The OKR Podcast
The OKR Podcast

Episode · 1 year ago

Time is Scarce - Use it Wisely 

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Tony Merritt talks about the cost of drift and the power of time and purpose to accelerate transformation. After more than two years with OKRs and WorkBoard, he shares how Secureworks shifted from reporting results to elevating them and how his team increased their own velocity.  What started as "ivory tower OKRs" in a spreadsheet has become a business and transformation accelerator.   

...you're listening to the okay. Our podcast way. Talk about the power of lateral alignment, an outcome mindset and empowering teams to do their best work from anywhere way. 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 Dadri Pack nod Hello and welcome. Today my guest is Tony Merit, global director of professional Services at Dell SecureWorks. Tony is passionate and experience with okay, ours and with the work board results platform at Dell SecureWorks, he leads the consulting team that provides premium on boarding and custom consulting services for the signature SecureWorks Security Analytics SAS platform. Tony, thank you so much for joining our podcast today. So I'm really excited to talk to you about your journey and to sort of think about or learn about how you think about okay, ours and what your experiences have been. Let's start our conversation by looking at the global picture and some of the shifts that you've seen and then we'll zoom in from there. But I'm excited to get your perspective on. Call it the global. Why? Why change the speed or pace of the operating rhythm of a company? And then what was SecureWorks? Why? And they will drop down in here, actually, what your team's own approaches. But let's start with the global Drivers have changed some of the dynamics that you've observed that you think require leaders Thio revisit the operating rhythm of the company. It's really interesting when I think about it. In retrospect, when I first started out in the industry, I can remember one of the vice president's that I worked for had an initiative, and really, it was it was to get rid of the fax machines in the office and the move, the email. And it was such a culture shift that he actually printed up lollipops and handed them out as part of a paperless office project type of initiative. But when you think about the pace of business and even innovation at that point, it was slower. It was more gradual. You could almost liken it to a horse and buggy stage where there is a strategy and there is execution. But the pace of that change was much slower. And even though businesses were global the way they did, those executions had some margin for error. So just like a horse and buggy, you don't really need a speedometer, because how far off course can you get in a day's journey? And so because of that, there was the ability to work a little slower to...

...collaborate a little looser. But is Moore's law took over in terms of pace of technology and change. We started seeing across the globe the acceleration of teams being able to do things and an empowerment came on. So now you could have teams doing things independently for speed and reduce costs. As that accelerated, you had to move from that horse and buggy era to really more of a heads up dashboard with a GPS and speedometer. And so if the tools that you used in your business to drive that prior type of paradigm, those tools wouldn't work in that. That new type of speed and some of the things we saw were those teams working at fast speeds could get off course and in that period of time, literally between the night shift that you might have gone to sleep in the day shift. When you re check with your team, they could be 10 miles off the course of what your strategy, Iwas. And so it became really critical toe have some mechanism for connecting people in real time, not just with communication like email, but really, what the strategy waas and how they would measure it in a way that drove connection. Because connection is the piece that really gets people motivated and empowered to achieve things that they can't normally see themselves doing to go beyond what they think is possible. I think it's really interesting point that the people can drift farther off course and the cost of the drift, if you will. The drift off or away from the strategy is much higher and it gets farther away from you faster. I think it's a really interesting observation and and not one that I've heard a lot of leaders make before. We've been doing managed security services for companies for over 20 years, and I've been a leader in the Gardeners Magic Quadrant for that. But that orientation for our business was a culture of service beyond all ends make sure that you do everything that's involved in the client's environment because you're responsible for the entire area of that environment. And as we now are shifting to be much more of, ah, software platform company and it's oriented on our software analytics as we partner with our customers to to be able to improve the security fidelity. It's a massive culture and strategic shift in what we do. We have to be hyper focused on our software platform and be able to...

...drive the right attenuation toe what we support within our platform and what we allow the client toe leverage from vendors that provide things like security, fidelity and telemetry to that analytics platform. So it's a big culture shift, and those were some of the hardest things to really harness strategy for. There's a saying goes that that culture, each strategy for breakfast, or that your employees emotions eat objectives for lunch, depending on where you're at in the world. One of the things that are really critical for SecureWorks is we go down. This during is being able to connect people to this big shift across the company and across how we measure our outcomes and success. So when we started out with this this approach, Kevin Haines, our chief operating officer, had had read the measure What Matters? Book and really had spoken to our executive leadership team. Mike Cody and the team got very excited about adopting this approach in this pivotal direction shift for our company. And it was really interesting because as we started, we had read the book and had leveraged for lack of a better word kind of an ivory tower approach by thinking of it very matter of fact Lee, and leveraging things like a spreadsheet to try to analyze how we go about doing it. And it's interesting looking back to see how that change manifested itself, because what you found waas we would, reflecting those key objectives things that we have been doing for years, almost tactical items. And they typically ended up a little bit more focused on the business unit that was supporting them. And as we matured it, we found that it took much longer to craft. Even a few sentences around okay are. But they were much more impactful because in spending the right amount of time on just the keywords, we will able to break down walls across the business units and not just empower broader collaboration and broader integration of the various parts of the company to achieve success but quite honestly, to create more excitement across the employee base in a way where we could actually all yeah, super interesting. There's so many golden nuggets. One of them is starting with where you just left off, right, that people could see for the first time what the strategic priorities were, where they how they fit into that bigger picture and then conceal across the organization in so many ways, it's...

...like all of a sudden the company starts playing with the cards face up, and when you can actually see what the cards are and you realize you're all playing the same hand, it's the company's hand. It's actually pretty cathartic. And in some ways, once you get to that place where you can actually see laterally and you can on your own right right now, even from your house right, see what other teams were working towards and how your team contributes. It's hard to imagine why we worked any other way in the past. Why did we work where you couldn't see how the pieces came together or how we all contributed into the bigger picture. Let me back up to something else you said the phrase Ivory Tower take on Okay, ours and that lots of organizations ironically, start there where they think. OK, let's do okay ours because we're trying to drive a transformation or change our business model. And we need to bring everybody along and get the organization moving in a new or different direction. But we're just gonna do okay. Are is at the top of the house. Well, like wait a minute. If you need everybody to come along, why are you leaving them out of the objectives and results you need to drive? It's a very interesting sort of mismatch between intentions, but it's amazing how Maney organizations start with that thought. Like the people at the in the leadership team level. They'll get aligned and then everybody else will read their minds. I don't know. How will they come along in that? I'm curious. Why you how you characterize it or why you characterize it is kind of Ivory tower. What was the kind of the breaking point where you said, Wait, this this isn't the right way to go about it. I think it's one of those things that if you're relying on a carrier pigeon to get messages across, you have a certain level of where you could distribute the message to. So the technology itself can hinder you when we were first starting out and building okay, ER is based on a spreadsheet by its very nature doesn't necessarily lend itself to broad interaction. And it certainly doesn't have a user experience or user interface that draws you in as we came to that conclusion that sharing a spreadsheet just didn't really get stickiness passed a few areas of the company having a platform that we could start to engage people in and give them the opportunity to explore not just what the high level of carers were, but actually look across the departments in a way that waas mawr engaging. That became the inflection point for when we could start to really have broader collaboration. So part of that was a strategic decision by our executives to make sure that when we started to roll out the platform, we...

...did in fact roll it out to the whole company now. It happened in stages, obviously because there was training involved and a key element of that was making sure that we had not just technical support from people in our information technology group, but really also coaches that could help us phrase things in a way that change behavior, said another way. If we were left on our own, we would be creating goals that were very a typical of what we've done previously with a target of 100%. As a result, we would never stretch for what might not be possible in our minds. We wouldn't push what the art of what could be and we wouldn't have goals that inspired engaged beyond our own teams or that might not even be relevant. So those things were key. Both the technology and the envision that it's it had to be from the whole company and really seven other way. There is no monopoly on innovation at a particular level of a company title or even roll, and we have especially seen that in cybersecurity, which is such a fast paced and dynamic world. We've had major contributions from people that are in the field in the back part of the organization in sales and marketing. There's just so much changing that everybody has a different viewpoint and really has the opportunity to contribute if they understand how that contribution aligns to the strategy and have a mechanism for being able to insert that contribution. If you're in a company that depends on innovation, right and today you really actually want everybody to bring their best to the company and its customers. And if you don't include them in what the strategic priorities are, they don't have clarity on what matters now, even if they intend to bring their best. What they're bringing is their best guess. Everybody comes to work at our companies to do something that matters, and it's a huge gift to enable them toe actually understand what what does indeed matter. It's and then when they know it can be super invigorating, right and our world's businesses air so complex the amount of data we have to make decisions on so complex. But it's elevating when people have all the data and their various functions, and they can try and like that with what direction the company moving in, what is the company value and need most now. Okay, now I can make a better informed decision in my domain or in my area of expertise or in my role, and know that...

...it was a creative to the company's direction and different level. I think even part of that becomes, for lack of a better word, almost almost setting those unachievable goals to drive that that really striving for beyond, you know, as an example, one of our key. Okay, rs that not not necessarily okay areas but objective. That my Cody has is every customer loves us, and that's that's a different statement than saying, I wanna have a 70 is an NPS score or I wanna have 80% on my customers sat. It really drives home the point of I want an outcome. It's not just a metric butt in emotional epiphany, you know, kind of a cornucopia of what you might expect as you work with your customers down the road and those things air. Those were things that employees and teams can connect Thio absolutely as opposed to something that z just a metric as a. As a result, if you want inspired behavior well as leaders, then your job is to inspire it t to create a sense of purpose and connection. Right and words are so crucial to that. E. I love it that your company and team learned and and really invested in actually being mindful of the words and the objectives. Understanding they're what they're really power is is to motivate, inspire people to guide them and give them a strong signal of where to head, right? Like what? The arc forward ISS and when. A lot of times especially early, in working with leadership teams, all be talking to the exact team and they'll have the same objectives they've had for years. And they'll they'll be in language they use with their own board, but not language that matters much to the people in the company. And so it's a little bit like they're having a conversation with themselves about what the objectives should be. But my experience objectives air really a conversation with all of the people who work at the company, and so when you turn the words in the language towards who is it that I'm trying to motivate with these objectives and what am I trying to motivate. Then you realize just how powerful and how important the words are that you use and the potency when you when you frame them right and you say them loud. I called the town hall test right? But when you when you say them in a way, in a town hall where people lean forward and lean in and stand up, you know it right? You know that your objectives have actually succeeded in guiding people's decisions and inspiring the forward movement that you intend right? Just by being more artful and mindful of the word choices in the objectives themselves. That was really one of the epiphanies we had as we went through that mature serve where...

...we went from the beginner stage where it's it's not much more than a reflection of quarterly goals that you might have had within either Salesforce or even just within your own list of of tactics, for the business to something that became or inspirational. It's still in a business unit. And then to strive toe, have something that actually required, not just inspired but required multiple parts of the business toe work together and and the interesting kind of peace or equation of that is that it z almost an inverse. We went from much less time spent on the early objectives and results, and not really as much change to farm or time, where we actually were having to spend three weeks before the end of the quarter just to really have a full on collaboration. So that as we got ready for the new quarter, we actually had something that really pulled the mass of the company together in a way that hadn't been done before. That's super powerful. Lateral alignment is a superpower. When you could unlock it, let's start with the company. How does the company use work board if we work Board and security started working together about two years ago. That was maybe six months after your first Okay, our quarter or two. But today, how does how does the company overall use the platform and and how do you think it kind of helps and fits into the operating rhythm? So a number of different things happen along the course? If you look at before we had okay, RS, you would have business reviews where you might describe the metrics, how you're doing, you know, as an example, like how far off can you get the drift? And you might describe a car that's headed west at 60 miles an hour and is using, you know, getting 22 MPG and has four passengers in it and have all kinds of interesting stats. But the challenge was you were supposed to go North Aceh. Many metrics is you had, and as well as you might describe them, they weren't really relevant. And they didn't really help lengthy conversation back, not just to how you were doing. But how are you doing in this strategy? And so as we started progressing forward, we found a number of things. Since people got into the rhythm of looking at work. Bored, it reinforced the strategy. So we had a lot less drift, and you started to see meetings not just become areas where you might describe your results like you might recount the score of a...

...baseball game, but much more contemplated and creative about people saying, What are we doing to accelerate our play against these strategies? What are we doing to a liner tune? More? Are there elements or tactics or work that we're performing that are actually not contributing to this, that maybe should be de prioritized. So you saw a shift from metrics reporting to really results analysis against strategy, and that became much more powerful, especially as we were able to start to report on it Mawr dynamically. You actually saw different business units and leaders get more plugged in what the results were, and then we had the opportunity, and this was part of the growth curve. Were originally you would do the running business reviews in terms of work, board with your department and then that started toe widen as we saw the power of it. And you would actually have multiple levels of reviews across both the business units of the VLT level at the VP level, where we were talking about how it is marketing and sales plugged in the operations and plunging a customer success. So you started to see the ability to invite more people to those reviews, which not only then empower better collaboration but also empowered mawr learning across the various parts of the business and the learning is what really differentiates an organization's ability to achieve things. They weren't able to do in the past. I love the shift from reporting results, toe elevating them and music to my ears. It's fabulous. Now your team has taken that even farther. You've made at your in your own or GTA. You've made strategy execution, just a huge strength. It's sort of propelled your team to next level and next level use. Really have the platform take us through how you got there, what drove you to that next level shift and then how your team operates. Now we have been working across many teams with Project Management Office that had been good for major programs that we had done. And there is always lots of different tools that people participated in. Everything from, you know, versions of Microsoft Project to jeras confluence the challenge you run into or that that was slowing us down. Each had their own access rights. Each had their own proficiency ease. Each had a little bit different user interface, some mawr or less intuitive...

...than the others. But as you created these artificial isolation points to two different applications and platforms, you have disconnects across the teams prior to our maturing with okay, ours and work board, where we had people asking about some programs that we were supposed to be supporting. Interestingly enough, some of those had not really taken off or had much work behind them. They just simply hadn't been reflected in a central point where everybody could point to look at and drive progress. The other challenge that we would run into as you had these propensity of applications is the the death by email. And so then, because people didn't necessarily have a common viewpoint to progress, then they would send emails. So you end up in this situation that I call the death of 1000 Cuts. And what I mean by that is that every time someone has to take a cycle to report on progress to re describe the mission, re describe a project, and this could be on things, not that air, just key objectives of the organization of department level, but supporting programs and projects. Those timeouts we're costing us in terms of efficiency and also in terms of energy, because people get excited about a program or a project. But most people lose some of that excitement when they have to start crafting an email to report the status on it. So all those things were negative impacts as we started moving forward and really adopting our approach with with Work board. Okay, our is to also encompass supporting programs and projects. It allowed us to give visibility to multiple departments of what we were doing, but without the negative impact of creating email storms without the negative impact of people saying, Look, I don't have right to that particular confluence page. I've never worked in Jiro before. I don't know how to read Microsoft Project. It provided something that was simple and intuitive that people could get plugged into, connected on and can use things like include me in the loop when this particular program is updated and it cut out a lot of that time ways and allow people to retain both their time and energy on it. So it actually created more excitement and the other pieces. I'm a big believer that as a leader, your goal really is to serve your team to help your team do better than they could even potentially think that they might be able to do. And part of that goal is is actually defending...

...them from Distraction said another way. If if you had Leonardo DaVinci having many people sitting in emails, think of the things that might not have been created in his sketchbook or in his art. That's a great one. But it's reality, or the notion of an email storm is is completely right. The in work with the the ability to create work streams, group those and then and then have them align with and contribute thio objectives and key results is Actually it comes from a bunch of my experience before work toward where and it was at IBM and this the the cycle of reporting an email and and spending time to share status on the work you're doing. And I ultimately just that's competing with the doing of the work and and the bigger the or gets, the bigger that competition gets. And it's and it is very recursive in circular, right, because every email sets off a storm of more emails and you can ultimately drowned in that and the the reason that there, the work streams and the actions that contribute to the objectives and the results are there is if you want to know the status. Go knock yourself out. Self serve visible to everybody, right? And so my doing is also my reporting. They're not separate acts. They're one in the same act and in our work from home world. Now the ability toe to find out yourself, I think, has become so much more important than it was even one year ago. Right? The ability thio in my own moment, whether that's at night or early in the morning, or whether it's typical work hours in my own time and then the my own course of work to get the facts and data I need to make my next best move from my house. That need is much higher than when somebody sitting next to me I can just ask them right now. I can't easily ask them. It's It's a very different working world, I'll tell you that Even now, in work board, my favorite feature is having the list of actions and deliver Bols right next to the results I'm trying to achieve. So I sort of, if you will manage myself more effectively where I'm choosing the actions that most contribute to the results. I'm trying to drive actually have the opportunity toe organizing priorities, what I work on based on the outcomes that I'm trying to achieve and never without regard to those outcomes. And I think it's so easy to be stuck and busy and drift back to your point at the beginning. Drift off of the outcomes and the and the real results were trying to drive that I personally really need the kind of integration off my actions. With my outcomes. I would be way less effective if those things...

...were separate from each other and disconnected. No great. One of the statements I love that, I think, was in one of the books that was about Apple and Steve Jobs was that business does not equal productivity. That's a key thing that I keep in my heart, and also that for lack of a better word, I will protect as much as I can my team from Adminis trivia, you know, for the marriage of administration and kind of trivial activities that that aren't really productive and also can be sometimes suck out that that drive that energy that people have when they get excited about different projects and programs they're working on exactly. There's nothing invigorating about reporting nothing, on the other hand, knowing that you're doing something valuable, incredibly invigorating, motivating, rejuvenating, even to people in this sort of crazy weird year that we're having agree. And and one of the interesting point as we started getting the team to email in the work board tasks that randomly came up and start to use the day in the task manager toe align, what they were putting on with those activities to kind of hidden jewels arose that were very rewarding one waas. It provided transparency so that as we're working as a team, we get each look at tasks that we were working on collectively and keep duplicity out of that equation. We've all seen people that navigate organizations, and one of the things that they might do to try to get to a gold faster is email three or four people about the same project and one of the things that was interesting and having tasks have visibility in my work and work board. We started to be able to uncover those things and cut out. You know, those types of duplicative effects. Any other piece that we found out that was really good is the ability to reward or to champion or cheer on activities from people that we wouldn't normally have seen literally. When we were looking at doing the one on ones and work board and we were using the pace algorithm, there are many instances where people said, Look, I had a great week and here's some of the things that you might not have known that I did And we had those conversations because now we had a common visibility, a common platform to reflect on those accomplishments. I know you've gotten even more local and more personal, and you even have a personal way in a family way of bringing. If you will outcome, mindset and work board into your life, tell us...

...a little bit about that. This is a very cool story. It's exciting and certainly I couldn't have done it without partnership from Matt on on the work Bored teen. We've all struggled in this pandemic from different problems, different situations, and it's hard. In my case. I have some parts of my family that have graduated from college, but I also have a son who's who would have been a junior at college, still is a junior, but is having to do college remotely like many. But these things creates a lack of connective ity, if you will. Ah, lack of framework for what is a normal college experience and it's a hard world right now. Have focusing one of the things that we looked at doing as he and I chatted about what was going on with me at work and as we had changes and we were working with people all around the world. What's how do we stay focused? And so as we talked about it when one of the things that we started to adapt for our family is, we actually set up our own okay, RS for his situation, for his context and for our family is part of that. And so that became a method that we could use to describe what John's goals might be and how we might achieve them. And it was interesting because it brought a framework that we hadn't had before, and and we actually had one on ones where we could talk about the work and the objectives he was striving for and drive some focus in what has been a really challenging world these days toe have focused in. And then it allowed us as a family to start to talk about our overall objectives from my daughters, that air older and past college, to my son in college, to my wife and I, as we try toe navigate what this looks like going forward. That's very cool in so many ways. Objectives are what are our shared aspirations and intentions and just having a common language to think through those to come to some agreement and clarity on them and to share them and ultimately have those shared intentions and aspirations pretty powerful in kind of in any context. But in this year in particular where, especially if you're young, I think being a little bit of drift might be a little bit scary. What a cool way to bring more purpose and more focus without taking away autonomy, just bringing more aspiration and clarity to your son and and to your to your family. The thing that's interesting is we talked earlier about corporate drift.

The negativity is expressed in terms of corporate costs and maybe timeline of aspirations for a company. But if we take that down to a personal individual level. Drift is really measured by loss of time. And time is the ultimate resource that none of us have anymore, Uh, s given anymore, have any control over. So if you think about drift expressed is a function of lost personal time, it's very powerful. E really feel when it's when you're losing it or you don't feel like you're you're making ground. It can really change how you view your world and how you feel about yourself in life in general. That's right. Yeah, Time is a non renewable resource on that note and that brilliant insight being mindful of our time and its its importance and its potency. I would like to thank you so much for sharing the big picture all the way down to the family picture and connecting those dots. I love the stories. I know there's a lot of golden nuggets here for other people who are the middle of their journey or thinking about O care journey and what it might mean that their team level of their company level. So Tony, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and your experiences with us today. Thank you very much for the opportunity. 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.

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