Managing OKRs at scale

Posted by Ivan Osmak
on October 25, 2017

Building a messaging app, such as WhatsApp is trivial – unless you plan on having billion users.

Making a cup of coffee is simple – but not if you are Starbucks.

Understanding distances is simple – until we start talking systems and galaxies.

Scale changes not only the quantity – but also the quality of a problem.

How OKRs break at scale?

The common advice you will get, when talking about OKRs is to keep it simple. Often, people will say: Do it on post-its or just use spreadsheets.

Simplicity is extremely important – I agree. The question we should always ask ourselves is – can this be done simpler?

The problem, however, is that simple has different meaning depending on the context. And scale – scale changes the context.

Let us assume a medium size organization with 500 people. For this example, we will assume that the organization is following most common practices: quarterly planning, 3 objectives per person, 3 key results per objective.

Within a one year period, this organization will have:

  • 6,000 objectives
  • 18,000 key results

That’s a lot of post-its.

Often organizations are advised to do OKRs only on the executive level or only for teams (no individual OKRs). This is a self-serving argument, as it fundamentally kills the purpose of OKRs. We are not after semi-alignment or executive focus.

It is about: alignment, focus, engagement and transparency. Holistically.

Your sales team tracks ALL the deals in Salesforce. Your engineering team logs ALL the bugs in Jira. You won’t hear Tesla arguing that traveling more than 200 miles doesn’t really make sense.

Solving OKRs at scale

When we think about OKRs at scale there are 3 dimensions at which the process breaks:

  • alignment – how do we align 100 objectives in a spreadsheet?
  • transparency – often we think lack of transparency is caused by missing information, but in practice it’s usually caused through information overload
  • manageability – how do we define, assign, delete or move hundreds of OKRs quickly?

Gtmhub is helping organizations on all three fronts. Be it through simple user experience, automation, data-driven insights or built-in guides towards best practices.

Today, we’ve released a brand new feature helping with the manageability aspect of large scale OKR implementations.

Assign, Move, Delete and Clone OKRs – en masse

We’ve been observing how our customers use Gtmhub – and we’ve noticed a dramatic spikes in number of clicks happening about two weeks before the start of a quarter. While we are proud at the high engagement levels, many clicks is rarely a good thing. Our users have a job to do – and the less clicks in which they can achieve that, the better.

When we dug deeper into this phenomenon, we’ve found out there are 4 major use cases that most of our customers go through when they plan their quarters:

Reassigning

As organization aligns itself around business goals and priorities, very often objectives get reassigned between people – to ensure that no one has too much on their plate and can fully focus.

This is why we have introduced bulk assigning and reassigning.

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Postponing

Another common use case is simply postponing OKRs for the next quarter. As we often say, OKRs are just as much about deciding what not to do, as they are about deciding what to do.

This use case is the reason why we’ve introduce bulk moving of objectives between planning sessions.

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Doubling-down or simply doing a better job

OKRs are aspirational by their very nature. There are two typical side-effects of this:

  • sometimes we get surprised by how well something works, so we decide to double-down on that OKR in the next planning period
  • other times, we fell short of achieving our objective – so we decide to try harder in the next period on the same OKR

For this use case, we’ve introduced ability to clone OKRs from one planning session into another.

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Brainstorming or bottom-up approach

Many organizations choose a bottom-up approach with OKRs and foster employee engagement. In this scenario, employees are encouraged to define OKRs themselves and then teams collectively decide on which ones are to be pursued.

The side effect of this approach is that many OKRs will not be used and need to be deleted.

For this scenario, we’ve implemented a bulk delete operations.

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Summary

Managing OKRs at scale is not simple. This is one of the key problems Gtmhub solves.

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The three main dimensions we focus on is:

  • alignment
  • transparency
  • manageability

With the latest bulk management features – based on actual use cases – Gtmhub makes the process of planning and managing OKRs not only significantly simpler, but also – enjoyable.

The new bulk editor is available in all editions, through the bulk function.

Bulk management of OKRs
Bulk management of OKRs