In this conversation, we spoke with a team in GOJEK which focuses on enabling the growth of its partners through responsible financial products and services. The team is considered a “squad” that essentially denotes a cross-functional group of people working together to solve a specific domain of issues and challenges.
This squad consists of 5 members, representing 5 different functions: product, growth, marketing, research, and design. The Product Manager happened to be the assigned leader.
Note: The squad leader is not the manager for the other 4 people. Each person in a squad belongs to a particular function or department. For example, there is a Head of Research to whom the researcher in this squad is reporting.
The conversation covered many fronts about their journey adopting OKR for the last 5 months. As a squad, they are subscribed to a quarterly squad OKR; and each member is responsible for their own individual OKR, discussed bi-weekly during OKR cadence.
Two emerging themes stood out from this conversation: clarity and visibility.
5 people with different roles shared their unscripted versions of what those themes meant for them. Let’s read their stories.
In the subsequent article we’ll explore the challenges the squad must overcome in the first few weeks they started using OKR.
“I am clear where we’re heading“ by Varyan, Research
“As part of the Research team, sometimes I was not always clear about the correlation between the research I’m doing and which direction the company is moving into,” explained Varyan.
From his perspective, Research is an important supporting role. Thus, many times, his workflow is about delivering research findings as a response to someone’s request.
“But, many times I wasn’t necessarily aware of the following decision made based on the findings I had presented.”
In the past few OKR cadences, Varyan could learn from the squad lead about the product issues—planned and newly-found ones—to tackle and why they’re worth solving.
2-way communication in a planning meeting.
“For me, OKR cadence serves as a space where I can share the outcomes I am committed to delivering in the next 2 weeks, based on the issues I learned from other squad members. I am writing my own Key Results (KR) because I am more clear where we’re heading.”
This visibility, of the problems to solve, expanded his horizon to proactively design his area of contribution.
Varyan added, “Now, it’s like having 2-way communication.”
“I have more confidence to execute my design work” by Akshar, Design
“The days of putting unnecessary energy just to find out what other teams e.g. Research and Marketing are working on, which will impact my job, are gone.”
It was especially challenging for Akshar because he’s working from a different location, a different country.
“Now, that visibility is literally available for me every time we meet discussing our OKR. OKR cadence for me is an enabling cross-functional platform to tune in to one another,” Akshar excitedly shared.
The visibility is there for grab.
“As a designer, I listen to the 2-week goals my Marketing counterpart is aiming for. I could then strategize how my design work can help him to achieve those goals.”
Apart from planning, each of the squad members is accountable before their peers to self-score the progress and quality of their deliverables, which they had promised to deliver 2 weeks prior.
“With this level of visibility in planning and accountability, I have more confidence to execute my design work, even though I am geographically far from my team,” concluded Akshar.
“Outcome-based thinking and a sense of completion” by Raya, Marketing
For Raya, a distinct line separating before and after OKR doesn’t seem unreal.
“Before OKR, work felt all over the place. I kept up by completing as many incoming requests as I could. It was easy to feel lost, which I did. I didn’t know where the starting point was nor the ending line. It was just a stream of work.”
Raya continued, “The 2-week OKR cadence nudges me in thinking in terms of outcome, the significant end-result I want to create. Less short-term getting-things-done based on others’ requests.”
“This might sound small, but the effect is profound. This shift in way of thinking has provided me a sense of completion and accomplishment.”
Raya also appreciated the discipline of documenting individual OKR.
Outcome-based thinking provides a sense of completion.
“Documenting my individual OKR in writing so that my peers understand my work, which might affect their own, prompts me to formulate my thoughts clearly.”
And, Raya continued, “I practice that every 2 weeks.”
“The most well planned semester and how our contributions matter “ by Zikha, Product
In his unique position, Zikha crafted his reflection of OKR with 2 lenses.
First, re: his team as part of the organization.
He started with a big compliment for leadership.
“I’ve been with the company for 2 years. Frankly, H1 2020 is the most structured and well planned semester.”
Sharing more specifics, Zikha said, “My team is very clear on how the company OKR aligns with the squad OKR, which then translates to our individual bi-weekly OKR.”
“How our individual contributions matter to move the company closer towards its goals.”
Second, re: himself as part of his team.
“Leading my team, I need a healthy dose of visibility of my team so that I have a better chance to align us towards a common goal.”
It is not an easy challenge—for any leader. This is especially true in a team of diverse expertise, ensembled from different departments. And, your only power is to influence (instead of to manage, because you are not the manager). This is Zikha’s unique position.
“I got both of these — visibility and alignment —because of my team’s discipline to do the 2-week OKR cadence consistently.”
“In each OKR cadence,” Zikha continued, “we all have equal shares to communicate the goals (Objectives), including the specific measures to quantify them (Key Results), that we’re working towards in the next 2 weeks. And, perhaps more importantly for alignment, we collectively only approve those individual goals that will contribute to our squad OKR.”
“Process first, then tool” by Taza, Growth
Taza shared an interesting standpoint on tool selection and OKR.
“Once you got the cadence in place, more advanced technology can be optionally chosen to amplify the benefits of implementing OKR,” explained Taza as he noted the squad’s selection to use Asana several months ago.
Taza and the rest of the squad switched their OKR dashboard from Google Spreadsheet to Asana.
OKR + Asana = effective process + powerful tool.
“Things are just getting better with Asana. It’s like, OKR as the facilitative process to manage expectation around planning and review, whereas Asana captures the details about the work itself.”
The Chief Product Officer in Vidio (a different company) described a similar perspective — process first, then tool — in this interview.
I personally found it fun to have a discussion with this squad. I am very tempted to say this is an example of how a team, consisting of multiple disciplines, can work well together. Perhaps coincidentally, this can serve as a testament to what I recently shared as a personal reflection on LinkedIn.
“OKR is a tool. Learning how to expertly use that tool will enable us to do our work better. Just like learning how to leverage social media or use a workplace communications tool like Slack or Asana has completely changed how we work, learning to work with OKR is a way for us to become better at what we are already doing.”