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At Perdoo, we constantly criticize our own goal management program. We continually tweak our program and test new things with the aim to keep working with goals simple and intuitive.
When these tests are successful, we share them with our customers and, if needed, productize them. At the start of this year, when our teams were brainstorming their OKRs for Q1, we launched a new test. Instead of focusing just on Q1, we decided to plan a bit further ahead.
Why we did it
We noticed that when brainstorming OKRs for the next quarter, good ideas are often dismissed. Not because they’re not important, but because equally important things were more urgent and thus deserved higher priority (here’s how we prioritize at Perdoo).
At the same time, when Team OKRs were submitted for approval to me and my co-founder, we noticed that we rarely debate the importance of an OKR, but often question its urgency. Our questions were often followed by a “Yes, we considered that but we’re planning to focus on that in the next quarter”.
It became clear that when setting OKRs for the next quarter, teams naturally form an idea about what following quarters should look like as well. However, these ideas only lived in their minds. So why not write them down and share them with the rest?
Planning ahead: how we did it
Coming up with accurate indicators of success for an Objective, in other words: creating outcome-based Key Results, is crucial — but also difficult and time-consuming. Plans often change so it makes little sense to go through that exercise beyond the current quarter. Therefore, the teams only create Key Results for the Objectives of this quarter, and only create Objectives for following quarters. This is enough to give everyone in the organization an idea about what following quarters for a team would look like.
Depending on the team, the stage the team is in, and some other factors, you could plan 1, 2 or 3 quarters ahead. At the start of 2019, it turned out to be relatively easy for our Sales team to think about what the Objectives for Q2, Q3 and Q4 could look like. For our Customer Success team, however, it wasn’t possible to plan beyond Q2 since the performance of the OKRs for Q1 and Q2 would pretty much define what Q3 and Q4 should look like. There was no point in forcing them to plan further ahead.
In short: at the start of 2019, our teams not only set the OKRs for Q1, they also created (draft) Objectives for Q2, Q3 and Q4.
From my own point view, this exercise…
- helped me better understand what each team had in mind for this year. When reviewing OKRs, it prevented me from having to raise questions like “Shouldn’t we be focusing on X instead?”, since I was able to see that the team had already thought about it and planned it for a different quarter.
- helped us coordinate our efforts better. When we saw that the Marketing team was planning to revamp our online resources and develop the Perdoo Academy in Q2, the Customer Success team decided to move their Objective To build a scalable way to transfer our knowledge to our users also to Q2, as there was definitely some overlap there.
And here is what our team thinks of it…
- Daniela (Customer Success Manager @ Perdoo): “It allows us to plan ahead and allocate our resources accordingly. I have a clearer idea of the steps I need to take in order to succeed and really push the team forward. Being able to see each stepping stone also gives me a sense of relief because I know where we’re heading and it becomes easier to identify in what stage we’re struggling to push through and why.”
- Rohan (Account Executive @ Perdoo): “It added a level of importance and focus to our current OKRs. Knowing what we needed to do next really helped us contextualize why our current OKR is so important. During our demos we always refer to the Perdoo Maps as a “path to success” and I would say planning out future OKRs should be part of that.”
When setting OKRs, especially when setting OKRs at the beginning of a new year, I strongly recommend you to not focus only on the current quarter. OKRs are a great planning tool and can help you form an idea of what next few quarters could look like as well. This will increase transparency, and it will enable you to better align all the efforts.