31 min read

[Podcast] Getting the Most Out Of Your OKR Planning Session with Ian Harvey

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In part two, KJ McGowan is joined with Ian Harvey where they share tips and tricks for preparing and executing efficient OKR strategy planning meetings for 2023.



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Podcast Transcript

KJ [00:00:00]

Break off into our next session and what's coming up next is gonna be discussing the tactical meeting, preparation, execution, what does an OKR, you know, uh, planning session really look like for 2023?

It's rolling nicely into, um, an OKR planning session, which many companies will begin to, uh, do, if they're not already thinking about setting them up for 2023, they're gonna sit down as a group and they're gonna say, Okay, we gotta set our OKRs for 2023.

Um, Where the hell do I begin with this? And you take, you take it from there. You're saying the first thing to do is start with the end in mind and before the meeting even happens, have everyone come to the meeting prepared and prepared in a way where they are, you know, a asked what are the critical hypothesis are?

Um, yeah. Or the outcomes that you would want to achieve this next year. Right?


Ian [00:01:16]

Yeah, absolutely. So, so we've established that everyone needs to understand a strategy that's critical. And we're asking this question, What's a great next year? And have people document those ideas, um, and share them freely, encourage them to think really broadly, create lots of options.

One of, one of the techniques that people use a lot in meetings and workshops is brainstorming and. This last step I mentioned is kind of a bit of an antidote to some of the problems of brainstorming. There's lots of studies, and I kind of stumbled upon 'em from Theresa Torres, chapter eight of Continuous Discovery Habits.

So that's it there. But studies have shown that when people work individually first, they produce more and better options than when they brainstorm in a group. So we want to avoid that. So we, we, we do that step before the meeting. We get people to think broadly. They're not constrained. You know, there's, there's one factor which I find really amusing is when we work in a group, we're guilty of what, what's called social loafing.

And it's kind rely, Yeah. What


KJ [00:02:20]

If so head boating each other, . That's what. Oh, okay. Loafing in, Sorry, that's just a term in Ireland.


Ian [00:02:28]

Oh, okay. If you loaf, Hasn't that hasn't made it across the Irish Sea yet. To England. Loafing is kind of just lounging around really.


KJ [00:02:38]

Oh, I see. Lounging around.


Ian [00:02:40]

Playing the right, I, I'd now know if I go to Ireland and say, let's do some loafing around, I'm probably gonna get a headbutt in the face.

Yeah. Or just, what the hell?


KJ [00:02:50]

Or just even to a person in a bar. It gives the loaf and then boom, you're Oh, okay. Right. So, uh, . Yeah. But that's a great,


Ian [00:03:00]

So we're socially loafing, which basically means you are letting the group do the work. You're not giving everything because you think, Well, there's eight people here, We'll get it done.


KJ [00:03:09]

Between us. It's almost like delegating, but negative. Delegating almost. Yeah. Delegating with the intent of just being lazy.


Ian [00:03:17]

You know? Yeah, absolutely. And you know, this is one of annoying things. As a consultant working on your own, you can't do any social loafing because there's only you , right? Yeah. I missed, that's one thing I missed

social loafing. Um, so you've, you've done a good bit of prep for the meeting. People are coming in prepared and I think the more, the more meetings I facilitate, the more I realize that 90% of the success is in the preparation.


KJ [00:03:47]

Really. So you really think the meeting is just, you know, has about 10% influence and impact on Yeah.


Ian [00:03:56]

If you, if you create the right condit, Yeah, you need to create the right conditions. I mean, people need to be, um, enabled, do their best work. Yeah. And people need to know why you're having the meeting. Yeah. They need to prep, they need to come in with the right mindset, and you need to then create the conditions that that will, you know, enable people to shop. How can


KJ [00:04:17]

People, Okay. How can people, um, create those conditions, you know, to make the meeting effective? Yeah.


Ian [00:04:27]

So having the right prep, having the right knowledge base is, is critical.


KJ [00:04:31]

Having the right knowledge base, so like having, uh, sort of yeah. Right. Sort of insight into OKRs, I guess, like having OKR sort of training or like the Creo sort of courses and things like that.


Ian [00:04:49]

Exactly, and see, and, and you want that consistency of understanding. So, you know, if you've got a hundred team, you'd want them all to do those courses so that they, they've all got the same definitions because language is, you know, a wonderful and terrible thing if, you know, look at the word agile, for example.

Yeah. No two people use that word. The same fact. One, one of my favorite quotes from a CEO was if you ask 10 OKR practitioners what the term means, you'll get 11 different answers. , which, which was embarrassing, but actually quite insightful. Yeah. So, so you need to build that kind of consistency of understanding.

I think that's really important. And you need to work towards having, and you can't achieve this in one meeting. Psychological safety is so important for great meetings. And so much of what I talk to companies about, it depends on that. You know, can people speak up? Can they disagree? And have an honest conversation about things because great meetings depend on that.

If people see and don't raise concerns or issues, you don't come out with the best answers. You know, if things left unsaid, And I've been in lots of environments where maybe a leader, a strong leader's there saying something about three or four people to his career if nobody speaks up, because they don't feel safe to do so.

Yeah. And you just perpetuate the problem.


KJ [00:06:10]

Yeah. Well you might like this quote. I know you're quote man. Um, I think it's, I'm gonna butcher it, but it's something like, the best ideas are in the graveyard. You know, everyone had these great ideas, but they went unsaid and they just took them to the grave with them because they don't feel safe as you're saying.

But that, that is a, that's becoming, I feel, maybe it's just my algorithm, um, popping up, but it's. Always something I see. But I rarely see anyone speak about, Yeah, it's very important of psychological safety. Great. But like how, how do I do it in a meeting? Can I do it? Can I do it today, this afternoon in a meeting?

Can I make it more safe for people? Like is there something immediate that I could do?


Ian [00:06:57]

And I, I think, yeah, I think that's a good question. I. There's a lot of root stuff, especially when you've got leaders in a meeting. But as a facilitator, I think the job has always been about trying to create a psychologically safe environment within that meeting so that people can bring themselves and bring their ideas to the table.

And I think as a facilitator, you've got to do, you've, you've got to have quite a lot of empathy. You've got to, This is why it's difficult, more difficult online than in person. Yeah. And I think when there isn't a camera, it's, it's almost impossible because you don't know, you can't read the body language of someone who maybe has an idea.

It goes to say it and then decides not to where when you can see someone, when you're facilitating, you can see those signals and, and you can bring someone in.


KJ [00:07:42]

And it's just calling out a signal. It's something simple as just seeing a guy who's kind of eager to say it, but he's sitting next to his boss and you're like, Hey Michael, come on Michael, I saw you, you thinking about something?

Some of your wheels are turning. Talk to me. What's going on? And then he, you know, quietest guy in the room, uh, usually comes out with something.


Ian [00:08:02]

It's so often the case, you know, it, it's the quiet ones have the great ideas. So it, it's about reading those signals. And also sometimes even if someone hasn't spoken, just ask them the direct question.

Get them used to speaking in a meeting. It's really, really, we were talking, I was talking with the CEO a couple of weeks ago and he said that in my, in my check-in meetings, people don't say a lot and we kind of switch things around a little bit by having people speak at the start of the meeting. So it's always easier, I find to get people to speak a second time.

The first time they speak is always the toughest if you get them to do that early. Right? Um, and then with some people, you still have to ask them again, what's your opinion? Even if they haven't given you any sign they're interested, just ask their opinion. Just say, you know, what do you think about this?

And it just brings them out of themselves a little bit. I know, you know, we're always struggling with introverts and extroverts and we want to embrace neurodiversity. You know, you need to understand individuals do it at the best. Yeah. But, you know, use your empathy. Try and bring people out of themselves and get, get them talking.

Cause it's easier to say, It's easier to say the second thing than the first thing in a meeting.


KJ [00:09:13]

Yeah, get them talking. That's a really good one. And like even just, it's funny, some people are, tend maybe over this side of the world a little bit more than in Europe. They tend to just go directly into the "oh, no wishy washy. Let's talk immediately about this thing". And I get the importance and value of being direct, but it's also like, you know, let's, let's warm up a bit here. You know, you don't jump into doing, you know, 50 squats, you know, you just start with a few ex warm up exercises, you know, you…


Ian [00:09:49]

Yeah, yeah. Ice Break is a, you know, a valuable ice breaker.

Yeah, Yeah. People just, especially if you can find an ice break and it gets people laughing. Yeah. Something, something something silly.


KJ [00:10:01]

Humor. Humor is a, yeah. Is a ingredient for creativity. It's the, a catalyst is the word I'm looking for for creativity.


Ian [00:10:10]

Yeah. Yeah. And I think as a facilitator, one of the easiest ways to bring humor in ,is to be a bit of self-deprecation can go a long way because no one else is the victim of the joke. You are, you are the only person who's Yeah. Who's there in the spotlight. And that can just, Right.


KJ [00:10:25]

Yeah. Just, and I have e endless amount of material, um, when it comes to,


KJ [00:10:29]

Well, I didn't, I didn't like to say, but, um,


KJ [00:10:31]

Yeah, I mean, it's pretty obvious if you, if you've been around me.


Ian [00:10:36]

No, me too. I mean, I mean, you can't tell on, on camera, but I'm quite short, so if I remember standing in front of doing a presentation, I kind of hide behind the left turn and say, you know, wanted to see you today. But I can't see it at the top. So any, whatever it is, you know, find your own, find your own thing.


KJ [00:10:51]

Well, I use the, I use the smell thing, you know, people can't smell me through Zoom, so that's probably best.


Ian [00:10:56]

But I'm pleased to hear that actually. Yeah. Not


KJ [00:11:01]

Questions. Uh, okay. Great. Ian, KJ, you're talking about OKR planning and, and setting and meetings that we have. We have these next week. Mm-hmm. , how long should this meeting be?


Ian [00:11:14]

Yeah. I, I try to keep them two hours. Really. Two hours. Yeah. I mean, you, you, you flex it depends on your culture of meetings and mm-hmm. and how often the group works together. But meetings are much longer than two hours. People struggle to keep their concentration, frankly. And even in that, you, you need, you need to have breaks.

I mean, they can go a bit longer, which depends on how well, you know, source material. So maybe you might even need to break it into two meetings. It's about how much you need to diverge first before you converge. And we want to avoid premature convergence. That's, that's, that's pretty obvious. So in a couple hours,


KJ [00:11:53]

Volume, volume of content, like volume of things to get to is one component to it.

Yeah. And then how many people, And number of people. I was gonna say, how many people should be at this meeting?


Ian [00:12:04]

I love, I love to keep it relatively small. Um, and, but the, the kind of criteria discussion are how many people do you need to fill really Super Bowl into that kind of set of OKRs? And if it's a small leadership team, great, because that's always gonna be the easiest to facilitate and the easiest to get each person to contribute.

If you've got sort of six to eight people, you can, you can, you can do those tech, you can use those techniques we discussed. You can ask someone, Hey Katie, you haven't spoken yet. Um, someone's suggested in the next three months we really need to focus on this. What do you think you can do that when there's 20 people, you lose that capability, right?

So small meetings are better in that respect in terms of getting engagement and getting good ideas. But I think, you know, we need to realize that different organizations are gonna have different situations. And if you need to run a meeting with 20, we kind of need to help them do that. And if you need to run it with six, great.

But yeah, we appreciate it's sometimes gonna be bigger. Right? And they need techniques to run those and


KJ [00:13:12]

Right. That's you're dead right and then it comes up with another question was, okay, you know, naturally we have to do a bigger meeting or something. We can't get calendars or blah, blah, bla. But let's try to focus, and it probably comes back to your preparation, really.

Yeah. The statement. But what are we, what is the purpose of this meeting? Like what are we trying to come out of the meeting with? Because I've been in those types of meetings and there is a sense of expectation that we're gonna set our, okay, we're gonna set our 2023 OKRs in this two hour session. That's what we're gonna do.

And if you come out of the end of the two hours without a consensus or without a better place from where you started the meeting in, you feel completely deflated. Yeah. So what, what would you suggest in that sense for people when they're looking


Ian [00:14:10]

In a sense, you've, you've answered that questionnaire. Don't put that pressure on and realized that to get the best, you know, you are talking about where you are heading for the next year. And if you think about going back to outcomes and success, this is probably the most important conversation you'll have. Yeah. Executing against it is tough, but if you, you're heading in the wrong direction, then that undermines everything you're doing.

So don't put that pressure on. Think about this as. Kind of, Yeah. Okay. Ideally, we may have a consensus, we may all see very clearly that there's a set of OKRs we need to focus on, but reality is you could come outta that session, need a cool enough period, and then need to have either another session, awesome. Offline discussion to finalize, you know, what we're going to do in the next year. So I think the reality is that session will break lots of conversation and some people will go away and reflect on it, they won't have all their thoughts during the meeting. They'll, they'll be there the following day or that evening and they'll say, Oh yeah, KJ said that, and I hadn't really thought about that.

Now I've had time to let that sink in. What we need to do is abc, so don't set that. And I've, I've, I've, I've heard people say that you should spend two hours, that's it. And bang, you've gone act fast and repent it or leisure. Um, I don't agree. I kind of think it's worth, it's worth giving yourself a bit of space.

I mean, we're doing this probably start of December, let's be honest. Yeah. Um, we're not leaving it till the 15th because everyone's on holiday. So give yourself a few days, you know, you've done the prep work before the meeting. Give yourself a few days to finalize things and if you need to have a follow up meeting, when I'd advise having that scheduled, because you mentioned calendars and how difficult have that time available if you don't use it.

Great. Everyone, no one loves, or sorry, everyone loves a council meeting, getting that time back, but have it have it prepared.


KJ [00:16:10]

Everyone loves a councils meeting.


Ian [00:16:14]

Sad, isn't it really? Yeah. So don't put their pressure on. Yeah. But then, yeah,


KJ [00:16:22]

Having the space, I mean, those are two key ingredients people, people ask, you know, leaders want, I want more creative ideas and creative, you know, um, employees. I wanna foster that and harness that and well, you need. What you need for creativity. Great. Creativity is space, Time to reflect, humor and sort of that safety as you said. So we've touched on those three elements that you need to create a creative OKR, but, but I'm still, I'm still trying to be a negative Nelly here and, uh, pester you with this because if I'm a listener in someone else's shoes, I'm like, Yeah, yeah.

Look, Ian, KJ, I've been at this company for four years and every year we do this same session and might not be called OKRs. They call it, you know, planning one oh one for extra whatever. Yeah. But every year, you know, the leadership get together. We all sit in a room and we do it for two, three hours and we talk about next year and. It's all the same garbage. So what, what can I, what can I do differently this year? Um, just something small differently that I could do.


Ian [00:17:42]

Well, let, let's, well, let's, let's kind of outline how, how the meetings gonna play out. So we've talked about the prep, we've done kind of individual brainstorming who think of it.

So we've done that. And I, like, there's a technique I love, or actually a group I love called Liberating Structures. I dunno if you've heard of them.

KJ [00:17:59]

No, I've never heard of them.


Ian [00:18:01]

Liberatingtructures.com and they've got various kind of facilitation techniques on their, on their card. I've used a few of them. They're really, really good. They, they could thought provoking ideas. One of the ones I, I use, um, is called 1, 2, 4 All and the basics are, So let's imagine you start off with one person collecting their ideas. Yeah. In our case, we've done that before the meeting. Because we've already identified that, you know, brainstorming in a group is limiting.

So we've done the one, we come into the meeting and we split, we split the group into pair. And this kind of achieves two things. It it allows us to build up towards some kind of a smaller set of ideas. And that what the pair are doing, they're talking about the respective ideas they thought of before the meeting.

So they're having a conversation. What it also does, it means that really every person at the meeting has got used to speaking in the meeting. Yeah. So that thing we talked about, if, if we are a pair and we're talking about your great ideas, I'm gonna have to talk. You've, you can't help yourself. So you, you break down that barrier straight away.

And in that conversation you may do is kind of choose a couple from the two of us between, you know, it might be two of your ideas, one on one, whatever, which we think are probably the best options. We'll, we'll, we'll time box that very carefully. Could be 10 minutes. Decide how you want your meeting to flow.

Um, and then what you do is you join pairs together. So if you got a group of eight, you're gonna end up with two groups of four. And you repeat that. So the two pairs share their ideas and what was our shortlist? What do we think was really good? And you worked towards a consensus in that group. Four, hopefully you still get everyone talking.

Everyone's sharing ideas. You get to hear a bit more about why someone feels their idea is great, or even when they heard from their partner in the previous, uh, item. And that group of four has a, as a small set, two or three options for, And we're talking about the kind of objective at this point, the qu, the qualitative part, not the quantitative part.

And then when you finish that, we share back. So the two groups of four. We'll share back to each other and


KJ [00:20:25]

Well, how many, how many ideas? You said two ideas are picked from the group of two. When it's the group of four, how many ideas are picked?


Ian [00:20:33]

I would, I would keep it to, You wanna keep it two or three ideas

I mean,


KJ [00:20:37]

Yeah, I was gonna say it could even be good to, to get it down to two or one, you know, cuz then .There's really, uh, the exercise of prioritization of what we're not gonna do versus what we're gonna do


Ian [00:20:50]

ab Absolutely. And that's what, that's what we're trying to achieve. We're trying to please Mr. Porter with his, um, essence of strategy. So that's, that's great. I mean, you may need to do at some point, some affinity mapping. So if you've got, you know, we've got, let's say we've eight people or even more, you may find some of the ideas are very similar. So let's just connect those together with a bit of affinity mapping, remove any duplicates.

And when you, when you've got the whole group together, I like to do just a vote. because, and in some situations I've found the answer emerges almost that quickly. And as I've mentioned before, premature convergence is a concern because it means maybe that people haven't thought about the issue broadly.

Hopefully if they've read the strategy and understand it, they have done some of that thinking. But sometimes that vote can instantly give you an answer, and then it's kind of a question of, okay, challenging it and trying to break it down and kind of prove why you wrong. But it may leave you a couple of, couple of options, which are top of the list, and then you have a group discussion about that.

Okay. Yeah. What are these ideas as best, What's the, what's you know? What's, What's the challenges? What's the problems with one or the other? One person may be sitting in a group and thinking, Well, we've missed that too. Doesn't include something. I think it's really important. Give them a voice. So if someone feels you're missing something and other people don't understand why it's important, you need to bring it out.

So yeah, we talked about the psychological safety. That's an element of that. You want people to feel able to speak up, even if seven people in a group are saying something different, that one person may be right.


KJ [00:22:27]

But what's interesting and what I, what I love to do as well is have the person who came up with the idea, lead with why the idea is potentially, uh, not the best idea. Because then you're, you're already inherently biased towards your idea is the best I came up with it and I'm the best , you know? So if you can lead that person to think before you start saying all the pros to your idea, tell me the cons of your idea first. That really creates much...


Ian [00:23:02]

I love that. Yeah. That's really good. Yeah.


KJ [00:23:04]

It creates a conversation more than, you know, when you just tell everyone why you're so great, you know, all they do is go, Yeah, okay.


Ian [00:23:12]

Right. But what I may do for you doesn't, that doesn't happen to me.


KJ [00:23:16]



Ian [00:23:17]

Yeah. Uh, yeah, I think I really like that. It's kind of analogous to kind of the idea of a pre-mortem, you know, when do you kind of, at the start of the project, what's all gonna go? What's gonna go wrong? What go terribly? That's, Yeah. Really, I really like that. I, I'm gonna, I'm gonna steal that. Yeah.


KJ [00:23:32]

Pre-mortems, that's the word. Yeah. I knew it's from somewhere. I'm stealing all these ideas, but yeah, it's great. So, what else? I mean, that's, that's even something simple, uh, for someone to just, you know, use that technique.

Even that's a change to an annual meeting. Every meeting. It's always the CEO comes in and fights around. Yeah. Well, this time we're gonna just break out into the, um, one, two, four, All, you know, and, uh, do. Two, two people and those two ideas and four. And then, um, and then we're gonna affiliate map the ideas to eliminate duplicates.

What, what are we gonna do after that, after debating all these?


Ian [00:24:14]

Yeah. So ultimately I like teams to agree to agree, which sounds bloody obvious and we talk about, about disagree and commit. And sometimes you need that because different perspectives. And I think it's healthy if you occasionally see disagree and commit, but it's better if the, the really, the best path and the best option emerges for everyone and everyone can see it.

And yeah. Um, so if you can, if you can get to that without voting again, that's always best for me. And the last, the last, uh, quarterly planning session I did with a leadership team dated just that. I mean, we started with about 12 ideas. There was a lot of debate. We narrowed it down to about five, had a bit more discussion, and then suddenly we, we did a vote and it, after three votes, everyone said, No, no need to vote.

We know what the best option is. So that, that kind of, that's, that's your ideal, that you need to vote.


KJ [00:25:11]

I'm gonna ask you the dreaded question for every OKRs coach. How many objectives should we have?


Ian [00:25:17]

Yeah. Yeah. I, I don't dread that question. I think I like to tend towards one, one objective. A few key results. You know, one of, one of my, one of my favorite gigs, I came into an organization and they've been told by an OKR coach.

That OKRs need to inspire everyone. Everyone needs to have oks and they had 800 OKRs between 200 people. . Yeah. It didn't really help much for focus. Yeah. Very brilliant. Brilliant. And some of them, you can imagine what some of them were like, you know,


KJ [00:25:50]

That sounds like a very psychologically unsafe environment, everyone needed to have their own pain. Disagree.


Ian [00:25:59]

You know, the funny thing, Yeah, I think, I don't think it came from psychological safety. I think it just felt from a desire of, well I need to, I need to have something. And what Right.

Was just bad. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. So with that, with that organization and the leadership team, I think they had four or four objectives and nine or 10 key results as well.

Yeah. Um, and I really kind of, you know, you talked about CEOs dominating the conversation and. Often as a coach, you need to, you need to be the person who pulls them back a little bit and saying, Let everyone else have a, have a say. And that was, that was one of those examples, we ended up with one objective and three key results for the whole organization.

Yeah. Which, which everyone, The clarity it brought, the, the comments that leadership team got about them, how, how much clearer it was, what they were trying to achieve was, was fantastic.


KJ [00:27:00]

So do, do you think the fear is, it's not relatable enough to me. Like, if, if I don't have my own key result that's related to my domain of product or sales or something, then I don't feel connected to this one objective and three key results. That's the fear.


Ian [00:27:17]

Yeah. That's, and I, I absolutely get that. But OKR for me is there to solve, you know, some, a narrow range of specific problems, focus and alignment. The two of the main ones. Yeah. What it's not there is the job of making everyone feel valued. That's leader. That's leadership's job.


KJ [00:27:35]

Now we're talking, Now we're talking. So you think OKRs can be misused by leadership to give everyone a sense of, you know, worth they're feeling like they're all included, when really that's not the purpose of them. They should, Why they should be adopted is to gain greater focus and alignment as a collective.



Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there's a, and leadership's role is, there's a great quote and I can't remember who the president was, but they went to NASA and they went to the bathroom and there was cleaner there cleaning the bathroom. And they kind of said to them, I dunno if it was JFK or not, you know, what are you doing sir? and he said, I'm helping put a man on the moon. And that kind of feeling doesn't come from goal setting and OKRs. It comes from great leadership. Yeah. And making people feel valued and empowered. And just your job as a leader, a framework isn't going to solve that for you.

That's right. That's a difficult, that's a different challenge.


KJ [00:28:34]

No, now we're talking. Right. It's not a, it's not a, uh, silver bullet. You know? You gotta improve your leadership skills, not just look OKRs to solve your



Yeah. So many of the other problems we see with OKRs are because, People try to use 'em for jobs that was never designed for.

So, you know, performance management. Mm-hmm. , I'm no fan of measure what matters, but even measure what matters tells that there's gotta be ancor horse between the two. It's not a performance management tool. Those are separate things. Yeah. And that's where so many implementations fail because oh, we're trying to make everyone feel loved and, uh, you know, cared about.

We're trying to measure performance. We're trying to manage all our tasks to make sure we deliver the outputs we need. We've got all these things together and you've completely lost the point of what OKRs for. Right.


KJ [00:29:29]

Yeah. Very good. Okay, well let's get back to it in their last couple of minutes. So let's wrap this up. We're, we're coming to the end of our OKR planning meeting. Um, we've narrowed, we've been able to narrow down our objectives and ideas through techniques like, you know, one, two for all. Uh, so now, What do we do? It's coming to the end of the meeting, looks


Ian [00:29:53]

like. Yeah, we, we, we, we need that session of, okay, how are we gonna measure this?

Now, ideally your strategic hypotheses will lead you in there. There'll be that stuff already, but if not, um, you, you know, you should brainstorm what success looks like for that objective. And again, I would advise having people have some individual time in the meeting potentially. Or this is something you may come back to do a second meeting and have a second meeting.

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And with your, with OKRs, the, the critical questions you might answer, and you touched on one of them, is, why this, Why now, you know, why are we doing this objective? You need to document that. And the second one, which, you know, I can tell you stories of organizations three months into, into a year where you realize that two different people in leadership team have different views of how something's measured and you need to, you need to go away and have that, you know, have that, have that discussion and take time.


KJ [00:30:53]

Yeah. Finalize the, and be sure on the measurement. Uh, sometimes subjectivity in the months, but, oh, well we did that. And it's like, no, it wasn't how it was supposed to.


Ian [00:31:04]

Yeah. I think there's, there's a great book, Douglas Hub, how to measure anything. Yeah. That, which, that can really help. You know, you can't always just rely on nice simple measurements.

Sometimes you have to get creative and, you know, and put some work in to work out how to measure an objective. Right,


KJ [00:31:22]

Right. And then what comes after that?


Ian [00:31:25]

It's a, you, you've rightly, um, highlighted that that pressure to get it done in one meeting can feel quite painful. I think you need a calling off period.

So give the team a few days. It's not a next stage thing. It's not like, maybe even start the following week. Yeah. Come back. Okay, how do we feel about this now? Does it still feel right now you've got that our, um, placeholder for another meeting in place if you need it. Sometimes they will, sometimes they won't and get in and have that discussion again, but have that calling off period.

Cuz these are huge decisions. If you, you're setting your direction for the next year. If you set the wrong direction, no level of great execution will help. Which is why our strategy is so important.


KJ [00:32:11]

Right. This is the most important meeting of the year. People need to understand


Ian [00:32:17]

That. Absolutely. Yeah.

You've, you've, you've, you've nailed it really because Yeah. Yeah. Um, and then think about how you're gonna communicate to the rest of the organization. So you've got these, you've got these OKRs. Think about how we share them, how we, you know, How we articulate them. And ideally, that cut, that's going alongside your strategic narrative.

So you've updated that, you share that, and then you shape, This is how we measure progress towards our strategy over the next year. This is what we're gonna do. And how,


KJ [00:32:49]

Then you, any, any tips there for, for folks like chiefs of staff, our oftentimes the, you know, spokeperson for all of this, How may they, you know, communicate this, these narratives and this, this, OKR.


Ian [00:33:08]

Well, I think it, it, there's, there's two parts to it. Excuse me. There's the, the strategic narrative you've already got, and it's about threading the OKRs into that. It's about, you know, strategic hypotheses are saying, We're gonna try this. If it fails, we're gonna try that. Link your okays in there, bring it into that story.

And again, it is that tough skill of storytelling, but it makes a, makes a big difference. The other thing I would say is not everyone hears and listens in the learns in the same way. Mm-hmm. , if you present things in one way, you are probably only gonna get a certain number of people to really get it. So you, you ha you know, you have to keep repeating yourself in different ways to get that message home.

And it's painful and it's hard work, but it's this consistency of understanding what we talked about earlier. You need that across the organization. And the clearer people are in terms of what our strategy is, how we believe we're going to achieve it, the more likely they are to make good decisions when they prioritize and decide what they're going to.


KJ [00:34:08]

Right. So repetition, repetition, reinforcing this. Mm-hmm. this narrative and doing it in, in a diverse format, uh, so that people Yeah. Can consume it in different ways. Perhaps record a video of it. Yeah. Maybe send out a company newsletter, maybe, you know, do the all hands, hands meeting, presentation. Just different ways to say really the same thing.

It might feel redundant, but really it's, you really need to instill this in people so they can, so they, they can increase that percentage of 50% only feel like they connect to the company's strategy Well, you want to, you wanna get to hundred percent


Ian [00:34:50]

right? Absolutely. And that's, that's a, that's a great, great point to finish on.

There really is that, You want to check that your communication is working. Yeah. So test it like you would as a product manager, you test your ideas when you deliver communicate, you also wanna test what's the desire impact. A hundred percent understanding your strategy. Mm-hmm. , stop people in the corridor or ask someone a zoom call now tell me what does it mean to you as strategy?

And if you are hearing the same things back that you've said to them, yeah, you can start thinking, Okay, I've done a good job. And if not, okay, lets do the same differently. That's


KJ [00:35:21]

A good. That's absolutely it. Well, this has been really exciting and this is really informative. I've learned a lot. I'm sure the listeners will learn a lot too.

And it's always a pleasure chatting with you and I'm thinking really the next step, if people are, if there's demand for it, we should hop on the mics and talk about what comes after the planning, which is the execution and the, the check in process for Oks and how to get that right. Uh, cuz that'll be after you're done, your 2023 planning, uh, you gotta follow it up you know?


Ian [00:35:53]

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And that's, that's really crucial, haven't you? This is one of the things companies kind of have that, or teams have this kind of, Okay, we've done the 2023 planning, there's a huge sense of relief, and then suddenly January the first is looming. Yeah. Oh my god, I need to do a set of quarterly planning.

So we want that to flow nicely. Yeah. You know, there are some great tips we can give for that.


KJ [00:36:16]

Well, I think we should do it again and, uh, see what people think out there. Maybe they get a lot of benefit from this, so. I hope so. I hope so. Yeah, it's been really a pleasure chatting with you as always, Ian. Um, and do you a lot here and a lot of, still a lot of this stuff, um, and, you know, gotta do it again.



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