Holacracy Community of Practice Archive, 2015-2019 Community Holacracy Web Site

OKRs and Holacracy

Hello Holacracy Community,

have any of you combined Holacracy and OKRs already? What are your experiences? Have you created any roles or policies around OKRs?

As I undestand it, the OKR philosophy suggests that everyone defines 5 Objectives and 4 Key Results for each Objective. What happens if a person has multiple roles? Does this person create 5 Objectives for each role? Seems like an information overflow to me.

In Tactical Meetings, do you present Progress Updates on Key Results rather than Projects?

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts and comments.

Cheers

Frederik

7 Replies
Eric Babinet
12/12/2015

Hi Frederick,

That's an interesting question, especially since OKRs are gaining in popularity, especially in Silicon Valley. In my opinion there are a couple conflicts between Holacracy and the OKR philopshy. The first is in how OKRs are defined. OKRs assume the existence of a management hierarchy and OKRs are typically defined at the top and trickle down. I suppose you could define OKRs at the circle/role level instead, but as you mention that could become burdensome with most people filling many roles in Holacracy.

The bigger conflict is that the key-results of OKRs are targets to achieve by a certain date. They are an attempt to predict the future and there is an implied commitment that you will achieve 60-70% of the key results. This of course can create extra stress if the commitments are no longer realistic and sub-optimal prioritization if these goals are no longer the most important thing to be doing. Brian explores this topic in much more detail in his article The Insanity of the What-by-When. Definitely recommend you check that out if you haven't seen it.

-Eric

Sandra Murre
12/13/2015

we struggled with this a bit too as we had worked with 'Rocks' and OKR's in very similar ways at two different organizations and saw the benefits with the alignment of resources and prioritizing using these.  We did however find that the tie to a fixed deadline (typically part of a quarter theme) was motivational when it worked and demotivating when the team made good choices but the result meant missing a 'deadline'.  We are still early stages and I could have this wrong but in glass frog we are treating 'projects' as 'rocks' or 'OKRs' as to us a project is typically something we run for our clients and internal initiatives were OKRs....  This helped our team transition and while there is some mixed feelings about dropping the 'fixed due dates' I believe that is only transitional and after a few months it will be fully embraced as there should be no penalty or stress as a result of prioritizing resources to the best options at the time instead of giving priority to those we wrote on the wall at our quarterly meeting.  Tactical meetings are a good way to align priorities as hearing from each person gives emphasis on the inter dependencies and during the meeting people naturally adjust to factor this in and re prioritize accordingly.

 

Dennis Ross
12/14/2015

Hi Frederick,

Chris Cowan touched on these issues in a similar post, with supporting references from Frederic Laloux's - Reinventing Organizations.  Take a look and see if it helps.

...6#457434583576579736

Best,

- Dennis

Ruben @ Springest
12/14/2015

Haven't read the other comments, my 2 cents: We use OKRs as the only way to set strategies in circles (so, LL's make it, but only for their own circle, not for the roles within it). Currently we have 1 O and 1 KR for the organisation as a whole, but average it's been 2/3 O's and each 2/3 KR's. This is the same for each circle. 

Usually KRs are metrics (but there are many more metrics than KRs), and there are numerous projects to support them.

Frederik Fleischmann
12/18/2015

Thank you everyone for all of your very helpful replies! It's really great to have this community.

Some reactions on your reactions:

I don't see a major conflict between OKRs and Holacracy in terms of Hierarchy. It is clearly defined that the Lead Link of group sets the strategies and the Lead Links of the Sub-Circles set their strategies accordingly. Therefore, I find that the OKR process aligns neatly with the Holacracy structure.

I do see a potential conflict of "The Insanity of the What-by-When" and OKR's quarterly deadlines. However, we definitely felt a need for alignment in our organization. Currently, I think that setting quarterly objectives (especially through a bottom-up process) seems like a good middle ground between alignment and flexibility. Re-prioritizing too frequently leads to doing a lot of things a little bit instead of doing few things right.

I really like the idea of setting the KRs as metrics for the circle. This seems like a good integration of OKRs into Tactical meetings. I'm not sure yet, if and how to integrate the individual OKRs though.

Ruben @ Springest
01/04/2016

The conflict could be that officially (although it's not licensed or anything afaik) a manager can set the OKR for the coworker. John Doerr advices "at least 60% of the OKRs should be bottom up". In Holacracy that would be 100%, the Lead Link sets strategy for the circle but NOT for any of the roles within. That also prevents the insanity btw

Source of the quote: http://www.slideshare.net/Bett...b=&from_search=1

 

How do you mean integrating the individual OKRs? The OKRs for specific roles? You could just add them as metrics too, as anyone can update on them. At Springest we don't set role level OKRs btw, only at the circle level. In practice, projects are often closely tied to key results already.

Frederik Fleischmann
01/12/2016
Ruben @ Springest posted:

The conflict could be that officially (although it's not licensed or anything afaik) a manager can set the OKR for the coworker. John Doerr advices "at least 60% of the OKRs should be bottom up". In Holacracy that would be 100%, the Lead Link sets strategy for the circle but NOT for any of the roles within. That also prevents the insanity btw

Source of the quote: http://www.slideshare.net/Bett...b=&from_search=1

 

How do you mean integrating the individual OKRs? The OKRs for specific roles? You could just add them as metrics too, as anyone can update on them. At Springest we don't set role level OKRs btw, only at the circle level. In practice, projects are often closely tied to key results already.

Thank you for your reply, Ruben. I found this information particularly useful: "[...] the Lead Link sets strategy for the circle but NOT for any of the roles within."

We haven't included the KRs as metrics yet. We have, however, integrated the objectives into our asana. I know that you also use asana extensively, therefore I'd like to let you know how we use it:

1. Each Circle is considered a Team in our asana.

2. There we created the Objectives as Projects which look like this:
______Name of Objective______

3. Within the objective we write down the Key Results as Tasks

4. We group all Projects which relate to the Objective underneath the Project which we created in step #2. This way we have an overview which Projects contribute to which Objective.

Furthermore I'm thinking of introducing the following structure:

  1. Checklist Item: Work prioritized according to individual OKRs
  2. Monthly OKR Review Meeting (extended Tactical) of each Circle
    1. 1st and 2nd month: KR status update (15 minutes per Person)
    2. 3rd month: Grading and evaluation (e.g. what went wrong, what went great)