A year in review, as told through our OKRs.

It’s difficult to imagine a year in review for 2016 that feels uplifting — even Google seemed to struggle with what’s usually a heartwarming recap (welp). At Versett we try to focus on the good and hope that sharing some of our highlights will help carry some much-needed positivity into 2017.

To say that 2016 was an exciting year for us would be an understatement. We doubled the size of our team, opened an office in New York, rebranded and launched a new website, had our very first team retreat, drank an astronomical amount of coffee, and produced some pretty cool work.

But when we look back on 2016, the milestone event we’re most proud of is something not all of us expected to be so helpful: the introduction of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). Invented at Intel and growing in popularity at many companies including Google, Twitter, and Uber, OKRs are a highly effective method of defining and measuring the success of goals and their outcomes.

“The objective is a qualitative goal for a set period of time, usually a quarter. The key results are quantitative metrics used to measure if the objective has been met by the end of the period.” (Wodtke, Christina. “The Art of the OKR”. )

Each team member at Versett was asked to outline and publicly share a minimum of three OKRs this quarter. We asked everyone to share how things went; here are some of our favourites.

Achieve high test coverage on Angular 2 
Adam, Developer

Expecting to achieve +70% test coverage on all of our Angular 2 projects was very optimistic, especially since we wrote the code without testing in mind. We didn’t achieve any real test coverage this quarter, but I still consider this OKR to be a success since it brought to our attention that the way we were developing was unsustainable. Rather than focus on writing tests, we focused on code quality and started following effective design principles. In one of our new projects we introduced `@ngrx/store` for managing our state, which helps pull state logic out of components. In our view layer we’ve started following the principles of smart/dumb components to help with code reuse and to ensure each class only handles a single responsibility. In the near future we will start writing tests for our updated codebase, but for now we made some great steps in the right direction.

Grow the team in NYC
Max, User Experience Designer

In addition to working on design and UX problems on a daily basis, much of my focus this quarter was on recruitment and new business. Creating OKR’s helped me stay focused on those goals, while not disrupting my day-to-day tasks and focus on current client/partner needs.

The exact nature of the OKR’s themselves shifted a bit throughout the quarter, but it was still inspiring to maintain the ascent towards bigger and better things. My OKR for growing the NY team quickly morphed into working on our overall hiring pipeline and the operational aspects that play into that (a great deal of which was uncharted territory for me). I helped develop candidate evaluations, canned responses, guidelines for interviews, and other resources so our team is better equipped to hire the right fit.

It was extremely motivating and inspiring to be involved in the strides we were taking as a team. In the future I hope we can figure out a how to make these more routine and begin building towards achieving our 2020 OKRs for Versett as a company.

Represent Versett outside of the office
Amanda, Developer

I love to network and meet new people, so naturally I decided to commit to an OKR that involved me getting out into the community to represent our company. My objective was to live my role outside of work and help to promote the Versett brand in Calgary’s product engineering community. I wanted to get out to a minimum of 4 events or conferences related to the work we do at Versett. In just a few short months, I was able to attend CAMP Festival (a 2-day design and technology conference), Chic Geek Geeky Summit (a conference that aims to empower women in technology and entrepreneurship), Pixels & Pints (a local monthly meet up for designers and developers), the Startup Calgary Launch Party (a celebration for a local tech startup pitch competition), and lastly ATB BoostR Stage (a Dragon’s Den-style tech startup pitch competition).

At each of these events I was able to mingle, connecting with new and familiar faces to shamelessly proclaim my love for our team and the work we do. Attending these 5 events helped me surpass my original goal. Although I didn’t accomplish one of my key results of having Versett partner with or sponsor one of these events, I feel I successfully laid the groundwork to pursue that in the near future. I plan on keeping this OKR as an ongoing task moving forward.

Successfully lead design on a key product
Matthew, Product Designer

When we started these OKRs, I knew I had a lot I wanted to achieve before the end of the year. Some of my key results were very lofty, but I think that my objectives were all very well aligned with our new goals as a company post-rebrand. Overall, I found OKRs to be infinitely valuable to my role, as I was consistently able to reference my objectives and consider whether or not I was on the path to achieving them.

One crucial objective I set was successfully taking over the design role on one of our key projects. I found that having this objective made the process that followed much clearer, and it framed the way I approached preparing and executing work every week. Thanks to that, I was much more confident and successful in my output. OKRs have become an integral part of my professional and personal growth, and I look forward to continuing to create and achieve my goals.

Create the Versett Social Club
Kat, Product Designer

Collaboration, socialization and interaction are essential in the product design world. I took on the task of creating an official Social Club to encourage our team to step away from our screens and have some fun together while building trust, camaraderie, and open communication with one another. I started by voicing a few ideas to the team and in no time everyone was brainstorming really creative ideas together. From a no-pumpkin Halloween carving contest and a Christmas cookie potluck, to an impromptu field trip to the movies, these activities have already brought us closer together.

It seemed like everyone wanted to participate in social activities; the team just needed someone to take the reins and put thoughts into action. I’ll definitely be keeping this OKR into the next quarter and I aim to bring new ideas that spark more collaboration and interactions between Versettians.

Evolve our design process 
Dan, Director of Interactive

Evolving the design process and facilitating learning for our team was the main theme of my OKR’s. Our team has grown a lot over the last year and our toolset has continued to evolve as well, so the goal was to ensure our processes were keeping up. I wanted to get input from the team, so a short survey addressing different areas of our process was sent out. The results were then shared and discussed as part of our Monday morning meeting. For the most part we’re doing well but the survey gave us some possible solutions and list of items that will likely become future OKR’s.

Another big change for our design team this year was making the move from Photoshop to Sketch. Although there are similarities, some new standards have now been documented to help keep everyone on the same page.

Continued learning for myself and our design team is also very important. We share articles through Slack and have started to discuss them as a group in our design check-ins. This type of learning and sharing has been great and I look forward to more of it.

Setting out to accomplish all of these things it one quarter was a little ambitious however many of these will become ongoing OKR’s as we continue to evaluate and adjust our processes.

Launch Versett Alpha
Steven, Product Strategist

One of my OKR’s for this quarter was to assist in the launch of our internal product development program (V// Alpha). I was later tasked with leading/managing the program, a role that would be new for me and which has been fairly successful so far.

We set out to complete our first project by the end of November. The year is almost over and I feel that we are just about ready to release our product (stay tuned!). Despite passing our deadline, I think we have been successful in establishing a new program within Versett and are setting ourselves up to do better with each iteration.

Familiarize myself with Sketch
Tyler, Account Manager

I could pontificate about how successful I was in accomplishing all of my OKR’s in 2016 — but as I’m writing this, it’s mid-December and I’ve yet to murder Steven — so I guess there’s room for improvement. In all seriousness however, this past year I endeavoured to become more proficient in design, whether that be using a program like Sketch or Adobe Experience. Thanks to sources like Treehouse and Lynda (yes, even Lynda) I’ve been able to progress from cave-dwelling luddite to someone who can acknowledge when he’s bludgeoning the design with drop shadows, and understands that you maybe shouldn’t put bright yellow copy on a white background.

I had hoped that, being the savant that I am, I would be receiving invitations from the design team to join their ranks and begin collaborating on projects. Sadly, due to their “high standards” of what “good design” looks like, it appears that won’t be the case. Onward and upwards for 2017.

Create the Versett Development Handbook
Jesse, Developer

The task of attempting to create a unifying set of resources for the dev team was a daunting one, but extremely exciting to consider. The decision to focus on a style guide for each of our core languages felt like it had the best ROI, so off we went. I decided to start with CSS (SCSS) as I felt that was where we had a slight deficit and the most immediate gain from alignment, and I often wished I had it completed as time went on. As the task began I started to realize that there was a lot to say on the subject. From naming conventions and general ‘dos and don’ts’ there became a need to discuss folder structure, patterns, and advanced architectural examples. While I am not where I had hoped to be at the time of writing, I am looking forward to flushing out the final guide as a valuable resource for our team and hopefully others too.

Create a User Testing Kit
Benny, UX Engineer

I’ve been tasked with creating user testing procedures for other organizations before, but it often felt misaligned and skunkworks in comparison to other organizational objectives. As a result, the tools and artifacts felt rushed and not well considered for reuse.

At Versett, instead of focusing on just setting up user testing, I took on the task of setting up a kit that would allow anyone to facilitate a session. This shift, from simply setting up to setting up a kit, really helped me stay accountable to my teammates, as they are the ones who’ll be using it. It also gave me a very measurable goal: a kit that can be reused by anyone.

Though I’m still in the midst of defining the kit, unlike my attempts in the past, I feel like the organizational alignment and openness with progress will only help shape this kit for the better.

Write and edit content to publish on Medium
Vinciane, Product Designer

Disclaimer: by no means do I consider myself a copywriter (“Annoying Office Grammar Nazi” at best), but Versett was in desperate need of someone to produce content that wasn’t riddled with grammatical errors. One of our collective company goals was to create more of an online presence in terms of thought leadership, and Medium seemed like the obvious choice as a platform for sharing ideas. My goal was to help write and edit at least one post per month in Q4. Having our OKRs shared publicly helped keep me accountable in a way that was much less pressuring than I had anticipated, and, for me, was ultimately what ensured that this goal was achieved. I now feel emboldened to come up with more ambitious OKRs for 2017 (gird your loins — you’ll be hearing all about them here on Medium).

When the implementation of OKRs was first introduced to the team, reactions were varied. Ranging from quiet anxiety, to cautious optimism, to straight-out-the-gates enthusiasm, some of us knew immediately what we wanted to accomplish in the first quarter, while others needed time to process what seemed like an intimidating ask. Some of us questioned the value of adding more work onto our already very full plates, and others were excited about the new challenge.

As the weeks progressed, we all started to become more comfortable, and really hit our stride mid-quarter. Accomplishing those ambitious goals no longer felt out of reach, and there was a very tangible collective feeling of excitement when we started sharing our individual successes. When we reflect on what we’ve managed to accomplish as a team in just one short quarter, the results are really encouraging and inspiring. Very few of these results would have been achieved had we not used the OKR method.

So here’s to 2017 and a new set of OKRs for Q1! 🍾 
We can’t wait to share what we accomplish next year.

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