatever it is,

Ben:

Are we going to allow, for example, milestone key results.

Ben:

Key results that don't have numbers.

Ben:

And again, we talk about that in Measure What Matters.

Ben:

I mean, I know Felipe (Castro) did an analysis.

Ben:

More than half of the key results in that book don't even have numbers.

Ben:

And yet John Doerr is saying key results should have numbers.

Ben:

So it's kind of like, well, which is it?

Ben:

So there's some confusion here.

Ben:

Well, every organization has to figure that out for themselves, you know, but once we're

Ben:

parameters" are, you know, is the OKR cycle really three months or is it six months.

Ben:

Or whatever it is, now we can begin to talk about what's the best way to roll out OKRs

Ben:

those deployment parameters to think about is at what level will we roll out OKRs?

Ben:

And this is a super important thing.

Ben:

Like the first rule of thumb is whatever you do, don't do this, right?

Ben:

Whatever you do, don't try to roll out OKRs across the entire organization all at once.

Ben:

This is something that everyone I talk to says, don't do that because

Ben:

And in particular, what that means is don't roll out OKRs to individual people, right out

Ben:

This is the best practice.

Ben:

And probably you're going to do, I'm going to give you the three most common options.

Ben:

Okay.

HJ:

So sorry to interrupt, but then you say, you said this is the best practice.

HJ:

So then you're saying that the top-down rollout is the best practice?

HJ:

Did I understand that correctly?

Ben:

Yeah, I mean, well, let me get, let me go into that.

Ben:

Generally, yes.

Ben:

Higher up is the way to start, but like, let's talk about the three most common ways.

Ben:

Okay.

Ben:

So the number one most common way is top-down.

Ben:

So in other words, you start with the company level and then you roll out OKRs to teams.

Ben:

Now, this is going to work best for smaller companies, right?

Ben:

Like I'm working with huge companies like Nike, right.

Ben:

Or Walmart or something like that.

Ben:

They're not going to have me working with OKRs at the very top company level,

Ben:

We're going to pick some business unit or what have you.

Ben:

So the second most common way to do it is to pick.

Ben:

And this is typically the case in larger companies, is to pick a certain

Ben:

And just have OKR succeed in that pocket first, before we try to roll it out

Ben:

And in fact, this is what Zalando did the company that's based in Berlin.

Ben:

That's super cool.

Ben:

Right?

Ben:

One of my..

Ben:

I'm so lucky to have worked with Zalando.

Ben:

I had no idea how cool this company was.

Ben:

You know, when you're from the United States, you haven't really heard of Zalando, but I guess...

Ben:

You guys have Zappos, right?

Ben:

Yeah, we have Zappos and you know, that's a whole other story over there, I guess.

Ben:

Zalando and Zappos.

Ben:

I mean, they do start with Z and end with O sort of there feels like there's a connection there.

Ben:

And I guess they both started with shoes.

Ben:

But Zalando, I mean, the people that I met there, every one of them, I was telling you

Ben:

Zalando and I ever met you, I want you to know you set the bar very high for being super cool.

Ben:

Henrik, I want you to imagine that in the snack area, we had bell peppers.

Ben:

Okay.

Ben:

Cucumbers, apples, so, literally vegetables mixed with fruit.

Ben:

Where I'm from here in the U S we talk about being healthy, but we just don't

Ben:

And I was, I was just pleasantly surprised.

Ben:

But so what they did was at Zalando, they started with OKRs in the brand solutions group.

Ben:

And I think they had roughly 80 people in this group.

Ben:

So it was a pretty small area of Zalando, but actually they had success for almost a full

Ben:

group before the CEO said, okay, now that we've seen it work here, we're going to

Ben:

That's probably a good way to do it.

Ben:

You know, if you have a given group that can start with OKRs and then show success, and

Ben:

In other words, the best practice here is nail it before you scale it.

Ben:

Right.

Ben:

And then the other way I would say is I've seen actually organic, the third option

Ben:

Maybe there are several levels where it's happening in the organization

Ben:

So in the case of Zalando I said, brand solutions was doing it.

Ben:

Well, you could theoretically say, look, rather than only picking brand solutions.

Ben:

Maybe we pick brand solutions, a marketing group and maybe, a usage group or some

Ben:

So we put three or four different little groups and see how it goes.

Ben:

Generally, those are the three most common ways.

Ben:

Or actually in a way that's the two most common ways either top-down starting with

Ben:

But I think in a small company it's like of under a hundred people, I would say you pretty much have

HJ:

And if we talk about a larger company, like Zalando that you just referenced.

HJ:

I mean if you mentioned you pick a business unit or a team, like, does

Ben:

Yeah, well, there is definitely a critical mass.

Ben:

And what I want to talk about is this notion of, do you really need to

Ben:

Cause this is actually a really, you'll like this Henrik, this is a really interesting distinction.

Ben:

I'm working with a company which I won't name, but think of it as CBS, NBC, or ABC or CNN,

Ben:

And what I want you to picture is they've created OKRs across a group

Ben:

So it's a pretty large component of the organization.

Ben:

Now imagine this, they have something like I don't know, 80 squads.

Ben:

Okay.

Ben:

So a lot of these, what we call cross-functional squads that are responsible for different small

Ben:

Yeah.

Ben:

I'll just leave it at that.

Ben:

You know, you can imagine what that might mean, right?

Ben:

So it might be election coverage on social media.

Ben:

It might be sports coverage on ESPN or whatever.

Ben:

So there's just a little channels and things and some of it's video and it's all sorts of things.

Ben:

The way the news works nowadays is super multimodal.

Ben:

And so there's lots of these little squads are dealing with the

Ben:

Well, all of them are "doing OKRs", but of let's say 80 squads, I would say about 60 of those

Ben:

You know, they might be in a platform, squad where they're just trying to get these things

Ben:

squad or they're the user experience or the I'm sorry, they're the front end squad.

Ben:

You know, they're like a shared resource team and they do this and they do that.

Ben:

So they work with the other squads for those squads to achieve their OKRs.

Ben:

But if you ask them, are they doing OKRs they say yes.

Ben:

Even though they're not writing down OKRs.

Ben:

They're asking a set of questions.

Ben:

Right?

Ben:

Which is, to me, the definition of OKRs which is that critical thinking framework,

Ben:

That's an ongoing discipline, meaning we're asking these questions all the time, and then we're

Ben:

So we're doing that even if our team is not specifically writing down it's OKRs.

Ben:

We're actually still doing OKRs.

Ben:

Because we're asking those questions.

Ben:

So that's been an interesting one.

Ben:

And so there might be like that..

Ben:

Squad might not have any actual OKRs that they've written down because there's no

Ben:

So they're not going to have OKRs, but maybe the next quarter they will, or maybe

Ben:

Maybe it's more discovery work or, you know, just doing experiments or whatever it is.

HJ:

So that is voluntary?

HJ:

I mean, does that touch with the organic approach that you also briefly explained?

Ben:

Yes, that's it.

Ben:

So what I'm finding now, this becomes ultimately where we're headed as far as the best practice.

Ben:

And this is also what's happening like at Walmart and other large organizations is that

Ben:

And the good news is it's really pretty easy to train people on OKRs.

Ben:

This is not, you know, a two week intensive certification or something.

Ben:

What we need to do is spend a few hours with these people.

Ben:

It's not more than that.

Ben:

And it's the theory of it is let's get as many people as we can up to speed

Ben:

How will you write an OKR?

Ben:

When would you use it?

Ben:

What are the questions you ask?

Ben:

And actually what I'm learning now, maybe going ahead a little bit, but what I'm learning is

Ben:

That's my goal now with my clients.

Ben:

So getting them to know how to ask the questions to themselves.

Ben:

Rather than relying on me to ask them the questions that help them to shape OKRs

Ben:

Now what happens is if we train them through practicing, they actually break into

Ben:

It's incredibly energizing and they love it because now they get

Ben:

Now they're in a much better position to say, Hey, I want to set OKRs with my team or, well, I

Ben:

But now I understand I have more empathy for those teams that are setting OKRs and now I can talk

Ben:

So that actually is important.

Ben:

What I'm realizing is to train lots and lots of people.

Ben:

And I will tell you here's the, here's the funny thing that happened.

Ben:

You know, the pandemic was of course a disaster for everybody.

Ben:

I'm not trying to pretend that it was good, but there were some strange side effects.

Ben:

Like for example, I did a training with a fortune 500 company.

Ben:

Where they said, well, what if we put 250 people into the zoom meeting?

Ben:

You know, we just did breakout groups of five and all that.

Ben:

And I said, well, I mean, we could try it.

Ben:

I don't know.

Ben:

It doesn't seem like that'll work because in my experience with on-site

Ben:

I couldn't manage it very well.

Ben:

Somehow Henrik, okay.

Ben:

I did these breakouts, 50 breakouts of five people, and I kid you not like of the 200..

Ben:

Were you jumping around in different

HJ:

breakout rooms?

Ben:

Well, here's the thing.

Ben:

I didn't even do that.

Ben:

We had 250 people.

Ben:

We have 50 breakout rooms, but they had clear instructions to practice the OKRs thing.

Ben:

None.

Ben:

I think like 10 people dropped off of the two hour training.

Ben:

So, you know, that's like, they gave me the feedback that they've never seen this before, but

Ben:

So what happened was they had a spreadsheet and they were writing down their OKRs, and

Ben:

And then I was giving comments, you know, asynchronously or whatever you

Ben:

Well actually, I guess I would say simultaneously, but just offline in a weird way.

Ben:

And then we would come back at a few groups would share and I would, they would ask questions and I

Ben:

Nope, you got to make the key result be X to Y you didn't specify X, you know, do you need to

Ben:

And I'm telling you it was a huge success.

Ben:

So I'm now realizing that this might be the future for OKRs training,

Ben:

And I'm not trying to be lazy and say, I don't want to travel because actually

Ben:

meeting with you or whatever, but zoom meetings it's somehow it's super scalable.

Ben:

And so people are coming from all around the world.

Ben:

Yeah.

Ben:

It was really a breakthrough from the pandemic this happened.

Ben:

So I guess what I'm saying is if we can scale the OKRs thinking..

HJ:

It unlocks different possibilities, right?

HJ:

Like we're often focusing on the negative sides of a zoom meeting, but it also

HJ:

But Hey, going back to the implementation approaches, like one thing that we have good

HJ:

Sometimes one level down.

HJ:

And now that we've launched these view only licenses, we give everyone or lots of other

HJ:

And with that, they also get access to like an online OKR training so that

HJ:

And then we sort of go for that organic approach that you reference, right?

HJ:

So everybody like has view only access and on a voluntary basis, they can raise their

HJ:

And those are the people that are naturally very interested in it.

HJ:

Get it.

HJ:

And then you create like these different ambassadors throughout the organization that

Ben:

Wow.

Ben:

I'm so glad that we're reconnecting and that we're doing this podcast Henrik.

Ben:

I have to say this is therapeutic.

Ben:

Just hearing you say that.

Ben:

Because when I first started with OKRs, you know, full disclosure, I think this

Ben:

I've worked with BetterWorks and at the time we were the self-proclaimed

Ben:

We had the funding from John Doerr and all of that, right.

Ben:

So we thought we were number one.

Ben:

And the only problem though, and, you know, look, I, I'm still friends

Ben:

So I don't want to say anything negative about them, but this is kind of something to

Ben:

So for example, if you were, you know, a 500 person company, you know, we would

Ben:

And I found that this didn't resonate with the CFO of some of the organizations, right?

Ben:

Because they would say, well, look, not all 500 people are really adopting OKRs yet.

Ben:

We only want 50 licenses.

Ben:

So then what we would do is try to make a deal with them, right.

Ben:

And say, well, instead of selling you 500 for the price of 500, we'll still get you

Ben:

Okay.

Ben:

So the organic model that you just described is absolutely 100% the right approach, when

Ben:

And when you start talking about rolling out OKRs even from my perspective as an OKRs coach.

Ben:

I'm beginning to think also is the right model.

Ben:

In other words, you make it available.

Ben:

You train, you introduce, you give them low stakes.

Ben:

You don't tell them, you know, now that you've been trained, you must do this.

Ben:

And you have until the end of the quarter to do this, and you must populate this data sheet.

Ben:

See because, OKRs should not be a compliance tool.

Ben:

I got to tell you, Henrik, we have enough things in our life already about, you

Ben:

And HR says, do that.

Ben:

And this is about back to my point around performance management, which

Ben:

We, in some cases with big enough companies like legally, we have to document our performance

Ben:

Well, when you look at OKR, it really shouldn't be the opposite.

Ben:

It should be a lightweight system.

Ben:

It should be a framework for communicating.

Ben:

It should be opt-in and therefore it should be an organic growth model.

Ben:

And that is absolutely so cool that you have now created the view only, you know,

Ben:

I love the way you said that.

Ben:

Yeah.

Ben:

So that's, I think that's probably the right way for pretty much any organization,

Ben:

Okay.

Ben:

To get going with OKRs.

Ben:

You mentioned

HJ:

now for the second time that growth mindset, that growth model, like, do you think any company,

HJ:

any company can implement OKR or is it depending on having a certain size or being at a certain

Ben:

I do think

Ben:

that any company can implement OKRs regardless of their size.

Ben:

I mean, even a company of five people I think can benefit from OKRs.

Ben:

I think the problem is, and this is a true story now.

Ben:

It's a funny story by the way.

Ben:

I did a OKRs project with a client, it was really successful.

Ben:

And then they said they want to introduce me to their buddy who's in the wine business

Ben:

It happened sometimes.

Ben:

Back when I used to travel with clients, maybe we would get together, get some wine.

Ben:

Started talking about Pinot Noir.

Ben:

I live near Napa valley and this guy said, wait a minute.

Ben:

I have a friend that lives up in Napa valley, who as a winery, his family winery.

Ben:

You know, he inherited it now and he's running it.

Ben:

He's been running it for the last 10 years.

Ben:

And he could, I bet he would really like OKRs.

Ben:

And I said, oh, and you know, and he'll probably, he can't really pay you with a lot of

Ben:

And I'm thinking, oh, wait a minute.

Ben:

I can drive up to Napa valley to meet with him.

Ben:

So I go up to meet this guy in Napa valley.

Ben:

We sit down, we haven't poured any wine yet.

Ben:

And I say, you know, have you heard about OKR?

Ben:

As he says, well, I'd been, you know, my friend told me about you or something.

Ben:

I said, okay, well, listen, here's how it works.

Ben:

And we started jumping into OKRs, I probably should have started

Ben:

Right, Henrik?

Ben:

You know, but he didn't really know what OKRs were so I had to do some education.

Ben:

But ultimately we found out that his goals, he didn't have goals to grow his business.

Ben:

He produced something like $5 million worth of total wine each year.

Ben:

And they sold it.

Ben:

And you know, sometimes it would go down to 4 million.

Ben:

Sometimes it would go up to 6 million.

Ben:

He didn't really care.

Ben:

He just wanted to maintain the business the way it was.

Ben:

So in that case, if you're not in growth mode and you're just kind of keeping things the

Ben:

Actually, OKRs don't add any value because OKRs, are all about where do you want to

Ben:

And so his answer was, I don't really want to focus anywhere to

Ben:

I want to keep things pretty much the way they are.

Ben:

And if something gets out of whack, I want to kind of deal with it.

Ben:

And I said, oh, well, then you don't need to do OKRs.

Ben:

And so of course, we were able to pop open a bottle of wine and celebrate.

Ben:

It took us less than an hour to realize that the OKRs project was going nowhere.

Ben:

So I only tell you that because I do want to clarify that certain organizations

Ben:

You can also imagine.

Ben:

Let's say if you were a telecom or a call center, and all you did was just answer calls.

Ben:

It's just business as usual, right?

Ben:

Like I'm answering the phones.

Ben:

It's an inbound call center.

Ben:

That's it.

Ben:

Well, I have all these metrics for my individual people.

Ben:

They're seasonal workers.

Ben:

I don't really have OKRs.

Ben:

I'm just trying to answer the phone and get it.

Ben:

In that case you probably don't need OKRs and that could be within a given company, you might have

Ben:

They probably don't need OKRs because it's just everything's business as usual.

HJ:

Yeah.

HJ:

That was very helpful, Ben.

HJ:

We've talked about different implementation approaches, right?

HJ:

And, one of the approaches that you explained is starting with a business

HJ:

Do they still need to have like senior leadership team backing if they do that.

HJ:

Does one of the execs need to be involved in that case?

Ben:

Ya!

HJ:

How important is senior leadership backing?

HJ:

Even if you start top down right there could be misalignment or disagreement

Ben:

It's a great point.

Ben:

It's a great point.

Ben:

I would say at first I would say senior leadership is 100% absolutely essential.

Ben:

But I want to give you the fine print on that, which is every now and then,

Ben:

individual people inside an organization will behave as if they are senior leadership.

Ben:

And so I even if, you know, even if we have senior leadership backing, I think it's also

Ben:

who are maybe not senior leadership level take on sort of that senior leadership backing rule,

Ben:

And they're basically leading the OKRs program that said.

Ben:

What I would say is a lot of times, OKRs fail because there's no

Ben:

So for example, I was working with one organization where we

Ben:

It's actually quite interesting because it was a big enough company where it didn't

Ben:

The "top of the house", because all it would be as financial consolidations.

Ben:

It would be like, you know, get this much money.

Ben:

You know, have a stock value of that or something, you know, they didn't really have

Ben:

really aligned across all their different groups, because it's just such a big company.

Ben:

So they ended up having something like 12 different, you know, what they call durable teams.

Ben:

I think they were.

Ben:

And each of those durable teams in effect had their OKRs.

Ben:

What we learned was that the senior executives, and by the way, my fault on this one, they

Ben:

And I said, no, no, no.

Ben:

Let's let the durable teams do this bottom up.

Ben:

Why should we get executives in there and let them figure out what their OKRs are.

Ben:

And then they could present them to the senior leadership team.

Ben:

So they did that, but what happened was I made that mistake because the senior

Ben:

So they really weren't involved from the beginning in the development of the OKRs.

Ben:

And so they were like, yeah, whatever, whatever, what that meant was during the OKR

Ben:

executive leadership, the senior leadership really wasn't involved because "I had told

Ben:

They interpreted that as well, then I guess they're just off the hook.

Ben:

And so at the end of that cycle, the learning was, we should've had executives baked in,

Ben:

I've now done this, I'm working with a big bank.

Ben:

And so, you know, I'm no longer stupid.

Ben:

Let's just say it that way.

Ben:

I won't make that mistake twice.

Ben:

Anyway, this bank has a, what they call a sort of something similar: they have various objectives.

Ben:

I think that are throughout their kinda like durable teams.

Ben:

But each one of those "smaller teams" has an objective executive sponsor with

Ben:

peoples whose name on the individual key results that are more of the team members.

Ben:

Now that is working really well because it sends a signal to the organization when they

Ben:

And they know that those they're going to be discussed at the senior leadership,

Ben:

That's going to make sure that OKRs, is taken seriously.

Ben:

So it's not necessarily a compliance thing.

Ben:

Like, oh no, I have to do it because you're not a senior executive there, but it just sends

Ben:

And having that senior executive in the OKRs development session right from

HJ:

Yeah.

HJ:

Yeah.

HJ:

Really like that.

HJ:

Having that set about senior leadership.

HJ:

Some people, if not, most, they don't like change, right?

HJ:

And for whatever reason, I think there's also often the perception that OKRs

HJ:

How do you overcome such resistance and how do you get that company-wide buy-in?

Ben:

Yeah, this is, these are really good questions because every time you work with

Ben:

of people that are going to be against the change and probably for good reasons.

Ben:

So to some extent, we need to disarm them.

Ben:

And we need to, I think this idea that we talked about making it be more of an organic thing.

Ben:

So the first thing we could do is we could say, all right, well then don't do it.

Ben:

You know, you have to at least learn about how OKRs works and try it for one cycle.

Ben:

That's one thing I found is in order to make a decision about whether or

Ben:

You have to take a bite of the chocolate.

Ben:

You can't just say I don't eat chocolate.

Ben:

It doesn't make sense.

Ben:

So what I would do is I would minimize the amount of time and the training.

Ben:

So sometimes you can just do a half an hour introduction to OKRs.

Ben:

And then you can say, let's develop OKRs.

Ben:

The funny thing about this is I have found that if you can identify,

Ben:

You know, Bob and Martha, they're the two that are going to be like, you know, forget it.

Ben:

They're going to argue with you or tell you, why are we doing this, it's too challenging.

Ben:

I said, well, here's what I'd like to do.

Ben:

Can I please meet with Bob and Martha before the larger group?

Ben:

And then what I'll do is I'll actually do OKRs coaching with Bob and Martha.

Ben:

This is what's amazing.

Ben:

If I start asking those types of people, you know, well, what is your big objective for

Ben:

Tell me about why that objective is important?

Ben:

How will we know you've made progress in that.

Ben:

Now, once I start asking them these questions, in other words, once we start

Ben:

It's almost inevitable that they tell me this is unbelievably valuable.

Ben:

They just it's about them.

Ben:

See if you try to make OKRs be about you as the OKRs coach, you know, working with a client.

Ben:

It's going to become a fight.

Ben:

So what you need to do is just engage them, just jump right in and I'll

Ben:

Well, in the beginning I would get pushbacks from my clients.

Ben:

This is a funny one.

Ben:

It was you're showing me too many examples that don't relate to my industry.

Ben:

You should show me more examples that are specific to my industry.

Ben:

So I would do that.

Ben:

I would start changing my OKRs in my presentation so they would be in their industry.

Ben:

Right.

Then they would say:

No, you're showing me OKRs in my industry that are actually wrong.

Then they would say:

It would be better if you would just show generic OKRs rather than showing me these

Then they would say:

They just confuse me.

Then they would say:

So you see what they really wanted.

Then they would say:

And this is what's funny about people, right?

Then they would say:

What they really wanted was something that they weren't asking for.

Then they would say:

What they really wanted was not to see any of my examples.

Then they would say:

They just wanted to create their own examples.

Then they would say:

They wanted to get their hands dirty and start building their OKRs.

Then they would say:

So I learned the lesson that that's like what I mentioned with Bob and Martha, the sooner

Then they would say:

And the less time we spend talking about the theory or the history of OKRs, or, you

Then they would say:

Those people tend to be happier.

Then they would say:

The other one I would say is getting internal OKRs coaches throughout the organization is nice.

Then they would say:

Instead of it being me, trying to tell them I get various people inside the

Then they would say:

That seems to be very helpful.

Then they would say:

And then I think the final point I'll make is it's like we talk about..

Then they would say:

Maybe it's the first point I made.

Then they would say:

Remember it's not everyone or every team that needs to define OKRs.

Then they would say:

Some teams will be better not defining OKRs and rather defining what we call, like just

Then they would say:

Or for example, health metrics that they're in a situation where

Then they would say:

You know, a group of metrics that are already in a healthy range.

Then they would say:

And so OKRs really don't make sense for them.

Then they would say:

So really inviting people to think critically about, should they even have OKRs now in

Then they would say:

It's very clear.

Then they would say:

I'm still giving them credit for doing OKRs, you know, for this quarter.

Then they would say:

Even though they haven't written down any OKRs because they've made a good decision about

Then they would say:

As opposed to, well, I'm just not going to go through this.

Then they would say:

I'm not going to write any OKRs down.

Then they would say:

This is a waste of time.

Then they would say:

You know, those people, I don't know...

Then they would say:

There's certain people that I maybe can't get to change.

Then they would say:

Right.

Then they would say:

They're going to just resist.

Then they would say:

But for the most part, to the extent that we tune in to those individual people and

Then they would say:

They should just have just do it's like tasks or maybe health metrics, or maybe they have

Then they would say:

They have to explore the market in China or big business plans.

Then they would say:

Okay.

Then they would say:

Well then those are more like things that don't fit with OTRs, then that's...

HJ:

Yeah.

HJ:

Yeah, I like that.

HJ:

So not every team needs to have OKRs every quarter.

HJ:

Right?

HJ:

So some teams have OKRs every quarter.

HJ:

Some teams have OKRs, most of the quarters and some teams may never

HJ:

But you say they should still, I mean, they could still go through that exercise.

HJ:

Is there a valuable OKR for us to work on?

HJ:

Are all our health metrics healthy?

HJ:

If one of them isn't like, do we want to create an OKR?

Ben:

Well, it's funny that you say that because I had one organization and this is how funny it is.

Ben:

They literally had no OKRs in this one team, and I'll never forget this.

Ben:

They had these things called, just do it, but they made the, just do it's concrete.

Ben:

Like, so it would be clear whether or not it was done.

Ben:

It wasn't just like update the blog or something.

Ben:

It was.

Ben:

You know, add the new blog engine with a user logging in.

Ben:

It looked a little bit like a milestone key result.

Ben:

In other words, they translated the project into like a statement of, we know that that output of

Ben:

And then they actually called this person the key result champion, even though it

Ben:

I think this was a funny, sort of mix up.

Ben:

They could have called it the, just do its champion or whatever.

Ben:

But then that person would give a confidence score as to whether or not that just do it

Ben:

And so in a way, they were really adopting a lot of this OKRs thinking, you know, about checking

Ben:

But even though they were calling it, just do it because these really weren't key results.

Ben:

I mean, they were just things they needed to do, but so they actually were able to

Ben:

So that was one of my favorite examples of like, look, they're really getting this

Ben:

Because they're asking these questions, they would even have an objective and they would

Ben:

And there might be like 10 or 15 of these things.

Ben:

So it didn't really quite fit the OKRs framework because of course 10 or 15 of these

Ben:

But to them it was working.

Ben:

You know, they had one of them, I think, had a thing called, be ready for the IPO.

Ben:

That was their objective.

Ben:

And they could tell you why it's important.

Ben:

It was important now, because well we want to be able to have an IPO.

Ben:

Okay.

Ben:

We got it.

Ben:

Well, you go down their list.

Ben:

They had like a laundry list of like 30 check boxes.

Ben:

You know, have the balance sheet approved by the auditors.

Ben:

You know, there was like, there's like a punch list.

Ben:

Like you were getting your house, you know, to pass inspection or something to sell it.

Ben:

Or, you know, like, you know, check the box and, and it really worked well for

HJ:

I've seen, I've seen people come up with other acronyms as well, and

HJ:

And then they come up with like different words.

HJ:

But if you then look at how they explain these words, it was actually based in

HJ:

A lot of that is based on how strict do you want to define or how strict

HJ:

And if you interpret it very strictly then you probably come up with a new model that

HJ:

Like, just do it for example.

HJ:

Hey, OKRs are fairly simple once you get the hang of it.

HJ:

Right.

HJ:

And once, you know, like the basics, the best practices, once you've

HJ:

How should organizations go about educating their teams on the OKR framework and how

Ben:

Yeah.

Ben:

So what I would say is.

Ben:

I would back you up on that and say that, OKRs are pretty simple.

Ben:

Once you get the hang of it.

Ben:

The problem is it takes a while to get the hang of it.

Ben:

And what I mean by this is one of my clients in Brazil, actually we talked about OKRs.

Ben:

And they really said, look, we have thousands of people.

Ben:

We're in the beauty and cosmetics industry.

Ben:

And to try to get everybody to make this mindset, you know, into an

Ben:

That's going to be the critical step for us to be successful with OKRs.

Ben:

Because they tried piloting OKRs in certain groups and they just couldn't

Ben:

People that try to do OKRs make a to-do list.

Ben:

They just make a list of all the things we want to do and they can't get out of that mindset.

Ben:

So what we did with them is we said, let's spend this first year not doing OKRs.

Ben:

We're not even going to call it OKRs.

Ben:

We're going to call it shifting to the outcome mindset.

Ben:

Although here's the funny thing we basically did oKRs.

Ben:

We just said we weren't.

Ben:

But we said, instead of making a list of all the things you're going to do, talk about what

Ben:

And then tell me what are the outcomes that, that are going to tell us that we've achieved that.

Ben:

So it's really kind of an OKR model.

Ben:

Well, we would do is we would actually do individual sessions where

Ben:

Okay.

Ben:

And let's start with that.

Ben:

And then let's try to translate something from your to-do list into an outcome.

Ben:

And in other words, we're meeting you where you are.

Ben:

We're not, we're not saying forget everything you're doing.

Ben:

Let's start to write OKRs.

Ben:

We're actually saying, given all the things you're doing, let's try to take

Ben:

So we know the things you're doing are ultimately making an impact on creating value.

Ben:

And we did that with number of people.

Ben:

And, you know, they started to have some breakthroughs.

Ben:

And so for them, they needed ongoing training and hand holding just to get to that point.

Ben:

Okay.

Ben:

This was a massive project with thousands of people.

Ben:

Now, assuming that they've got OKRs in place, though, like you said,

Ben:

They've already moved to that outcome mindset.

Ben:

Most of their OKRs are pretty high quality.

Ben:

Then the question becomes all right, how do we make sure that the OKRs get built into your work?

Ben:

The first thing to say is we have to make sure that teams don't set it and forget it.

Ben:

Common in OKRs is to write them down and then just go back to work.

Ben:

So this means we haven't integrated into our work.

Ben:

So what I've seen here, this is actually, I mean, you might be setting me up here, Henrik.

Ben:

But this is where I've seen tools.

Ben:

Okay.

Ben:

Come into play.

Ben:

Because the one thing that tools do that, like really like, look, I can write my OKRs

Ben:

Okay.

Ben:

The thing is, once they're on the whiteboard, now what?

Ben:

They're just going to sit there and maybe somebody's gonna erase them or whatever.

Ben:

So I need to put them into some kind of a system that's an all in one place type of system.

Ben:

This way, everybody knows where to go to see the OKRs.

Ben:

And it gives me the possibility of integrating it into my work.

Ben:

Let's just put it that way across the organization at scale.

Ben:

Now here's the thing I've actually found that many teams are successful by leveraging

Ben:

So for example, they might have confluence.

Ben:

And it might be that it's the culture that everybody in their company is onboarded

Ben:

They have logins, they all know how to get in there and they have a confluence

Ben:

Sometimes that works simply because it is a familiar system.

Ben:

And so it's already part of their work process, their workflow.

Ben:

But I will also tell you, this is sort of a funny thing that you might've already known Henrik,

Ben:

And you end up with, I don't know, 20 columns or something because I do the

Ben:

I try to document that all.

Ben:

And, you know, one row per key result, kind of a fashion.

Ben:

Well, now you're putting in updates and now you're putting in the lesson

Ben:

And so that does wraparound text.

Ben:

And the next thing, you know, you know, instead of having all your OKRs

Ben:

You've typed in, and now it's like 12 pages and it's just scrolling on to the next page.

Ben:

And so it's, I wouldn't say it's user-friendly, but there's something about having it in

Ben:

So that's probably the number one thing.

Ben:

I think the other one is it's not just about the tool.

Ben:

It also becomes about managers.

Ben:

Okay.

Ben:

Playing the role of coach in one-on-ones.

Ben:

So I've seen managers say, look, I'm going to meet with the team and talk about OKRs

Ben:

In other words, your name is next to the key result.

Ben:

If I'm your manager, I should be asking you, how are we doing on that Key Result?

Ben:

And I should have some framework, some kind of training because again, managers

Ben:

So managers need some kind of, they have to actually have to be coached themselves in order

Ben:

But there's like the four basic questions you can ask.

Ben:

Right?

Ben:

You can say, where are we on the key result right now?

Ben:

What have you done for me lately in terms of action items?

Ben:

What is our confidence?

Ben:

Right?

Ben:

That's the next question?

Ben:

Are we on track to hit this key result?

Ben:

And then the third one is what are the blockers?

Ben:

What are the risks?

Ben:

Is it driving the right behavior?

Ben:

So there's this whole kind of set of questions about analyzing the behavior of

Ben:

And then the final one is what are the next steps?

Ben:

Now a good process for integrating OKRs into daily work is that the coach manager actually

Ben:

determine what are those next step items really should be the number one priority.

Ben:

In other words, don't give me a list of five things that need to get

Ben:

That's fine.

Ben:

You can come into the meeting with that, but a good coach will say,

Ben:

Or maybe they'll even ask questions.

Ben:

If only one thing could get done.

Ben:

That's when we meet in the next week or two, what's the one thing that has to get done in

Ben:

In other words, helping to prioritize.

Ben:

This is really where you can then integrate into work.

Ben:

Cause you walk out of that meeting now saying, okay, this is the one thing that has to get.

Ben:

And boy that is such valuable information because now you can take that into your daily work and

Ben:

Right?

HJ:

Yeah.

HJ:

And by the way, I wasn't setting you up.

HJ:

I mean, starting with like any tool that you already used or starting with a spreadsheet, I

HJ:

The only thing that I will be afraid of is, is that you may not see the traction there,

HJ:

And then I'm always hoping, of course, that you're not abandoning your efforts because of that.

HJ:

But other than that, I will be fully supportive of organizations starting like that.

HJ:

In fact, I would say at least half of the organizations that come to us have started

HJ:

Hey, Ben, this was a great conversation.

HJ:

And I think we've been talking for almost an hour now, before I let you

HJ:

What will be your number one piece of advice to organizations looking to implement OKR?

HJ:

Well, of

Ben:

Course, number one, always begin with why.

Ben:

And I think what I would almost call this really as the crawl walk, run story.

Ben:

So in other words, take a step-by-step approach to rolling out OKRs, as

Ben:

This is the most common piece of advice that I get, that I see from my clients.

Ben:

And it breaks down into, you know, like I said, beginning with why are we even doing OKRs, talking

Ben:

Is getting all those deployment parameters in place.

Ben:

Right.

Ben:

And the reason why I want to tell you this story is in the beginning of my career,

Ben:

So if you read the OKRs field book, you'll see it in chapter four.

Ben:

I actually end up going to Paris because the client told me to do a training, but I

Ben:

I didn't really know what we were going to do.

Ben:

So when I got to Paris, the workshop didn't go so well.

Ben:

Because we ended up just, you know, debating, you know, well, how do performance management

Ben:

How are we gonna score key results?

Ben:

Should they be stretched?

Ben:

Or should they be more like commitments?

Ben:

What about this.

Ben:

Hey, wait, how do we cascade the OKR?

Ben:

Should they be this or that?

Ben:

Well, all of those things are the deployment parameters.

Ben:

So if I had the answers to those questions before I did my Paris training workshop in France,

Ben:

We still developed some good OKRs, but the key is to take a systematic process and to really

Ben:

That would be my number one big piece of advice.

Ben:

Thank you Ben, as I said, it was great to have you on the podcast today.

Ben:

I had a lot of fun chatting to you.

HJ:

We're definitely going to invite you again if you're up for that.

HJ:

For now, thanks for joining us.

HJ:

And thanks for sharing your wisdom and your experience with our audience.