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                                      EPISODE 7

                                       

                                      6 Steps of OKR Success: 2. Naming An OKR Task Force

                                       

                                       

                                      okr taskforce

                                      Podcast Transcript

                                       

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      On today's podcast, we'll be talking about the second step in the six steps OKR success, which is naming a taskforce, we'll be talking about why it's important what it is and how to assemble this group, so that they can drive the OKR initiative and program forward within your company.

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      So, what is an OKR Task Force?

                                      KJ 

                                      An OKR Task Force is a powerful coalition made up of executives, relationship builders, and skilled frontline workers. In other words, it's a team that you assemble internally, to help build momentum around OKRs.

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      What are the types of characteristics that you're looking for in somebody that that could be a part of this team?

                                      KJ 

                                      Well, the team's purpose is really to drive OKRs forward, right? It's to process information at a faster pace, and a greater quality so that you can move things quicker.

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      Is this a leadership team? Or is this something different? Can a leadership team be your OKR Task Force?

                                      KJ 

                                      No. However, there should be capacity of leadership within the team. So, that's a great question you ask because really, we'll get into how to formulate this task force effectively, and what characteristics it needs. But let's just take a moment and define that there are leaders who are a critical ingredient for OKR success. And equally, there are managers who are critically important to, and the difference is that the leaders are the ones who formulate and galvanize a vision for the future, and inspire others to move towards that vision, as a collective. The managers are less about the vision and more about operating effectively and managing things and operating smoothly so that everything runs correctly. So, both are needed both skills, characteristics, and people are needed to move forward and getting a nice diverse blend of them in the healthcare Task Force is important.

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      So, to clarify, you're not saying you don't need a leadership team, right? Those should still exist within the company, they got to make the big decisions. They deal with a lot of the sensitive information and the high level of financial metrics and all that fun stuff, right. Like those still exists. I that that's not what you're saying. You're talking about a subgroup of people that whose sole focus is purely about OKR, because what you described was a little bit of just normal corporate bureaucracy. Yeah. But through the lens of the OKR Task Force, it's a little bit different. It's a little bit more inclusive, it's a little bit more open. And it's across different teams. Correct?

                                      KJ 

                                      Correct. across different departments, different disciplines throughout the organizational hierarchy. But it's funny, because the first thing where your mind first went to is like, well, I have a leadership team already. It's just a group of executives just use them. Fine. Let's get on with it. Now, that's probably one of the most common mistakes companies make when they start to use OKRs is they just keep it in the small leadership circle, whether, power is distributed amongst all stakeholders in the company. And to harness the power of OKRs. You must harness everyone a collective, not just the top view.

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      Got it? So, I asked the question earlier, and I'll ask it again in a little bit of a different way, because I didn't quite get the answer I was expecting. But from a personality standpoint, what type of individual would be best suited to join an OKR task force?

                                      KJ 

                                      Well, it's great question, like, think of one of your favorite teams, Stephen. The Chicago Bulls in the 90s. Right. Okay, so were they all Michael Jordan's? No, no. So, there's you want to blend you want to diversify the task force. And you want the Michael Jordan's but who's you're going to be your Scottie Pippen when Michael Jordan is sick. You know, who's the most influential person, and

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      Not to cut you off there with Michael Jordan gets sick, his game improved, and well documented that he has to get sick. He just like hits another gear keeps playing. That's what makes him Michael Jordan and the rest of us, you know, nobody.

                                      KJ 

                                      Yeah, but you know, it's just I think there's a, there's a handful of critical questions that we have in that separate blog post on our website, if you ever need it. And in our training plans, where you just asking yourself, you know, okay, I don't want a team of the same person, because then I'll get the same result every time, I want different perspectives from different disciplines. And so you got to ask yourself, well, maybe who is an up and comer who's a newly hired person, because they have a different perspective than the person who's been there for 10 years, and who manages the biggest teams, because those are going to be really strong managers, you'd help who's the most, you know, outgoing, and who's the relationship builder, probably someone in sales or business development can really, you know, be the extrovert that you need? No. So you want you want a team, just like you're formulating a strong team, you need different, different people.

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      And ideally, you want influencers, people that can drive change, and people that can build momentum and get other people on board with OKR vision, because you're going to have your laggards and your skeptics and people that don't really believe this stuff, like, oh, here's another flavor of the week business acronym, acronym, this is never going to work. But that's par for the course, like that's table stakes, that's going to happen, if you really need some people that are going to be excited about it. And I have a lot of other questions. But what like depending, say your company say you're like 200 people, right? But what would be the ideal representation across teams and the ideal sides of a good OKR.

                                      KJ 

                                      Task Force? Yeah, I mean, for, you know, SAS company, or a company rent to other people, just five or six people, that's really all you need. That's it, its pretty strong group, if you only have two or three, that's fine, too. But you know, aim for five or six. And, like I said, aim for representatives in, you need at least one executive. Definitely. Hopefully, the person out here listening is a chief operating officer or director of operations, someone who's going to be able to lead from an executive point of view has commitment from the top. But then you want to look at certainly product people are great, you want a representative from the product development and engineering teams, because they will have different perspectives on how to operate as a team. I think those people bring a lot of a lot of skills when it comes to that sort of thing. Like I said, maybe a lot of enthusiasts can also come from the sales and marketing side. So those are willing to take high risks, who are, say, if you're a salesperson, you're certainly able to handle a certain amount of uncertainty. So that's good, too, to have an assassin? Because the time is going to be very uncertain.

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      Yeah. And it's interesting. I was interested in I've never asked you that question. I didn't know what the ideal number was, I had a kind of number in my head, generally, what I was thinking. And one of the things I would add to it in terms of like, what's the maximum number of people on an OKR Task Force, and what comes to mind is, whether you'd like the company or not, or like the leader’s leader or not, but they have some interesting managerial principles. But like Amazon has this like two pizza rules, where if you have a meeting, and you need more than two pizzas to feed everybody, that's, that's too many people. So, you look at a piece of pizza is like, but eight slices. So, if everybody had two slices, that means the most the past four should really be is like eight people. So yeah, that's a good like, you know, role to maybe reference like, that's a anything beyond that you're probably getting you're sort of at the point of diminishing returns. You can get well represented with that, that number of people across the you know, mid-market tech company.

                                      KJ 

                                      Yeah. I think that's very great. Well said, then a good thing because as well, the reality of people's lives is the schedules you're not going to be able to meet with all these people that stuff so yeah, and look, there's no right or wrong. This stuff really is a blend of science and human reality, and dysfunction is, so you know, just really Take it with a pinch of salt. But what really what we what we want to get across is you need this. However, you formulate it, whoever you choose, and it'll evolve. Don't ignore this step, this is a critical step in implementing OKR successfully and sustaining them for a long period of time, you need a team, you're not going to be able to do it alone. And the power comes from the team, and their willingness to take risks and their commitments. And you, as the leader of the team, and those leaders in the team, you guys build trust to one another. And that trust is then observed by the people outside of the team. And people take notice and get inspired by that. So, you're the guys who started off, so choose wisely. Don't skip this step.

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      So, give me a few more tactical examples of what an OKR task force will do. I mean, every group is operating and there, ideally will be doing their OKRs and getting into a rhythm checking in every week, month, quarter. But the task force like what, what are they doing? I say, I've, I've just like, I just listened to the first five minutes of this podcast, and that makes all the sense in the world. And now I'm just going to start firing off emails and I'm going to go name, my task force, right? I'm going to get my people update people and I'm going to name it the task force or I name it something else, the guild or whatever it might be. All right, I got all these people together. We're in a meeting. We're going to zoom, we're eating pizza. How the hell are we here?

                                      KJ 

                                      Great. Can we just cook for one second? Yep, I need to go sorry.

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      Has a big build up to nothing?

                                      KJ 

                                      What's going on the flower I just, I just got a diarrhea dog today. So can they kind of let me think through quick thing that this is a good question.

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      So just my sidenote on this with the obviously you're going to, you're probably mentioned that OKR vision, that's where it's going to buy but that's more sequential, I would say, my thought processes, you want to come up with an OKR vision. So, and we'll be describing what that means in the next podcast. But in terms of just like the longevity of the team, like so you get your vision, like these are sort of ABCD and E, these are the things that they're kind of focused on identifying a quick win, or whatever it might be. But that's kind of what I was thinking. But I don't know if that's what you were thinking.

                                      KJ 

                                      Yeah, I was thinking they need to start with the vision. And then they need to come up with the communication strategy. For the company. For the for OKR. Specifically,

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      Yeah, but for the like. And then communication strategy meaning to the rest of the company. Yes. Which is like a very binary thing that you do at once.

                                      KJ 

                                      Oh, no, well, no, no, it's this wouldn't be one. That's one activity, they'd come up with a, you know, a campaign of activities and communications to that OKR it's, you know, I mean, there's a lot of communication ranch.

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      Well, let's not give all our answers right now. But yeah, Bobby, if you're listening like the last couple minutes, just like the time KJ went to go check on the diarrhea dog to reboot the question here in a minute. So, you got your tasks, you got your pizza. Everybody's in the room together, you got like 868 people, representatives from different groups executive one or two execs, some middle managers, some frontline operational functional workers. And now you're getting ready to kick things off. And KJ stood out here. Now you're everybody's in the room, and we're all getting ready to brawl excited to be here. What the hell does the task force do?

                                      KJ 

                                      Well, the first thing they're formed for is to determine qui to come company is using OKRs. So that task force needs to be needs to formulate the purpose behind OKRs. That's what they need to do together. And you do that together. Because when you do it together, more people across more departments in your company, have a vested interest in OKRs. It's no longer a singular point of, you know, we're mandating this from the COO downwards that this, everyone has a shared interest in it, so they're going to feel more empowered and engaged. No. So they're the first thing you want them to do is to collab you want to collaborate, and you want to encourage a discussion around? Why are we doing OKRs? What is the explicit future that we want to strive towards? And how can OKR get there? And what's in it for everyone? These are questions to answer what your task forces, that's the first thing to get started with the task force. And that's a messy, messy exercise, because it's, it's emotionally charged, people are going to have a lot of different perspectives, there's going to be disagreement about, hey, no, we should do this for this reason on that. And so, it takes time, as you and me, and we did it internally. To determine why we're doing this. It takes time.

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      And when you clarify like is this the vision for like the company and the business? Or is this for what OKRs means to your internal operations and how it delivers value to the company, a ladder, the ladder. So, this is all about therefore we have decided to partner with this company to implement this methodology using these training materials and these services in this platform. And therefore we're going to go do this every quarter month, whatever it might be. And it's towards this vision, can you give me a few examples that people can maybe cherry pick from?

                                      KJ 

                                      Yeah, let me think.

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      Alright, while you're thinking, I'll give a couple reasons. So, to me, the best way to do this, or there's a good reason, and every company is going to have a different reason, it might be a little messy. It might be Yeah, we want to implement OKRs, because it'll keep us focused and prioritize towards our greater achievement, which is we want to go public in a couple of years or whatever. We want to create some operational harmony, everything's kind of a little chaotic. Right now, this business, this high growth tech company we're in, everybody's working 1000 hours a day, we want to minimize the noise. And we want to focus on the most important items at hand. That's, you know, that's an example. And I'm just kind of spit balling here, but I mean, if you think about it, the value is in the simplicity of the structure. And it gives you a sense of priority. And so, you can say no, it's part of the reason why I started the company in the first place is because I felt OKRs gave you an opportunity to defend your territory, if you had too much stuff getting thrown your way. These are the priorities that I've agreed to with the leadership team. And these are the ones that are visible to the whole company. This is what my team is working on. This is our focus area. So, like, leave me alone. So, I just rattled off a few examples. But like, that's what I think of when I think about what a vision for OKRs can be at scale.

                                      KJ 

                                      Yeah, I think you're exactly right, you know, another one I'd add to the mix, which is close to one of our customers Hearts is we want a future where people feel that their work contributes to a greater purpose. That's simple. There, you know, this is like, we want a future where our employees are inspired. Feelings inspired about their work, you know, and these may, that may sound just abstract, but you can start with your taskforce to really unpack that, you know, well, how do people feel today? And is our culture aligned with us? Or is are we going to hit this barrier when we introduce you know, this into our culture and that's a different topic to get into, but you know, so it starts with that but starts with a brainstorming you know, task force because they're to come to a meeting where you've set out a pre read a set agenda and ideas of what you'll be discussing and why and coming to those meetings with Yeah, I have some ideas on how we can then you know, and why we should be using Okay, yours.

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      Yeah, I think to add to that, like coming into, when you create a task force and you're starting to collaborate, and you've come together, I think it's important to bring that open mindedness and to use sort of a very woke term, you know, to have this inclusive, safe space where you can speak your mind and not be fearful of rejection or objection or being judged, just, you know, being able to be very open, so that all ideas can get out on the table, and you can select the best ones, I think that's an important one, and not making it. So, sort of PowerPoint slide heavy, it's not really like that. That's not really what this is about. This is not a meeting where you show up and you go, oh, my God, I got to go sit through this crap for an hour's like, this should be something that people get excited about, because they're driving change or driving change.

                                      KJ 

                                      Exactly. They should be enthusiastic that they're a part of a team that are that are being courageous enough to say, we're not going to accept the status quo, we're going to change how we operate for the better. And here's why. And here's a future that people can get excited about.

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      Yep. And so is this more of a, because a lot of what we do here at our company is very customer centric, like we really believe in a customer centric approach to strategy, aligning your company behind the customer and deploying resources in a very D siloed. approach. And what we're describing here is very much an internal operational strategy, call it and how do you reconcile those two? Are those separate? If you're trying to become a very customer centric company? Or is that more of a business strategy that just gets translated into execution like? or can that be a part of what you're doing?

                                      KJ 

                                      Well, it comes back to what we just said, you know, you got to resist the temptation of stacking this task force full of executives, and rather compose it with people who are customer facing. That's the primary because those people have the relationships and the insight to the customer. And when they're on a task force, without yours that are looking through the lens of the customer lifecycle, they can offer really great insights. So yeah, I mean, every part of this should have that component by simply just incorporating people with who face customers who talk to customers every day.

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      So, we talked about the OKR vision. We'll touch on that in more detail in the next episode. But clarify, for me, the task force, their responsibility is it's a coalition of people at all different levels of the organization that are going to be crafting a vision that are going to be building momentum. Are they the ones that are the gatekeepers of all the OKRs? Or can teams operate separately and bring everything to the, to the, to the canvas and store? Like, they

                                      KJ 

                                      absolutely teams want to operate separately, and that task force is thinking fear. And, you know, maybe I won't make religious you know, analogies, but these people are your enthusiast. It's your 12 disciples, you know, if I'm going to say it, you know, please don't, you know, cancel me for saying something like this, but like, you know, these people are torn to spread the good word about AORs. And they want to encourage others to do them. And you want to have teams saying you know, what, I'll, you know, I'll take the responsibility of drafting my outdoors. So, this task force, yeah, they should be encouraging that and they, fundamentally, the task force should believe in team orientated work, because that's what gets things done.

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      So, where you're saying is basically the task force can actually be up to 12 people and one of which will probably betray the main leader.

                                      KJ 

                                      At some point, it will be a crucifixion.

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      But there will be an enlightenment. So that's interesting. So, like, you know, there's a lot of

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      I guess, so you've crafted I'm trying to sort of envision this right, you got this vision, that's, that's with your company, and everybody loves it. And in this coalition, that People's Meeting, say every month, and they're what are they doing? Are they getting a sense of how things are going? Are they saying hey, people aren't logging in using the tool People aren't taking the courses people aren't everybody hates this stuff? Is it more of a pulse check of the company? And how they're operating within it? Are they take on OKRs themselves and highlighting the power of focus? What are some of the other tactical things that they're doing?

                                      KJ 

                                      Yeah, great question. So, primarily, they are there to be influences. So, they're there to mobilize more people behind OKRs. So yeah, they would have to do post checks, they'd have to sort of keep an eye out for what's going on and have people feel, but they're also going to be. So, if it's just one individual, and I've been this individual, that is sort of the, the person for OKR is in the company, then every possible support ticket will just go to that one person, you know, so they can triage the resistors, they can handle the opposition, they can be like your first line of defense. So, you want to train them, of course, we have dedicated training for Task Force individuals, so they can confront opponents to something they can clarify, you know, how to write a good OKR for a manager who's struggling. So, they're sort of your yes, they're your arms, your arms and ears and eyes to the organization. But they also help with the handling objections from others, which is going to happen, you're going to come up against a lot of threats, and you're trying to change an organization.

                                       

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      Got it? That's great. It's good stuff. I mean, we talked about a lot of the things to do, what to do, why they, why this group exists. What are some of the things to look out for and try to avoid when assembling this group of different like different people.

                                       

                                      KJ 

                                      Avoid the egomaniacs. It's a simple but difficult thing to do. But you really want to avoid the people who are going to get in the room and dominate the conversation, and put their voice out in front of others, and not respect the team and the power of the team. So. So you probably are aware, but you don't want to say it, the highly narcissistic people in your organization, they can create mistrust within the task force. And like I said, before, other people are observing Task Force, they want to maybe join, but then see that this maniacs in there are probably causing all sorts of problems. So, avoid the egos in the room. And another one is to avoid getting complacent. I know we've said that in our last podcast, but I can't emphasize it enough. Problems come from complacency. You've got to, you know, confront the hard truths as a task force, you've got to stick to and prioritize the meetings that you have come prepared to those, you know, you've just got to value and believe in the task force, evaluate in order to stay urgent, not get complacent.

                                       

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      And I would add to that, that's great. And it's not to say that we don't appreciate and like and enjoy, and love those. Those folks with egos. I mean, it often takes a big ego. To move things forward. Michael Jordan had the biggest ego and was the most competitive guy that ever walked the face of the earth. And he did amazing things. So, but maybe he's not the guy that you need on your task force. That's kind of what you're getting at is what I heard. That's great. So, anything else as it relates to the task force, the do's the don'ts, the who's the whys, the house, anything else that is relevant to our listeners as to why this is important.

                                      KJ 

                                      You know, I think it's just an again, I'll probably just highlight the few things that may cause delayed problems. You know, people will implement OKRs and then, six months, nine months later, they give it up and they don't realize why and they're like, well, we did everything you know, long article said, but we didn't form a team, or a task force behind it? Well, okay, well, that's a strong reason. So, I guess, you know, you really got to, doesn't take, it's worth the effort, it's worth the investments to select a few skilled individuals who expert communicators are, who have the respect of the people around them. And, you know, get them on board and resist the temptation of just having your leadership team. Your sir, all your senior executives basically just do this, embrace the people who want to be a part of this, and move forward towards the, towards assembling a vision, which is a galvanizing a vision for Scotland talk about next.

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      Yep. And one last thing before we close, I mean, this stuff is really proven in psychology. And it's interesting. I mean, we've seen customers form their own task force, and we can see how powerful it can be. And even just last week, we were talking to a customer who was evaluating us, and they had their own OKR Guild, and they were making decisions about what technology they're going to go with. And he said, well, let me pull together my guild, and we're going to review it, and we're going to evaluate it, it's like, that's great. Like, you guys are already doing this stuff. And you haven't even signed on anything yet. So, there is power behind it and seen in a lot of different places, and it is effective. But the one thing to look out for, just to reiterate, is, this is not your leadership team, like let your leadership team control the strategy of your company and the financial health and well-being of the company and make sure that the bills are paid, and you're hitting the numbers and all the stuff a leadership team does. But in terms of just cultural momentum, and alignment, this is really the main, the main task of the task force and what's in it for the individuals, it's a great way to learn, it's a great way to get other perspectives, it's a great way to figure out ways to solve problems creatively using OKRs. I mean, if there's, there's something within your company that has not been done, and its sort of been the thing that's off to the side that nobody's touched. It's a great first project for an OKR Task Force, just take, take it, own it, prioritize it, and run with it, and show people that yeah, actually, that thing that we've been talking about for three years that never got across the finish line, the task force did it and look at how much progress was made, how quickly that's the type of value a task force can bring.

                                      KJ 

                                      And to everyone, it gives them a new sense of purpose, because they've contributed to something that values everyone else in the organization. And that's, that's what people look for as well, when they talk about personal growth and employment opportunities of this company. All that bullshit aside, what people are craving is more responsibility. Because if I take responsibility if I'm a part of this new task force, so we can get OKR as movement, and do something like you said, Get a quick win. It's going to give them a whole new sense and freedom in their job.

                                      Stephen Newman 

                                      Well, that was quite an intense and thought-provoking discussion that we just had, and very much looking forward to getting into the next episode of the six steps OKR success, and that will be on episode three, which we talked about galvanizing and OKR vision. So being able to put together an OKR vision for your company that everybody understands as to why they're doing OKRs and what's in it for them. So, we'll be discussing that on the next podcast.

                                       

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