Creating OKRs in a Maze

Creating OKRs in a Maze

No Way Out!

Have you ever had that dream where you’re trapped in a building, running down hallways, yanking open door after door, only to find yet another long empty hallway? At the very least it’s frustrating to be hopelessly lost without bearings, but it can also be frightening to lose control over the situation you find yourself in. Creating OKRs isn’t like a bad dream (we hope), but it can sometimes resemble being ensnared in a maze. The good news is that with a little diligence you can find your way out. That point was brought home to us in a recent workshop with a Fortune 500 client.

OKR Champions and Ambassadors were engaged in a mock OKR coaching session. To enhance the challenge, we made sure the coach and “coachee” came from separate business units, forcing them to utilize best practice OKR development techniques, such as asking lots of questions. After the exercise we asked each participant to describe the experience. Here’s what one new OKRs coach shared with us:

“I was participating in a practice session where I was coaching an individual on creating a new OKR. Together we laid out her team’s purpose statement and determined a key objective for the quarter. The problem was in how to measure the value of the objective and how to determine success at the end of the quarter – there were no clear metrics associated with the objective at this time, and she had no ideas how we could start to apply a quantitative measure of success. I asked her question after question in an attempt to learn more about her business, and find a way to articulate a key result. I felt like I was in a giant maze, where the “Golden Egg” (Key Result) was at the center. If I asked the right question (or series of questions), it would unlock an “Aha!” moment and we would figure out the key result. So each question and answer felt like a path to a possible dead end OR a step in the right direction to the golden key result.”

The Golden Egg

While creating effective objectives is no simple task, identifying meaningful key results that will move the needle in the right direction is the greater of the two challenges. Finding the “Golden” key result often does require going through a maze. However, if you follow the advice of our coach and keep asking questions, eventually you’ll find your way. If you’re stumped finding a key result for an objective, keep digging in with question after question.  When the curtain is peeled back on a seemingly innocuous term or phrase it can often lead to insights. Your role as a coach is to cultivate a “Beginner’s Mind,” recalling that in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the experts there are few. Don’t be afraid to look naïve or even uninformed. Just keep burrowing with sincere questions and eventually you’ll unearth the golden key result.

Paul Niven is a Global OKR Coach and author of Objectives and Key Results