Making offers and requests

Did you know that every individual is given the opportunity to make offers and requests during OKR cadence, specifically the OKR Setup? 

Keep in mind that OKR Setup is a session that focuses on planning – it details what each individual can deliver to help the team make progress. And, there are 2 items that OKR Setup highlights:

  1. Team priorities – based on where we are at that moment, what would be the team priorities for the upcoming cadence? 
  2. Clarity of individuals’ deliverables to support the team priorities

The 2 items above provide the structure for every individual to make an offer/request.

Let’s start with the second item first.

The clarity of individual deliverables is made possible because each individual OKR is written down in a shared document. The visibility is there to grab. If that’s not enough, during the Setup, each team member will take turns explaining what is written along with their own rationale or thought process to provide subtleties or nuances that might be hard to grasp from the writing alone.

Now that there’s clarity on what’s expected from each individual, the question becomes: what kind of support do they need from their peers/manager to deliver their responsibilities?

OKR Setup is the right container to ask such a question because the underlying intention is still the same – it’s about clarity.

Clarity, not only in terms of what individuals need to deliver, but also how it will be delivered.

The latter can lead to conversations about collaboration, which can be triggered by a request. 

“To achieve KR 1.1, I need my manager to do ____.”

“I need my peer to complete her KR 1.3 first, before I can start working on my KR 2.2.”

When making a request, the more specific it is, the better. Below is one useful format:

I need [who] to do [what] by [when]

The clarity around those 3 aspects (who, what, and when) is valuable to managing expectations; both from the perspective of requestors and requestee. It allows the latter to confidently say yes or no to the said request.

Speaking of saying no, we acknowledge that in some teams, making a request can be tricky because it can be perceived as giving additional responsibilities to another person, which might not encourage them to accept the request.

“Why can’t you do it yourself? Can’t you see I’m busy?”

“I don’t think it’s urgent, I’ll do it when I have the time.”

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to this, as every scenario is different and it relies on the context that precedes it. 

One thing that might be helpful here is perspective.

It’s not about ‘me’ (requestor). Nor is it about ‘you’ (requestee).

It’s about the team. 

This is where the first item – team priorities – becomes important, as it reminds everyone that at the end of the day they are working on the same thing: moving the team forward. Whatever they’re doing is to serve that goal. And, the request is merely one attempt to make it happen.

Request and offer are two sides of the same coin. While most of this writing talks about the former, the same suggestions can also be applied to the latter.

Because OKR Setup provides clarity on what each individual would like to deliver, it’s easier for anyone to offer help or support – one that specifies what kind of help/support is being offered and when it can be delivered.

After an offer/request has been made, what follows is a deeper conversation rooted in the spirit of collaboration. The conversation aims to define the collective effort that’s necessary to make better progress for the team.


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