Working for a true startup, complete with exposed brick walls, standing desks, unlimited vacation, and a ping-pong table, seems like a lot of things from the outside. On the inside, it isn’t all segways and napping pods for an afternoon siesta.
Nobody (to my knowledge as a new employee) lives off Soylent but, what everybody does have is a set of quarterly Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), or a short list of goals… and a long, long task list.
Everyone apart from me.
Day seven at 7Geese, my OKRs list was finalized and my Omnifocus neatly labelled. These OKRs are the 3 goals I have for the quarter. Communicated directly in the goal through the key results, is exactly how I’m going to measure them. No time wasted on task lists.
Fast forward 14 days, another pacific west-coast monsoon was upon us – business as usual in Vancouver.
I’d spent the previous two weeks planning a perfect and smooth execution of my three OKRs. Without going into too much detail, they were vaguely structured as:
- Long term marketing strategy planning.
- Quick wins and day-to-day marketing activities, or things that could be implemented and improved immediately.
- Projects that could be completed in a quarter.
I’d launched myself into meetings and chats, using Slack to collaborate with people as fast as my fingers could bounce. Calls with vendors were scheduled, prices were being negotiated. Busy hustling and getting things done. My ironically named Omnifocus was overflowing and calendar invites were flying around. But was work towards my OKRs progressing? The answer to my progression question would come sooner than I anticipated.
One of those flying invites was a bombshell, “a monthly 1-on-1 with your manager.” Already? A month? My manager is the CEO, so this was something I really wanted to take seriously. This particular 1-on-1 would cover how my OKRs are going, where I’m doing well, and where I’m falling behind.
In my case, the starting gun had gone off, but I was still in the starting blocks. I hadn’t fallen anywhere. I’d just never started.
A wave of mild panic set in. I’d done a great job of planning which actions tied to which OKRs and created great swathes of research and strategies to follow. Everything was even neatly filed away in Evernote folders. But, looking at the progress-bar in 7Geese on my OKRs, they were unanimously set to 0% and I had one week to change that.
It’s at times like this you wish you could just blame your boss for terrible target setting, but in this case, I’d set the objectives I was measured on.
I didn’t even want an excuse, I wanted to prove I could do it!
I fired up 7Geese side-by-side with my Omnifocus task list and started really prioritizing.
- Which tasks are going to move the needle?
- What can I do right now, not later?
- What do I need more information on that should get pushed to later?
- What task can I break down into sub-tasks, to start chipping away at my KRs?
As the week progressed toward my 1-on-1, I’d started chipping away at my objectives, slowly updating progress by a few percent. Refocusing my prioritization was working!
My new approach to my OKRs was working better because I had scrapped creating long project plans with cascading dates that seem to constantly slide into the future. Instead, each day I started logging into 7Geese and focusing on what I could do right now.
Some days I’m in meetings so much that zero progress is made, but questions are answered. Other days I make considerable progress. That’s the reality of OKRs. You still have email-heavy days, days of meetings, days of unforeseen fires that need fighting, but during and between those, you clearly know where to focus.
For me, OKRs have changed how I work in one minor ways, and it’s having a major impact.. They champion some action over no action. I’m less focused on delivering large chunks of a project, or simply reaching project sign-off, and more focused on getting something relevant done. My new philosophy: Keep making progress – keep chipping away.