The OKR Podcast
The OKR Podcast

Episode · 2 years ago

Achieving Your Best Possible Outcomes w/ Michael Marcellin

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Mike talks about the power of their OKR practice and platform during the sudden move to work from home Spring 2020, what his personal leadership essentials are, and how his team achieves its best possible outcomes.

You're listening to the OKA 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. Here's your host daydrea pack, notd today our guest on the Okare podcast is Mike Marcelin, CMO at juniper networks. Mike, Welcome to the program thanks, Dadre. How are you doing? Good, good, thank you. So excited to Tuch to you by your okare program today. Absolutely. Let's start with a little bit about juniper and what it's doing and then what your role is there. Sure. Well, Jennifer is a BDB technology company where based in Silicon Valley. We basically provide the underpinnings of the networks that we're all using nowadays so frequently, and that's from the largest telecom providers to virtually every business that requires connectivity to do there to do what they do. I am the chief marketing officer. So I'm responsible for articulating our value to our customers, I'm responsible for helping our salespeople be successful and I'm responsible for driving revenue for the company, but I finding leads and engaging customers. Fabulous, and you and I are doing this podcast and having this conversation from our respective homes, because it's August, two thousand and twenty and we are all still working from home. I imagine junipers products have become much more important to its customers and to potential customers, as we all need more bandwidth from more places than we imagined. Yeah, absolutely, I mean, certainly we feel fortunate to be an industry that we're in because so many of our customers have, you know, serious challenges giving given what's going on, and you know, from provide providing networking kits to pop up covid testing facilities at hospitals to making sure that all of these engagements are secure, we feel fortunate to play a part and helping people get through this time. And you're right, it's made clear, as if we didn't already know, how critical being connected, using these tools, using the Internet, is to our day to day life and now our work life as well, and now our kids school life really now. Absolutely it's critical. Let's turn to your okay our program how long have you been using objectives and key results as an alignment and accountability technique? Yeah, formally we've used the Okur methodology for about a year within my organization and the company's been using it a little less than that. We were one of the first adoptors, but I will tell you the transition to that wasn't too hard because even before that we did set pretty measurable objectives and we're pretty data driven in almost everything that we did. So I'm sure we'll get into that, but that journey has been a little bit of a transition, but not too big of a leap for us because we already knew what we needed to measure and how it related to the company's business success. So when you made the shift, one of the things that in a lot of organizations, clearly, and technology ones in particular, often have big, ambitious goals and they often their long range, long product life cycles and, of course, measurements to run the company. But we're okres move a new muscle is quarterly focus and clarity in the short run, which of course propels you to the better place in the long run. Talk to us a little bit about that transition to a quarterly cycle of thinking about outcomes and focusing on them. Yeah, if there's probably one or two things that I just love about the okr approach, and that's one of them. The reason is is because our industry,...

...probably like almost any industry nowadays, is moving very quickly and so while you certainly have to have a line of sight on where you're going in a year and you know, three year plan and all of that, you're setting measurable results at the beginning of the year and hoping by the month of September that all of those are still going to be relevant and you haven't made some strategic pivots and you know whatever, it's not going to happen. So the notion of really setting the quarterly results and then trying, certainly setting ones that are aggressive, trying to achieve that and then debriefing and then setting the next quarter, I think just really helps us get in an agile mindset and helps us really inspect the activities that we're doing in the results of the driving I know you and I share a belief and some passion around establishing what your best possible outcomes are and really being ambitious, not insane, right, but ambitious about what even the team want to achieve in in a given quarter. For you, I think that comes naturally. Tell us how you think about it and then let's talk about wow, what the transition is for people to whom it doesn't come naturally. Yeah, I mean this was one of things, and even for me it wasn't. I mean we all no one likes to get, you know, anything but an a plus, hundred percent on something that they're doing, and so the notion that I'm going to set something that is the best possible if everything goes right, is, you know, a little uncomfortable to begin with, for sure. I think what really has helped us with that is the fact that we're going through this as a company. So certainly as my organization started, you know, I embrace the notion of best possible and I encourage people to really stretch themselves and in fact, when we had the first quarter or two where people were hitting a hundred percent or or even people exceeding the best possible, come on, guys, and so I in some ways gave my team a little more grief for doing that than for falling short. I think you have to do that to really tell people you're serious about it, but also to say look, I'm not going to analyze you. If you hit fifty percent, we're going to have a conversation as to why and we're going to try to learn and then we're going to try to do better the next quarter. So I do have my sandbaggers club of people that you know, I know when they're setting their targets and like okay, is this really the best possible or this is the same target you said that you've met last quarter. So clearly it's not the best possible. So we do, we do stretch ourselves in that way and probably the hardest ones have been the ones related to revenue, because you know, if there's anything sacrosanct in a company, it's achieving your revenue target. So you know, for the company we've got a plan and that's that's the plan, and marketings contribution to that is sales pipeline, and but even that we have said a best possible and we're okay if we fall short of that and we'll keep striving to do better. I think it's said one of the things I hear from a lot of leaders, particularly leaders in whether it's the for example, big banking, or whether it's tech leaders at tech companies, is the importance of this culture of ambition versus a culture of safety. Yeah, and the IT'S A it's a shift from one to the other. Right, and a lot of times there's a sort of history of you put a number out there and you under promise and you overdeliver and what it often means is you you end up ultimately under delivering on your actual potential. The funny thing about it is every company that I've ever worked for, including Juniper, always as at part of their culture as want to encourage risk taking. But while that's always written on a nice banner on the wall, a lot of times that's not what's lived and so I think that goes hand in hand with setting ambitious goals, not penalizing people for hitting seventy percent, but making sure you're figuring out how to get better and better over time. Yeah, and there's a real culture component in practicing lkrs and practicing him in in an authentic way, I think, or with integrity to the principles of them. I think there's also...

...culture component to the transparency that goes with yeah, what our teams trying to achieve and how are they doing against those? Yeah, absolutely, and that's something that is always been important to me. So I've been the CMO juniper for about five years and when I came in, I mean the past had been not very transparent in that marketing would have its spend and most of the rest of the company didn't exactly know all the things marketing was doing. And early on I said, look, the only way we're going to be successful as if function is if we're clear on both what we're doing and then the outcomes were expecting and what we're actually delivering on. Okay, ours as a concept, and certainly the workboor tool, is given us that kind of transparency company wide. I hopefully people aren't spending too much time looking at other people's things, but if they want to, they can't or they just want to make sure that they're aligned. That's the biggest thing is any company getting and staying aligned as one of the management Pantacy is that we're all striving for and I think you know, okay ours really helps us make sure that we strive toward that in the kind of the dynamic in which we're working now, which may not be the dynamic ear from now, but there's being able to see what other teams are working towards and actually having other teams to be able to see what ours is working towards. It's pretty important now. Right, this is how we're seen and that we even are seen in our contribution is seen inside the company, because we're not seen in the lunch room and we're not seen in the PARKYBOT and we're not seen in other ways of collaborating, and must of US sort of end up reverting to being seen by our direct teammates, not across the or because we evolve into the people we work with day to day and that's who were zooming with and so on. Right, what we're not doing is this sort of level of connecting across that we once did or could, and I think that transparency at takes on a new importance where I can see that just through the silo walls, I can see through everybody's home walls to to what are they contributing and where they at? What are they excited about? Right, absolutely, it takes everyone rowing in the same direction for us to be successful in our industry, and so that's a way to make sure that we do that and that to I think where you're also going is that we acknowledge people's contributions and we acknowledge performance and we appreciate that. This time also calls for a lot of appreciation for what many of our employees are going through, just in everything they're going through in their personal lives and everything else, and so being able to spot like that and appreciate it is important as well. In January we're at a kickoff all together and it was very cool and high momentum and a bunch of ways, but what struck me about it was this notion that alignment accountability, we're going to be competitive advantages for juniper and much six months later, seven months later, you can really observe that actually happening, which is really powerful. Talk a little bit about that event. What that set the company up for coming into this gear. Yeah, so we had our sales kickoff in Las Vegas, like you used to do, like many come is used to do. We decided last year and then we carried it through to this year. In addition, to bring all of our sales people from around the world, we brought all of our leadership teams, so about the hundred top leaders of the company, so that they could obviously interact with our sales teams but also experience the great content, in the momentum and the excitement of a typical sales kickoff. And so what we've been decided to do is, well, we've got all of our leaders together, let's bring them together post the event and just have a leadership meeting. And, as you point out, we had you all there and we really started. That was the official launch for the company of OK ours and getting people talking about why we're doing it and even starting the process of getting that alignment. I will say through all of the craziness of the last few few quarters, the company has performed extremely well through all the things that we're going and I, at least after attribute some of that to know,...

...making being very purposeful about about getting that alignment. I said that's like the leadership fantasy, is to get everyone rowing in the same direction, and this is certainly helped us do that. We started to see the results. It's super powerful to have that muscle in that motion in place. In January and February, you're the company's Q to and your Q. Two kind of objectives and results really really speak to flexing the muscle in it fullest way and under really crazy circumstances, but really really strong results and momentum, which is very exciting. You had a great okay our quarter. Yeah, absolutely. We've got a few teams that are still learning to stretch themselves, but all in all I was really pleased with what we were able to deliver actually coming into the quarter and coming into que two. So that was coming into April where covid was just starting happening, we were all starting to work from home. We didn't know this was going to be a month long thing or a yearlong thing, and so, based on what we knew, we took one of our most important krs, which is how much sales to pipeline we drive for the company, and we we had what we thought it was going to be coming in and then we actually backed it down pretty significantly. I didn't want to just accept defeat before we had actually done the work, so we back it down, but then we built in a covid mitigation kr that basically you have the two up and it got to where we were originally and just said look, we're not just going to assume things are going to be down. We're gonna drive like we normally drive and we're going to do the best we can to mitigate and I was thrilled to say that we ended up with, I would say roughly ninety percent of what we originally thought was our best possible so I mean, I was just floored with that. But but it became a tool for us to manage through uncertainty and to call out potential risk but then also call out the fact that we were going to mitigate that risk and it was powerful and really very nice move, getting everybody on the teams rallied around the same things. They know what that is right and you did the fast adjust but it kept the ambition in the adjustment. That's very powerful it was. I think it was good. You know, we'll see what the next few quarters ring, but but at least I think we've we understand, we have a better line of sight now because we've been doing this for a few months, as to what this current situation is, and so we're now able to say, all right, we've got to handle on this. Now what? How do we maximize our output, our outcomes, and what is the what is the new best possible? Let's talk a little bit about lateral alignment. For a lot of organizations they have maybe a history of a lightning, if you will, within the Siloh, so vertical alignment and not as much muscle, if you will, for aligning across functions. I think of that as lateral alignment and I actually think that's the difference maker in so many instances. But how is the alignment focus? You think shifted or change? And do you see a difference in how aligned teams are across the for sales, marketing products function? Yeah, I definitely seen an improvement. I'd also definitely say we're not completely there yet. When we started using OK ours, I not only put a KR in there saying that all of the teams have their okrs by a certain date. The first couple quarters, just gating people used to it, but also said, and we've confirmed, all dependencies like explicitly in there, because, like you say, if you can have your own krs and you can be bopping along, but then if you were relying on someone else or they just didn't see it as the same priority or the same expected outcome as you, then it's not going to happen. We kind of it got explicit about that. There have been a few cases where we would have a kr and we're going through and then we realize that in order for us to get to this, we need sales or we need product development or whatever whatever the case may be. And we didn't we hadn't had the conversation and they were not necessarily aligned with what we thought was best possible or what it was going to take to get there. So we've definitely learned and...

I do think we've gotten better. But every single quarter we do this we have that conversation because it's easy to fall in the traffic. We're dependent on them. Ought to have a KR that looks very, very similar. If they don't, at least they have to be committed to supporting us to get to what we've outlined. The conversation's crucial and I think it can't be short cutted as much as people say, Oh, it's we got this. Assumptions not really a good basis to run a business on or achieve results with. So you may assume that I'm prioritizing the thing that you think is important, and it may be on my list, but it may be my number ten and maybe your number one, and that's okay as long as we say, okay, I can do what you need me to do to get to that. But but you right, you have to have a conversation. And then, obviously, I think memorializing what we agreed right our KRS are going to be and having those be constant as opposed to ever moving secret targets. I think that's also pretty important. Absolutely, and that's that's to the transparency you talked about as well. Like you, everyone can see it. We put it in the tool. There have been a couple cases, by the way, where two three weeks into the quarter, we said, you know what, I think we set the wrong best possible or whatever, and we've we've pivoted that. But we only do that in kind of having the conversation as a leadership team, saying, you know, let's let's reassess this, because there's doesn't make sense for anyone to just propagate something that it's not even best possible, it's not even a realistic stress. I think there's a in my view on that. Can we change our KRS and or can we kill a KR? And I am diligent about this with my own team as well. Right, we get to week three and we have key results sitting there that we know right now that we are not going to invest in. Take them right off. Right like the KR should be pure signal, no noise. If you think key result, you already or discounting. I think you're contributing to a lack of clarity as opposed to providing people with a reliable signal on what matters. I'd rather have integrity to the signal than rigidity of the process. That makes complete sense, like you said earlier, and they going to quarterly means that that shouldn't happen. That that often when you do annual it could absolutely happen. And I think going back, and I've a couple times where we've seen that, yes, take it off or lower it to something that is truly best possible, but then also have the conversations. So why do we think three weeks ago, why did we sign up for this three weeks ago, what we're wrong in our process, and that's also instructive. You know, maybe it was just we didn't actually have the conversation to get we didn't know that the dependency wasn't really going to come through or whatever, but having that conversation and figuring out how to get better next time is the key. Tell me a little bit about what's changed in your team's Ok ours over the last I guess they must be close to four quarters. If you have fewer krs, the nature of them change, like what's involved in your own process, in your team's practice. Yeah, another thing I love about I care and methodology is the notion that you write your objectives in an inspirational way. As a marketer, no surprise that I know the pour of getting people aligned to a vision through the words that you use, and so when we set out to do our objectives the first time, we really took that to heart. And I also wanted objectives that were pretty durable, because I think if you're if you're changing your objectives every quarter or two, that that and not said doesn't happen to the clearly there are cases where that would happen, but in general, things that you're accountable for is it as an organization to the company shouldn't vacillate that much. I don't think they can evolve and maybe one comes off at another one gets added. So ours have been pretty durable at the objective level at the KR level. Yeah, I'd say probably quarter to quarter, as we've been going, they're probably about half of the KRS that carry over. We may change the actual measure the best possible, but what we're measuring because again, there are certain things that just sales pipeline every quarter that's going to be a Kr. Will keep hopefully upping it, and a lot of others. Some of the areas that were new we spent...

...a quarter baselining. So that was the KR was just to get the baseline and now we know what we're shooting for and we keep keep doing that. Other things we just accomplished and we retire that KR and we move on to another one. As far as number of them, I think we've been we've been pretty good at adhering to, you know, four to eight ISS within within that and of course then the teams that do it have some more detail and have kind of a different altitude that and only a handful ladder up. I think we've hit our stride for the most part. I think so too. Yes, let's talk about what your habit is of driving results. Like you, you actually achieve your best possible quarter of our quider right and I don't want to say that you hit a hundred percent of your cares, but I think your team just consistently reaches high and lands high. What's your as a leader? What's your habit? What's your practice? How do you drive the focus that gets you there? Because I think paying attention to your Okres is pretty crucial to actually getting to them totally. And probably no surprise again coming from a marketer, it's about hearts and minds. So again, aside from I'll talk about the KRS and inspecting that, but it is if you set the objectives right. Those should be the constant drum beat, the drive the organization, like in all hands meetings and, you know, all way or virtual conversations, whatever they may be, ending on the situation, and so keeping people motivated toward what you're that's that is half or more than half the battle. But then you're right. If you're not looking at how you're progressing, then you're likely for some unfortunate surprises by the end of the quarter. So I think your best practice is to review them weekly and staff meanings. We do every other week only because, you know, I find that a lot of it just doesn't change. I will typically look at that. I'll go into work board, you know, once or twice a week, so I have a good sense and certainly there's a burning issue and we're ten days away from a conversation and a staff meeting will address the issue, of course. But as far as overall inspection, we do do it every other week and we just pull up the business review to look at where we are. How does that drive with where we are in the quarter? Do we think we're on track and what are we going to do about it if we're not? And so, I mean it's not rocket science. You know, inspect what you expect and that's what work word allows us to do. I love that. Inspect what you expect. And then do you? Do you have a and maybe you do on your business trip, but review, but have cut visibility across where you have dependencies? Do you have a particular habit or practice there that keeps you guys connected once you have that initial conversation of agreement? It's a great question. We actually don't. And then it's probably something. I mean, every time I talked to you I learned something, so it's probably something that I should that we should do. We certainly do that up front, as we've talked about, if we're looking like we're going off the rails on a Krs, we're inspecting them. We may trying to figure out why and that may pop up, but there's nothing maybe we ought to be a little more proactive about it, at least for the key dependencies. So I will take that note. A dependency tray on your business review is a good, easy way to do it right, it's true. But yeah, absolutely. And then you have a you guys have tapped in a couple coaches on your team. Is At right and within your org where you get people who are, if you will, Ninja's on alignment measurement. Tell us a little bit about that. Yeah, so, because we were one of the early adopt organizations, we kind of got into it and you guys were great and just getting us up to speak need and helping us the first couple go arounds just to kind of get going and understand what should be what should be done and all the best practices. We've had I think four or five folks from my team that have been certainly instrumental in helping us keep up the momentum, but also we've loaned them out as other organizations have started using this. So you guys have been very involved, but also just some of the day to day basic questions about maybe we're either about the tool or just about okay ares in general. I think it's been really important for us and...

...so honestly, our quarterly look back and then k are setting going forward. It's a pretty streamline exercise right now because we know what we need to do and we've got the expertise in the team to kind of steer both kind of my level and at the team level. But I think we've really hit our stride and having those people embedded than the organization, and they're pretty passionate about it too. They've helped us a lot. Wonderful and the rhythm of the business is reliable and you can count on it. In Terns, I can fly wheel. That's that's awesome. Yeah, yeah, definitely the coaches. One of the things we see at you mentioned loaning them out to other parts of the business and one of the things we see in companies where, particularly whether it's every the whole company is doing out cares and using the process, is when you learn them at to the parts of the business for those folks they had this opportunity to actually learn how other parts of the business run and they get smarter every quarter and you sort of have a set of people who have a bigger and bigger picture and understanding of all the moving parts. It's a really interesting sort of skill build, career build opportunity to add depth and dimension to your understanding and then they become your cross functional alignment wizard's right, knowing where where to broker relationships and conversations. Yeah, absolutely, because you help so many companies go through this. You know that probably all of the K are setting, but certainly the early ones are messy because you have teams together and they're kind of just grappling with what's most important. What are the outcomes, not the outputs, all of that stuff. And so yeah, to be a fly on the wall in that like that is so instructive, something that you just otherwise wouldn't know. Maybe a little dirty laundry even, but it's not. It's an honest attempt to figure out what are the top parties that are going to contribute to moving the business. So yeah, it's extremely valuable and goes back to the point you said Earli about transparency to the more we can see what other teams are are focused on, the more we can appreciate what they're doing to help the whole yeah, it is a little messy in the beginning. Partly it's because we have really way our choices and and sometimes we can skate along for years and not actually make hard decisions. We can just act like we can do it all and then we don't. And then partly teams and and you know you're senior leader, right, so not your case, but in a bunch of situation as you kind of move through the organization and you move out of demand in or marketing, our sales, where people measure every day, even to other functions are just less familiar with measuring outcomes right and maybe even talking about what those outcomes might be. Right. It's what are we going to do and are we done yet? It's not because you can't measure other things, it's just we haven't asked them too in the past. We have thought in that way exactly. I think the notion of a coach just let me help you, as opposed to let me tell you, I think it is and he's a really important part of good modernizing the way we think about managing and unlocking outcomes, and companies like crea codes people to a better place, not push them to a better place right. Well, they're going to be more bought in it, as you said, if you coach them that way and they kind of arrive at it themselves with a little bit of help. So if you were giving advice to other leaders who are thinking about can this okay? Our practice help or they want to start down the journey, what advice would you give them and thinking about its impact and maybe how to approach it. Hopefully, through this conversation people understand that I I'm a full believer in the value of doing this. We're good about calling it in O K are, but just say if we're not, if we don't know how what we do ladders up to the success of the business, then I don't know how you really lead an organization. If you don't know how, you even know if you're successful within the measures that you look at, then I don't know how you priorities the next thing or agree to a given investment or you know, whatever it is. He...

...built a career by delivering results that matter to the business. Can Getting Progressive Opportunities. But if you in that context and sort of thinking about organizing an aligning your team, clarifying what you're trying to go are there things you would if you were rolled your own clock back, let's say decade or fifteen years or so, would you be doing something differently than if you knowing what you know now about leading, and what might that be? Yeah, maybe one macro thing and then maybe a couple micro things. The macro thing is and there's no one path to leadership position. Of course, what I've always done is I've tried to keep my periscope up at whatever organization I was in or whatever role I was in, making sure I understood as much as I could about the breadth of the business. At the at the topmost level, it's how does this company make money? What's important? What are our objectives? I mean there are a lot of a lot of employees that are levels down the organization that don't pay that much attention to the topline results and they're just more focused on their own stuff and I just think that that's a mistake because so looking up and then looking laterally so that I understand how the different functions play, and so then when the opportunity arises to take on more responsibility, to jump to another position you have, you're in a much better position to do that. You know, I didn't set out to become a CMO. I set out to become someone who materially changed the direction and the outcomes of a company. Just happens that I do that from a CMO seat. So that's kind of the macrow thing and I think you know we talked about a lot of those things. It's transparency, it's looking across, its understanding dependencies, it's understanding what's important. So this is a mechanism maybe to do that. I certainly, honestly, I wish I had had these tools back then. And then it is about hearts and minds, and so the Oky ours give you a little bit of the heart with it, with the objectives, but it's a lot about let's make sure we're doing the right things. So as you lead, you can be the most inspirational person in the world, but if you're not at least somewhat operationally strong, you know that's only going to take you so far. So I think it's that that balance that's required to kind of keep moving up the ranks. Fabulous advice on the money. Absolutely. Thank you, Mike, so much, for sharing your experience with Okres or leadership wisdom and congratulations on the awesome qtw results and crush it in q three. Yeah, we hope too, is my pleasure. Is Great talking to you. You've been listening to the OKA our podcast. Subscribe in your favorite player so you never miss a moment. Thanks for listening. Until next time,.

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