Getting value from Key Results

Gareth Bragg
Apr 3, 2019 · 3 min read

Redgate has been using Objectives and Key Results for a while, with mixed success.

We’ve found Objectives hugely useful. Having clear goals helps us prioritise work, choose when not to do a task, and stay focused.

Key Results have been trickier. They’ve been hard to identify and get reviewed infrequently. To get value from OKRs, we wanted to make them part of our working process.

So that’s what our coaching team did.

Understand what you want

The first challenge was identifying actual Key Results. We brainstormed a lot of ideas, but which ones would be useful?

The phrase “outcomes over outputs” comes up a lot, but that mantra hasn’t proven helpful for many here.

Instead, we came up with our own tests for any candidate KR:

  • Must have multiple ways of making the number change
  • Must be easy to keep up-to-date
  • Must encourage us to change our plans if it isn’t going in the right direction

Judging our ideas against these criteria was hard. We had to let go some we were keen on, but ended up with a set of measures that we believe in.

Make them visible

For Key Results is to drive work, we need to know how they’re changing.

Some of our KRs are easy to get from tools like Google Analytics. Others, like counts of people engaging with activities, must be tracked manually.

In a few minutes per-week we update our KR tracking spreadsheet, which has some basic charts to help us see progress and trends.

Make them part of your process

Waiting for those numbers to change won’t drive our work, so we use that dashboard in our weekly planning sessions

First, we review how things have change in the last week. What change, good or bad, can we see? What do we believe influenced that change?

With a shared view of progress, we can talk about next steps:

  • Do we want to prioritise some KRs over others right now?
  • What can we do that we believe will make those numbers move?
  • Are there things we can kick off that will pay back a bit later?
  • What isn’t having the impact we hoped, and what will we do about it?

Not all KRs move every week, and that’s OK. We don’t need to be moving every number all the time, so long as we’re planning work to make an impact.

Does it help?

Each week we’ve used our KRs like this has seen re-planning and re-prioritising of our work.

There’s been no need for huge pivots, but we’ve been able to drop low-impact work and ask ourselves what the most valuable next steps would be.

Frequently re-evaluating our impact and our plans against what we’re trying to achieve is helping us to make more informed decisions when we plan our work.

We’re confident this is leading to us having a greater impact as a team.

[Photo by Elena Koycheva on Unsplash]

Ingeniously Simple

Gareth Bragg

Written by

Quality Coach at Redgate Software.

Ingeniously Simple

How Redgate build ingeniously simple products, from inception to delivery.

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