Creating OKRs with the Lean UX Canvas

Posted on October 11, 2021.

With the recent launch of the 3rd edition of the Lean UX book, I mentioned in last week’s post that one of the biggest changes in the book was rewriting it with the Lean UX Canvas as the backbone or table of contents. We did this because we use the canvas as the main teaching tool when we work with teams and executives training them in product discovery and Lean UX. In addition, I recorded a short video explaining exactly how to use the canvas as you and your team move from one box to the next. 

One thing I neglected to cover in that video and that seems to come up in many of our online workshops these days is how to connect OKRs and the Lean UX canvas. The link isn’t explicit and, while we teach it in our live sessions, we haven’t discussed it in a blog post yet. 

Let’s fix that now. 

Lean UX Canvas V2
The Lean UX Canvas version 2 (current version)

Where is the objective statement in the Lean UX Canvas?

It turns out that if you follow the Lean UX canvas you are in fact creating objectives AND key results. You’re just doing it in two separate parts of the canvas. 

You’re declaring your objectives as part of the work you and the team do in Box 1 – Business Problem Statement. In this box we ask you to take the requirements you’ve likely been handed and to reframe it as a problem to solve rather than a solution to implement. In doing so, you create the bandwidth for product discovery to take place. 

Close up of Box 1 of the lean ux canvas, business problem statement
Box 1 of the Lean UX Canvas – Business Problem Statements

We provide you with a business problem statement that looks like this:

[Our service/product] was designed to achieve [these goals]. We have observed [in this way] that the product/service isn’t meeting these goals which is causing [this adverse effect/problem] to our business.

How might we improve service/product so that our customers are more successful as determined by [these measurable changes in their behavior]?

The objective statement comes out of the last part of the business problem statement template — from the “how might we” statement at the end. When written correctly it looks something like, “How might we create the simplest mortgage application for digitally-native consumers helping them complete their mortgage application in 50% less time and increasing application completion rates by 90%?” 

“Create the simplest mortgage application for digitally-native consumers” is your objective statement. It’s qualitative, aspirational and concrete in the value it provides. The only thing it’s missing is a timebox. Don’t forget to add that here once you extract the objective from Box 1. 

The Key Results are in the Business Outcomes Section

So where are the key results? They aren’t far away, on the other side of the canvas in Box 2 — Business Outcomes. 

Box 2 of the Lean UX Canvas - business outcomes
Box 2 of the Lean UX Canvas – Business Outcomes

In Box 2 we ask you the question, “What will people be doing differently if we solve the business problem?” The answer is always a behavior of our target audience and is always quantifiable. In most cases the metrics we’re looking for in Box 2 are more tactical than the ones we put in the business problem statement. For example, we could add outcomes in Box 2 that look like, “200% increase in mortgage applications started, 75% fewer calls to tech support to help with completing the application and 35% reduction in foot traffic to the branches to fill out mortgage applications on paper.”

These are fantastic key results because they are outcomes — measures of human behavior. You can always mix and match the success criteria from Box 1 with the work you did in Box 2 ending up with an OKR statement that looks like this:

Objective: Create the simplest mortgage application for digitally-native consumers by end of Q4

Key Result: Application completion rates increase by 90%

Key Result: Increase application start rates by 200%

Key Result: 75% reduction in customer support calls about online mortgage applications

As you work your way through the canvas you’ll also end up with proposed solution hypotheses that may help you achieve these OKRs. In fact, that’s the whole point of the Lean UX Canvas. 

If you have any questions, just leave them in the comments.