OKRs Gone Extraterrestrial: The Aliens OKR in Alien
Welcome to our Villains of OKR series, where we analyze iconic villains and their strategy execution, learning from their successes and failures through an OKRs lens.This blog explores the Alien from the original Alien film.
*Writer’s disclaimer: Due to the graphic nature of this movie, GIFs will be kept to a minimum and this blog will not contain videos.
“You still don’t understand what you’re dealing with, do you? Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.”
– Ash, telling the crew about the Alien
Name: Xenomorph XX121, AKA Alien
Credentials: Superhuman strength and speed, genetic superiority
Dominate all who stand in the way of the species’ survival
Destroy the Nostromo crew
Attack and attach to a human host to grow
Neutralize members one by one
Avoid getting blasted into space
Escape the Nostromo
Sneak onto the escape shuttle
The Alien, while superior physically and mentally, did not achieve its Objective. Thanks to the world of science fiction and a last-minute failure from the Alien to adapt its OKR, luck was with the last crew member, Ripley.
The Alien failed KR3 not because of a blaring weakness or lapse of judgment, but because it did not commit to its natural aggression. The Alien wasn’t able to bring its whole self to work. Let’s explore the rise and fall of Alien’s antagonist.
Pro: The Alien’s strategy was impeccable, even though it took time
The Alien began its life reactively, being disturbed in its environment as a larva. Once it found a host (poor Kane) and grew enough to escape, the Alien immediately began formulating a strategy.
Having no feedback at all from its kind, the Alien was operating purely on instinct — a strategy that usually doesn’t succeed for humans in the long-term, but we’re talking about a genetically superior being. Why was the Alien’s strategy impeccable?
Its next Key Result was crystal clear: kill everyone, a metric impossible to misinterpret.
The Alien took relentlessness to the next level, showing off its mental superiority with cunning adaptation. Picking apart the crew one by one as a strategy exploited their weakness: none of the humans were powerful enough to kill the Alien by themselves. The crew didn’t use the strength in their numbers.
Understanding the weakness of your competition gives you a two-pronged offensive approach:
You can leverage your existing strengths and target their weaknesses
You can develop your skills/product from your competitor’s weakness to build a new strength
OKRs enable this offense through a culture of transparency. When everyone can see what your goals are, they can better align with you to boost your progress. Simultaneously, OKRs enhance accountability because they act as a grounding point. Your teammates and your focused Objective can correct your course long before you spiral off track.
A transparent strategy is a winning strategy because it fulfills the feedback-adaptation loop. Execute, listen, adapt, and execute again. The Alien had the biological superiority to get this strategy down on the first try, but for us, it’s a constant requirement. Hello Objectives and Key Results.
Pro: The Alien personifies (Alienifies?) stretch goals + adaptation
The Alien undergoes several metamorphoses in Alien.
Physically, the Alien begins as a creature in an egg (facehugger), develops inside the human host Kane to become a new creature (chestburster, gross), then growing into the fully developed Alien. Mentally, the Alien’s objective shifts from pure reactive instinct and violent survival to proactive stalking and murder.
Adaptation is the sole reason Alien is a psychological thriller. The Alien constantly shifts its execution based on the situation at hand. While businesses couldn’t be further from the realities of science fiction, a behavioral lesson can be learned from this movie. You need frameworks that give you structure without pigeonholing you if your environment changes:
Like an early-stage startup, the Alien began as a small being in a huge place. While we don’t know what its purpose in life was supposed to be without the humans, we see how it adapts given the state of its environment. The Alien never stops pushing for maximum achievement. While it escaped the moon eventually at the end of the movie, it was certainly shooting for the moon with its Objective and Key Results.
Companies may focus on one thing in the beginning — data for example — but as they grow and develop, the market demands a new type of company. Perhaps software in contrast to raw data. Or from content marketing as a third party to in-house media with marketing.
Either as a leader or an employee of a company, you must be aware of your environment and identify the changing wants and needs associated with it. OKRs enable you to listen and adapt while simultaneously stretching yourself or your company for greatness… and not the creepy Alien murder kind.
Con: The Alien wasn’t aggressive when it mattered
Playing on the defensive kept the Alien alive long enough for it to gain an advantage. Letting the humans make errors and fall into traps was a brilliant, low-risk maneuver. Where did the Alien go wrong?
You can’t always play defense. For the maverick character Ripley, the Alien should have gone on the offensive. Allowing Ripley to initiate the self-destruct sequence was its first true mistake in the film, a result of defensive maneuvering.
We’ll never know why the Alien didn’t go after Ripley when she retreated to abort the self-destruct, considering the rest of her crew was dead or missing. Although it was avoiding death in the process, letting Ripley board the escape shuttle gave her the offensive advantage.
Ripley equalized the Alien by using the ship’s airlock doors and thrusters as weapons. Goodbye Alien.
OKRs are supposed to connect us with our mission. What was the Alien’s mission?
Dominate all who stand in the way of the species’ survival.
In the business landscape, every company and team must be opportunistic while keeping the mission in mind.
The Alien lost sight of the mission’s core value: domination. Which methodology connects teams to their Mission through qualitative Objectives backed by quantitative measurements of an Objective’s success? OKRs.
Timidness does not innovate. Being the first to make a move gives you the greatest potential impact and the Alien lost sight of that because it lost sight of its mission. Simply standing in the way of Ripley was not enough to destroy her. It was not domination.
While patience is a virtue, timing the offensive and capitalizing when the time is right can give you a competitive advantage. Too much aggression is too risky. Too little aggression means missed opportunities.
OKRs help us find the balance, as we focus on what matters most and have room to fail up. The Alien was the alpha character throughout the film, yet countered its strategy of aggression by trying to outsmart Ripley.
Failure to commit to the mission and execute the strategy cost the Alien its life in the end.
If you’ve made the decision to implement OKRs in your organization, this article is for you. Maybe OKRs are new to you or perhaps you’ve tried implementing the methodology in your organization before with lackluster results. Either way, you want your team to succeed. Here are some tips to help your team adopt OKRs successfully.
One of the first questions you may face when you decide to implement OKRs in your organization is who exactly should own OKRs: employee, team (under team, we also understand divisions and departments), or some mix of both.