/ EPISODE 32
OKRs coach, Author, Founder of OKRs.com
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In this episode, Jenny continues with Part 2 of the interview speaking with Ben Lamorte, founder of OKRs.com. Ben has more OKR coaching experience than anyone on the planet. He discusses the things that should happen at the end of an OKR cycle, what it means to be a Key Result champion, what to do if you know you won't make any impact on your OKRs this quarter, how to make a metric that matters, and more.
Listen in to learn how the Reflect and Reset process will help you understand which Key Results to keep, modify, abandon, or defer at the end of each OKR cycle.
“You will never succeed with OKRs if you don’t have a very formal structured reflect and reset process.”- Ben [3:43]
Ben [00:00]: I want to also go on record of saying John Doerr is a really great guy with OKRs, and I love some of his ideas, just not all, as I mentioned earlier. And one of the things he said to me - because I asked him that question. I said, well, what do we do? You know, you're telling me OKRs are on a quarterly basis and I'm not going to make any impact this quarter. So how do I measure what matters if I can't make a metric? And he said, Ben, here's what you do.
Jenny [00:27]: Hi, and welcome to Dreams With Deadlines, a podcast where you'll hear real stories of trials and victories in business. I'm Jenny Herald, VP of product marketing at GTM Hub. Our mission is to prevent organizational hypocrisy. Inspired by the proven objectives and key results goal-setting methodology, GTM Hub offers the most flexible results management system for mission-driven organizations. Check us out at gtmhub.com to learn more. What should you do at the end of an OKR cycle? What does it mean to be a key result champion? What do you do if you know you won't make any impact on your OKRs this quarter? How would you make a metric that matters? In part two of an interview with Ben Lamorte, an OKR's coach, author and founder of okrs.com, we'll discuss these questions and more. Let's jump in.
So I'm a really big proponent, also, of the reflect and reset. Even in terms of - I've given webinars about what to do at that period. But there's a lot of moving parts in this reflect and reset bit. How does that end up looking at scale? Because on the one hand, right? You're saying, okay, like, if you go with the methodology that you've proposed, which is to score, which hopefully at the beginning of the cycle, you have defined the scoring parameters so that at the end there's no quibbling about, well, was it a 0.3? Was it a 1? Was it a 0? You've defined what success will look like. Great. That seems super clear. If you want to go Christina Walkies way, she's like, did you do it or not? Kind of akin to MBOs and how that used to be back in the day. But then you need to be able to think through, okay, do we park it? Do we assess it? Do we adjust it? How do we set it? Who needs to be doing it? What level? If you had a cross-functional set of teams, they need to be pulling in other people along with, you know, how does this look at scale? How do they massage this to work so it doesn't look manic?
Ben [02:36]: So, okay. You have to take a very structured approach here. And by the way, everybody that does OKRs does step one of the cycle, which is to write their OKRs. By definition, if you're going to say you're doing OKRs, guess what? You've written down some OKRs.
Jenny [02:50]: Written something down.
Ben [02:51]: But that's just step one, right? Step two is checking in. Most organizations fail here, or maybe they do one mid cycle check-in, which even that, I consider a success. Because at least you've done something, you've actually checked in. But some teams will just totally fail on the step two. Step three, which is reflect and reset - I will be perfectly blunt. I want to take a lot of credit for inventing this step. And I also want to say that most organizations completely don't even know that there is such a thing as step three, reflect and reset. They at least admit, oh, well, we didn't check in and we kind of failed. But they don't even think that there is a reflect and reset. They call it the retrospective, if they call it anything at all. So they might think that, at the end of the cycle, what do we do?
Oh, well we just draft OKRs for the next cycle. Or they might say, what do we do? Oh, we do a retrospective. We look back at how it went. The truth is you're both right, but you've got to call it reflect and reset. Because I want you to do a very structured thing - and it's scale, okay? This is absolutely essential because you will never succeed with OKRs if you don't have a very formal, structured, reflect and reset process. And I'm finding this right now with another organization I'm working with, they have something like 50 squads. And every one of those squads is doing their first round of reflect and resets with me, like this last month or two. Every single squad needs their own reflect and reset, and we take an incredibly structured approach where, basically, I call it a zigzag.
The zigzag model is you take a given key result, the first key result, we're going to go right down the list, okay? And we're going to say, like you'd described, hey, so first of all, what's the final score? And it's really hard for people to do this. They want to talk about, well, this key result, you know, we got an 18% increase on that, but we're trying to figure - I'm like, hey, listen - it's back to your point - we hit the commit, the target or the stretch, what is the number? I just want to know, what is the final score? That's all I want to hear you say. So I have to facilitate that. And they're like, well, I guess I would have to say we got the commit, but we're close to the target. So, okay, so you want to say, commit plus? Fine. I don't really care.
Now, what did we learn? And this is really where I want them to just talk. Some people are like, wait, what do you mean what did we learn? Well, what worked? What didn't work? Were their dependencies? Did this get deprioritized? Did you feel like this key result was driving the right behavior? What's going on? Tell me what happened. What's the story of this key result. Oh, well, it turns out we thought this was going to be really easy because of blah-blah-blah. Well, actually, it turns out its much harder than we thought because of blah-blah-blah. So how do we take that learning that we just had and apply it into the next quarter? Oh, well I think we should set the target like this and we should probably talk to this other team and see if we can align on that.
Okay. So then, do we need a key result like this for next quarter? So the structured conversation is the final score - what is it? - what is it we learned? Do we need to then carry this over into the next quarter? Or is it more of a park it? And there's various terminology that we use there, right? My favorite is keep, modify, abandon, defer. Really, it’s got to be one of those four things. And to simplify, you could say, is it keep or remove? In other words, is it in? Or is it out? That's probably all you really need. But my friends at Indeed really introduced me to the idea of abandon or defer. And I really like that because sometimes you realize, the key result is really important. I don't want to just remove it.
But I want to park it for later, okay, we'll put it over here. So that's what they like to do. So then, we draft the key results. So you actually write a very high level statement. Like increase CPO - like I mentioned earlier - whatever it is. Like, we don't like CTO, but we like CPO. Okay, here's why we like it. The draft will be something about CPO. Okay. That's a reflect and reset for that one key result. Zigzag means we finish that row, boom, go back to the next one. Finish that one and go back to the next one. So we've got to go to the next key result. Now, you're talking about five minutes per key result. That's all I want to spend. But I can go up to 10. And here's the thing. I don't want to go to the next key result until everybody that's on this call has clarity.
And by the way, for the reflect and reset session, I want the whole team. Even if you aren't involved in this key result, but maybe you're peripheral or maybe you're one of those people that's doing something that's not related to any OKRs at all, you need to listen to this reflect and reset. Because here's where we expose our learning, here's where we say, it's okay to achieve a zero on a key result, as long as we can apply that learning to the next cycle. And now, as we're drafting the key results, everybody's seeing the process for how we're developing those key results into that next cycle. So there's no I need to brief you afterwards kind of a thing. So I will be on the phone with maybe 15 people, but only three or four are really doing the talking. Because they're the ones that really are in touch with those key results.
And then every now and then, somebody might chime in and say, well, actually, I don't know Asheem, I think that's not really realistic because we've got to get this Oracle thing migrated first before we can do - oh, okay, you're right about that. So I'm seeing the alignment happen right there during the reflect and reset. And then what happens is, the outcome of that reflect and reset is the draft OKRs are starting to be in place for that squad. So that the outcome of the meeting isn't, oh my God. See, like, if we did a retrospective, we would've just blamed and said, hey, Oracle didn't do that. And then we would've all been feeling bad about our life.
Jenny [07:52]: Everyone would need to go home and just kind of brush it off.
Ben [07:54]: Exactly. Like, how are we supposed to do that? And then it's like, oh, by the way, don't forget. Next week, we're going to get together again to draft our OKRs for the next quarter. And people are like, oh my God, you've got to be kidding me. So this is going to kill your OKRs project. So you have to take that discipline - reflect and reset - so that if you only get that one chance, look back, apply learnings, walk out with a draft. Now, everybody's like, wow, this is great. I learned a lot. What do I do next? Well, let's get together to refine. That's the key word here. Let's get together to refine these OKRs, and if you want to sign up for a couple of these, that's great. You know, maybe certain people are interested in getting in a breakout group to work on that objective. Okay, fine. Those are the next steps, we'll meet next week to refine and maybe publish the OKRs the following week. Now you build that momentum in. And I'm telling you, at scale, that's absolutely essential. Otherwise, you have no hope. Because this thing will just - in a big company, you'll just become destroyed, right? Because there's too much inertia. Any little thing goes wrong, people are like, ah, forget it. I'm out.
Jenny [08:52]: So you reflect, you reset, and you refine. It's the three R's.
Ben [08:57]: I like that. R cube, yeah.
Jenny [08:59]: I think you should do R cube - this needs to go in the book also, apparently.
Ben [09:01]: There you go. Reset, reflect and refine.
Jenny [09:05]: So step one is always the hardest, I think. Like just getting it off the ground. Because defining good OKRs, so this is why we rely on expert opinions to come in and just sit down with teams, like, what the heck are you trying to solve for? What problems are there? Because a lot of times I find whenever I'm talking to even our customers, they're like looking at OKRs that are probably two quarters out. Like, they don't even have the measurements yet. And they're like, but we need to go from X to Y, and I'm like, okay, great. So what's your current problem? Like we haven't measured it and we don't know what our baseline is. And I'm like, oh my gosh. So that's always hard. But let's talk about an easier thing - and we'll get back to that - which is phase two. Which is the check-in.
Why is it so hard for organizations to do this? There's so many tools. Like, you type in a number, you give a confidence level, and maybe you color in a narrative, what are you finding? What are the excuses, even? Because this is the thing. Everyone says, we want to do OKRs. And then we ask, why? Oh, because our CEO read Measure What Matters, that happens. Or, our CEO watched a video - that Google one, great. They're often running. Maybe they're strong enough to say, oh, because we want to learn. We want to have an environment where we're increasing communication and we want to create an environment of learning and it's okay to fail, so long as you're pushing hard. Cool, whatever. Then they do it. They've defined it. No one's checking in. What's happening there? What's this black hole in the middle?
Ben [10:32]: Yeah. It's a great point. I mean, so first of all, look, a lot of organizations do check in, so I don't want to make it be like the sky is falling. But I will say, there are still quite a few that don't. So what's going on? I think one of the main things I noticed was that there's a lack of accountability for given key results. So some people make a mistake of saying, hey, here are the teams OKRs, hallelujah, kumbaya, let's go achieve them. You need to put somebody's name next to each key result. And I think even in Measure What Matters, you'll see this as advice. So this is pretty universal because I would say - it's maybe taking it too far to say you must have only one person's name next to each key result - which is, I believe, what you'll see in Measure What Matters.
My attitude is, you probably need two names. You don't need three. You absolutely need one name next to each key result. Now some people get confused, because they say, well, I'll just put somebody's name next to the objective, that does the job. No, it doesn't. Because each key result has nuances. So a lot of my clients, especially big companies, they'll have an executive be the objective sponsor. Totally cool, I love it. Because then the key result champions who are not necessarily the only people doing the work for that key result, right? But they're the manager, they're the person that's the spokesperson for that key result. They alert the team if something's off. They've signed up to be accountable to checking in for that key result. If we take that approach, then we seem to be okay.
The problem is, the organizations that don't take that approach - in other words, maybe they have their OKRs, they write them down as a team, they're all excited, but there's no name next to each key result. Well guess what? The check-in process is ad hoc at best. And often, the OKRs aren't even really talked about until the end of the cycle. So having that key result champion is really a critical thing to do. And the reason why I like two people - and you can figure out what's the right two people, but it might be that one of them is not in the office, you know? And also, those two people can talk together and say, hey, how do we want to update the team? I don't know, what do you think? So they can bounce ideas, they can pair up, right?
Two voices are better than one. If you get to three, that's really where I start to talk about, we might have social loafing, well there's three of us, it doesn't really matter. This three people thing doesn't work so well. So having two, I think, makes the most sense. And sometimes you'll even have a key result champion from my team as that key result champion, but then you'll have a key result champion from another team. Because there's such a critical dependency, let's say, on IT or the platform or whatever it is, I'm going to partner up with somebody outside my team. To me, that's a good thing. Because OKRs are not meant to create silos. This is not a KPI thing where it's all about you and your achievement and accountability. But if you are doing it that way, fine print.
And I'm a little bit talking to the Measure What Matters, John Doerr community, because that's what you're doing folks. You're saying this is a performance review system and I'm going to evaluate your performance. And that's one of the reasons why you want one person's name on there, because even though you might not admit it, you're holding that person accountable for the execution of that key result. Which, I want to say, is the wrong way to do OKRs. I mean, I'm kind of coming out of the closet and saying, if you take the Measure What Matters model, you're going to have a list of commitments, for the most part. You know, commitment, key results. And maybe you'll throw in an aspirational, because hey, you're supposed to. But there's the CYA culture that happens. And you get into that. And we don't want to see that with OKRs. For the most part, I don't like that model. I like more of the school of thought of, let's say, communication and learning, rather than evaluation and accountability.
So if you're a key result champion, don't think it's your job to achieve that key result. You're the manager of that key result, you're trying to drive it. But you're also getting - I mean, there are other people that are contributing to it, it's not just you. So that's what I'm looking for with check-ins. And then the other thing I would say is, if you do have a tool - and that tool could be a check-in template in PowerPoint, or it could be GTM Hub or it could be a Google sheet or whatever it is. But if there's some kind of a tool that you've agreed to use, that will increase the chances. If it's a standard system that everybody's agreed to adopt, that will increase the chances that there will be some checking in going on.
If you don't have such a system, forget it. It's not going to happen because - and if it does, you won't even know. So you do need to have some standard system. And this is really where when you publish OKRs - this is my secret. When you publish OKRs, it should be done into one single place where the model that you've published them into handle step one, step two, step three. In other words, it doesn't just store the OKRs, there's a viable way to check in. Even if it's just one column that says, check in, and there's something that you put in there. I mean, it's got to have something. And you can see if it's blank. Because boy, when it's all there and you can see, oh, that one's blank, and if there's a name called key result champion and oh, that one's blank. It's the shame-ification model, right? People are going to say, oh, I better get in there.
They can look at it and say, wait, why didn't you do that? You're the key result champion. You agreed you would put an update in the middle of the quarter, have some kind of a confidence score or something. And then you have the reflect and reset. And what's beautiful to me, is if you can have the reflect and reset also in that single system of record. Doesn't always happen, that's kind of the utopia, but that would really be the ideal.
Jenny [15:31]: Totally. Thank you for that. And I know we're coming up on the hour here. So I was going to close, unless you had any particular thing you wanted to talk about with some quick-fire questions. Because I like to [15:43 Inaudible]
Ben [15:43]: Well, let me give you one thought. Because you mentioned this idea of like - you know, you have two quarters. So one of the things that we see a lot of is, hey, I'm going to do a bunch of work this quarter, but guess what? I'm not going to move any metric until next quarter. So it's really frustrating because my key results look like a bunch of milestones. Like, well, I'm going to launch this feature or I'm going to beta test that with five people or we're going to - whatever it is. But it's all with the intention of impacting this metric later. So what we do - and this is something that I did get from John Doerr. So I want to also go on record of saying, John Doerr is a really great guy with OKRs, and I love some of his ideas, just not all, as I mentioned earlier.
And one of the things he said to me - because I asked him that question. I said, well, what do we do? You know, you're telling me OKRs are on a quarterly basis and I'm not going to make any impact this quarter. So how do I measure what matters if I can't make a metric? And he said, Ben, here's what you do. You write the key results - so like, let's say it's Q4 and we're not going to make any progress, but we'll make progress in Q1 perhaps. So you say, end Q4, on track to impact this metric in Q1, as measured by. And then you fill in the blank. And then that as measured by might be - I think he said something like, all eight engineers on our team feel like this feature is validated. Like, it could even be something like that.
But it's often, we're able to provide a forecast that's validated based on AB testing with smaller populations that we believe are scalable and we've shown a financial model or some kind of a forecast model based on this, that if we launched this on this population. So there's some kind of a business case that shows that we believe the impact will be that much. And the stretch might be, oh, we're going to move that needle from A to Z. And the commit might be, we're going to end this quarter on track to make a measurable improvement in the next quarter. Which would mean that in the next quarter, we're going to say, oh, did we succeed? Did we hit our commitment? Oh, yeah? Okay, well then in the next quarter, we're writing a commitment level key result that does specify moving that metric from X to Y.
And Facebook did something like this that was like a rolling two quarter OKR model. So there's ways to do this. And this is a little bit more of an advanced topic, but I do want to say that that does come out and this is really where you do need some OKRs coaching. Because you can see the way I even said, end Q4, on track to impact Q1. It becomes kind of complicated, but it is exactly what you're trying to say. So I want to encourage people to embrace that, rather than trying to write the key result as, make an impact on this metric in this quarter if we know for sure. We're not going to, because quite frankly, we're not even launching that thing because of code freeze until Q1. So you have to embrace that fact and be totally honest. Okay, so let's do the fire round here.
Jenny [18:24]: I wanted to actually follow up with that. That's amazing. And I get that question so often, it's crazy. Which was, Jenny, we know that we need to build new shiny whatever it is because the old thing is like a pile of poop basically, but we have no metrics. And so how do we keep the teams accountable to whatever it is so that we can actually get those results in the following quarters or periods or whatever? So I really appreciate that insight because what I've been saying up until this point is, release the stuff, have some health metrics so that you can baseline it, and then from there, what are the things that you had hypothesized that it would produce as a result? And then say, okay, now that we've base-lined it and we've tracked it for a Q or two quarters or whatever, now we're confident to say that it's rational for us to want to push from here to there.
Ben [19:19]: Yeah. And that's pretty much what I'm saying. Although I'm saying in some kind of Shakespearian, OKR language. And the feedback from the engineers is they love it. Because, actually, the engineers are saying, I'm not going to put that feature in there unless you can tell me, ultimately, what is it that we're trying to impact and let's agree on whether or not we can move that needle and is it really attributed to this? Like, that's what they want to know. And then that helps the engineers say, okay, now I know why we're doing what we're doing. Which then, when they go back to their team and say, hey, we're all going to work on this, that's the motivation, that's the engagement part. So it is a really important point to end on, as far as the points I needed to make. Let's go into your fire round, you've got me excited about that.
Jenny [19:57]: So what is it that you appreciate most about your team? You've been working with the team a long time.
Ben [20:04]: You mean my okrs.com coaching team?
Jenny [20:05]: Yeah.
Ben [20:05]: Okay. Great question. Well, I will say - and I'm going to call out Decron here because he was my first certified coach - I am so amazed with how this type of OKRs coaching skill - it's somewhat natural, but to see it become developed and polished, I'm so amazed at how you can become a polished question asker, okay? Because that's really the key skill. So you have to be a deep listener. But then you have to know how to ask the right question. And I thought that that was just something that people could do, like, it was just very simple. And I'm starting to realize there's a real continuum. So I love the way that my team asks questions. And I also like the way that my team is, I would say, multicultural.
So I have O'Mead, who's in the middle east, and one of the stories that I'll share with you is, I was writing my book and I said, look, it's very much New York, it's kind of like I'm talking now, like too much coffee. The executives after about a half an hour, if I'm presenting something at a workshop - back when we used to do onsite workshops - they're going to be like, alright, let's get on with it. Like, let's start working on OKRs. Don't do a training like this that goes on and on. So I would say my advice was, keep it short, no more than an hour of theory, get into the application part of your workshop. And O'Mead, over in the middle east, he was working with a client in particular in Saudi Arabia, where it was like, no. The culture is, we want to see you. You do the talking, you tell us about stuff. We'll take notes, we'll listen, we'll observe maybe for the whole first day.
Let's see what you've got. Maybe walk us through a couple exercises in theory. But we want to be educated and we want to evaluate you and we want to see if we can trust you to help us and all this other stuff that's going on culturally. And then on day two, they completely open up. And now it's the, let's workshop and let's get our picture with you and let's do all these things and let's really go deep. So it's a little bit slower and a little bit more thoughtful. Nothing against New York, I mean, I think that those people are smart, but guys, can we learn something from these other cultures? Like, for example, in the Middle East where we slow down, we take a breath, we sort of get to know each other, we absorb some of the continent, some of these ideas. And then we go onto the playing field and develop the OKRs
So there's this question of, do I learn by doing? And that's it. And then I sort of make mistakes and kind of self-correct, and that's a valid model and it works in some cases. But there's this other model, which is more of that middle Eastern model I'm talking about, which is, hey, let's slow it down, let's get some theory and then we're going to do it after we feel a bit more comfortable. And what I've learned from my team is, actually, those approaches are both valid, which is the right one for you? Let's figure that out, and let's tune into our clients. So it's really important to have that flexibility. So I think, for me, having the coaching team allows me to build my own flexibility as opposed to just think, I know.
Jenny [22:43]: I really appreciate that. In part too, because, like, there are different learning styles, right? We've got the [22:49 Inaudible] learning style, that's learn by doing. Auditory, written. I'm not that, I have to do it. I think that maybe that's an American thing. I don't know.
Ben [22:59]: I think it probably is an American thing. If you try to do a full day of theoretical stuff and then -
Jenny [23:06]: Oh, I think people would start screaming or something would not work out. That'd be good. So what is the proudest moment - or maybe you have a handful of moments where you've had clients that you've worked with and you saw them really transform.
Ben [23:23]: Well, I did have one client where they were some kind of - it was called TPG Players, it's a good thing so I'll just say that. They developed some kind of a marketplace for people that were selling things like Pokémon cards and things like that, right? So they had a once a year fair, if you will, where everybody gets there. 250 vendors or whatever it is, the big folks in their market got together. And their objective was to make this big event - whatever beta conference it was - a big hit. That was it. Make a big impact at this conference. And here's why it's important and here are the key results. And the key results were like, five months out. So back to the cycle of, is it three months? Or is it four months? They said, you know what? This is the cycle. The cycle is this impending event.
I don't care about a quarter, I don't care about four months, I care about this event on April 14th. This is what I want. So the way they made it was, by the end of April - like a couple of days after that event - we'll know if the event was a success. But the CEO was saying, we ought to write key results that we can focus on now and make measurable progress now so that when we go there, we're already a success. So by writing all these key results, like, we want to have this number of demos, we want to have that. What it did is, it drove action, such that everybody knew exactly what we had to have in place in order to make this thing a success. Now, when they showed up there, the feedback I got from the CEO and some of the leadership team there was, that one OKR completely changed our whole financial year. Because everybody knew this was what the focus is, as opposed to saying, make the event a success and just saying, hey, we'll hope we get some demos and we'll all show up.
And they had this really crisp set of OKRs. And they achieved all of them. And the reason they achieved all of them was they only had one, and they really were making very clear, measurable, key results. And then they all were sort of - there was this energy to be motivated for that. Because they knew if they had a big event, it would mean a big year. And so they just worked like crazy and they achieved it. And I don't even know if they really used OKRs after that. That's the interesting thing. Now they had all this work, they've just got to execute. And so, I think they would use OKRs for the next event, right? And so their way of adopting OKRs was like super focused on one impending event and super effective. And I guess I would say that was one of my great moments with a client.
Jenny [25:35]: I've never heard of that. Like a project-based OKR. That's super weird, but that's incredible.
Ben [25:40]: That's the kind of stuff that happens, right? Like creative use of OKRs that really drives your organization forward. And the reason why I share that story too, is like, that's what I kind of expect. I think if you're going to do something amazing with OKRs, you have to do it your way.
Jenny [25:53]: Yep. I couldn't agree more. What's top of mind for you nowadays?
Ben [25:58]: Well, it's, am I ever really going to get this book out? And by the way, I've got this OKRs coach network, which is going to be a place for any OKRs coach. Whether you're an OKRs coach inside your organization or an OKRs coach working with your clients to come in and get involved. And again, it's nothing against the software vendors now, Jenny, but I started a LinkedIn group which got like 3000 some odd members and what's happening is - and as you know, there's more and more OKR software vendors all over the world, popping up and stuff. So what they're doing is they're basically spamming my LinkedIn group, right? They're like - and I'm not going to name names, but they're basically saying, hey, come to our webinar or hey, check out our new feature or something like that. And most of the people who are in this group want to see, not come and join the better works webinar with Brett or whatever.
It's like, I don't want to see promotions. I want to see real interesting content. Like how do I deal with OKRs and performance reviews? Or like those second order questions that I'm addressing in the field book. So I've created a new network, and I have to charge money and I have to vet people. So I'm not letting any people come in who are going to spam. And it's only for OKRs coaches. And we're going to go with a quality more than a quantity kind of a thing. So while my other LinkedIn group has some 3000 odd members, this group has more like 30. And my goal will be to get it to like 300, let's say, in the next couple of years. And we're going to create a supportive community where other coaches have a person to call. So they have a mentor.
And for me, that's really important. Because you get stuck on something and you just want to talk to somebody to bounce your ideas off. In fact, I was doing that with you, and you helped me think through how to change OKRs in the middle of the cycle. There's a real powerful thing that happens there. And just even knowing that you can call somebody who's another coach that maybe has more experience to give you some tips is really valuable, even if you don't call them. Just knowing that they're there, they develop a voice inside your head. So that's why we created the OKRs coach network. So I think anybody that reads the book - the book is good, don't get me wrong, but it's going to still just be a book. And I want to bring it to life and give it an ongoing value. So that's where the OKRs coach network comes into play. So that's really been on my mind.
Jenny [27:51]: That's super exciting. Okay, I've got two more questions. What is your dream, with maybe a corresponding deadline?
Ben [28:02]: Wow. That's like you're coaching me now. So I guess what I would say is, I really have a vision for after the COVID era is over. So my deadline is probably not next month. Although if I was Trump, I'd say, hey, it's about five weeks from now. Everything will be fine. No big deal. We'll all meet in Hawaii. It'll be beautiful. I'm sorry, I had to put that Trump COVID joke in. But what I'll say is, probably like three years from now, something like that. I would love to have an OKRs coach conference where it's probably a two day event and maybe even there's a third bonus day for social or whatever. And I could see this happening in various continents. Because my OKRs coach network has people all over the world. Like I think 10 different languages are spoken and we have 15 countries or something like that.
So I really want to get together with the OKRs coach community and start to make a canon of what is it that really we know works from an OKRs coaching perspective. What is it we really know doesn't work? And then how do we deal with those nuances? Like the question you asked about what about changing OKRs in the middle of a cycle, right? There might be some nuances there. What are the real answers here? And how do we really ground that in reality? And by the way, I think of these people as my colleagues. So my dream is to have some fun with these people. When I work with my clients, I feel like I'm the teacher and they're the student. So afterwards, like if we go to the bar, I'm sort of like, well, should I be sitting at their table?
I mean, I can, but it's sort of like maybe they should all be hanging out. Whereas, when I hang out with my OKRs coach colleagues, I'm like, hey, let me get you a drink. And what do you think about that? And you know, we're like in the teacher's office, we're having a little meeting. So we can all be ourselves. And so for me, I'd really like to get together with those OKRs coaches and really be ourselves and have fun and really develop the field of OKRs coaching, which I think - actually, I should say this now. I'm now one hundred percent sure that this field of OKRs coaching is not only legitimate, but it's a really important thing to do because it addresses, I believe, the underlying issue that we have in the workplace, which is engagement. I believe that most people are knowledge workers. They don't know how to connect their work to the bigger picture.
They don't get excited about work. And you don't just get excited once a year, okay? You need a framework that you can take to work that you can ask, why am I here? How do we know we've made the progress that we want to make? Why is this important? Is this really my job? Where are we with the dependencies? What would be the most amazing outcome I can imagine? What is the real stretch? And I've gotten to realize that if you're not asking those questions - and I don't want you to take this the wrong way, but if you're not asking those questions and you're not growing and you're not being reflective, you're not doing that critical reflection, you're on autopilot.
And look, I've been on autopilot for parts of my career too. So I'm not trying to say I'm perfect. But when you're on autopilot, work is not engaging. And I believe that this leads to problems, right? Whether it's just you get depressed or whether it's like, well, you go to the bar, like I mentioned earlier, but you just say, I don't know my job, whatever. And I really want to see us turn that around. So I believe OKRs coaches are going to be a big part of that. And this is like, you know, a dream statement. Like, wouldn't it be great if we could have thousands of OKRs coaches around the world and they're making work more engaging and there's critical thinkers. And that would be my dream statement.
Jenny [31:06]: Oh, I feel like there is definitely that in your future. And I feel like there's probably, also, OKRs are going to be built after this, if they haven't already, to get to that dream state. Cool. And then the last question. For the folks that are probably listening in, because you're a name in this industry. And maybe they're doing OKRs for the first time, and they've heard a lot about what you have to say. Hopefully, they'll pick up your book. I highly encourage folks that haven't read it, to read it. And to pick up your next one, I definitely will. Or maybe they're unsuccessful, they've had previous attempts. And they want to try again. What would your number 1, 2, 3, or just one piece of advice be for that group? Because most OKR attempts, from what we've seen, fail. Especially the first time. And it's unfortunate, but they want to try again. Which is wonderful. They're resilient. Great. What should they do? What advice would you give?
Ben [32:04]: Well, there's two different angles here. One is, if you're a CEO and you're doing the top level OKRs, I kind of have one thought there. And the other is, maybe you're working at a big company. So you're probably not Jeff Bezos or something. You're probably working there and you're maybe the head of product or you're maybe a manager of HR or something like that. Let's actually talk about the ladder, okay? Because the CEO - you're probably not the CEO of a company anyway, so I'm going to skip that for now. Supposing you're one of us in the workplace, what I would say - and I wrote a blog about this a long time ago - is start with your team. Think about what your team is and start by defining the mission of that team.
Why do we exist? Who do we serve? Who is our customer? What is the long-term impact we make? And what is the service we offer? Try to come up with one sentence that really describes that. That's the context. This is all of time, over all of time. Not just this week or next quarter or next year. Then, start to ask yourself, what is the alignment? Where do we depend on? Or who are our internal stakeholders who depends on us? And just think about that and think about how and why we have those dependencies. This will prime you for your OKRs. Now, you're ready to think about, what is your one objective? And what I'm going to say here is, if you're struggling with OKRs, try to restart or reset your process by doing those first two steps now, just come up with one objective. Work with your team to come up with the one objective, knowing that OKRs is tough. Let's get one right.
And what is that one area where we really want to focus on making measurable progress in the near term and why? Really meditate on that why. Once we've really agreed on that why - I like to think of that almost like the Star Wars thing, you know? Like, in the beginning we were - imagine the letters going up out of view. In the beginning we only sold our services to small companies. But then, we installed it at Netflix. And it was an experiment, but it led to bigger customer satisfaction and bigger profits than ever before. And now we must move on to the big accounts because we can all become rich and famous or something like that. So that's the why it's important now, and it's very motivational and educational. Really check that out with your team and align on that, to where we're really being honest with ourselves.
Like this is really something that's important, it not just something we need to do. We're not going to just hire more people. Why? Because that's just what we need to do. What is it that we're really trying to achieve in the near term? And then get into the key results and pick the two or three key results and really flesh them out from a perspective of, what is it that we know we can commit to? But what's a stretch? At the very least, let's do that. So unlike the Measure What matters Model that says, think of a key result as a commit or a stretch, I want every key result to be a stretch. But I also want you to think about, what is that commitment level for that key result? And then that makes it a little bit more engaging because it forces the team to say, well, here's what we know we can achieve with the resources we have, right?
Not if we get lucky or if this other team comes in and helps us out and bails us out or whatever. And then have that conversation. And then just have one check-in, plan that one mid-cycle check-in that's a formal review. Make sure you have those key result champion names so we know who's going to talk at that review. Give them a two by two matrix like you might see in Radical Focus or something like that that says, how are we doing? Where do we think we'll be? What are the big three things that we did this last couple of weeks? And what are the big three things coming up? And maybe, what are the risks or blockers? Or is this driving the right behavior? So there's a set of probably three to six questions that we're going to ask about those key results.
So make sure, as the key result champion, you could just articulate all those. And then do the reflect and reset. What I've found is, if you can just get through that one cycle, sort of the minimal viable cycle, you're going to be successful. And probably if you tried to do OKRs and you failed, it's because, you know what? You had too many OKRs, or perhaps you wrote key results that were just a bunch of tasks. Or perhaps you didn't put the key result champion name, you just had kind of no real ownership. And so all those things that are the problems that seem to make OKRs not work, tend to go away if you use the recipe I just gave you.
Jenny [36:00]: Oh my goodness. What a great way to end the episode. Thanks so much for being on Dreams with Deadlines. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the book turns out, as well as this community and this dream that you're trying to pursue. Because I think we're of the same spirit here, in that, the world can be served. Most people can be served by having OKRs.
Ben [36:22]: And I finally understand now why you call it Dreams with Deadlines. I think it was the catchy name at the beginning of the podcast, but now that you've made me have my own dream with a deadline, I think I get it. So I guess that's a great challenge, if you're still listening. It's think about, what is your dream? And what is your deadline? And in a way, that is a lot like OKRs. You know, what is your stretch goal and when will we know you've achieved it? And what does that really look like? And that's a really important question to ask yourself just in general, in life. Whether you're doing OKRs or not, let's have a dream with deadlines. Well, thank you so much, Jenny, for having me on the show. And I look forward to listening to it when it comes live. I always love to hear an interview like this after it's happened and see what I really said. I'll probably learn a lot.
Jenny [37:02]: Plus one on that.
That's it for this episode of Dreams With Deadlines. Thanks for listening. If you liked today's episode, please subscribe and share. Show notes can be found on gtmhub.com/radio. If you want to learn more about our product and services, head out to gtmhub.com. If you have questions that you'd like answered on the show, shoot us an email at [email protected] Tune in next time.
Ben Lamorte, founder of OKRs.com, is an internationally recognized OKRs coach. He has consulted with organizations around the world, including eBay, CareerBuilder, Zalando, Sears Holding, and Booking.com. Ben’s first book, Objectives and Key Results: Driving Focus, Alignment, and Engagement with OKRs (co-authored with Paul Niven) was published by Wiley in September, 2016. He holds a graduate degree in Management Science & Engineering with a focus on Decision Analysis and Organizational Dynamics from Stanford University.