Aligning daily work with Objectives and Key Results by bringing everything together with a cadence of regular check-ins
In my work coaching Enterprise Agile teams, there’s an enormous quarterly effort put into writing the perfect Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) that will please all stakeholders across the organization.
Set and forget?
Frequently, once those goals are set, they’re left to gather dust as teams immediately start scrambling to deliver as much work as possible, even committing to late-breaking, unrelated tasks. At the end of the quarter, when the OKRs are pulled back out, while progress may have been made in some areas, several Key Result targets get missed completely.
The Four Square works regardless of how good (or bad) your OKRs may be
Fortunately, regardless of how well or poorly those OKRs have been crafted, Christina Wodtke’s Four Square (“4sq”), popularized in “Radical Focus SECOND EDITION: Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objectives and Key Results” has the ability to take teams dealing with too much work, and zeroes them in on the few, most important tasks to keep them on track and dramatically increase the likelihood of measurably delivering against their OKRs.
The first step is to see all relevant information in one place.
The Four Square
Last article, we focused on OKR Confidence and Health Metrics, and how those two quadrants create a dynamic tension of “Push” and “Protect.”
Next, we’ll delve into the left two quadrants.
Digging into the Left Side of The Four Square
The left side is all about the work–the activities and outputs that will drive the OKR outcomes.
Top Left: Priorities for This Week
What needs to get done NOW
- P1 — Finalize creative
- P1 — 5 interviews with valid engineer candidates
- P1 — Understand client journey drop-offs
This quadrant highlights the most critical, Priority One (P1) tasks the team has identified that ladder directly up to their Key Results.
The goal here is to focus on a maximum of 3 to 5 items that absolutely have to happen this week. The team collaboratively reviews and prioritizes the few tasks that will materially support their ability to move one step closer to increasing their Key Results confidence. The team then makes a shared commitment to achieve these tasks over the coming week. Daily touchpoints insure the team stays on track, with any blockers promptly escalated and resolved.
Traceability to OKR confidence is continuously reviewed.
Bottom Left: Upcoming Big Projects
Upcoming Big Projects
- Mobile app revised biometric login
- Onboard new bourbon wholesalers
- In-app and SMS notifications upgrade
- Test new subscription models
The next set of highest-priority things to stay ahead of
What’s the next set of crucial items the team should be aware of?
The Upcoming section aligns the team on a range of tasks they need to start thinking about. How can they help each other prepare for these items? Who do they have to speak to? What help would they need from stakeholders or other teams?
The goal here is to get these on the team’s radar as far in advance as possible, allowing them to get started on discovery to begin breaking them down.
The cadence of Commitment and Celebration
When people ask me what the difference is between OKRs and SMART goals, KPIs, or other goal-setting approaches, I tell them it is the cadence of check-ins. The cadence is what makes the difference between goal setting and goal achieving.
Wodtke, Christina. Radical Focus SECOND EDITION: Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objectives and Key Results (Empowered Teams) (p. 123). Cucina Media, LLC. Kindle Edition.
The Four Square’s true power comes through the regular cadence of commitment and celebration, with the next set of work making it’s way up, always targeting the upper-right quadrant with the goal of increasing OKR confidence.
The cadence relies on two events: The Monday Commitment, and the Friday Celebration.
The Monday Commitment
The team reviews their OKRs and commits to the next set of highest-priority work that most contributes to helping them meet their Objective.
Those tasks get broken down and prioritized as the “This Week” P1 work that can be finished over the next five days. The key is to discuss and commit to only those P1 tasks that have direct bearing on positively impacting the OKRs, and keeping the targeted Health Metrics green. If it doesn’t measurably contribute to making things better, the task is deprioritized.
Through their daily check-ins, the team stays laser-focused on these tasks with the goal of having something to share and celebrate at the end of the week.
The Friday Celebration
Fridays are all about celebration and gratitude for the team and their shared effort.
On Friday, the team celebrates all achievements toward the OKRs– everything from the cross-functional team is shared and celebrated — lines of code, design, architecture, sales, customer success stories, . The team then reassesses OKR confidence. and discusses how to prepare for the coming week.
Regardless of their level of empowerment or Agile maturity, the Four Square and cadence together form a powerful approach to alignment for achievement that can boost any team’s effectiveness in delivering their most meaningful work.
This is Part 3 in a series;
Wodtke, Christina. Radical Focus SECOND EDITION: Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objectives and Key Results (Empowered Teams) (pp. 123–125). Cucina Media, LLC. Kindle Edition.