Edition 3 - 17/2/2020

The one about OKRs

Jonathan Korn

Welcome to the third edition of the Product newsletter, where every week (ideally) I share interesting articles and occasionally write about something that will make you or your team more efficient at work.

🌍 Interesting articles:

Playback time: Which consumer attitudes will shape the streaming wars.

In depth analysis. Great read for anyone in the OTT industry.

How engagement metrics can be misleading

How to craft your product team at every stage, from pre-product/market fit to hypergrowth

The Farnam Street newsletter

This is one my favorite newsletters at the moment. They also have a great podcast.

📖This week’s in depth dive:

How to use OKRs to make sure your team is never working on the wrong thing.

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are used regularly at notable internet companies such as DropBox, Netflix, Uber, Google, Facebook and Amazon. They can be used at traditional businesses as well as in ambitious philanthropic missions. Obama, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, and Bono's Africa fund have also claimed success using the framework.

I was a regular user of OKRs while at VTEX, going so far as promoting it to other product teams.

The text below is in no way exhaustive, and aims to make clear the benefits, best practices and pitfalls when implementing OKRs at work. Along the way I will show you how OKRs will help you maintain:

  • Focus and commitment

  • Team alignment

  • Clear division of responsibilities

  • Pushing the team far from the comfort zone

How to build your first team OKR

Get your team around, talk about the product vision and where we want to arrive in 3 months. It is crucial that everyone participate and feel included. OKRs only work when everyone is committed from start.

Building your first Objective

OKRs should be built, ideally, once a quarter so it would make sense that you keep the Objectives below 4 per quarter. It should describe what you're trying to achieve and should clearly point towards an action

Defining your Key Results

Your key results are the most important part of the entire OKR process They are easy to mess up, and I frequently

What Key results should look like:

  • Key results are "how you are going to get to the objective"

  • They should be measurable, and preferably have a date. At the end of the quarter it should be easy to look at them and assess what key results were achieved.

  • You should have only three to five Key Results. This is important because three is too shallow and anything bigger than five becomes bloated.

  • Best Key Results mix quantity with quality: NPS, DAU or a metric that infers meaning

How OKRs deliver Focus and commitment:

  • It forces you to choose your most important objectives. You can't build a list of 20 objectives to be met in a single quarter. You will be forced to trim down and prioritize your strategy.

  • In the end, it forces you to be more realistic with your ambitions

How OKRs help with team alignment

  • At any given moment a feature or bug request will try to sneak into your todo list. OKRs make sure the team is working on something relevant to the Key Results.

  • Public OKRs (we used to put them on a big screen back at VTEX) enforces cross team transparency. Better transparency, better prioritization and collaboration between teams.

  • You can make nested OKRs where one team's Objective is another team's Key result

How OKRs help with a clear division of responsibilities

  • You can separate objectives in two different categories. Committed Objectives mean we have every intention of hitting 100% of the Key Results. Aspirational Objectives are those with an average Key Result score of 70% or higher.

  • At the end of the quarter take a step back and assess you and your team's ability to estimate work.

How OKRs help push you out of the comfort zone

  • Are you hitting 100% of your objectives? You may be setting the bar too low...

  • What's your aspirational Objective like? Is it a direct reflection of your company's culture?

If you want to read more about OKRs, I recommend the excellent book by John Doerr:
Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs