Open: Tability's OKRs process

This page will tell you all about the way we move from 1 quarter to another

Check out our Quarter Plan Template if you want a template to use with your team.

Table of content:

Step 0: Pick the contributors

The more you involved people upstream, the better your plan will be, and the easier it'll be to create ownership.

BUT, you can't have 50 people in a planning meeting. Too many folks mean that it’s extremely costly to reach out and consensus, and more importantly, the softer voices won’t be heard.

We recommend having at most 10 folks together to do the exercises listed in this page. What if the team is bigger than 10? You can either nominate stakeholders (cross-discipline is best), or perhaps it's time to break the big groups into smaller ones.

Ex:

  • Company OKRs: done by the leadership team

  • Engineering OKRs: done by Eng leaders

  • Product X OKRs: done by the entire Product X team, or Product X leaders (across disciplines)

Once you have your list of contributors, you can set 1h30-2h to go through the rest of the steps together.

Step 1: Reflection on the previous quarter (aka the retrospective)

The purpose of that exercise is to fight recency bias. We tend to focus on what happened in the past couple of weeks, and rushing into planning might obfuscate critical problems that we need to tackle.

So, the first step consists of shaping a collective memory. The reflection is divided into 3 parts:

  • Grading past Objectives: look at the Os of your OKRs, and give your final assessment.

  • Looking back: list all the key events that happened, take note of what was good and what was bad.

  • Going forward: come up with action items to improve next quarter.

We'll dig into the details of each part below.

Grading past Objectives (15 mins)

You can skip this section if this is the first time that you're running OKRs. If not, read on.

We track progress on Key Results weekly via Tability 2.0 during the quarter. When the quarter ends, it's time to step back and look at how we did overall on each of the Objectives.

Keep it simple: give a grade (off-track, average, on-track) and add some notes to explain the rationale. The example below is an excerpt from our Tability 2020 Q4 retrospective.

 

Grading the past Objectives before setting the future ones will keep us honest and realistic when we set the new targets.

Looking back (10 mins)

Next, we will make an inventory of the things that happened during the quarter:

  • Key events: it can be a holiday, new hire joining the team, big launch. List anything that had a significant impact on the team or the market (like a pandemic...).

  • Good and bad things: this is subjective, but it's an opportunity for the team to open up about how they felt during the quarter.

Looking back is not a debate. Don't go spending 10 minutes arguing if something was actually that bad. The purpose is to re-create a timeline and understand how it affected the team.

You can use simple bullet points like in the example below. 

  • Key events

    • Person xxx joined the team

    • Big holiday rotation from Thanksgiving to Christmas to NYE (end November → end December)

    • Launched project xxx mid-October

  • Good

    • Remote team working well in autonomous fashion

    • Learned a lot on the ambassadors / referral program

    • Launched Customer Stories!

  • Bad

    • Bit off way more than we can chew

    • Too many big projects = taking too long to get things in the hands of people (ODT, V2, stories, etc)

    • Need to automate more of the tedious tasks – too much time spent on manual stuff

Once again, it's not about discussing each statement. It's a simple way to acknowledge the complexity of collaboration – not everything can be captured by metrics.

Going forward (25mins)

Going forward is not yet about setting the new OKRs. It's about thinking about what needs to change in the way we work.

Use a simple table with 3 columns:

  • What should we start doing?

  • What should we stop doing?

  • What shoudl we continue?

The first 10 minutes are a brainstorming session where each contributor can list as many items as they want in the columns. Don't stop to discuss what's written, even if you're outraged by it. There will be time at the end to discuss suggestions that are deemed important by the group (and the bad ones will naturally be ignored).

Once the brainstorming is done, people can vote on start and stop items (no need to vote on what will continue).

Start / Stop / Continue excerpt from our Q4 2020 retro

Once you have your top 3, you can start discussing action items to improve things. But don't commit yet! You'll have to think about your goals first.

Have a break!

At the end of the retrospective you should:

  • Have a shared understanding of the past quarter

  • Understand how the team generally felt about it

  • Have identified key areas of improvements

Have a quick break, and come back to draft the new OKRs.

Step 2: Setting the new OKRs

The work done in Step 1 will help you set your OKRs faster. You spent ~1h aligning your thoughts and discussing past events. This is a great basis to talk about the future.

Look at projected KPIs, parent OKRs

Look at any docs that can guide your next set of OKRs. That includes:

  • 10/3/1 plans

  • Vision docs

  • Parent OKRs

This is to make sure that you’ll align on your long-term goals, as well as what your parent team may be focused on.

Start with the Objectives (20 mins)

Create a new plan in Tability 2.0 and start by listing the possible Objectives. No need to address the Key Results at that stage as you’re trying to capture the focus with simple terms. It can be useful to think about the different stage of the AARRR funnel to start. Do you want to focus on:

  • Acquisition?

  • Activation?

  • Retention?

  • Referral?

  • Revenue?

Use the response as a starting point to elaborate further. A good Objective should read as a clear statement and cover the work of multiple teams. It should also clearly indicates what will be different about your team/org when you look back at the end of the next quarter.

Some recommendations:

  • Make it a sentence

    • Don’t: “Retention” → not very inspiring, could lead to bad tactics such as removing the ability to cancel in-app.

    • Do: “Delight our customers” → clearly state that retention will be achieved by creating a great experience.

  • Don’t include metrics (save it for the KRs)

    • Don’t: “Sell 50 contracts” → were you not able to sell 50 contracts before?

    • Do: “Make a dent in the Fortune 100” → indicates that you’re trying to tackle a new market

  • Be specific

    • Don’t: “Grow the business” → too wide to help the team focus

    • Do: “Build a low-touch growth engine” → focus on a specific play

Spend enough time on the Objectives to make them solid. They’ll be the foundation of your next quarter.

Add the Key Results (20-30 mins)

Once you have agreed on the Key Results, you can start listing the corresponding KRs. It’s okay if you don’t have the exact metrics yet, the idea is to first capture how you’ll measure success for each one of the Objectives.

Create 2-4 KRs per Objective, and assign them to the right owner. The owner will be in charge of updating progress, but it will remain a collective effort for the team.

Wrap up!

That’s it! Once you’re happy with your draft KRs you can call it done. The owners will be in charge of adding the right baseline and targets – no need to do that in the planning meeting.

You can publish your plan in Tability 2.0 to activate the tracking. Reminders will be sent automatically once the quarter starts (if not started yet).