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OKRs are networks, not hierarchies

They don’t cascade, they integrate

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
  1. “Top” of the hierarchy will tend to be comprehensive and generic OKRs — this is bad because it is meant to spotlight the key objectives, not all possible work. People start asking “if my department isn’t counted does my team matter?”
  2. Hierarchies cascade down the OKRs more often than meeting in the middle — which ends up micromanaging the work that people are doing on the teams.
  3. “Lower” teams in the hierarchy inherit initiatives — they just take key results and turn them into objectives. This is bad because objectives shouldn’t be metrics. Then the teams end up with a lot of unimportant OKRs that cascade into the higher ones.
  4. A person near the “top” of the hierarchy ends up owning the OKRs — people “lower” in the hierarchy loose understanding of the purpose and don’t control their own work.

OKRs don’t exist in a vacuum

Building a network of dependent OKRs

  1. Whole OKR — they share an objective and its key results. This is generally because that OKR is both a team and org (or both team’s) priority.
  2. Only an objective — the teams share the objective but have different key results that they have the ability to track and effect.
  3. Only a key result — the teams share (or contribute to) the same key result but have different objectives which they are looking to achieve.
  4. Not at all — the teams don’t have dependencies between them.
Network of OKRs template, originally from Mauricio Franzoni of nintex and modified by me.
  • The Org and Product teams share an objective but not key results for that objective.
  • The Org and Marketing team share a key result but not the overall objective.
  • The Product and Marketing teams share key results since they are tracking the same KR.
  • The Operations team doesn’t network into The Org (or any other team) but their work is still valuable to the organization as a whole.
  • Product teams — usually share objectives with the greater organization and each other. This is because they are the main way that objectives are met is through building new or better experiences.
  • Enabling teams — they share key results since they amplify the work that product teams do, like marketing and platform product teams.
  • Shared teams — teams that support multiple other teams, like operations, don’t usually share objectives or key results since they focus so much on removing waste from the system and making things more efficient. This is not the same thing as building a brand new experience.

OKRs are a strategy Trojan horse



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Chris Butler

Chaotic good product manager, Head of Product Operations @ Cognizant