36 min read
[Podcast] OKR Simplicity & Relevance with Jennifer Mitchell
This week on the Krezzo podcast, KJ McGowan is joined with Jennifer Mitchell, recently appointed COO of ActZero, where...
This week on the Krezzo podcast, KJ McGowan is joined with Jennifer Mitchell, recently appointed COO of ActZero, where they discuss how simplicity and relevance can contribute to OKR best practice.
What you're gonna be listening to folks is two very mischievous Irish people talking sh***. But also, you know, talking about things we're passionate about. And I think that's kind of the main reason that I suggested this few weeks back to you, Jen, was that I sensed there was a passion from you about, not just a framework, like OKRs is, there's many frameworks out there, but really a passion for helping companies and people at scale. I guess you could say people, but people in a company are just a group of people. So helping people, uh, you know, be, be operationally efficient, you know, just be more efficient with their time, I guess. Is that how you would put it or how would you describe your passion for it?
Yeah, I think, I think that's about right.
I described it to someone recently that when I see things operating in a way that doesn't make sense, right, or it's, it's a bit of a bloated process or it's overcomplicate, I just, I get like the equivalent of like the heebie jeebies, right? Yeah. Like it annoys me at a fundamental level and I just have to sort it out.
Yeah. Um, and that's, that's really kinda where it comes from. So the passion just comes from just like almost that like intolerance for stuff that takes more time than it needs to take or is more confusing than it needs to be confusing, you know? Right. Do enough things in life to be worried about without having to worry about, without having to worry about wasting time.
And would those be two of your main criteria when observing a process in a company? Um, could be any sort of process or activity are your criteria? Like how complicated is it? You know, are those, what are the questions you ask? Like, how complicated is it? How confusing is it? Or, you know,
Well, not to be too pointed with the topic of this, but, but, but really the first question is like, what are you trying to achieve, right?
So it's, it's, you're not necessarily first looking at the steps. Because invariably the steps would've come from, you know, several different people, A historic way of doing things. Mm-hmm. , you know, previous and it's just built up. Um, but really trying to establish like, what are you trying to achieve?
What's your objective? What are you trying to get out of this? Um,
Start at the end in mind. Kinda
Start at the end. Exactly. Um, and then look at how they're getting there and trying to figure out is all of that necessary. And, you know, once you, you can go two ways. You can kind of go in and strip it down and then, Piece it back together a little bit.
My preference is actually a tear down and, uh, build it back up again. Uh, limited capacity depending on where, you know, what process is and what departments. Right. Yeah. Easier to do in apps. Not so easy to do in finance. Right. Right. But it's a tear down. It's a, it's, you're going to people and saying, okay, well if you're trying to achieve this certain objective, this is, you know, what you're trying to do.
And someone came to you for the first time, forget everything that you have to consider. Forget all your constraints, you know, all of everything involved. Like, how would you design this? What's your dream? Um, normally it's, it's different than what's in place, right? And you start right there and you start, um, you know, I'm a big fan of making Lego sets and putting kids together and stuff. It all, all comes from the same place doing a good jigsaw.
My next thought was gonna be, is there a, a word or term or pro or like mindset labeling that This is because I can mutually understand what we're talking about, that, that intolerance for, you know, something that isn't as efficient as it could be or, or basically having the mindset of starting with the end of mind and figuring it out.
Like, I guess that's why operational people, Really? Is that what we're saying? Is that why operational people tend to find themselves, um, managing an OKR program or being a part of it because it's got the same, you know, um, mindset to it or attitude towards it?
It could be, it could be. I think what a lot of operators or generalists have in common is that they're able to do two things.
They're able to look at the bigger picture. Right? And they want to have all of the information to understand the bigger picture, that curiosity. Right? And they're also able then to look at specific points and drill into it and learn very quickly what's happening, like when needed without losing sight of that bigger picture.
And when you look at an OKR system, like it is the big picture of a company fundamentally. And so I think a lot of operators and, and generalists end up managing these systems because it's right in their wheelhouse of how they think about things. How does everything piece together so that we can achieve our company goals?
Right. The reason that we exist, the company's not the people.
Yeah. No, I agree with that. That's, that's great. And why then, um, you know, tell me a bit about just your ex experience with OKRs is we kind of skipped over that. Like, , how did you originally come about it, what has your experience been over the years?
Yeah, I think over the years before OKRs kind of came on the scene for me, which were probably only in the last few years, I started hearing and seeing about them a little bit more. You know, it was really just goals. You know, people talk about, oh, what goals do you have? Like, you might have some individual goals, some team goals, but it always seemed, you know, a little disjointed.
Um, and then when Oks kind of came into play, it was really a, a, like that framework that you're talking about that was able to almost organize all of those goals together and establish which ones were actually relevant. And so, you know, in, in, you know, in another life I did a lot of project management and I took a lot of project management courses.
Yeah. And what was clear from a lot of these different project management frameworks is that they were all fundamentally the exact same thing. Yeah, there was like a thread that went through it, which was just about managing people in time and you know, resources in a way that was effective and managing stakeholders.
And I think that, you know, you could talk about OKRs, we could talk about something else, but you're really just trying to find that thing you thread through things. And OKRs were a really good way of doing that, of like keeping everybody aligned to the same goals.
Yeah. What do you think that thread was with, I love the example in project management of just.
It's about managing people in time. Why do you think that thread is For goal setting or OKRs.
I think the thread is simplicity and relevance. Because I think in a mismanaged goal system, you have a lot of people working very hard on goals that they have. And then you might find senior management are surprised that we're not achieving what the company objectives are or the company goals are, because they're not, it's become over complex and a lot of the goals that people are working so hard on are not actually relevant.
Right. So the whole work smarter not harder, right? Is, yeah. Is a cliche, but it's true. And I think OKR kind of give you that opportunity to work smarter. So you know, every single person in the company, at least that we think about it, should be able to look at their like individual goals or KPIs or however they're being managed, and simply track them back to the company OKRs. Yeah. Um, and they have to be relevant. And if they can't, the likelihood is maybe they shouldn't be doing them right
Now, we're get that. That's really insightful, and I think you've hit a lot of things on the head there, but it leads into something perfectly that has been quite a quandary for me recently in that there's, you're dead, right.
There's, there's significant reasoning behind what you're, uh, suggesting. By using a framework, you can establish this simplicity. In goal setting, it becomes less disjointed. Everyone can be relevant and see that relevance to their, you know, a greater purpose. But what then is the objective business value of using, um, a framework?
And I'll, let me explain and define business value, like or a positive business outcome such as reducing operational costs or increasing, you know, response time or you know, basically the general business validation for people when they're buying a product or like this or any other sort of product.
It's sort of like, well, is the value relative enough to the cost and mm-hmm , is it gonna make me money or is it gonna save me money? And. Let's say OKR as well. I could start there. Do you think, and have you adopted OKRs for the reason of making money or saving money?
Oh interesting. That's an interesting question.
I mean, definitely for me as I look at it, it's saving. But it's also making money. I would, I would, I would say it's an and situation rather than an or. Um, and, and here's why. So saving the obvious one, like efficiency, right? Um, if we're able to simply, and of course simply doesn't mean easily, but Yeah.
Simply. Align everybody in the company to, um, the overall objectives of the company, then we are in effect saving money because we are reducing resources being spent on managing people's. Um, kind of performance in a way that you're, you know, repeatedly trying to, to set their performance metrics, right.
They, they're built into the OKR system, so you don't have to constantly, you know, go through that motion every month, every quarter. Um, and, and fundamentally, you know, if you can. Make efficient a process like that and use a framework for the purpose of efficiency. Not to bloat, but to actually make it easier.
Then you will save money on resources, full stop. And if you can reduce confusion, you save money on people having multiple conversations, multiple medias trying to figure out what we're all trying to achieve. Right? No, I was gonna say back into the, you know, we kind of talked a bit about this kind of templatization of things.
Um, you know, the best advice I'd give to anybody trying to do something new for the first time or to create a report is not go away and build a report. It's go away and look and see if something like this exists. And then make it your own. Right. Don't reinvent the wheel. So if you can templatize everything or most things that you do, you will save time.
Right, right. So it's just that method of being able to templatize the operating model of the company, which is what the OKRs give a framework to. Yeah. And that's, that saves us money. It saves us money on management.
Absolutely. Let's elaborate a bit more because I'm really liking the direction of this exact part of the conversation.
So we're saying that you're saying by the, it being efficient that you can really save money by, you know, having less resources, performance managing things that. Perhaps, you know, irrelevant. But let's get even more specific, like the reduction in costs or savings and time. Like what have you been measuring or what would you suggest actually measuring to be, you know, saving money.
Like when you implement OKRs, for instance, in 2023 and you come back a year later. What are the actual savings and money that you're going to see? Like what are the things you're gonna try to measure and see? Actually, yeah, we save time from here to here.
Here are my suggestions. We don't currently do this because we had OKRs in from the beginning of the company, so we don't have a before state that we were able to counter against right Now, once we do measure these things, For the, we don't link it to To OKR state.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. So here's what I would suggest. One, you're looking at your managers of people across the company. And their capacity fundamentally. Yeah. So, you know, how many people can they manage? Can they be player coaches? Um, so you're looking at those ratios of your managers to their team members, um, and how much time potentially they're spending on just the management of those people, you know, assessments, reviews, this performance management.
And so you would be able to measure, um, their workload capacity. So, After a year, are they suddenly able to, able and willing to take on more people to manage or more coaching opportunities or just more work for them to do themselves? What does that look like? So that's potentially one area that you would look at.
Um, had another one at the top of my head and it's gone out of it now.
I remember what it was. Um, employee retention.
Employee retention. I like this. Yes.
We underestimate sometimes I think how intrinsically connected the culture of the company, which people, you know, talk about or the values that, some people separate off a silo. It's like, oh, there's the work stuff and there's the culture as opposed to them being aligned. Mm. Fundamentally, if people are unhappy in their job because they feel like they're not making an impact, They're not well aligned. They don't know how they're relevant to the company, and they don't really maybe see how their performance is being effectively tracked or measured or how they're making an impact to the company goals.
And so maybe they're missing out on promotions or they're missing out on recognition. They're missing out on raises. They're gonna leave where they're gonna leave. Um, and so you, if you have a better run Operating model or a better designed operating model of your company where people are able to measure their impact and they're able to see their relevance and they don't feel like they're missing out on being rewarded appropriately or compensate appropriately for their impact and their relevance.
So you, you theoretically, if you, if especially if you're comparing it to before that you think is particularly bad and you think you might have a problem with retention, it may not just be this, it could be other factors, right? Yeah. But this would be a very good factor in like looking at that, at your employee retention and seeing if that improves.
Yeah. And saving money because you know, the more employees you can re retain and the more money you will save on recruitment costs, which is the one that was very expensive in both, not just the money itself, but also the time that gets put into it.
Yeah. I think you're dead. Right, and it's, it's just a really interesting one that I think if I'm trying to put myself in someone else's shoes who has not used OKRs before, have maybe have used it a little bit.
They're trying to. You know, they're being probably answering to their boss. Mm-hmm. and, you know, being told, yeah, we wanna do OKRs, it's become popular. I think it could help us. But again, they're trying to validate the business value of using this, and I think it needs to have a correlation to something like, if we do this, we can, you know, um, increase employee retention.
Um, or, and we can reduce recruitment costs. And here's how, you know, I think the, the correlation, um, for people can be difficult because of its inherent implication in the entire company. Like when you introduce OKRs, you're not changing one thing. You're changing everything about the company. Yeah. So that's, That's where it becomes well difficult because now you're like, yeah, it could be impacting retention, it could be impacting costs, it could be impacting sales, it could be impacting this, but like it's almost one degree away from it.
That's why I'm, that's why I'm just trying to hear you and try to communicate to people how it can be, how, how that can be closer or more clear, you know?
Yeah. And it, and it's a tricky one, right? Because, you know, historically support staff or one of the different word or supporting functions or program management, even HR people are undervalued because it's very hard to measure their impact in dollar amounts,
And like they're not making loads of money
Right, exactly. This type of framework is a supporting function. Yeah. Fundamentally, it's a supporting function and so you do have to think a little bit more as to the dollar impact of it, or the potential dollar impact of it.
But yeah, it's, to your point, it's not as easy as, you know, being a sales rep and I'm bringing in this amount of revenue and there's my measurement of performance. I don't need anything else. Right.
And talk to me about operational leaders, like there's hr, there's different, you know, finance perhaps, but in an operations role.
Mm-hmm. and your chief of staff, you know, what, what sort of, again, I guess, performance metrics would you have to, um, want to improve? And then utilize OKRs to do so. Do you know what I'm trying to say?
I kind of do, and I'll answer what I think you're asking and then you can tell me if I'm wrong. Um, so, and good question actually, because I am an operator, kind of first in chief of staff second, right? And so, yeah. Yeah. What, what I see, or at least the function, you know, that I have in my company, but also what is also common with a lot of other chief of staffs is you're, you're seen as a connector of dots in a lot of ways. And also then the execution of what that means. You know, the kind of, you know, so what now, right?
Mm-hmm. . Um, and so as, as in that kind of role in that kind of operator role, you're trying to figure out, so. And then you also have to execute on the now what, um, and the OKR are very interesting and potentially simple in a way of being able to get to that. So what quickly? Especially if you have something like a platform to do it in, because to be able to hone in very quickly on areas that need attention or areas that you're seeing. Either there's some duplication of work or there's somebody struggling, but you're also able to see another part of the business where they can help. Right? It's kind of unique function of like a chief of staff or operations to be able to connect those dots together so that you know, everybody improve together. Right. Um, and the OKRs offer a really good method of being able to do that because without them, it takes a lot longer to get that information. You know, you gotta go on listening tour and you've got to go interview everybody for one of a better word, and see what everybody's working on and how they're achieving.
And then you start getting to the so what?. So those are kind of like a shortcut. To, to, it's almost like a, you know, almost like a dashboard of like what's going on in the company. And then now what is very is, is you do your normal kind of operating, um, or chief of staffy type activities and you start joining up those people. Or maybe you, you know, spin up some special projects, whatever that looks like, but then you come back to the opioids again because you can then see the impact. Mm-hmm. . And so, you know, you're also then adding in that third piece of it helps you get to the so what Very quickly you go ahead and do your now what, and then you can measure the impact of that, you know, almost immediately. Um, when you see the, those kind of results starting to come in.
Yeah, I think absolutely. You summarized exactly why the product side of our company is very important and why we built it like that so it could surface these insights and provide an operator with a clear picture. It's almost like you have a picture of something and you can't really see it. But by, by having a product that has it all there, you can then understand what needs attention, what needs to be given course correct. And so forth. So that's kind of the reason why we did that.
But I understand that the product or the, um, as an operator, that's what you're, you're really passionate about doing and really good at doing. But, uh, I guess what's the purpose of doing that or not so much the purpose of doing that? That's the wrong question. It's more. How are you measured? How is the operator measured on their performance after doing that? You know,
So I think this then throws back to the are we saving money or making money?
Yeah. Um, I mean definitely it might be different for I guess other people in bun. You know, my, my goals, my OKRs are the company OKRs. Right? Um, and I share them with the other execs in the company and. You know, every company exists because they're trying to solve a specific problem. Yeah. What is sometimes frowned upon talking about, but equally true is that in order for them to solve that problem, they have to be commercially viable.
Yeah. And, and so in terms of like how the operator is measured, right. Especially if you think of like the stereotypical like executive operation roles. You know, are we, are we on our way to or maintaining a commercially viable company? Right? So you are looking at making money at that point. Now, something like this could be the difference between just missing or hitting a financial target, right?
Because without being able to maybe make those connections, like back to that example, say you're using those OKRs to make those connections. Kind of join some people together to achieve their goals quicker or better. Um, it has become an accelerant. Yes. And so you're accelerating the achievement of. Of, of your company, right?
And so if they're achieving their goals quicker or better now, maybe you're selling it quicker or better, and now maybe, you know, you're starting to become either, you know, a better operated company, full stop, and there's a lot of different standard best practice KPIs to measure that. And so those things will also be taken into account.
But then also, you know, as a company, are you bringing in, are you bringing in money, right? Are you actually, are you having an impact? And so there's the measurement of that as well is there's, I mean there's two sides of everything. Some people can look up into, you know, some of the kind of executive level or you know, senior management level of the companies and, you know, do they start to like check out and not really drive an impact when in reality you wanna be looking towards that level of your company.
Chief of staff know this keenly, especially if they're managing like leadership teams or helping to coach leadership teams. Um, you want those executives to be accelerants to whatever it is that people are doing. Yeah. Um, and the OKR has provide a really good way of being able to hone in as to where they can apply their specific set of skills.
Um, quickly, in order to do that.
Getting into the movie, taken now yeah. Liam Neeson gonna appear and, yeah, no, that's Liam, come on in. Yeah. Here's your goals. I'm not gonna do Liam ne impression. Okay. Uh, yeah, that's, that's a, it's really interesting to hear someone like yourself talk, hear it from the almost a horse's mouth as regards. The role of the operator, but not only the role, the responsibility they have, and within that executive team, you're, you're dead, right
it's like, They're, they're held accountable to the company's performance. Like is the commercially viable, you know, um, moving forward. So I guess that that does answer my question is just, again, always trying to make, I'm trying to understand, and I think other people will, the clear link between, you know, your role as an operator high up in the company and how. You know, transcends down with, with the use of OKRs, how you're utilizing it to achieve your own responsibilities, you know? Mm-hmm. . Cause there's just other, you know, again, there's so much. Probably another thing I could ask you about now, more into the problems people have when they start to implement OKRs in 2023.
I'm sure there's gonna be another huge burst of people, um, and companies doing it and they, uh, they struggle with kind of getting it, getting it right, you know? Um, can't remember what I was gonna say about that.
It's alright. We both had tohave a moment of memory loss in it. Otherwise it would've been, yeah you know, wouldn't been even
in it was equal. Yeah. . Um, no, I think I was just trying to get towards like, you know, The problem that people have when implementing OKRs like that, they, they think that it's a HR thing or they think as an operator, how am I gonna do this? And so maybe you could just tell us some of the problems you started off with, and troubles you had, and challenges you had when, um, doing it, um, at a zero and how you came about, you know, overcame.
Yeah, I mean we were lucky in the sense because we had implemented it from day zero, um, that we didn't have a lot of the setup, um, issues that I imagine a lot of people would have. Yeah. At the same time, you know, these kind of. Systems need to be maintained and you can fall into the same, you know, pitfalls and traps in the maintenance of them, as you can do at the beginning, and really, it comes back to the, the same two reasons why I think they're good, simplicity and relevance. People lose sight of both of those things and it's kind of human nature. Right. And it's something that has to be combated against almost at all times, is that it's not kept simple enough so people are very clear as to what they're doing, what they're trying to achieve, and what their impact is going to be, and people feel like they have to add more, and so they'll overcomplicate it because this, you know, this idea that we kind of feel that pressure as humans all the time, that I should be doing more.
If I'm doing more, I'm better. Right. And so why have two goals when I could have three, I have three goals when I could have four, and it just kind of grows legs and, and then you start losing relevance, right? Because people are just filling gaps with, with needless activities. And so, you know, we always do a yearlover haul.
Yeah. Um, and we kind of check our own biases and wedoubles advocate each other about whether our OKRs are still relevant, if we need new, more or less. And, but we always strive for less actually. That's one of the things that we do. That's good. And. And then we, and then it has to come from the top down.
Yeah. So, you know, you have to start with why you exist as a company and, and then drill down from there. Um, for example, you know, every company probably exists from, um, off of a problem statement. And so the objective is solving that problem. And then you've gotta be like, okay, well, you know, If we have solved that problem, what does that look like?
So you get to your key results. Yeah. And so maybe building a platform and you're like, I wanna solve the problem that, you know, making OKRs is easier to manage in companies.
Making it simple and relevant.
Yeah. Simple and relevant. And you're like, okay, great. Well, like, what does that look like? You know, what, what's our, what's our key results here? And it's like, well, you know, to solve the problem, I guess a lot of people will have to be using it and happy with it. Um, So now you start being like, okay, well how many people, is it a percentage of the market? Is it a number of customers? Is it x number of revenue? Um, and then you're like, okay, well if that's true, does that break down into, so you start going down the pyramid, right?
Does that break down now into sub ones of, okay, well how much new revenue we're bringing in, how happy are our customers? What are the retentions, you know, of that? Yeah. Um, And of course we have to be commercially viable. So, okay, well then what does our budget look like? And, and mm-hmm. , you know, are we fundraising?
You know, are we private? Like, what does that look like? And you've got, and so every time you ask a new question of that, you start, it starts breaking down smaller and smaller. And then what you essentially do is you assign people to solve for each of those. Problem statements. Or those results. Or those objectives.
Yeah. Um, and then all of a sudden your company just builds out simple, right. Not easy, but simple. very simple. Yeah.
Just go and do it now and figure it out. Um, but how is it, how have you seen it evolve and how has it evolved in that you start, you started it at, at zero when you, as you say, from the early days and now you're a much bigger company, and I'm sure you guys are even getting bigger all the time.
So have you seen that, as you say, there's a maintenance of it? And then through the maintenance, have you seen this evolution of it? And what can you describe to that? Cause there's gonna be people listening who are in, in a startup, and there's gonna be people listening who are thousands, couple of thousands of people in their company and they're, you know, I assume what we're saying isn't that it's not just one size fits all. It somehow evolves. Yeah, no.
Um, I'll tell you, it's interesting how we've evolved. It's probably the opposite. What you would think, and I'm gonna make up some numbers here cause of course I can't tell you specifics, but theoretically we had five OKRs in year one of, and, and each of those had four key results associated with them.
Yeah. And now you're talking about almost like, it's, it's, it's like you're trying to put it into a one page, but maybe it doesn't quite fit. Mm. You know, to now having 2 OKRs that have maybe two key results associated with each, um, that, that concept that we always try for less. Mm-hmm. Okay. How do we, how do I, why do I think this happened?
So if you think at a startup level, when you're hiring people for the first time, you're hiring leaders and generalists. Right? Um, so you're hiring people who are capable of being able to context switch a lot. Yeah. And you're hiring people who are able to do, to dip into a bunch of different skill. Um, and who are kind of, you know, senior enough to be able to manage a lot of this by themselves, or they don't necessarily need a huge amount of oversight.
Um, and so they're, they have like just a bit more experience and capacity to deal with maybe a bit more complexity. Mm-hmm. and because there's less people, even, even if they did need a little bit more management of it, you're able to give them that time because there's less. Right. You suddenly, you get bigger now, then you start hiring their teams. Right. Um, and so now they're becoming player coaches, so they kind of have less time to think about this cuz now they're also managing people and they're trying to do the equivalent for those individuals. And then you're starting to hire specialists who don't, and by their very nature shouldn't have the capacity for context switching because they're specialists.
They're meant to focus on one specific thing and just like do that and get it out the door. The OKRs kinda had to evolve with that and be able to accomodate. Everybody in that chain. And so they became more simple because we needed to be able to spend less time managing it, and we were able to kind of reduce it down to a more understandable position that even the folks who you know, it would be detrimental to their impact to be randomizing them too much, be contact switching too much so they can hone in on just like a singular or two, you know, KPIs or key results that feed into OKRs and it's, it's very well understood and it requires less overhead because if you were to just linearly scale our original OKR model, yeah, we would then have had the overhead of that management would not have been worth doing it. And I think that's, we have to almost simplify it to cope with the expansion of the staff and the increased complexity of the company.
Right. Well that's a really keen and wise approach that you've taken as an operator by noticing if this scales to the same degree each time we Bring in the influencer, which is the number of employees into the company, the variable, then it's not going to, there's a point of diminishing returns where you just keep adding more objectives, more key results, and then the thing just dips.
Yeah, and I think it's it that's, that's the, that's the thing I struggle with just naturally on a personal note with like, I love. Scientific things that are black and white, but also sometimes that just doesn't work. Like to just say it's going to be two and then four, and then six, and then eight, and it doesn't work. It just as you say, by, by oversimplifying it as you grow, you actually get a better result, which is the specialists and the people who are coming in have greater, you know.
I was having an interesting, uh, conversation that I think if any operators listening would potentially, um, jive with, people kind of look into operators, project manager, all of these folks who like processes for one of a better word. Yes. And there's this assumption that we are always, that we're perfectionists and now Yes, a lot of us are. And in. I recommend a lot of therapy to get outta that mindset cuz it's very limiting. But Yeah.
I recommend therapy to everyone all the time
It's actually, it's not true. The best operators are not perfectionist because the best operators recognize that you can design something to like 80, 85%, and if it's successful at 80 to 85%, you have done a fantastic job. Right? Yeah. Um, and there is always going to be about 15, 20% of like ambiguity Yeah. That you have to be able to deal with and you have to be able to work with, manage.
Um, and so you, if you try to kind of achieve perfection through this framework, through any framework. You're going to keep trying niggling at that last percentage. And it's, you know, you're never, you know, limit equals zero, right? You're never gonna actually get there and diminishing returns and so, you know, Advancing kind of through and getting to that, that those really, really great operators know that you can, you can get to a certain point and then you also have to be able to work with ambiguity for the rest of it.
Yeah. And, and live with both of those things together. Well, that's great. And so simplify it because you can't actually work out all the kinks. It's just, it's not gonna happen.
Well, that's kind of what we were talking about before and, but like it's a great piece of advice that you're sharing with people when we're talking about, well, new people might be listening to do this.
It's really what you're saying is manage, manage your expectations as the operator who's going to be the running this and, and really living in it and. You're gonna have to manage your own personal expectations as well as others and upwards and lateral and so forth, but your own, you're drawn to always try to implement a framework and want it to be perfect. Um, yeah, but it, it won't work out that way, but I guess it will. Be better than if you didn't do it at all. So I guess that's something convenient.
Some progress is better than no progress. I thought you were gonna say the best advice of this whole thing was get therapy, which maybe,
I mean, we could do that. We could actually just edit that part out and say Go get therapy.
We spent an hour talking and this is the only thing we actually wanna tell you. Yeah.
Welcome my therapist, ladies and gentlemen. Liam Neeson, he is also my therapist.
Um, yeah. And like, and the thing is you can build that in, right? So, so, you know, what I like to do is I have people whose mandate is to stick to the process always. Right.
They are not allowed to have the capacity for ambiguity or exceptions. If there is to be ambiguity or an exception, it's somebody else that is allowed to make those exceptions. But it's designed into it, the, the you design to include exceptions at some point. Now, they do have to be exceptions. You know, you can't make them the rule, and so therefore you can give people those clear things to say, okay, your job. And then it's not, you know, it's, it's known. Your job is to hold the process, that's your job. Yeah. If something is coming out that's not fitting, it's not working, go to this person, they'll make a decision on whether or not an exception can be allowed and how to deal with that.
Right. And you know, they talk about management structures and stuff. Yeah. But, well, we design that into it.
Yeah. That's, that's another great point. And these are really great best practices for people. And you know, I think how did you, I mean, you just naturally have come about them and you know, through yourself and your probably, I can tell on your face a lot of experience, um, um, the hard way, you know, but also like, I don't know, how do you sense.
Um, other operators when they're doing this and companies are, uh, again, it's just a, it's a guess, but I mean, there's a lot, a lot of huge, vast amount of content and practices and do OKRs this way, do it that way, do it this way. And you're given some really great best practices that are grounded in experience and, and evidence, but do you find that problem happening a lot with people, um, even in your company or other companies where there's information overload and they don't quite know how to do this properly, thus they don't know how to implement OKRs properly?
Yeah, I think it could be, it could very easily happen. I think then, you know, you talk about, Okay. What role does flexibility and change play in, in this, and specifically in individuals, right, because I think that when presented with a bunch of different, Hey, this is the best way I, this is the best way.
I know this is the best way. You kind of have to kind of see what the common thread is and. And, and also assess it, you know, kind of, you know, critical, critical thinking on it of like, well, yeah, like will this actually work though? And like, maybe, and here's the thing, there are exceptions to everything, right, to our previous, previous point. Mm-hmm. , that could be the best way to do things, but you might be part of the 1% of the exceptions that that is absolutely useless information. Yeah, and so you kind of have to have that flexibility and that ability to identify where changes can and maybe should be made, but also where they shouldn't, like if somebody, somebody may have come up with the best, the, the absolute best, like 99% adherence, best process of tracking their company goals, keeping everybody happy. Uh, you know, the operating model is beautiful. Yeah. By themselves in isolation, having never heard anything about OKRs and, and, and that's great. Don't change. Right. And so I think there has to be a little bit of critical thinking when you're thinking about this and the practical applications of it.
I mean, you joke about common sense, right? But some, some of it is, you know, yeah. Um, if anybody, anything that people present to me is something we should do regardless of where it comes from. Is gonna go through the same assessment of like, well, does this make sense for us? Um, is this gonna help us achieve our okr?
Is uh, you know, can we actually practically do this within the company? Um, and so on and so forth. Whether that's, you know, some grand best practice coming from, you know, kind of lauded. Um, Institution somewhere, or it's an idea that, you know, a new person into the company has, like, it's all kind of worthy of the same assessment.
Um, but yeah, I can see how, I can see how people can get overloaded with all of that information and, and then kind of worry about where to start. Yeah. I would suggest back to probably the first thing we talked about, a start at identifying what you're trying to achieve. Then figure it out.
I think you're dead right. You're dead right. There it comes full circle there. You know, it does, or there's a lot, there's always gonna be that huge amount of noise. Um, trying to tell you what it is and your, your real suggestion, which I would fully back up as to critically think about your yourself first, your own company first.
Look inwards first and not outwards. And look at what you guys wanna achieve first. And then look towards what are the opportunities in the company, like you're saying in your own company first, that this could be OKRs could be used with. And I think that, I think that's a really great way to sort of end this and bring it nicely because there's some really amazing practices there.
You've mentioned about, you know, simplicity and relevance are really two core foundations of why you as an operator have, um, stuck with and stayed committed to an OKR framework. Mm-hmm. , there's. Allowing yourself to not to be perfect and designing it to have ex uh, to have exceptions. And then lastly, um, you know, being able to critically think about your own company and how, and, and filter out some of that noise and expect a lot of the noise to come at you. Cause as soon as you mention the word OKRs, there's like 20 people popping out of bushes, throwing you things, . And then Liam Neeson's there kind of wagging his finger. You know
Liam Neeson, our therapist. Yes.
Liam Neeson, our therapist. Also an advocate. Um, yeah. Have I missed anything? What should I ask you? Uh.
If you want to find the best way to do something, ask uh, ask an intelligent, lazy person.
Right. I thought you were gonna say, ask me. If you want the best way to do it, just ask me. Um, no, you're right.
That's not my saying. I mean, that's around a lot, right. But I think, I think fundamentally it's true, right? Yeah. You wanna find someone who just wants to get the job done, they just wanna get the job done. Yeah. Um, and they will find the best and quickest way to get the job done. Yeah. That's it. That's, that's all we're trying to do.
And so, um, you wanna find those people. Yeah.
They're really good at it. You know? Cause they just, they just don't want a code. So , like, they will write the smallest amount of code to get the outcome you want.
Yeah. Find the people who find the shortcuts.
Yeah. Find the people who find the shortcuts. Yeah. Keep them close. Has it been a team effort as regards OKRs for you guys? I mean, you're not hundred percent done it alone, right? You've
No God no. Yeah, no. Um, no. I mean, like, you know, act Zero is a great place in the sense that, I guess because we've grown up with OKRs, they're intrinsically kind of part of our language of the company. Yeah. And so everybody contributes to them. Everybody understands them. And, and what that means is that even, even if I wanted to do it alone, I couldn't, which is great. Yeah.
But if I ever, you know, hit a wall somewhere, there's, there's, there's so many people there who have the suggestions and the insight and the thought processes to how we can craft them. You know, how we can track them, you know, what's actually good, what's relevant, what works, what's not. And so, um, we've got a great team over there that, that are really kind of, you know, into it in that sense. So it is definitely a team effort.
Yeah. And grounded, grounded in that understanding of it all as well.
Yeah. You know?
Yeah. And it would have to be, I think if anybody feels like they're, you know, the lone kind of ranger and Yeah. Pushing OKRs by themselves, I, I would argue that, you know, you're not gonna be successful. Yeah. Um, and so either come up with a way that it becomes more of, A team effort or you know, exec team has to be, and it has to be top down.
Yeah. You know, find a way to do that first before going back to actually pushing the OKRs out. Because if you can't, you're probably not gonna be successful and you'd be better off focusing your time on something else.
Yeah. Dead right. You get at mm-hmm. . Be sure in the business case of it and as we said, and that before we go out, so, great.
Look, Jen, uh, I could chat with you forever till the cows come home.
Yeah, it's been great as always, always a pleasure.
Dec 7, 2022by KJ McGowan
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