OKR

How OKR and Project Management work together

21st June 2017 · 3 min read

OKR Project Management

One of the most common questions we get asked at Perdoo is how OKR and Project Management work together. OKR is a great framework for focusing on achieving results rather than completing tasks, but this doesn’t mean there’s no place for day-to-day tasks in OKR. They work together.

If you’re already familiar with the OKR framework, you’ll know an Objective sets your focus. An Objective describes a point in the future you want to get to which is different from the status quo. Your Key Results are things you measure, that have a target, and indicate whether or not you’ve reached your Objective.

Putting your plan into action

You’ve decided where you’re going, and how you’ll know if you’re on the right track. Now it’s time to put your OKRs into action and plan the work you’ll need to do. This is the work you’ll focus on that will influence your Key Results and eventually lead you to your Objective. This is where OKR and Project Management combine.

Many companies, teams, and individuals already use tools like task managers or to-do lists to manage the work they do. With larger teams or more complex work dedicated Project Management tools often come into play. These tools break down activities into Projects containing individual tasks with roles, responsibilities, and due dates.

If you’re using a Project Management tool like Basecamp, Podio, or Wrike, you’re probably wondering by this point if OKR is just another layer of complexity; extra work you need to do that can already be managed within your current processes. In fact, Project Management is simply a way of organizing things that need to be done, while OKR takes care of motivation, direction, and measurement. In Perdoo, we call Projects “Initiatives”.

Here’s an example:

A Games company decides it’s identified a huge opportunity for a new mobile game in an untapped market.

The Marketing team creates a Q1 OKR with a 3-month timeframe.

project-management-and-okr-example

To achieve these ambitious OKRs the Marketing team will need to put together an action plan covering all the Projects they need to get done to reach their goals.

How OKR and Project Management connect

With these OKRs in place, the role of Project Management now comes into play and the Marketing team can spend time planning the exact steps, tasks, and activities they’ll need to do for their Objective to be a success.

One Project could be:

Create a multi-channel marketing campaign to encourage people to leave App Store reviews

Tasks could include:

  • Create a campaign plan
  • Run kick off meeting
  • Brief creative team
  • Review campaign creative
  • Create in-app messages
  • Create campaign emails
  • Add campaign messaging to website
  • Set up campaign reporting
  • Create press release
  • Connect with journalists
  • Launch campaign
  • Review campaign

In the example above, OKR and Project Management work together. Projects and Tasks become the “output” of the OKR and the Key Results the “outcome”.

It’s important to note here that a common mistake many people make when setting Key Results is to confuse them with actions, tasks or projects, or use Key Results as a kind of to-do list. The reason why this is a bad idea is that Key Results should always contain a metric and they should not be within your direct sphere of influence. “Running a project kickoff meeting” has no relationship to whether or not you’ve actually “Grown your game from launch to leader”. It’s something you do, but also something you could do 100 times with no effect on the intended Objective.

If you achieve “>4 stars on over 85% of all your reviews”, however, that’s a pretty good indicator you’re on your way to “growing your game from launch to leader”.

Conclusion

OKR is a fantastic framework for setting goals, and Project Management systems are fantastic tools for getting work done. When they’re combined you have a complete system for managing and measuring all the work you do, from strategy to execution to success.

For more on OKR check out our OKR crash course, a great resource for anyone getting started, or for team leads who want to introduce OKR to their employees.

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