I’m on a mission to share real-world examples of OKRs from a wide range of teams. My first example featured sample OKRs from a Legal team. Last time I shared an example from our pals in Finance. Still, many of my readers are requesting some details regarding OKRs in Product, Design and User Experience. So, here’s a sample analysis of some of my recent OKRs coaching work with a UX team. As with all my clients, the User Experience OKRs begin with a mission.
Mission: We support our company’s products that enable customers to be more profitable through an efficient user interface
Objective: Determine what we’re going to measure so we can communicate the impact of User Experience (UX) across the company
- 10 candidate metrics defined and classified in our 2×2 Metric Matrix (using dimensions of Importance and Availability**).
- 3 metrics rated “very important” defined and reported with a data source and the purpose/benefit of tracking the metric including the audience for this metric and expected types of decisions to be informed by the metric.
For some general analysis of OKRs for User Experience teams, I recommend UX OKRs on QUORA. UX teams often find it challenging to define OKRs. As with other teams, UX teams tend to write milestone KRs that look like tasks (e.g. “launch the new landing page design” or “interview users”).
In this example, Sally, VP of UX, and her team worked with OKRs for one cycle and failed. I looked at their first attempt at OKRs. It was simply a list of key tasks and features to develop and test. Sally let me know that it didn’t feel like the OKRs process was adding value.
While they were tracking lots of metrics, they didn’t have a clear idea of which metrics were most important to improve. In fact, as we looked at the metrics, we quickly realized none of them stood out as “most important” to improve. Sally reported that workers outside her team did not understand the value of her team’s work. She noted that OKRs should be a vehicle for communicating this impact since all OKRs would be shared across the entire organization. The OKR shared in this example basically translates to “Agree on what metrics matter and ensure we’re monitoring them so we can make an impact!”
OKRs Coaching Excerpt
- Ben: OK, so treating OKRs as a task list is not working for you. This makes sense given that OKRs are about outcomes, not simply completing things on a task list. Which metrics are you tracking that are most important right now to improve?
- Sally: We’re tracking lots of metrics, but it’s not clear which we need to improve. In fact, the real issue is that we’re kind of overwhelmed with data and tasks. And we feel like we’re doing great work, but it’s difficult to communicate what we do to the other teams.
- Ben: So, how are you communicating what you do to other teams?
- Sally: We show the final designs during mock-up and right before launch and everyone seems to like them, but it’s hard to communciate the impact of our designs.
- Ben: OK, so we need to improve how we communicate the impact of our work in UX to teams outside of UX?
- Sally: Yes, that’s it. I really like this as the objective. And then we could create a KPI dashboard and show visually how UX is performing.
- Ben: OK, and do you know which metrics would go on that dashboard?
- Sally: Actually, we’ve tried to do this and it didn’t really get anywhere. We just put a bunch of metrics into a dashboard since we had the data.
- Ben: So, how many metrics do we need to include? Do we know which metrics are most important for the non-UX audience?
- Sally: No, are you suggesting I survey people about what metrics they want to see?
- Ben: Not necessarily, but you could take the metrics that you feel are most important and classify them based on a 2×2 matrix based on how important you feel they are and how easy it is to get the data. And present this to internal stakeholders for feedback.
- Sally: OK, so phase 1 is to identify candidate metrics and position them on the 2×2 matrix and then phase 2 is to identify the final metrics to include on the dashboard. So, the KR can be: “Get feedback on which metrics are most important to track from our stakeholders”
OKRs Excerpt Conclusion. The Fundamental Question of OKRs: Converting Tasks to Key Results.
- Ben: We’re getting closer, but what is the intended outcome of getting such feedback?
- Sally: We can create the dashboard and populate each KPI with a data point to get a baseline that drives insights.
- Ben: How will we know we have insights?
- Sally: Insights are when we use the data to help us make better decisions about how we allocate resources.
- Ben: OK, I like that. What about “5 metrics classified as very important in the 2×2 matrix are defined and reported with a defined data source plus each metric leads to insights as defined by the purpose and benefit of tracking the metric, the audience for this metric, and expected types of decisions to me informed by the metric”
- Sally: OK repeat that, we need to write that down. But it’s a bit long.
- We ended up taking out the word “insight” since we already defined it in the KR and didn’t really want to use the word anymore.
- We also broke out the KR into 2 components since there was an initial component related to simply getting a list of 10 metrics that we felt were important and putting them on the 2×2 matrix before we asked other teams outside UX for their reactions. (Ironically, both these KRs read a bit like tasks! The difference is subtle. The second KR, in particular, is dependent on feedback outside the team. Therefore, it is not something we can just “do.” And, as a bonus, it forces us to have conversations outside our team and drive horizontal alignment.
- We agreed that going to other teams asking which KPIs were important seemed futile without giving them a choice. Also, we needed to come to the table with our recommendations and do our homework about how easy or difficult it would be to get the data in order to report the metric.
- Start where you’re at! We realized during this session that we didn’t quite agree about what really mattered. Sally did know for sure that we needed to get more strategic about the metrics we tracked and which to improve. When first getting started with OKRs, it is perfectly fine, and quite typical, to start with an OKR like this one. Such an OKR may not seem amazing or inspirational. It can, however, position your team to know what’s most important so you can make an impact later. Remember, a quarter is not very long!
- Important vs Availability Matrix. If you hear a KR like “build a dashboard with KPIs” you’re going to need to select the metrics to include on the dashboard. This sounds like a task or milestone key result.” However, Sally really liked it when we structured this as a metric KR. It was still something we were going “to do” but it was clear how we would measure the amount of “doneness.” We had a clear model for making progress and classifying metrics in a more thoughtful way before dropping them into a KPI dashboard.
- Feedback on “Value.” The idea of getting feedback about what our stakeholders find most important or valuable is a common conclusion when first starting with OKRs. We often are busy gathering data and sending reports. It’s worth taking time to take a step back and revisit which reports are actually adding value. Many teams just keep cranking out reports. One finance team actually created a Key Result to reduce the number of data elements in the weekly flash report from 40 to 5. They still tracked 40 metrics. However, they knew that no one could possibly want to see a list of 40 metrics every week. They knew this after looking into why internal stakeholders started unsubscribing to the weekly report. Stakeholders said the flash report seemed like SPAM. It was too much info for stakeholders to process.