Objectives and Key Results (OKR) is a framework that is widely used by many large organisations as a management methodology. Organisations like Google even claim that OKRs have enabled the company to grow many times over.
Here at LexisNexis, we have adopted the OKR framework too – but with a difference. In keeping with our approach to Agile software development, we are taking an Agile view of the OKR framework. This is driven by the company's focus on continuous product improvements and enhancement of customer experience.
Typically, organisations set business objectives at the beginning of the year, but as we know, in today's fluid economic environment, and as the market changes, we can find that the goals set may not always be as relevant as they were at the start of the financial year. By year end, there's the risk that the organisation's efforts have been focused on areas that are no longer as relevant as they were at the beginning of the year. Retro-fitting objectives isn't always possible, which can sometimes result in the business failing to achieve the goals, leading to demotivation within teams and dissatisfaction among the customer base.
Hence our 'Agile' approach to OKRs, which constitutes three components:
- Breaking down the objectives into manageable phases.
- Continuous introspection of the goals to ensure they are always relevant at any point in time.
- Collaboration and evaluation.
This collectively ensures that the company can take all its stakeholders (internal and external) on the journey of continuous improvement.
Approaching business objectives using the Agile ethos via OKRs delivers more value than the traditional approach:
- It facilitates cross functional collaboration for shared goals and effective cross team working which in turn cascades down to teams.
- It ensures the business is focused on achieving the single most important thing during a defined period – half year, quarter, monthly, weekly, as the case may be.
- It continually drives improvements that are focused on overall business objectives.
Essentially, Agile OKRs ensure that the effort of the business is in the right place. It's all very well to make achievement of OKRs 'business as usual', but if they are not going to help realise the larger vision of the organisation, the endeavour is futile and may even be counterproductive in some instances. Additionally, Agile OKRs ensure that 'measurement' is continuously undertaken at varying levels of scrutiny – from quarterly to even weekly. This allows teams to undertake retrospective analysis and feed the findings into future OKRs to achieve the predetermined goals.
In working towards goals in this manner, the organisation ensures that the business is performing holistically. Some examples of OKRs at LexisNexis include a flexible approach to product innovation to meet market demand and driving customer engagement and satisfaction. It's worth noting that these OKRs are defined at the highest levels of business with representation from every single department in the organisation. Every OKR is then subsequently broken down into considered, specific, quantifiable and measurable milestones across the product portfolio – underpinned by the ability to continuously hone them so that the 'spirit' of the business' vision isn't lost. This isn't just a tick-box exercise.
The line of action to achieve these goals includes technology of course, but also considers the softer capabilities of individuals alongside their attitude and behaviours, which often can make or break the attainment of milestones and objectives.
It wouldn't be an exaggeration for me to say that I believe we are making 'Agile' an intrinsic part of our cultural fabric – it represents our flexible and nimble approach to software development, business, product innovation, customer engagement, client satisfaction and indeed employee welfare and growth – at any point in time.