The creation of Objectives & Key Results (OKRs) takes patience and imagination. My first experience developing OKRs has taught me the importance of connecting your Objectives to the tangible work you are doing day-to-day, as well as the strategy vision of your team or company. By working on OKRs across different teams, I have seen how frequently we fail to connect our work with the bigger picture.
To help resolve this, my team built an OKR Strategy Pyramid, which connects the work we do each day to our wider strategy aims. As well as providing meaning and clarity to my team’s work, this framework has helped to illustrate how unpacking the relationship between the macro and the micro is central to improving the quality and measure of our OKRs.
In March 2022 I joined a team within Capco that oversees a portfolio of Change Sourcing programmes – that is, commercially optimised partnership solutions that deliver transformation at scale for financial services companies globally. Our Change as a Service Model allows talent to be integrated very rapidly within a team and its culture, while also offering robust governance and transparency, in order to drive partnerships that deliver results.
Part of my role in this team has involved managing one of these partnerships, specifically providing quality assurance and control. The remainder of my role has been dedicated to unlocking the strategic advancements of the wider portfolio of Change Sourcing accounts and thinking about how we can define and differentiate ourselves as a capability and prepare for growth.
To tackle these questions, we looked to OKRs. My team’s shared passion for innovative ways of working, behavioural science, and agile frameworks led us to pursue new and exciting directions.
Below are the six key steps that allowed OKRs to help my team connect our ambitions to the bigger picture:
Set the vision – First, we established a dedicated portfolio strategy group which discussed and refined our vision for the wider team. Alongside this, we researched Capco’s company wide OKRs, which we used to help streamline our vision.
Align to themes – As a result of our initial research, we decided on four key themes of focus that we would use to shape our OKRs: (1) smart documentation and tooling, (2) building an empowered culture, (3) creating a clear strategy, and (4) refining an organisational structure. We built these into an OKR Strategy Pyramid, referred to the themes as our Level 1 Themes (shown below):
Work it through – We then held a hybrid OKR workshop with our team of 15 individuals across the UK and India. This workshop consisted of a 30-minute overview of what OKRs are and how to write them, and a 30-minute interactive session. In this interactive session, we split the team into four groups, each of which were given one of the four Level 1 Themes. Groups were then tasked with creating their own OKRs that fed into these broader themes. At the end of the workshop, teams presented back their OKRs to the group, and the results were collected.
Refine, Refine, Refine – Following this interactive session, our portfolio strategy team discussed the results of the workshop and refined which ideas were most applicable to the team’s vision, as well as Capco’s business-wide objectives. As a result of this workshop, we developed seven annual OKRs that we believed would make the biggest impact. These formed our Level 2 OKRs.
Build it out – Once our OKRs were decided, we proceeded to build out our Level 3 Quarterly Epics and Level 4 Backlog Stories in further workshop sessions. Our Quarterly Epics reflected the goals to be achieved over a three-month period that would feed into our OKRs, while our Backlog Stories broke these tasks into bitesize day-to-day pieces of work. An example of each level is shown below; the output of this example was the internal survey, which we delivered mid-quarter:
Deliver and Measure – Moving into BAU mode, we decided to utilise a sprint framework through Atlassian’s Jira. After working with a few Kanban Board options and figuring out our timeframes, we decided to operate in two-week sprints, with a planning session on the first Monday of the sprint, and retro on the last Friday. In our planning sessions, we picked which Level 4 Backlog Stories would build towards our Level 3 Quarterly Epics that sprint. At the end of the quarter, we held another workshop to create new Quarterly Epics to meet our OKRs.
My first experience writing OKRs has highlighted the importance of linking the everyday to the big picture. The OKR Strategy Pyramid has provided my team with a simple and effective framework for bringing our strategy to life. By emphasising the synergies between the four levels identified, we have given our vision direction and structure, so we can make a real difference to the wider business. This is an important takeaway from a task that is often riddled with complexity.
This approach has created an invaluable bridge between high level Objectives and the Key Results we use to measure them. By measuring progress at a micro level (our Level 4 Backlog Stories) we can more accurately assess the degree to which Level 2 OKRs are met and ultimately how we are shaping the themes of the business. Looking forward, I hope to infuse these teachings into workshops with client teams who are in the process of introducing OKRs to streamline their strategy. As well as provide a helpful jumping off point, this OKR framework is a useful tool for continuously reminding teams of the impact their work has every day.