OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. The model helps an organisation work for a single goal in clearly defined steps. The model is based on continuous learning, and it aims to not only increase productivity in an organisation but to also effect dialogue and ownership.
At its best, the OKR model is both concrete and exciting. Companies tell us that, as a result of adopting the model, they have for the first time been able to plan and carry through strategies in their organisations in ways that are both visible and tangible. To put it simply, in the OKR model a strategy is segmented into common goals, key results, and tasks. Organisations using the model have reported significant increases in flexibility and execution focus.
Responsibility and motivation are vital to the OKR model. When the whole organisation takes part in locking down and executing on a strategy, the feeling of ownership increases across the board. The model also reduces the amount of on-hold, larger strategic changes considerably.
We implemented the OKR model at Trineria because we wanted to bring the company’s new strategy closer to everyday work. We also wanted to improve our planning and the segmenting of work between individual clients. An effective team-based model and the well-being of our staff were crucial to us. We figured that a working team model would bring about other benefits as well, such as clear goals and the ability to focus on only a few tasks at one time.
An organisation may have dozens of equally important reformation and reorganisation projects taking place at one time. The OKR model doesn’t allow for the dilution of priorities or for aimless scampering. The model has to do with strategy execution and therefore assumes the existence of a strategy.
As we came to realise, the adoption of the OKR model in an organisation should be carried out by people who are experienced with the company’s bread and butter, which, in our case, is software development. Very little gets achieved by just a company COB declaring a new protocol that everyone will follow from that day forth. Instead, we had our CEO and CTO (both experienced software developers themselves) collect information and talk to people to make sure that the OKR model had been understood and its benefits internalised. We wanted to know if the model had had an actual improvement on execution and that people weren’t just chasing KPIs. The CEO and CTO went through questions and doubts raised concerning the new model.
While perpetual learning is at the heart of Trineria, the adoption of the OKR model was still met with some reservations. Changes in protocols and routines usually increase workload temporarily before the changes bear fruit. There were some doubts concerning the new model at first, as it wasn’t clear how its adoption would affect each individual staff member.
It took some time for our teams to internalise the OKR model as a planning tool and for it to become part of the execution processes. This is admittedly a time-intensive undertaking and refinement is still needed. Team members still need to review the steps included in the model. This is aided by one-to-one feedback sessions. On the team level, meetings and discussions help in decision-making and determining if chosen execution methods are fit for purpose. The new model is built on top of the old in small and measured steps.
Teams decide for themselves the best strategies for reaching their goals. They also come up with their own performance indicators. For instance, they’ve decided on four hours of pair programming per week, making teamwork more effective over time. Programming together increases information flow and helps team members learn from each other.
At Trineria, a team’s tasks are segmented into ‘work packages’, the length of which can vary between one and five workdays. This type of segmentation isn’t directly related to the OKR model but rather to strategy. This method attempts to improve the team model and increase productivity as well as quality by ensuring that tasks are done from beginning to end with no distractions in between. Work packages also help with scheduling, and we’ve noted a marked improvement on our ability to deliver on time.
Previously, a number of a single team’s projects were locked down every two weeks. As many as four different projects could be scheduled for this single lump of time. Some tasks tended to run late; others could go completely unfinished. This model also didn’t encourage teamwork.
Today, we split larger projects into smaller pieces and take the pieces on one at a time. This model inspires more teamwork with everyone focussing on completing a single task instead of each team member working on individual assignments. Each task is also taken from start to finish before moving on to a new one. This way, focus is also placed on a single client at one time.
This blog was authored by Trineria’s Chairman of the Board Tero Huuskola, and CTO Jussi Mikkonen.
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