Find your CTO Superpowers with OKRs

Understatement: technology's impact on the organization has never been higher.


But a problem persists. There’s a disproportionate gap between what's expected of technology leaders, like the CTO, and systems that enable them to reach those expectations.


The CTO is responsible for the consistent development, implementation, and innovation of technology strategy. In a world that's transitioning out of a pandemic (attempting to, anyway), the challenges associated with strategy development, implementation, and innovation are amplified by the surging demand to make them (nearly) perfect.


Something's got to give. Two out of every three strategic plans fail, further increasing the pressure for CTOs to drive successful execution with a well-crafted strategy. Another problem persists: there is not a clear strategy to enable the CTO to solely impact their outcomes.  


The Office of the CTO typically does not have direct control of the work or people implementing and buying technology. This direct reporting can fall under the CIO, VP of Engineering, or Product Development.


Let's talk solutions. You read the title (I hope). Where do OKRs come into the equation for CTOs and other technology leaders? Are there really CTO superpowers? The answers begin with OKRs.


The unique power of OKRs aligns with the responsibilities of the CTO. OKRs popularity is booming with organizations of all sizes and types because of the valuable (and well-publicized) “superpowers” that OKRs convey, including:


— Alignment

— Focus

— Empowerment

— Accountability

— Innovation

— Ambition


OKRs are multi-faceted in propelling strategy deployment and execution. Their benefits are capable of elevating the CTO to greater effectiveness and maximizing the organization from the CTO/technology team.


Let's explore some examples of the CTO's responsibilities through the lens of OKRs.


Responsibility #1: Developing technology strategy and roadmaps aligned to short and long-term objectives


The CTO is uniquely positioned and charged within the firm:  


— To understand the company’s strategic business

— To interpret the most relevant technological opportunities and threats

— To envision a technology-future state

— To bridge the company’s current technology to a future state that realizes its strategy


With these charges for the CTO, the OKR powers of alignment and focus are levers for success. The CTO must understand the business strategy and objectives to focus and prioritize investing in the technologies that provide the greatest impact. Check out the visual below to see a real-life demonstration of technology alignment through OKRs.




In the digital economy, product and services firms must become technology companies to survive and win. Leaders in traditional businesses, however, may not understand the possibilities that existing and emerging technologies can offer their business units.  


What are the macro trends affecting the products, services, and business models of their markets?

What emergent digital-native competitors are preparing to disrupt their firm?  


OKRs help the CTO answer these questions, bringing focus, aligning those across the organization who are doing technology-related work, and teaching them how to prioritize work of the highest value.  


The OKR power of focus provides the north star that various functions and departments of the organization must steer to.


Responsibility #2: Exploration and exploitation of new and emergent technologies for innovation and competitive advantage


The OKR powers of innovation and ambition are also core drivers in the CTO’s mandate. Aligning innovation investment to strategic objectives is crucial to the CTO’s success.  


However, having the ambition to win in the market as expressed through bold and aggressive moonshot Objectives — the kinds that disrupt markets and propel firms to decimate competitors — drives the spirit of innovation.  


OKRs further support the standard of innovation throughout the enterprise. They convey to the employees the “why” and “what” of strategic objectives while engaging team members' insights and passions to creatively discover the “how,” making innovation a part of everyone’s job.  


Through the enablement of employees, innovation and ambition intertwine. When employees can embrace a strategic framework like OKRs that enables their freedom of choice in the execution of their roles, fear is no longer the ceiling for innovation or motivation of decisions.


Responsibility #3: Ensuring efficient, profitable, and secure use of technologies, then defining metrics and measures for these standards


The CTO plays a critical role in the portfolio management process. Ensuring technology implementation decisions are sound creates additional layers of complexity for the CTO. This is an opportunity for OKRs to drive accountability and shared responsibilities in technology teams.


Greater accountability for implementing and enforcing strategic technical guidelines and roadmaps throughout expansive technology delivery functions is essential for:


— Security, scalability, and fitness

— Avoiding waste and redundancy

— Ensuring corporate technology assets are not impaired


The CTO can use OKRs to drive the improvement, helping employees stretch for ambitious new levels of competence and mastery in the organization. They can define standards that align to strategic objectives producing quality user experiences, built on secure and safe platforms, through OKRs.  


OKRs support an environment to achieve autonomy, mastery, and purpose, the key drivers of motivation and empowerment in knowledge workers (via Daniel Pink). Organizations can benefit from the hard financial benefits of increased employee motivation and improved engagement, which translate to increased productivity and lower turnover.


These are just a few ways OKRs directly translate to improved results for the CTO.


Want to continue learning about how CTOs can leverage OKRs to elevate their responsibilities and expectations into superpowers? Download our free CTO whitepaper now to get up to speed on everything OKRs and succeeding as a CTO.