The Goal Fits the Team

Beyond the Usual OKR approach

Eisenhower Matrix

Exploratory OKRs

Disruption efforts, be it entrepreneurs or intrepreneurs, often struggle with adopting OKRs. OKRs were originally designed for exploiting — driving performance in previously-identified high-potential initiatives— and not for exploring unknown possibilities. Exploratory OKRs work well for very early stage start-ups or for R&D/Innovation teams.

In the early days of TeaBee, Hannah is trying to convince Jack to explore Restaurant Suppliers as a potential Market. Exploratory OKRs could have made that run more smoothly.
Later Hannah and Jack decide they will commit to exploring the restaurant supplier target market. But when will they know it’s working, orif they need to pivot?

Hypothesis OKRs

I often joke that if you are a startup, the only OKR you need is “get to product market fit.” Exploratory OKRs are good for finding that first hint of product-market fit. Hypothesis OKRs are useful for getting the data you need to prove you are on the right track or that you need to pivot.

  • Bookkeepers Are Delighted by our Auto-Categorization System
  • Designers can’t imagine designing interfaces without our Usability Error Detection Algorithm
  • Product Managers Love Meetings When Using Our Agendaware
  • Sales/Revenue
  • Conversions from Competitors
  • Willingness to recommend your software to peers
  • Prepayment for vaporware
When you have a big initiative, you need to set milestone OKRs: outcomes you want to hit to reduce risk for projects that take multiple quarters. That way you can shift your strategy if something isn’t working.

Milestone OKRs: Outcome-Based Milestones

Companies in slow moving industries often struggle with the quarterly cadence of OKRs. So I invented milestone OKRs for efforts that last more than a couple quarters. I came up with it when I was working with a Mexican Restaurant owner who was expanding from England into Switzerland. He said he had things he “just had to do” like finding a location and getting permits and hiring. How could OKRs help?

  • NO: Get new CPAP lightweight mask prototype built
  • YES: New CPAP lightweight mask prototype produces better sleep for 8 of 10 testers
  • NO: Strategy for 2021 draft finished
  • YES: Strategy for 2021 draft approved by C-suite (trust me, it’s a stretch goal.)
  • NO: New quality assurance tracker database finished (task milestone for a new quality assurance tracker tool)
  • YES: New Quality assurance tracker database approved by stakeholders and SME’s (Subject matter experts)
Nothing is more intoxicating that a team that’s making real measurable impact in the world.

OKRs Are Always About Outcomes

No matter what you are trying to do and how you are trying to do it, OKRs are there to help you do it well. You can be just beginning and effort with a vague idea, “I wonder if it’s worth creating a cooperative publishing company for books about weird ideas with small markets?” You can be a little further on, “I know a bunch of folks with these book ideas and they all have a good following, but is there enough to actually make a living?” Or you can be ready to commit to something huge, but it’s scary to risk a year or more on a (validated) hunch: “I want to launch a publishing group that is sustainable and influential.”



Designing business, and the business of design.

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