UX Designers Should Write OKRs

Posted on August 14, 2023.
Wireframes. One of the many things UX designers do.

I’ve worked with teams for years on their Objectives and Key Results. While I don’t like to speak in absolutes, I can confidently say that not one time in my experience so far, has a UX designer been actively involved in the writing of OKRs. They often are pushed down from a leadership team or, if the organization runs more empowered, modern product teams, the product manager drives the OKRs. This isn’t to say that any of these folks work in a vacuum but it’s also clear that UX is generally not a part of that conversation. Here’s why that’s wrong.

UX Designers Know the Customer

In the past I’ve advocated for UX designers to embrace OKRs. Conversely it’s now time for those advocating for OKRs to embrace UX designers as key members of the OKR writing team. UX is a user-centered practice (the “U” literally stands for user) and more often than not plays the role of user advocate. If anyone is talking to customers, that person is likely to be on the UX team. Given the customer behavior focus of good OKR statements, it makes perfect sense to include strong customer advocates in the writing process.

UX Designers Know What’s Realistic

A seasoned UX designer in your industry understands what drives behavior and, equally as important, behavior change with your current and future customers. They understand the competitive landscape and why some competitors are more successful than you. A UX designer who deeply understands the customer has a good sense of what’s important to your customers. As you and the team look for ways to improve the top line performance of the business, these designers can point you to the key behaviors performed in your system that drive usage, retention, revenue and referrals. It’s with this knowledge that you can also build realistic acquisition targets.

There’s gold in the tactical knowledge

Because OKRs are a goal setting framework lots of top-level executives believe they should “own” the process. In many ways they’re not wrong. However, given the deep tactical knowledge base UX designers have, their insight should be included in the OKR writing process. They have a good sense of who the product is targeting, why that audience would care, what they’re trying to do and what behaviors indicate we’ve chosen, built and designed the features most likely to succeed.

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