The OKR Podcast
The OKR Podcast

Episode · 1 year ago

The 411 on Product & Engineering OKRs

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Sameera Moinpour, VP - Strategic Services and Susan Mallaney, Manager - Strategic Services have coached thousands of product and engineering teams to great OKRs.

In this podcast, they discuss common OKR questions, concerns, learnings and aha's, across many product and engineering organizations.  

...you're listening to the Okay our podcast, we talk about the power of lateral alignment and outcome mindset and empowering teams to do their best work from anywhere. We also talk about operating as a digital company which is crucial. Now here journeys learnings and victories from our guest speakers and get expertise from our host to scale your leadership capacity and operate with high impact trust and efficiency. Mhm. I'm so excited to be talking about you with all things product and engineering. Okay, ours. Before we kick off, give us a quick introduction of yourself and how many? Okay, our sessions you've led? Sure. So I'm Susan Melanie on the strategic services team and I'm based in Chicago. Let's see. I I've probably done over 100. Okay. Our sessions and at least 50% of those have been product and engineering. I love my product and engineering teams. What about you? Sameera? I lead our strategic services team and I've probably lead over 2000. Okay our sessions at this point which is wild in itself but they've been so fun. I'd say about half have been product and engineering teams as well. You and I get to work with a ton of high performing product and engineering teams at Cisco vM ware Microsoft and we also get to see how the high growth organizations run their product engineering teams like malware bytes in a primo and Zohra, what's the appetite you see from product engineering teams on how they get aligned? How do they really embrace setting? Okay, ours. So product engineering teams are so hungry for this most every team I have encountered and done okay. Our sessions with, they are so excited. They are so excited to get a line. They are so excited to have these conversations with each other that have been bubbling up but they haven't been in the room or today the zoom room where it happens to have the conversations and so it is so exciting to spend those three hours with these cross functional teams having the discussions really driving forward. I find it to be the same product and engineering teams have the highest appetite in some cases, to see how their day to day work connects to what the Ceo and what the leaders of the organization are driving and really what the organization is driving towards for their strategic priorities. I would say product and engineering is a unique organization in that there's many different ways they measure their work today. Engineers are Indira or rally or Azure Devops and they're working their list and they don't have a clear connection to how do all these things that I'm doing, the epics and the stories and the deliverables. How do those amount to moving the needle on the outcomes that our ceo is talking about. And so when we're able to have this conversation with these products and engineering teams, in terms of what success looks like and what would be awesome. It's an eye opening experience and I think they really lean into it. I...

...would completely agree. And it's so fantastic when you get to run that first session with them and then come back a quarter later and do their look back and learn and just see how much they've been able to accomplish the results. They've been able to get the outcomes they've been able to drive and how they're actually seeing their work that they're doing day to day tied to those top level priorities. It is so exciting and you can really see the smiles and you can feel the victories that these teams have achieved. It's wonderful. So we've done so many sessions with really different groups, probably across the country and across the world. Tell me, what were some of your favorite objectives, you know, that were crafted. And tell me a little bit about the story of how, how they got. I'd say one of my favorite parts of leading. Okay, our sessions is when the team really leans into crafting an objective that captures their true intent and by their true intent. I mean it's really there now towns and their own verbs and what is their true double shot of espresso in the morning? We really encourage that, especially at the front line team or middle of the organization team level. I once had two sessions with a large company, what had many sessions with them, but we did multiple sessions with a devoPS organization and there was a DEvoPS teams that, that was based in Seattle and there was another Devops team that was based in Wisconsin. I did their sessions, I think back to back, the devops team in Seattle had an objective, which was really local, they took local to the next degree and it was Beast Mode. Devops, we're at the time, Marshawn lynch was on the Seahawks and that was the phrase in Seattle is like no, Beast Mode, Beast Mode DEvoPS, that's R. O. That captures our intent and what we're trying to achieve in terms of our organization. And then the Wisconsin DeVOPS team talked about how they were the big cheese and really leaned into how cheese and Wisconsin are local to their own, literally their own day to day and what gets them excited. And those were early on. And probably some of the most fun sessions where teams really leaned into crafting the ohs, I think it's an interesting dynamic because often people perhaps wrongfully assume that, you know, engineers don't want to talk about language and they don't want to spend time wordsmithing and you know, they're very pragmatic in nature, you know, might be true, but when you really lean in and you ask teams like what do you think and what would be awesome for you? And is this your double shot of espresso? The words do matter? And you see literally see it in people's faces, their eyes light up when they can rally around a statement that really jazzes them. And then when they align on what those key results are and they see how they're all connected. It's it's truly priceless in those three hour working spins and everyone's like three hours...

...our engineers need to be doing engineering. It's like we're gonna spend the three hours at the beginning of the quarter to make sure the next 500 hours are spent well and that the work is we're doing work on the right things. But the three hours I have a really similar arc from session to session where we first start off, it's really messy, takes an hour and a half to get through the first objective, we're trying to figure out what does a good old look like, what does a good KR look like. And then the team really gets into the rhythm and we pick up speed and the objective creativity is awesome and I want to be mindful. Which is it's not objectives on an island on their own either they're still in alignment with what the business is trying to achieve. And it gives these teams direct line of sight into how they connect. So devops Beast mode or be smoke devops and where the big cheese and devops where two of my favorite shows I think I've ever seen, but it really helps bring that, that localization to life. What were some of your favorite sessions and best objectives that have come out of the sessions? So I've been working with this team and the leaders, the product and engineering leaders actually from day one said we are going to set cross functional, okay. Rs we really need to get alignment across this group and we want to be leaders here. And that was so exciting to hear. So get in the room, we had, I don't want to say someone in every time zone, but we had people in Australia, India, europe, the US, it was a fantastic cohort coming together and we were talking about customers and product quality and so they're talking about this and somebody goes, I just don't want customers to yell at us anymore. You know, once they get through their ticket, I don't want it to get escalated. I don't want to have to get on the phone with someone yelling at me again. And so write it down and we kept coming back to it for the objective and people kept percolating like I just don't want to be yelled at anymore. And so that was what our objective was. Customers don't yell at us. And it was amazing to see when we did. You know, the KR is under. It was like, how are we going to drive this? And really about, you know, proactive quality measures and things along those lines to set the stage. And it's funny because we did our, you know, tie off session and you know, all those and the KRS or red, you know what the leaders above and everyone said, I love this. And I think that was really exciting to hear because you have this team of product and engineers that were just truly talking about what they wanted to do and what success looks like to them. And was one of those times when you ask you, you go around the room and say, would this excite you with this, get you out of bed in the morning and everyone said resoundingly yes, if no one yells at me, I will be so happy. And so we've kept that, Oh it's been fantastic. And it's been really exciting to see how the team has...

...reiterated, you know, the past quarters on the KRS that they're using to to drive that. So it's been it's been fun. Uh and definitely one of those that I will forever hold near and dear to my heart. I love them. Just like the team loves that, oh, I love that so much because sometimes people say, you know, we're not going to get everyone to love this objective, but you know when you have a good objective and the team knows when literally eyes light up, everyone says this is going to get me out of bed in the morning, this is our intent, it's so fun to get there and it's fun to coach those teams. And obviously it's fun to be part of those teams as well, where now you have a One of your 3-5 objectives and it's not all 3-5 or really something that gets you out of bed every morning, like who doesn't want that? We all come to work to want to make an impact and see how we're connected and we want to see how our work is connected to the strategy and then bring it all together. So why not have something like that? That captures our truest intent totally. And everyone gets to rally behind it and see what they're doing, how it's contributing to those KRS and that, Oh and really moving the needle there. It's exciting, Super exciting. So another meaty topic in the engineering world is this huge shift, agile. And so a lot of questions that we get is how do agile and okay ours come together and what does that look like and how should be thinking about that for organization? And what I always find is that super interesting to me is there's 1000 different flavors of Agile, just like there's probably multiple different flavors of Okay ours and the okay our method that week, this is around the outcome mindset method and their multiple flavors of Agile, the safe agile method and so on and so forth. And what I find to be super interesting is this question always comes up but it can be demonstrated and described in a really simple way to describe it for you and Susan you keep me honest, this is why you're here with your teams and if it resonates but the objectives and key results when we set the objective at the beginning of the quarter, it's our the o is the intent and the key results are the outcomes that we want to drive towards by the end of the border. And a lot of product teams, especially in engineering teams are trying to focus on customer outcomes in their agile sprints so that that aligns quite nicely. But depending on your organization, you might be in a transformation as well. So you might be going from releasing something once a year to once a quarter and you might not be in a software environment, but whatever the environment is, your agile cadence and your agile practice is capturing the work that needs to get done and the work items, not the outcomes in most cases. And so when you bring agile and okay ours together, it provides, it's like the two puzzle pieces come together for the product and engineering teams in a lot of ways where now product and engineering teams have the clarity on what they're driving towards and they I already have...

...the cadence, the stand ups, the scrums, the sprints, the epics, the stories. Whatever your cadence is for your organization, they have the work now can slot back to those outcomes they're driving. And it also gives them the ability to say no and triage the right work. I think it is so exciting to see these teams kind of, I would say have an epiphany, but in a way, see that they're not adding anything else on top that it's all working together and really bringing things together in their in their meanings, putting okay, R. S at the top of the agenda and driving these conversations that we're probably not happening in the way they needed to happen before. And so really, you know, we talked a lot here about a mindset shift and it it is and it happens for these teams, you know, getting in that rhythm really helps it and it really unlocks the potential of them. So, and something else you said there that I think it's really important to call out is the Okay ours get embedded. Let's remove the acronym the results, there's objectives and results. The results get embedded in the existing cadence that they have. So they have a standup daily. Like you might think that your key result and triaging the work they are doing against that or your weekly scrum team meetings or whatever it might be. We're also seeing this big shift in terms of teaming and so it's not enough to just drive vertical alignment down the silo. You know, we need a line straight down through sales and straight down through marketing and straight down through product and straight down through engineering, lateral alignment. So horizontal line is really the key to unlocking growth and an organization. And we're seeing this big shift to a more dynamic teaming model in order. A lot of it's in product and engineering where we first bring product and engineering. Product management, engineering, maybe QA into a pot or a squad together and maybe that expands to include sales or marketing for a specific product line or go to market or whatever it might be. But I think dynamic teaming is also the future and when we bring these dynamic teams together, it's often the first time that Product engineering, finance, QA they're all sitting in the same room together, the same virtual room and the objectives and results for that team. Give them a common language to align on what's important for that given product or business or product line or whatever it might be. How have you seen these product teams and I'm using product team as a proxy for this dynamic team. But how do you see these product teams come together and what what have been some ah ha's or breakthroughs that you had in those sessions? So with so many of them, I think the most exciting part is that they form when they're needed and these conversations happen and so, you know, work where we call them working teams and they can come and go as they are needed. But getting that, you know, squad product team together is truly the first step and with that so many times the ah ha moments are those simple questions, those...

...conversations that are happening in that room of, well why are we doing this? What's the result? Do our customers even want this? You know, marketing is in the room saying well we need to market it this way and engineering is saying, but we can't build that we need to talk, you know, in realistic terms and getting everyone on the same, the same playing field, the same language is so important and you know, I really, I love those conversations because before maybe they were happening at one point, most likely they weren't as things just got handed off down the road and so now we're making sure that everyone is aligned from day one, so that the work that everyone is doing, they can see how it's moving forward and you lose that duplicative work that is taking someone's time, you lose that work of. I mean, I think we've all had that experience of, okay, I was working on this thing for two months and it's like we're not pursuing that anymore, that isn't happening anymore, because we're, you know, putting these key results, you know, at the forefront of our conversations. So it's really great. What about you? How does that happen for you in those rooms? But I will say, when bringing a cross functional team together, that involves product engineering, QA or product engineering, marketing, sales, and someone together for the first time, those are the most fun sessions, because you see the years grinding, like, oh my gosh, we've never had this conversation before. Well we have all these dependencies on these teams and the o'hairs aren't creating dependencies, they're just surfacing them. And now we can have the conversation to drive forward and we all know, you know, sales over again. This marketing is working on that and we don't have duplicative efforts or here's the Tiger team that needs to drive forward. So there's a lot of clarity that comes from these cross functional conversations, especially within product and engineering. Org's totally and I think so many times. I mean we we do a ton of functional teams as well. And how many times are you setting functional? Okay. As they say, oh, I have a dependency on this team or I have a dependency on that team. And then these conversations, you get to see those surface and you get to talk about those trade offs and how those dependencies are going to work themselves out. And it's really exciting to actually see those conversations happen. Totally agree. So I think the biggest question that comes up in engineering product and engineering sessions for me, I think probably for you too is well, Sameera, we can't measure that. We're not going to release the product for another year or we're at the very early stages of this product. Like how do we even begin? Like we have this work that needs to get done, but what We're not releasing for another 18 months, I'm sure you hear this all the time, Susan. So how do you help guide the team through setting a set of shorter term key results that help them hit? The longer term outcome is they're they're getting too. It happens all the time. I don't think I've actually had an okay our obsession with a new team where this hasn't happened or they say, oh we can...

...measure everything and it becomes a task list, which is not what we want. So, you know, thinking about those outcomes is what does success look like? Where do we need to be at the end of this quarter to set ourselves up for success here? You know, we we need to release this product in january. Have it go live in this way? Okay. Well, it's not just gonna we can't just think about it and it will happen. So what are we going to drive this quarter to get there? And you know, for for many of us those conversations are okay, well, do we have an M. V. P. All right. So let's demo the MVPs to a number of users. Let's interview and observe users who have used the app. You know, more than a certain period of time working prototype of integration. There are a lot of, I don't want to say things, but a lot of different measurable outcomes you can have. And it's part of that mind shift shift. Just unlocking that and opening the door to, Oh yeah, that is the best possible. We can definitely drive to that this quarter. I just hadn't thought about it that way before. And having, you know, those teams come to that as well. What about for you? Same. I find asking the question of what would be awesome between now and the end of the quarter to be a helpful way to break against the mold of how do you measure when you say, how do you measure? People often get really stuck? Like I don't know. Like I don't, we're not measuring yet. We haven't even released a product. How do we measure? But what would be awesome by the end of the quarter? And then you might get something back which is what would be awesome is we release we release it this quarter and then you have to pull that read like okay, what does release mean are relaying are we delaying or we is in beta. What does beta, I mean how many people get access to the data and you really dig into that. But you're able to ask the 2nd and 3rd level questions that helped the team arrive at what would be awesome. And what are the outcomes that they want to drive towards in the quarter? If we also have a phrase which is like if you can't measure it, why are you doing it right? And so you can measure everything. You can measure anything that you want to measure. And if you can't, then there's another question conversation of why are we working on that and why would we go focus on that? But I truly believe you can measure everything and anything. We just need to ask the right questions to help guide the team there. For many of us and for many of our teams, we've been for forever, stuck in. Maybe stuck is the wrong way to say it. But we're just oriented and used to measuring our actions and just everything that's on our list and just working and leadership sets the strategy. Everyone else does good work. And we're at this pivotal moment in the world where everyone has the ability to defined in the line that they're set of outcomes and then their works your line to that, not back into it via the work and connect the strategy from up down and across the organization. So an awesome moment. And I would say product and engineering teams can really be a huge lever in that you are building the...

...products of the future and you're really critical to your organization's success and often there are more people in product and engineering than any other part of the georg and so it's bringing everyone aligned on what success looks like and everyone wants the transparency into how they make an impact as well completely. And I think going back to something you said earlier was you know, we have 500 hours in a quarter, so much needs to be accomplished and we need to really, you know, Maniacally focused on things and make sure we are driving the right outcomes because you know when you're doing those sessions and we talk a lot with our different clients and customers about setting those, you know, within the first two weeks of the quarter because you don't want to let 30 days go by and not be aligned on your outcomes because you've lost this time. And I know it sounds cheesy but I love this saying that we have, you know, time is our most precious resource. It's non renewable and we're not going to get that time back. So we need to make sure that we are driving towards those outcomes that are going to get us those results and you know, move the needle even further. So highly recommend, you know studying those sessions and you know, one thing further is with a lot of our teams as they're getting started. You know, they almost paused on them and say, well I need to figure out how to measure it, baseline it. Let's do that. Like first quarter, let's baseline, let's get something. And those conversations to can really, really help unlock that idea of, okay, if I baseline at this quarter, then I know next quarter I need to go from X to Y. What my improvement metrics are going to be. What I can have as opposed to holding myself back and not setting a KR because I don't know what it's going to be. I think think sometimes shy away from baselining, but I highly encourage it with so many of mine because it is incredibly important. Baseline measuring is a great measure the first quarter. All right, Susan parting words, What advice would you give for product and engineering teams? Let's save quick fast advice. Do it. You won't regret it. You won't regret getting aligned. The conversations that you're going to have may surface misalignment and that is fantastic. These conversations can be hard, they can be difficult but the alignment that's going to come out of it is so worthwhile, you know, all the way up down and across the organization and we've talked a lot about across that, I think that's really where so much of the goodness and value comes out because those conversations need to happen and we're enabling them to happen and as a leader, as a team member, you're driving them forward. What are your what are your parting words, mira? I think I have to agree. Just start like even if the rest of your organization isn't doing okay, just begin, have the conversation reach out to a coach within your own organization or get a coach, helped coach your team, don't coach your own session, I would say the first time get a coach, we're happy to help Susan and I tap us in. We love doing product and...

...engineering sessions are all getting a coach and just get started and you're gonna have a lot of fun. All right, well thanks for spending time with me today. It was great to chat it office. Thank you Susan and let's go coach some more product and engineering teams. You've been listening to the Okay our podcast. Subscribe in your favorite player so you never miss a moment. Thanks for listening. Until next time. Yeah.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (33)