One Thing Enterprise Managers Can Do To Get Their Teams Out Of The Busy-ness Trap And Boost Their Effectiveness

Align OKRs to client-centric Outcomes within the team’s power to control

Photo by Karen Lau on Unsplash

Countless organizations are changing the way they set goals as part of Digital and Agile transformations.

But they’ll need to make the central mindset shift away from their current factory-based measures of productivity if they’re going to enjoy the benefits of a modern goal-setting framework. Focusing on the same activity- and output-focused measures only leads to new labels for the same behaviors.

None of these approaches is more damaging than the “busyness” trap.

The perils of focusing on activities and output

In larger organizations, teams are largely isolated from both customer and financial realities.

People show up, sit in meetings, write a few lines of code, push some pixels, make a PowerPoint deck, and stop working at 5 o’clock every day. Every two weeks, money shows up in their checking account. Contrast this with a bootstrapped entrepreneur, who has to struggle daily to find a way to pay the bills and keep teams focused searching for product-market fit.

“An entrepreneur is someone who will jump off a cliff and assemble an airplane on the way down.”

― Reid Hoffman

An army of people looking busy without accountability to results signals the end of a company’s ability to adapt to constantly-shifting customer needs.

The OKR framework as the antidote to Enterprise “busy-ness”

Objectives and Key Results were instrumental to Intel’s, and later, Google’s success.

When used well, OKRs move teams from simply showing up and trying to look “busy,” to holding people and teams accountable for actual results. The OKR “set” consists of the Objective, the inspirational mini-mission for the quarter, paired with 3–5 Key Results, hard measures that demonstrate progress in delivering against the Objective.

Using OKRs is only a small part of a broader shift required.

Beware one-way, top-down OKR goal-setting

But no team can be held accountable to deliver Key Result numbers outside of their control.

Managers setting OKRs for their teams without their input shouldn’t be surprised when they either just get a list of tasks accomplished. or repeatedly miss targets set for them. Given the siloed nature of Enterprise technologies, and the mercenary, part-time allocations of people spread thinly across multiple projects to maximize “utilization,” much work is kept waiting for either dependent teams or for a key person to become available.

The solution is to set Key Results using numbers the team can own and move independently.

Map the user journey and identify what the team actually can influence

The first step is to collaboratively map the customer’s end-to-end journey, highlighting where the team’s work appears.

Regardless of whether it’s a marketing team, focused on bringing in the right target customers for their product, or a team building an onboarding experience, the customer path can be laid out and management and teams can together identify and set meaningful metric goals aligned to positively influencing decisive moments in the journey.

Managers collaborating with teams to set Outcome-focused Objectives and Key Results within their control offer an excellent platform for teams to get out of busy work and reset their focus on delivering tangible results for both customers and the organization.


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