OKRs Evolve

Posted on September 5, 2022.

Christina Wodtke, author of Radical Focus and one of the original proponents of OKRs, tweeted this a few days ago. Her point is clear – your goals, like everything else you’re working on, evolve. They aren’t fixed. There is too much change, disruption and innovation in the world to target fixed metrics in perpetuity. The systems and services we build today are continuous. They’re not static software programs printed on physical media. We have the incredible opportunity and responsibility to continuously improve and maintain these systems. 

Your goal and user behavior may mismatch

Understanding the necessary changes to your goals actually comes from the OKRs you currently have defined. As you attempt to influence user behavior in a particular way you may find that it’s difficult. In other cases, you may achieve the behavior change and it has no impact on the health of your business. In these cases, your team is targeting key results that no longer make sense. Consumer consumption patterns may have changed. The service you’re building now provides less value or perhaps your customers have simply found a new way to do something. In all of these cases, adjusting your OKRs is warranted. 

OKRs are agile by design

The whole point of OKRs is to increase the agility of your team. They provide goals in a way that demands you adjust course based on newly discovered evidence. Sometimes, that evidence will reveal that it’s the goals themselves that are flawed. In these cases it is your responsibility to address this with your stakeholders. This may not be an easy conversation but if your OKRs are leading indicators of business success, it’s essential. If you continue to chase customer behaviors that no longer positively impact the business you’re creating waste. That time and effort isn’t providing value to anyone. Most stakeholders will understand why the key results need to be rethought when you frame them this way. For all of these reasons, it’s imperative, as Christina says, that you check the viability of your OKRs every quarter. Has something changed in the market? Does this behavior change still make sense? If the answer is no, you have to reset your goals. In this way OKRs not only create agility in product development but in your business as well.