The OKR Podcast
The OKR Podcast

Episode · 1 year ago

Building Momentum and Creating Excitement Around Future Growth

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Sarah Frew shares how this fast-growth startup drives fast, full cross-team alignment from the leadership team to squads and functional teams with OKR themes and a formal OKR Week in which the whole company gives attention to purposeful alignment. She shares what they've learned over 2 years and how their feedback loop improved their process.

You're listening to the OKA our podcast. We talked 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 her 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 nod. Today my guest on the Oka are podcast is Sarah Frill. She's on the people culture team at plenty of fish and leads you, okay, our practice. Sarah, welcome hid either. Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here. Wonderful. So let's start with a little bit about plenty of fish. Sure, yeah, plenty of fish is one of the largest global online dating platforms and part of the match group portfolio. We're reminded every day that the work we do profoundly impact millions of people's lives and as they use our platform to find love, and I just love saying that. We're based in Vancouver, British Columbia, and we have over a hundred and thirty employees and, along with so many companies right now we are navigating this new remote working environment. Yep, and you definitely get the the win for most per slowly valuable. Yeah, really didn't know what we do. Absolutely so tell us a little bit about what you do at plenty of fish, I'm sure. I've been with the company for over five years and I work on the people in culture team as the senior people in culture generalist and I support on boarding, benefit administration, employee engagement, are okayre process and overall employee experience. So you guys have been doing OK ours for a couple of years now, so obviously you've got a mature practice and a lot of learnings. Maybe take us through a little bit. How and wide did the company start using okay ours back in two thousand and eighteen? Yeah, for sure. So the OKARE framework was recommended by the actually to our CEO, Malgo Shagreen, and since she was familiar with the Ok our methodology and we were in talks of sharing our new company vision and we thought this might be a good opportunity to implement work Ford and really focused and inspire organizational alignment and we were going through. At that time, I a big hiring push and growing as a company, so it just felt like the time was right to perfect and then maybe in since you, the company, made the decision a couple of years ago, talk a little bit about your role in enabling the okare practice and how that fits into what you do inside plenty of fish, I got the opportunity to become an okay are coach and really help her to own the process of it. So it was a focus of ours to have a few coaches in the very beginning, and so we did. I actually did go through the training actually at your offices, which was awesome and really great to meet fellow members of the of the Ok our team, and we were then focusing kind of on bringing that back the things that we were learned, things that I learned as they okare coach, and so we had four coaches in the very beginning actually running through our OK ours planning process, and then eventually, actually recently the last quarter, we removed okay our coaches and the ownership is now with our squad and functionally, go you. I love that. It's just part of the way you run. It's very cool. So let's talk about actually how you do run. So you've evolved into a what I think is a really smart okay, our reset cycle and a quarterly rhythm, and that's evolved from your learnings to the last couple of years. Tell us a little bit about how you run that quarter cycle and and what the rhythm is. So we did...

...notice that we wanted to find a way to allow our squad and functional leads to really own the OKA are planning process and are our cross functional teams. They're they're called squads and they are made up of product managers, designers, engineers, analyst it and so forth. And so our spots are given the support and tools to build and deliver products and are empower to decide how best work together, and we recognize that. We wanted to set everybody up for success for this for an okay, our week, but we also wanted to allow our squad team members to mold disorganically and what works best for their teams, as we eventually put in place, okay our week, but not without the buy and from the executive team, which was a crucial element that has motivated people to focus. So what I mean by that is we turned to mentally clear everyone's plates by our best we could, by removing distraction of other meetings and responsibilities for one week. So you've organize something literally that's called Okay our week. Everybody knows that in Ok our week we're going to focus on defining them, aligning them, ratifying them. Yes, yeah, it's it was. There's a few a few trial and errors of you know, definitely some key learning opportunities. But yeah, we've managed to come up with an okay ore week that is broken into seven components. So we have our retro session, the executive off site, our company all hands sink up, our planning sessions, review sessions and then an executive team review. Let's dig into that more because I know a lot of people really a couple things. One is the first quarter or two that they do okay ours, the retrospect active. The learnings in the insights often require a bit of deeper time, right because they're learning about the process and they're learning about their krs and the cross functional alignment so on. But by the time you get to like the third and the fourth and fifth quarter, you've got the process down and so the retrospective gets a little tighter and it's really a retrospective on your own results. Right, look on our way, what can we do better? And so on. And often it's a retrospective on while we weren't as aligned as we could have been, what do we need to do differently in the next cycle to get there? And so the components of or each of the stages in your week are so smart about how to drive that alignment so that all the energy and attention really goes to results, not to come tripping on each other a little bit. Let's jump in, if you don't mind, take us through the first kind of executive retro and from there to the kind of that first off site to take us on a deep dive on each of the stages. We usually start, okay, a week in the middle of the week, and are it starts with Retros. So we usually schedule one hour for the retro meetings and the leads, a squad leads and functional leads, you know, schedule these themselves and they are we ask them to prepare notes and keep findings. At the end of the session, by end of day, we collect all of that data and we have it prepared for the executive team to review the following game and then they secutive team takes those notes and they take the day to reflect. They're discussing what the retro notes have where and where we should be going for the next quarter. By the end of their day session they've come up with the OKRS for the next quarter. And so then the following day we have the company all hands and usually around ten ten am we have it and the executive team communicates the quarterly okrs to the entire organization. And shortly after this meeting we have the stink up sessions prepared. So this is where we have the squads and functional leads meet with their respected executive team member and clarify the okay ours for the quarter and discuss possible alignment opportunities. It's important that at this part we do pair up squads in sync...

...up sessions that we know are going to be working together. So right off for that they have the opportunity to start to brainstorm and keep in mind the possible pendencies and where they might be working together for the quarter. And then after that we dive into planning sessions where each squad and functional team meet for three hours, and we actually found that flitting the sessions up had been quite helpful and since the ownership is on the squad leads to schedule these meetings, they can go ahead and communicate any overlap, as we often do have squad lead or squad member story that are in different sessions, and we set aside three days for planning and then on the fourth day the squad leads meet again with their executive team member to review the okrs before they're added to work board. The goal is by the end of that session that they are added to work board so that the last and final day of Opr Week is the review session for the executive and this is where they are going to pull up work for check up the heat map, have the full scope of what the quarter looks like and provide any additional comment and that's it. It feels like a jam packed week, but we've found incorporating specifically the sync up sessions and the review sessions that it's really encouraged and then hence their communication channels and drove engagement for the process. Yep, I loved it when I heard how you run that week. I think there's so many smart things about it and things that I know other companies and organizations can apply. But the pieces that you guys really nailed that. I think leave gaps for other for other companies. Are The sync up session where the executive team talks to the squad leaders and shares where they like to see emphasis and where they think there's opportunities for alignment. Like that dialog is super important. And then the over the few days that you give out all the teams and squads time for actually defining it, aligning their own okay ours, this idea that that's like canonical time, that you're not competing with yourself by scheduling all kinds of other meetings in the same time. Right, like we're all doing okayrs in this windows, so we all agree in this window. That's what we'll do. We won't be scheduling other meetings that get in our own way, right like that's brilliant. And then the with at the the tail end of it, right where the executive team actually truly looks at the okrs across the organization and really gets a picture on where the company is going to allocate energy in the quarter, where they actually look at that and make sure that they genuinely agree with and are aligned on where effort and time are going to go. Most organizations skip that last part. And then there's this really awkward thing a couple weeks into the quarters, like I didn't realize you guys were working towards that. Yeah, but we said are okay, cares four weeks ago. Would I right? We could you not know? And I've been working on this whole time and and then I feel horrible. I work on something you didn't believe it. Right. Right, it's sort of the process doesn't eliminate the leadership obligation, duty, responsibility job of actually looking at what we think we're going to work on and make sure that's genuinely where the company wants to go. Yeah, and and it's great because we we'd know. We share the week. We've let everybody know when the executives are going to be fewill off type to discuss all these things. And so if there are additional comments or we want to just make sure that we have that that line up, they're where our squad leads are aware that the executive team is looking at it and there's additional comments, that discussion can just kind of happen right then and there. And so because the idea is once they're in workboard, after that after that final review then and we're getting started with the quarter and you can rely on it at that point, right, you're completely confident that you have buy in in your squad and beyond your squad and you've got the buy in of the executive team as well as yeah, really confident place to work from. Like, okay, I...

...know I'm on the right track here. I'm running. Yeah, it gives you a bit of trust for the process, I guess. Yeah, Yep, no, I think that's trify. I actually, when we first talked about like I had to tell my leadership team that, because a final step, I think is a really smart step, and having the leadership team look at the whole company's together, make sure that the leadership team is also taking responsibility for lateral alignment. Uh, because that's actually where it comes home to live, right, like if the leader of marketing and the leader of customer experience aren't really mind on what needs to happen in the quarter, right, if they sure are just looking at their own teams, but by this doing this review of it all together, it actually causes them to take collective responsibility for things. I think that's really powerful. Yeah, I know where I'm happy goat and glad you think so and hopefully this can fix, can help and inspire some other. Okay, are weeks for brother team members. The the other thing that's interesting, and maybe you can talk a little bit more about, like there's there's not coaches that squads own. They're, okay, ours. They own the scheduling, they own the process and the kind of centralized role is when is the week right? The leaderships taking owners or leadership teams taking ownership of their part, their book ending that week and the squad z own what they focus on in the corner, and that just sort of dialed in, baked in. I think level of ownership is is also something I think other organizations can learn from as okare coaches. We were as we were kind of informed on what to do in the very beginning, was to make sure that, you know, we didn't drive the conversation and we were trying to facilitate and, you know, I think I was in a couple sessions eventually, whereas like I don't actually need to be here, it looks like this, and that wasn't really good feeling and I felt that we were already kind of getting there. So the transition to to kind of remove okare coaches and have our squad UN functional team leads run their own sessions was was really smooth and I'm really happy about it. And of course we have a lot of documentation and we make sure to have all of the guides and everything before a new okare review week goes by and we share all of that and we make sure that everybody kind of feels comfortable and I also make sure to look at the new team members that have joined for as new quarters about to go, and I reach up to them separately and ask if they have any questions about work for the tool work and just kind of are okay and methodology and make sure that they're covered as well, because for some people that have already gone through the quarter and they're familiar with the okay a week, it's kind of second nature now. So just to kind of make sure everybody's on the same page before we get into it. One of the other things you shared with me that is super I think meat and fun is you have themes for okrs each year. Talk to us a little bit about that. Yeah, we like to be creative and we try not to take the planning process too seriously. Creating Puns have somehow become part of our office culture, and so we knew that our team members would be motivated by thinking of engaging and really relatable themes highlighting our culture. And at the hand, it's kind of interesting and fun to see how we can measure up to these creative and fun themes. And sometimes it's like romantic movies and shows or music or just what's up, and that that help build momentum or I'm I suppose it creates a communications rally. I think it does, and it's always fun. I get excited to see kind of it starts with, like the executive team does kind of start the theme off that once they shared at that company all hands, and then after that, as our squads and team start to brainstorm, we either kind of take the theme that that they've chosen and and create our own...

...sort of vibe to it, or we we just come up with our own team that's quite kind of separate. What our themes going to be doesn't necessarily have to link directly, but it's more fun when it does and I do think that that that drives the momentum for the quarter. Yeah, to borrow from the okay, our coach methodology on making it a doublest Presso that's that's serving a lot of doublest pressos around the building. Yeah, it's whatever people get expect inspired by. So if you're looking at it, and you've got to look at it for the entire quarter, you're looking at the heat map, you're seeing those objectives and if it creates a smile and and you think about it, you think about the planning session and how it was that kind of fun to put them together. Yeah, I think that that just keeps us going. So you obviously have learned a ton over the course of the organization has matured a lot in its practice. But for sure you've learned more than just how to do a great okayre we you've had a lot of other learnings and I think have been obviously you gather the feedback from the retrospective. That goes all the way up to the leadership team, so they see it as well and I'm sure that produces insights and learnings and ways to improve every single quarter. If you talk a little bit about how you took that feedback and the surveys, surveys you've done about the process and then turn those into other improvements you've made in your okare process over time. We knew that we'd have a learning curve when we introduced o cares and from the get the get go, our executive team would focus on sharing the feedback and they shared a like symptom and solution structure where they provided real feedback that we'd hear either from a survey that we ran or people reaching out directly to them, and turned it into best practices for the quarter, for the next quarter, to reassess and to adapt. And some of the best practices that come to mind are if there's a fundamental change during the quarter and the Okre is no longer relevant, that it's okay to revisit it and we encourage team members to talk to their executive he member and decide if we could adapted to the situation or remove the K are completely. And we wanted to acknowledge that it was okay that this happened because we understand that things change and if we had to remove the care because it no longer served the purpose in the quarter, then and we could do that when people pursue a Kr that you actually don't want to pursue or they're trying to put score on the board for a Kr that's actually the longer relevant. That's far worse. Yes, it's just killing it right and taking it out of the picture. It's actually it's it's really misusing and misaligning resources for the wrong reasons. It's really good learning to say okay, and now our practice is if it's not relevant, park it. Yeah, definitely. What else was revealed in your symptoms, solutions learnings? Yeah, so the calendar is slack reminders to update O cares and we're word or missed and we recognize as sometimes, you know, you just forget, you forget to go into the system and update, and so we had to find another way to get into the habit of updating the krs, and so we actually started a weekly okay, our meeting where engineering managers, product managers of the squads would come prepared with their updates and discussed in that meeting and then that kind of acted as a reminder to update work for it, if not in that meeting or shortly after. But there was just that opportunity to have everybody in the room so that they can discuss rope blocks and dependencies and take back these notes to share with their respected quot squad teams and make sure that everybody was on the same page that we could continue to stay on track. Yeah, it's a good one. This conversation about where are we versus, where did we want to be right or where do we want to be at the end of the corner? Like really having conversations, focusing attention to that is a huge part of a results ritual for organizations. And what our data broadly across all of our customers shows us that the teams that focus on their krs every...

...week achieve nineteen percent more of their key results than teams that don't. At tension makes and we know this already, right, like the things you pay attention to are better cared for than the things you don't, right, but data actually shows the same thing too. Yeah, and that was that was just trying to incorporate that it in in the week and I think it was at first started bi weekly and now the last time I kind of checked in on on how that's that's working. It sounds like they might be weekly and and that's for our squads as well, for our functional teams such as the team that I'm in as a people in culture team and our office management and customer success that are kind of more seemed seen as as functional teams. We also kind of have our own updates, like my team we have at Fridays at thirty, we we all pull up work forward and make sure that you know we've done our updates for the week. And so, okay, ours have provided that kind of balance of ownership where it's like team collaboration and work can be both pross functional and functional, and we recognize that for some of the functional teams, such as people in culture, that it has make more sense for us to have daytoday, ok ours. And what I mean by that is like the kind of krs that not only grow the business but help run it. And it was these, okayres, once we kind of shared this is the best practice that they can they don't have to be project focus, but they are just as important and they can provide just as big of an impact, and so that was when we kind of shared daytoday. OKRES are okay in the corner. Yep, you don't have to be launching something to be contributing to the business, right, exactly. Yeah, yeah, I think that's an and actually, if you even as your product squads launch things and you grow the business, you go revenue, the people and culture function, the customer experience and services function, all of those actually have to get smarter and get more scale and get more deaf right to support the growth of the rest of the business. And okay, ors fit neatly into that. We're going to do this a little better, we're going to do that a little more, we're going to do that a little faster, all those things that are about optimizing the foundational aspects of the company that literally that help hold it up, that lunch is possible. I think that's great that you have the balance between the two. And sometimes we meet folks are pretty religious about know, you should only have Ok ours for things that are changing the world or changing our world, and I think that's actually to miss the point that everybody actually and every team actually has a real contribution to make to the business and as we work in this kind of covid work from home world, everybody wants their contribution to be seen. Right. No, none of us want to be invisible. Yeah, it's absolutely and actually, you know what the with it being a best practice in something that the executive team to have practice feedback. Some of the objectives now that we've seen have also been about day to day. Okay, it's an objective focused on US making sure that that we arguing kind of like the day to day, addressing the day to day stuff, so that office management people called your customer success, that we can feel that, you know, yeah, we're making that just as much as an impact. And so it was. It was. It was a really nice light bulb moment in that the we yeah, we got to the quarter kind of round a little bit smoother once we once we shared that, we could kind of set okay, our step that way. So let's talk about one of the other areas with teams, particularly early in the OAKARE process, and I don't think this is a problem for most startups, but it is sometimes a challenge for organizations, more mature ones, that have had a long history of if you set a target, you hit a hundred percent. While there are everyone's excited about reaching for best possible, there's the what they haven't yet metabolized is, okay, if I'm reaching for best possible and I don't really know what my best possible is yet, going to end up in...

...the red zone on a couple of my Krs, especially early on, where people set too many they reach really high and then they forget to pay attention. That is a recipe for a lot of red on the heat map. As you know, it's a in sometimes people who you know their history is getting good grades in school right and doing really well on test they want the hundred percent score and they're instead of leaning into the red, they lean back. And the other end, growth startups are often just about measurement, like hypothesis, experiment, get the data improve. How is your organization and how does it treat sort of when you have one of those bi weekly meetings or weekly meetings and you there's things in the red? What's People's going to be emotional reaction that? How does that go? Well, I wouldn't say we're comfortable with seeing the red, but we don't panic. Instead, we talk about whether it warrants a discribe a discussion and you know, if this is a case of knowing that we won't have a final update until close to towards the end of the quarter. We're a tech company. We know how quickly things can change and it is important to just recognize when the right time is to investigate and navigate the road blocks versus understanding timing and that this is just part of the process and we'll learn from it. Yeah, I think that just embracing that you read is all about what are we learning about the road block? So I think often what are we learning about our own capacity? Right, and if you avoid the red you what it really avoiding is learning and right, that's it's a big loss actually, and it's when start ups famously learn faster, not just innovate faster than still removing bigger enterprises. Right. And it's, yeah, fearlessness about what the data tell us. What can we learn from that? Absolutely, yeah, it is. It can be, I guess, a little bit overwhelming if you see a lot of red. So do you recognize that? That can be a feeling, for sure. But yeah, slowly we're learning to kind of embrace it a little bit and make sure that, you know, we just take the opportunity to figure out what what avenue we need to go in? Do we need to investigate and navigate or can we, you know, wait this out because we do have the data. We're just it's at the end of the quarter, it's at the end of the month that it's going to be updated. Yes, cool. So what advice would you give to other okayre process leaders, maybe those that are at the beginning of the journey? What, What Guidance and coaching would you give them? From the pressure had? No, the okay our framework has helped us to build momentum, to inspire and to create excitement around growth for the future, and so I would definitely encourage leaders to have fun with the person where possible, try to adapt it to their office culture. If you get feedback, try to acknowledge it and implement it as best you can, because it says great trust for the process. And also just know that you won't get it right the first time, so be prepared to adjust and make changes to your planning process along the way. We did that several times and we will probably continue to do that, but we're okay with that. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, your learnings and what you guys do to make the process fun and momentum driving. 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,.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (31)