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Episode 32

The Second Order of OKRs Questions, Part 2

Guest

Ben Lamorte

OKRs coach, Author, Founder of OKRs.com

Episode Notes

Founder of OKRs.com, Ben Lamorte, has more OKR coaching experience than anyone on the planet. In part two of this interview, Jenny and Ben discuss the things that should happen at the end of an OKR cycle, what it means to be a Key Result champion, what to do if you know you won't make any impact on your OKRs this quarter, how to make a metric that matters, and more.

Relevant Links

Full Transcript

Ben Lamorte Part 2 Interview

Ben Lamorte (00:00:00): I want to also go on record of saying John Doerr is really great guy with OKRs. And I love some of his ideas, just not all, as I mentioned earlier. And one of the things he said to me, because I asked him that question, I said, “Well, what do we do? You know, you're telling me OKRs on a quarterly basis, and I'm not going to make any impact this quarter. So how do I measure what matters if I can't make a metric?” And he said, “Ben, here's what you do…”

Jenny Herald (00:00:21): Hi, and welcome to Dreams with Deadlines, a podcast where you'll hear real stories of trials and victories in business. I'm Jenny Harold, VP of Product Marketing at Gtmhub. Our mission is to prevent organizational hypocrisy. Inspired by the proven objectives and key results call setting methodology, Gtmhub offers the most flexible results management system for mission-driven organizations. Check us out at Gtmhub.com to learn more.

Jenny Herald (00:00:55): What should you do at the end of an OKR cycle? What does it mean to be a key result champion? What do you do if you know you won't make any impact on your OKRs this quarter? How would you make a metric that matters? In part two of an interview with Ben Lamorte, an OKRs coach, author and founder of okrs.com, we'll discuss these questions and more. Let's jump in.

Jenny Herald (00:01:24): Kind of along.... So, I'm a really big proponent also of the Reflect and Reset, even in terms of, I've given webinars about what to do at that period. But there's a lot of moving parts in this reflect and reset bit. How does that end up looking at scale? Because on the one hand, right, you're saying, okay, like if you go with the methodology that you've proposed, which is to score, which hopefully at the beginning of the cycle, you have defined the scoring parameters so that at the end there's no quibbling about, well, was it a point three? Was it a one? Was it a zero? You've defined what success will look like. Great, that seems super clear.

Jenny Herald (00:01:26): If you want to go Christina Walkies way, she's like, “Did you do it or not?” kind of akin to embryos and how that used to be back in the day. But then you need to be able to think through, okay, do we park it? Do we assess it? Do we adjust it? How do we set it? Who needs to be doing it? What level? If you had a cross functional set of teams, they need to be pulling in other people along with, you know, how does this look at scale?

Ben Lamorte (00:02:29): Yeah, great question.

Jenny Herald (00:02:30): How do they message this to work so it doesn't look manic?

Ben Lamorte (00:02:33): So, okay, you have to take a very structured approach here, okay? And by the way, most everybody that does OKRs, does step one of the cycle, which is to write their OKRs, right? By definition, if you're going to say you're doing OKRs, guess what? You've written down some OKRs.

Jenny Herald (00:02:46): You've written something down.

Ben Lamorte (00:02:48): Yeah, but that's just step one, right? Step two is checking in. Most organizations fail here, or maybe they do one midcycle check in, which even that I consider success because at least you've done something, you've actually checked in. But some teams will just totally fail on the step two. Step three, which is reflect and reset, I will be perfectly blunt, I want to take a lot of credit for inventing this step. And I also want to say that most organizations completely don't even know that there is such a thing as step three, reflect and reset. They at least admit, “Oh, we didn't check in, we kind of failed.” But they don't even think that there is a reflect and reset. They call it the retrospective, if they call it anything at all.

Ben Lamorte (00:03:23): So they might think that at the end of the cycle, what do we do? Oh, well, we just dropped OKRs for the next cycle. Or they might say, what do we do? Oh, we do a retrospective, we look back at how it went. The truth is, you're both right, but you've got to call it reflect and reset, because I want you to do a very structured thing. And at scale, okay, this is absolutely essential, because you will never succeed with OKRs if you don't have a very formal structured reflect and reset process.

Ben Lamorte (00:03:49): And I'm finding this right now with another organization I'm working with, they have something like 50 squads, and every one of those squads is doing their first round of reflect and resets with me, like this last month or two. Every single squad needs their own reflect and reset. And we take an incredibly structured approach, where basically I call it a zigzag.

Ben Lamorte (00:04:05): The Zigzag model is you take a given key result, the first key result, we're going to go right down the list, okay? And we're going to say… like, you describe like, okay, so first of all, what's the final score? And it's really hard for people to do this, you know, they want to talk about, “Well, this key results, we got an 18% increase on that, but we're trying to figure out...” I'm like, “Listen, it's about your point I want to do, we hit the commit the target or the stretch, what is the number? I just want to know, what is the final score? That's all I want to hear you say?”

Ben Lamorte (00:04:32): So I have to facilitate that. And they're like, well, I guess I would have to say we got to commit but we're close to the target. I say, “Okay, so you want to say commit plus, fine, I don't really care. Now, what did we learn?” And this is where I want them to just talk. Some people are like, “What do you mean, what did we learn?” “Well, what worked, what didn't work, were there dependencies? Did this get de-prioritized? You know, did you feel like this key result was driving the right behavior. You know, what's going on? Tell me what happened. What's the story of this key result?” “Oh, well, it turns out, we thought this was going to be really easy because of blah, blah, blah. Well, actually, it turns out, it's much harder than we thought because of blah, blah, blah.” “Okay, so how do we take that learning that we just had and apply it into the next quarter?” “Oh, well, I think we should set the target like this. And we should probably talk to the other team and see if we can align on that.” “Okay, so then, do we need a key result like this for next quarter?”

Ben Lamorte (00:05:27):So that the structured conversation is the final score, what is it we learned? Do we need to then carry this over into the next quarter? Or is it more of a park it? And there's various terminology that we use there. My favorite is keep, modify, abandon, defer? Really, it's got to be one of those four things.

Jenny Herald (00:05:38): Keep, modify, abandon, differ.

Ben Lamorte (00:05:41): Yeah, it's one of those four things, right? And to simplify, you could say, is it keep or remove? In other words, is it in or is it out?

Jenny Herald (00:05:48): Yep.

Ben Lamorte (00:05:49): That's probably all you really need. But my friends had indeed, really introduced me to the idea of abandon or defer. And I really like that, because sometimes you realize the key result is really important. I don't want to just remove it, but I want to park it for later. And okay, we'll put it over here. So that's what they like to do.

Ben Lamorte (00:06:05): So then we draft the key result. So you actually write a very high level statement, like increase CPO. Like I mentioned earlier, whatever it is. We don't like CTO, but we like CPO. Okay, here's why we like it, the draft, something about CPO. Okay, that's a reflect and reset for that one key result, zigzag means we finished that row, boom, go back to the next one, finish that one, go back to the next one.

Ben Lamorte (00:06:25):So we've got to go to the next key result now. You're talking about five minutes per key result. That's all I want to spend. But I can go up to 10. And here's the thing, I don't want to go to the next key result until everybody that's on this call has clarity. And by the way, for the reflect and reset session, I want the whole team, even if you aren't involved in this key result, but maybe your peripheral. Or maybe you're one of those people that's doing something that's not related any OKRs at all, you need to listen to this reflect and reset, because here's where we expose our learning, here's where we say it's okay to achieve a zero with a key result as long as we can apply that learning to next cycle.

Ben Lamorte (00:07:03): And now, as we're drafting the key results, everybody's seeing the process for how we're developing those key results into that next cycle. So there's no “I need to brief you afterwards” kind of a thing. So I won't be on the phone with maybe 15 people, but only three or four are really doing the talking because they're the ones that really are in touch with those key results. And then every now and then, somebody might chime in and say, “Well, actually, I don't know Akeem, I think that's not really realistic because we've got to get this Oracle thing migrated first before we get it.” “Oh, okay. You're right about that.”

Ben Lamorte (00:07:33): Okay. So I'm seeing the alignment happen right there during the reflect and reset. And then what happens is the outcome of that reflect and reset is the draft OKRs are starting to be in place for that squad. So that the outcome of the meeting isn't, “Oh, my God.” See, if we did a retrospective, we would have just blamed and said, hey, Oracle didn't do that... And then we would have all been feeling bad about our lives, and then we would...

Jenny Herald (00:07:57): Everyone would need to go home and just kind of brush it off until the next day.

Ben Lamorte (00:08:00): Yeah, exactly like, how are we supposed to do that? And then it's like, “Oh, by the way, don't forget, next week, we're going to get together again to draft our OKRs for the next quarter.” People are like, “Oh, my God, you've got to be kidding me.” So this is going to kill your OKRs project. So you have to take that discipline, reflect and reset, so that you only get that one chance, look back, apply learnings, walk out with a draft.

Ben Lamorte (00:08:21): Now everybody's like, “Wow, this is great. I learned a lot. You know, what do I do next?” Well, let's get together to refine…. That's the key word here. Let's get together to refine these OKRs. And if you want to sign up for a couple of these, that's great. Maybe certain people are interested in getting in a breakout group to work on that objective, okay, fine. Those are the next steps. We'll meet next week to refine and maybe publish the OKRs the following week. Now you build that momentum in. And I'm telling you, at scale, that's absolutely essential. Otherwise, you have no hope, because this thing will just disappear. And a big company will just become destroyed, right? because there's too much inertia.

Jenny Herald (00:08:53): Yeah.

Ben Lamorte (00:0 8:54): Any little thing goes wrong, people like, “Yeah, forget it. I'm out.”

Jenny Herald(00:0 8:56): So it's, you reflect, you reset, and you refine, it's the three R's.

Ben Lamorte (00:09:03): I like that, R cube, yeah.

Jenny Herald (00:09:04): I think you should do R cube. This needs to go in the book also, apparently.

Ben Lamorte (00:09:08): We've got reflect, reset, refine.

Jenny Herald (00:09:10): So, step one is always the hardest, I think, like just getting it off the ground, because defining good OKRs, this why we rely on expert opinions to come in and just sit down with teams, like, what the heck are you trying to solve for? What problems are there? Because a lot of times I find whenever I'm talking to even our customers, they're looking at OKRs that are probably two quarters out. They don't even have the measurements yet and they're like, “But we need to go from x to y.” And I'm like, “Okay, great. So what's your current problem?” Like, “we haven't measured it, and we don't know what our baseline is.” And I'm like, “Oh, my gosh!” So that's always hard.

Jenny Herald (00:09:48): Let's talk about an easier thing, and we'll get back to that, which is phase two, which is the check in. Why is it so hard for organizations to do this? There are so many tools, and if you type in a number, you give a communist level and maybe you color in a narrative. What are you finding? What are the excuses even of our—because this is the thing, everyone says, we want to do OKRs. And then we ask why? Oh, because our CEO read Measure What Matters, that happened, or our CEO watch the video, that Google one, great. They're often running, maybe they're strong enough to say, oh, because we want to learn, we want to have an environment where we're increasing communication, and we want to create an environment of learning. And it's okay to fail, so long as you're pushing hard, cool, whatever. Then they do it. They've defined it. No one's checking in, what's happened in there? What's this black hole in the middle?

Ben Lamorte (00:10:40): Yeah, it's a great point. I mean, so first of all, look, a lot of organizations do check in. So I don't want to make a beat, like the sky is falling. But I will say, there are still quite a few that don't. So what's going on? I think one of the main things I noticed was that there's a lack of accountability for a given key result. So some people make a mistake of saying, “Hey, here are the teams OKRs, hallelujah, kumbaya, let's go achieve them.” You need to put somebody's name next to each key result. And I think even in Measure What Matters, you'll see this as advice. So this is pretty universal, because I would say that it's maybe taking it too far to say you must have only one person's name next to each key result, which is I believe, what you'll see a Measure What Matters.

Ben Lamorte (00:11:23): My attitude is, you probably need two names, you don't need three. You absolutely need one name next to each key result. Now some people get confused, because they say, “Well, I'll just put somebody's name next to the objective, that does the job.” No, it doesn't, because each key result has nuances. So a lot of my clients, especially big companies, they'll have an executive be the objective sponsor. Totally cool. I love it. Because then the key result champions who are not necessarily the only people doing the work for that key result, right, but they're the manager, they're the person that's the spokesperson for that key result, they alert the team, if something's off. They've signed up, to be accountable to checking in for that key result.

Ben Lamorte (00:012:00): If we take that approach, then we seem to be okay. The problem is, the organizations that don't take that approach. In other words, maybe they have their OKRs, they write them down as a team, they're all excited, but there's no name next to each key result, well guess what? The check in process is ad hoc, at best. And often, the OKRs just sort of aren't even really talked about until the end of the cycle. So having that key result champion is really a critical thing to do.

Ben Lamorte (00:12:27): The reason why I like two people, and you know, you can figure out what's the right two people, but it might be that one of them's not in the office. And also, those two people can talk together and say, “Hey, how do we want update the team?” “I don't know. What do you think?” So they can bounce ideas, they can pair up, right, rather than, you know, two voices are better than one. If you get to three, you know, that's really where I start to talk about, we might have social loafing, you know, well, there's three of us, it doesn't really matter, this three people thing doesn't work so well. So having two I think makes the most sense.

Ben Lamorte (00:12:55):And sometimes you'll even have a key results champion from my team, as that key result champion, but then you'll have a key results champion from another team. Because there's such a critical dependency, let's say on IT, or the platform, or whatever it is, ‘I'm going to partner up with somebody outside my team.” To me, that's a good thing because OKRs are not meant to create silos. This is not a KPI thing. It's all about you and your achievement and accountability. But if you are doing it that way, fine print, okay. And I'm a little bit talking to the Measure What Matters, John Doerr community, because that's what you're doing, folks, you're saying this is a performance review system, and I'm going to evaluate your performance. And that's one of the reasons why you want one person's name on there because even though you might not admit it, you're holding that person accountable for the execution of that key result, which I want to say is the wrong way to do OKRs. I mean, I'm kind of coming out of the closet and saying, if you take the Measure What Matters model, you're going to have a list of commitments for the most part. You know, commitment, key results, and maybe you'll throw in an aspirational because, hey, you're supposed to, but there's this CYA culture that happens, and you get into that. And we don't want to see that with OKRs. For the most part, I don't like that model. I like more of the school of thought of, let's say, communication and learning, rather than evaluation and accountability. So if you're a key result champion, don't think it's your job to achieve that key result. You're the manager of that key result you're trying to drive it. But you're also getting, I mean, other people that are that are contributing to it, it's not just you.

Ben Lamorte (00:14:19): So that's what I'm looking for with check ins. And then the other thing I would say is if you do have a tool, and that tool could be a check in template in PowerPoint, or it could be Gtmhub, or it could be a Google Sheet or whatever it is, but if there's some kind of a tool that you've agreed to use, that will increase the chances, if it's a standard system that everybody's agreed to adopt, that will increase the chances that there will be some checking in going on. If you don't have such a system, forget it. It's not going to happen because if it does, you won't even know. So you do need to have some standard system and this is really where when you publish OKRs – this is my secret – when you publish OKRs, it should be done into one single place, where the model that you've published them into handle step one, step two, step three. In other words, it doesn't just store the OKRs, there's a viable way to check in, even if it's just one column that says check in and there's something that you put in there. I mean, it's got to have something, and you can see if it's blank, because boy, when it's all there, and you can see, oh, that one's blank. And if there's a name called Key Result Champion, and oh, that one’s blank, you know, it's the shamification model, right? People are going to say, “Oh, I better get in it.”

Jenny Herald (00:15:24): I better do my part, yeah.

Ben Lamorte (00:15:26): Exactly, they can look at and say, “Wait, why don't you do that? You're the key result champion, you agreed you would put an update in the middle of the quarter, some kind of a confidence score or something.” And then you'll have the reflect and reset. And what's beautiful to me is if you can have the reflect and reset also in that single system of record. It doesn't always happen. That's kind of like the utopia, but that would really be the ideal.

Jenny Herald (00:15:47): Totally, Ben, thank you for that. I know we're coming up on the hour here. So I was going to close unless you had any particular thing you wanted to talk about with some quickfire questions, because I'd like to end [inaudible]

Ben Lamorte: (00:16:00): Well, let me give you one thought, because you mentioned this idea of like…

Jenny Herald (00:16:02): Please do.

Ben Lamorte (00:16:03): You know, you have two quarters, like okay, so one of the things that we see a lot of is, “Hey, I'm going to do a bunch of work this quarter. But guess what, you know, I'm not going to move any metric until next quarter.” So, it's really frustrating, because my key results look like a bunch of milestones, like, well, I'm going to launch this feature, or I'm going to beta test that with five people or we're going to, you know, whatever it is, but it's all with the intention of impacting this metric later.

Ben Lamorte (00:16:25): So what we do, and this is something I did get from John Doerr. So I want to also go on record of saying, John Doerr is really great guy with OKR and I love some of his ideas, just not all, as I mentioned earlier. And one of the things he said to me because I asked him that question, I said, “Well, what do we do? You know, you're telling me OKRs on a quarterly basis, and I'm not going to make any impact this quarter. So how do I measure what matters if I can't make a metric?” And he said, “Ben, here's what you do. You write the key results. So let's say it's q4 and we're not going to make any progress. But we'll make progress in q1, perhaps. So you say, “end q4 on track to impact this metric in q1, as measured by…” and then you fill in the blank.

Ben Lamorte (00:17:09): And then that as measured by might be, I think he said something like, you know, all eight engineers on our team feel like this feature is validated. It could even be something like that. But it's often, we're able to provide a forecast that's validated based on AB testing with smaller populations that we believe are scalable, that we've shown a financial model or some kind of a forecast model based on this, that if we launched this on this population, it will... So there's some kind of a business case that shows that we believe the impact will be that much. And the stretch might be, oh, we're going to move that needle from A to Z. And the commit might be we're going to end this quarter on track to make a measurable improvement in the next quarter, which would mean that in the next quarter, we're going to say, “Oh, did we succeed? Did we hit our commitment? Oh, yeah. Okay, well, then in the next quarter, we're writing a commitment level key result that does specify moving that metric from x to y.” And Facebook did something like this that was like a rolling two quarter OKR model.

Ben Lamorte (00:18:06): So there's ways to do this, and this is a little bit more of an advanced topic. But I do want to say that that does come out. And this is really where you do need some OKRs coaching, because you can see the way I even said, “end q4 on track to impact q1 by this year,” it becomes kind of complicated, but it is exactly what you're trying to say. So I want to encourage people to embrace that, rather than trying to write the key result as make an impact on this metric in this quarter, if we know for sure, we're not going to because quite frankly, we're not even launching that thing because of code freeze until q1. So you have to embrace that fact and be totally honest. Okay, so let's do the fire round here.

Jenny Herald (00:18:42): All right. Well, I've wanted to actually follow up with that's amazing. And I get that question so often, it's crazy, which was, “Jenny, we know that we need to build new, shiny, whatever it is, because the old thing is like a packed pile of poop, basically.”

Ben Lamorte (00:18:57): Yeah, yeah.

Jenny Herald (00:18:58): But we have no metrics. And so how do we keep the teams accountable to whatever it is, so that we can actually get those results in the following quarters and or periods or whatever. So I really appreciate that insight. Because what I've been saying up until this point, is release the stuff, have some health metrics or so that you can baseline it. And then from there, what are the things that you had hypothesize that it would produce as a result? And then say, okay, now that we baselined it, and we've tracked it for a cue or two quarters or whatever, now we're confident to say that it's rational for us to want to push from here to there.

Ben Lamorte (00:19:38): Yeah. And that's pretty much what I'm saying. Although I'm saying in some kind of like, you know, Shakespearean OKRs language. Yeah. But then the feedback from the engineers is they love it, because…

Jenny Herald (00:19:48): They love it, yeah.

Ben Lamorte (00:19:49): …Actually, the engineers are saying, I'm not going to put that feature in there, unless you can tell me ultimately, what is it that we're trying to impact and let's agree on whether or not we can move that needle and is it really attributed to this. That's what they want to know. And then that helps the engineer say, okay, now I know why we're doing what we're doing. Which then when they go back to their team and say, “Hey, we're all going to work on this.” That's the motivation. That's the engagement part. So it is a really important point to end on as far as the points I needed to make. Let's go into your fire round. You've got me excited about that.

Jenny Herald (00:020:17): I'm excited about it. So what is it that you appreciate most about your team? You've been working with the team a long time, so...

Ben Lamorte (00:20:23): You mean my OKRs.com coaching?

Jenny Herald (00:20:26): Yeah.

Ben Lamorte (00:20:26): Okay. Great question. Well, I will say, and I'm going to call out Decron here, because he was my first certified coach, I am so amazed with how this type of OKRs coaching skill, it's somewhat natural, but to see it become developed and polished, I'm so amazed at how you can become a polished question asker, okay? because that's really the key skill. So you have to be a deep listener, but then you have to know how to ask the right question. And I thought that that was just something that people could do. Like, it was just very simple. And I'm starting to realize there's a real continuum.

Ben Lamorte (00:20:59): So I love the way that my team ask questions. And I also like, the way that my team is, I would say, multicultural, so I have Omead, who's in the Middle East. And one of the stories that I'll share with you, as I was writing my book, right, the field book, and I said, look, you know, it's very much New York, it's kind of like I'm talking now, like too much coffee, you know, the executives, after about a half an hour, if I'm presenting something, at a workshop, back when we used to do on site workshops, they're going to be like, “All right, let's get on with it. Let's start working on OKRs. Don't do a training like this that goes on and on.”

Ben Lamorte (00:21:00): So I would say, my advice was, keep it short, no more than an hour of theory, get into the application part of your workshop. And Omead over in the Middle East, he was working with a client in particular in Saudi Arabia, where it was like, “No, the culture is we want to see you, you do the talking, you tell us about stuff, we'll take notes, we'll listen, we'll observe, you know, maybe for the whole first day, okay, let's see what you got. Maybe walk us through a couple exercises in theory, but we want to be educated, and we want to evaluate you. And we want to see if we can trust you to help us and all this other stuff that's going on culturally.”

Ben Lamorte (00:22:00): And then on day two, they completely open up. And now it's, let's workshop and let's get our picture with you, and let's do all these things, and let's really go deep. So it's a little bit slower and a little bit more thoughtful, nothing against New York. I mean, I think that those people are smart. But guys, can we learn something from these other cultures, like, for example, in the Middle East, where we slow down, we take a breath, we sort of get to know each other, we absorb some of the content and some of these ideas. And then we go on to the playing field and develop the OKRs. So there's this question of do I learn by doing, you know, and that's it. And then I sort of make mistakes and kind of self-correct. And that's a valid model, and it works in some cases.

Ben Lamorte (00:22:37): But there's this other model, which is more of that Middle Eastern model I'm talking about, which is, hey, let's slow it down, let's get some theory, and then we're going to do it after we feel a bit more comfortable. And what I've learned from my team is actually those approaches are both valid, which is the right one for you? Let's figure that out. And let's tune in to our client. So it's really important to have that flexibility. So I think for me, having the coaching team allows me to build my own flexibility, as opposed to just think “I know.”

Jenny Herald (00:023:07): I really appreciate that. And part two, because like, there are different learning styles, right? We've got the kinesthetic learning style, that's learned by doing, auditory, written. I'm not that, I have to do it. Maybe that's an American thing. I don't know.

Ben Lamorte (00:23:24): I think it probably is an American thing. If you tried to do a full day of theoretical stuff, and then…

Jenny Herald (00:23:30): Oh, my goodness, it would be... I think people would start screaming or something would not work out it, would not be good. So what is the proudest moment? Or maybe you have a handful of moments where you've had clients that you've worked with, and you saw them really transform.

Ben Lamorte (00:23:48): Well, I did have one client where... Well, they were some kind of— it was called TPG Player, so I mean, it's a good thing, so I'll just say that. They developed some kind of a marketplace for people that were selling things like Pokemon cards and things like that. So they had a once a year fair, if you will, where everybody gets, you know, 250 vendors, or whatever it is, the big folks in their market got together. And their objective was to make this big event, you know, this, whatever beta conference it was, a big hit. That was it, make a big impact at this conference.

Ben Lamorte (00:24:21): And here's why it's important and here are the key results. And the key results were like five months out. So back to the cycle of is it three months or is it four months? They said, “You know what, this is the cycle. The cycle is this impending event. I don't care about a quarter, I don't care about four months, I care about this event, it was April 14, this is what I want.” So the way they made it was by the end of April, you know, like a couple days after that event, we'll know if the event was a success. But the CEO was saying, “We ought to write key results that we can focus on now and make measurable progress now so that when we go to there, we’re already a success.”

Ben Lamorte (00:24:54): So by writing all these key results, like we want to have this number of demos, we want to have that. What it did is it drove action such that everybody knew exactly what we had to have in place in order to make this thing a success. Now, when they showed up there, the feedback I got from the CEO and some of the leadership team there was the OKR, that one OKR completely changed our whole financial year, because everybody knew this was what the focus is, as opposed to saying, make the event a success, and just saying, “Hey, you know, we'll hopefully get some demos, and we'll all show up.” And they had this really crisp set of OKRs, and they achieved all of them.

Ben Lamorte (00:25:24): And the reason they achieved all of them was they only had one. And they were really making very clear, measurable key results. And then they all were sort of—there was this energy to be motivated for that, because they knew if they had a big event, it would mean a big year. And so they just worked like crazy, and they achieved it. And I don't even know if they really used OKRs after that, that's the interesting thing. Like, they didn't really find...They were just, now they had all this work, they just got to execute. And so I think they would use OKRs for the next event, right? And so their way of adopting OKRs was super focused on one impending event and super effective. And I guess I would say that was one of my great moments with a client.

Jenny Herald (00:26:03): I've never heard of that. Like, it was…

Ben Lamorte (00:26:07): It's a weird one.

Jenny Herald (00:26:07): Okay, that's weird. But that's incredible.

Ben Lamorte (00:26:10): That's the kind of stuff that happens, right? Like creative use of OKRs that really drives your organization forward. And the reason why I share that story, too, is like, that's what I kind of expect. I think if you're going to do something amazing with OKRs, you have to do it your way.

Jenny Herald (00:26:23): I couldn't agree more. What's top of mind for you nowadays?

Ben Lamorte (00:26:27): Well, it's, am I ever really going to get this book out? And by the way, I've got this OKRs coach network, which is going to be a place for any OKRs coach, whether you're an OKRs, coach inside your organization, or an OKRs coach working with your clients, to come in and get involved. And again, it's nothing against the software vendors now, Jenny, but I started a LinkedIn group, which got like 3000 some odd members. And what's happening —and as you know, there's more and more OKR software vendors all over the world popping up and stuff.

Ben Lamorte (00:26:53): So what they're doing is they're basically spamming my LinkedIn group. And I'm not going to name names, but they're basically saying, “Hey, you know, come to our webinar, hey, check out our new feature,” or something like that. And most of the people who are in this group want to see not “come and join the betterworks webinar with Brett,” or whatever, you know, it's like, “I don't want to see promotions, I want to see real interesting content, like how do I deal with OKRs and performance reviews?” Or like those second order questions that I'm addressing in the field book.

Ben Lamorte (00:27:19): So I've created a new network, and I have to charge money, and I have to vet people. So I'm not letting any people come in who are going to spam. It's only for OKRs coaches. And we're going to go with a quality more than a quantity kind of thing. So while my other LinkedIn group has some 3000 some odd members, this group has more like 30. And my goal would be to get it to like 300, let's say in the next couple years. And we're going to create a supportive community where other coaches have a person to call, so they have a mentor. And for me, that's really important because you get stuck on something and you just want to talk to somebody to bounce your ideas off. In fact, I was doing that with you, and you helped me think through how to change OKRs in the middle of the cycle, there's a real powerful thing that happens there.

Ben Lamorte (00:27:58): And just even knowing that you can call somebody who's another coach that maybe has more experience, to give you some tips is really valuable. Even if you don't call them, just knowing that they're there; they develop a voice inside your head. So that's why we created the OKRs Coach Network. So I think anybody that reads the book, the book is good, don't get me wrong, but it's going to still just be a book, and I want to bring it to life and give it an ongoing value. So that's where the OKRs Coach Network comes into play. So that's really been on my mind.

Jenny Herald (00:28:24): Top of mind, yeah, that's super exciting. Okay, we've got two more questions. What is your dream with maybe a corresponding deadline?

Ben Lamorte (00:28:36): Wow, that's like you're coaching me now. So I guess what I would say is I really have a vision for after the COVID era is over. So my deadline is probably not next month. Although if I was Trump, I'd say about five weeks from now, everything will be fine. No big deal. We'll all meet in Hawaii, it'll be beautiful. I'm sorry, I had to put that Trump COVID joke in. But what I'll say is probably like three years from now, or something like that. I would love to have an OKRs coach conference, where it's a probably a two day event. And maybe even there's a third bonus day for social or whatever. And I could see this happening in various continents because my OKR Coach Network has people all over the world, I think 10 different languages are spoken and we have 15 countries or something like that.

Ben Lamorte (00:29:20): So I really want to get together with the OKRs coach community and start to make a cannon of what is it that really we know works from an OKRs coaching perspective? What is it we really know doesn't work? And then how do we deal with those nuances, like the question you asked about, what about changing healthcare in the middle the cycle, right? There might be some nuances there. What are the real answers here? And how do we really ground that in reality. And by the way, I think of these people as my colleagues. So my dream is to have some fun with these people. When I work with my clients, I feel like I'm the teacher and they're the student. So afterwards, if we go to the bar, I'm sort of like, “Well, should I be sitting at their table? I mean, I can, but it's like maybe they should all be hanging out,” whereas when I hang out with my OKRs, Coach colleagues, I'm like, “Hey, let me get you a drink. And what do you think about that?” and we're like in the teacher's office, you know, we're having a little thing. So we can all be ourselves.

Ben Lamorte (00:30:09): And so for me, I'd really like to get together with those OKRs coaches, and really be ourselves and have fun, and really develop the field of OKRs coaching, which I think—actually I used to say this now, I'm now 100% sure that this field of OKRs coaching is not only legitimate, but it's a really important thing to do, because it addresses, I believe, the underlying issue that we have in the workplace, which is engagement. And I believe that most people are knowledge workers, they don't know how to connect their work to the bigger picture, they don't get excited about work. And you don't just get excited once a year. You need a framework that you can take to work that you can ask, why am I here? How do we know we’ve made the progress that we want to make? Why is this important? Is this really my job? Where were the dependencies? What would be the most amazing outcome I can imagine? What is the real stretch?

Ben Lamorte (00:30:56): And I've gotten to realize that if you're not asking those questions, you know, and I don't want to take this the wrong way. But if you're not asking those questions and you're not growing, and you're not being reflective, you're not doing that critical reflection, you're on autopilot. And look, I've been on autopilot for parts of my career, too, so I'm not trying to sound perfect. But when you're on autopilot, work is not engaging. And I believe that this leads to problems, right, whether it's just, you know, you get depressed, or whether it's like, well, you go to the bar, like I mentioned earlier, but you just say , “I don't know, my job,” whatever, you know? And I really want to see us turn that around. So I believe OKRs coaches are going to be a big part of that. And this is like a dream statement, like, wouldn't it be great if we could have thousands of OKRs coaches around the worldand they're making work more engaging, and there's critical thinkers. And that would be my dream statement.

Jenny Herald (00:031:42): Oh, I feel like there is definitely that in your future. And I feel like there's probably also OKRs are going to be built after this if they haven't already, to get to that dream state. Cool. And then the last question, for the folks that are probably listening in, because you're a name in this industry, and maybe they're doing OKRs for the first time, and they've heard a lot about what you have to say, hopefully, they'll pick up your book. I highly encourage folks that haven't read it, to read it. And to pick up your next one, I definitely will. Or maybe they're unsuccessful, they've had previous attempts. And they want to try again, what would your number one, two, three, or just one piece of advice be for that group? Because most OKR attempts from what we've seen, fail, especially the first time, and that's unfortunate, but they want to try again, which is wonderful. They're resilient, great. What should they do you? What advice can you give?

Ben Lamorte (00:32:43): Okay. Well, you know, there are two different angles here. One is, if you're a CEO, you're doing a top level OKRs, I kind of have one thought there. And the other is, maybe you're working in a big company. So you're probably not, you know, Jeff Bezos or something, you're probably working there, and you're maybe the head of product, or you're maybe a manager of HR or something like that. Let's actually talk about the latter, okay, because you're probably not the CEO of a company anyway, so I'm going to skip that for now. Supposing you're one of us in the workplace, what I would say, and I wrote a blog about this a long time ago, is, start with your team.

Ben Lamorte (00:33:16): Think about what your team is, and start by defining the mission of that team, why do we exist? Who do we serve? Who's our customer? What is the long term impact we make? And what is the service we offer? Try to come up with one sentence that really describes that. That's the context. This is all of time, over all of time, not just like this week, or next quarter, next year. Then start to ask yourself, what is the alignment? What do we depend on? Or who are our internal stakeholders, who depends on us? And just think about that and think about how and why we have those dependencies. This will prime you for your OKRs.

Ben Lamorte (00:33:47): Now, you're ready to think about what is your one objective. And what I'm going to say here is if you're struggling with OKRs, try to restart or reset your process by doing those first two steps now, just come up with one objective. Work with your team to come up with the one objective, knowing that OKRs is tough. Let's get one right. And what is that one area where we really want to focus on making measurable progress in the near term and why? Really meditate on that why. Once we've really agreed on that why. I think of that almost like the Star Wars thing, you know, like, in the beginning, imagine the letters going up onto the… out of view. You know, in the beginning, we only sold our services to small companies, but then we installed it at Netflix. And it was an experiment, but it led to bigger customer satisfaction and bigger profits than ever before and now we must move on to the big accounts because we can all become rich and famous, or something like that. So that's the why it's important now and it's very motivational and educational.

Ben Lamorte (00:34:44): Really check that out with your team and align on that, to where we're really being honest with ourselves, like this is really something that's important, it’s not just something we need to do. We're not going to jus hire more people. Why? Because that's what we need to do. What is it that we're really trying to achieve in the near term? And then get into the key results, and pick the two or three key results and really flesh them out from a perspective of what is it that we know we can commit to, but what's a stretch? At the very least, let's do that.

Ben Lamorte (00:35:11): So unlike the measurement matters model that says, think of a key result as a commit or a stretch. I want every key result to be a stretch. But I also want you to think about what is that commitment level for that key result? And then that makes it a little bit more engaging, because it forces the team to say, Well, here's what we know we can achieve with the resources we have, right, not if we get lucky, or if this other team comes in and helps us out and build this out, or whatever. And then have that conversation and then just have one check in, plan that one mid cycle check in, that's a formal review. Make sure you have those key result champion names, so we know who's going to talk at that review. Give them a two by two matrix, like you might see in radical focus or something like that, that says, you know, how are we doing? Where do we think we'll be? What are the big three things that we did this last couple weeks and what are the big three things coming up? And maybe, what are the risks or blockers? Or is this driving the right behavior? So there's a set of probably three to six questions that we're going to ask about that key result. So make sure as the key result champion, you could just articulate all those, and then do the reflect and reset.

Ben Lamorte (00:36:12): What I found is if you can just get through that one cycle, sort of the minimal viable cycle, you're going to be successful. And probably if you tried to do OKRs and you failed, it's because you know what, you had too many OKRs or perhaps, you wrote key results that were just a bunch of tasks. Or perhaps you didn't put the key result champion name, you just had kind of no real ownership and so all those things that are the problems that seem to make OKRs not work, tend to go away if you use the recipe I just gave you.

Jenny Herald (00:36:43): Yeah, I could, oh my goodness. What a great way to end the episode. Thanks so much for being on Dreams with Deadlines. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the book turns out as well as this community in this dream that you're trying to pursue because I think we're of the same spirit here, in that, the world can be served, most people can be served by having OKRs.

Ben Lamorte (00:37:05): Well, and I finally understand now why you call it dreams with deadlines. I think it was the catchy name at the beginning of the podcast, but now that you've made me have my own dream with a deadline, I think I get it so I guess that's a great challenge if you're still listening is think about what is your dream and what is your deadline? And in a way, that is a lot like OKRs, you know, what is your stretch goal and when will we know you've achieved it, and what does that really look like? And that's a really important question to ask yourself just in general in life, is, whether you're doing OKRs or not, let's have a dream with deadline. Well, thank you so much, Jenny for having me on the show and I look forward to listening to it when it comes live. I always love to hear an interview like this after it's happened, see what I really said. I'll probably learn a lot.

Jenny Herald (00:37:47): Plus one on that.

Jenny Herald (00:37:50) Well, that’s it for this episode of Dreams with Deadlines. Thanks for listening. If you liked today’s episode, please subscribe and share. The show notes can be found on gtmhub.com/radio. If you want to learn more about our product and services, head out to gtmhub.com. If you have questions that you’d like answered on the show, shoot us an email at [email protected] Tune in next time.

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