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It may sound like a no-brainer, but when brainstorming Objectives, teams often don’t actually know what an Objective can be used for.
So, first things first, what is an Objective? An Objective is a description of something that you’d like to achieve in the future. It sets the direction, somewhat like a destination on a map. To get more clarity on this, it’s key to understand that an Objective is designed to get you out of the status quo. That means that if you’re completely satisfied with how things are going at the moment, you may not have the need for an Objective.
When you have the need to move forward and break out of the status quo, there are 3 different types of Objectives you can use:
- Build Objective: Create something that didn’t exist before
- Improve Objective: Make something that already exists better
- Innovate: Reinvent something that already exists
Typically, these 3 types of Objectives are used in the order displayed above. For example, you can’t improve something that hasn’t been built yet.
Let’s have a closer look at these 3 different types of Objectives.
A build Objective helps create things that didn’t exist before. When we started investing in Customer Success at Perdoo, we found it important to first focus on the onboarding experience for new customers, which is the first 3 months of a customer’s journey with us.
At that point, we had no existing processes in place to support our new customers through a smooth and seamless onboarding experience. Our Customer Success team, therefore, created the following OKR for Q3 2017:
Note: Download our free guide “How to write OKRs for Customer Service” to get more OKR examples.
When creating Objectives that help in making something that already exists better, falls into the category of an Improve Objective. You can improve for different reasons, such as to improve the quality or performance of something or to deliver the same quality or performance at a lower cost.
Back to our example at Perdoo: once we had a well-performing onboarding experience in place, we focused on the post-onboarding process in the following quarter. Once we had a fully functional process in place, we decided to revisit our new customer onboarding and further improve it. Our focus this time was to make sure that our well-functioning onboarding program became more time-efficient.
For Q1 2018, our Customer Success team created the OKR:
Sometimes improvement isn’t enough, and something more substantial is required — innovation. You can innovate your product, parts of your product, and even your organization’s management (e.g. by introducing OKRs).
If our Customer Success team had learned that our customers’ needs had changed, or if it was a priority to automate our new customer onboarding to make it more scalable, we could have created an Objective to Reinvent our onboarding program to make it more scalable.
Putting it all together: a metaphor
To explain the 3 different categories, I’ve used a real-world example from our own Customer Success team at Perdoo. To make it easier for you to apply this logic to your own team or company, let’s use a metaphor.
When you’re building a car from the ground up, most of your work will fall into the build category. It’s impossible to improve the engine if you haven’t even built the engine yet. Neither is it possible to innovate the driving experience if you don’t have a chassis.
Once you have your basic car, you might want to improve different parts of it. You could improve the engine for higher performance. You could also improve the manufacturing process so that you can build an engine with similar quality at a lower cost.
Sometimes you have to reinvent yourself, and if you don’t, others will. If you see that your customers don’t want to drive a car themselves anymore, you’ll have to innovate to make autonomous driving possible.
Organizations use Objectives to build something new or to improve or innovate something that already exists. Next time you sit together with your team to create new Objectives, look at the Company OKRs and ask yourself the question: what should we build, improve, or innovate this quarter to support the Company OKRs?