Between Oct and Dec 2019 (3 months in Q4 2019), Product Narrative had the privilege of coaching the Product group of Vidio to implement Objectives and Key Results (OKR).
The Product group is comprised of 3 large teams: Product Management, Data, and Design.
Their goal to adopt OKR is to enable better — and more explicit—alignment with the company goals, while also nurturing cross-collaboration.
Kudos to all the Product Managers, Designers, and Data Engineers who transformed their learning commitment into this successful implementation. An implementation at scale within a relatively short period of time i.e. 3 months.
We’d also like to embrace the fact that this success yielded another positive impact. Starting in 2020, Vidio as a company adopted OKR as its way of working across the board, including the Management layer.
We recently spoke with Asti Ayuningtyas, one of the Senior Product Managers in Vidio, to listen to her thoughts and in-depth feedback about the OKR practice in her team. At the time of the interview, Asti’s team has adopted OKR for a good 6 months (2 quarters).
Let’s dive in and learn from her.
(The transcript below is in her own words; edited and condensed for clarity.)
Looking back, I initially wasn’t sure the OKR adoption would add more value to the Product Group. After all, we had been using a data-driven approach for our planning and execution. However, the hands-on approach from Product Narrative offered something new. During the OKR Cadence, Product Narrative would facilitate the discussion that happened and helped us to break down our quarterly target into chunks; one that would serve as our weekly priorities. They’d also ask insightful questions to provide higher clarity in terms of each member’s responsibility, such as:
- When I said certain features needed to be ready for submission to App Store and Google Playstore, did it mean that all the high severity bugs were expected to be fixed and tested? Or, did it mean all the features and bug fixes needed to be cherry-picked to the release branch? These questions were instrumental to give more precision to my KR.
- When there was a shared responsibility, Product Narrative was quick to point out the importance of having a clear separation of responsibility. In other words, how would my scope differ from my colleague? What would be the endpoint for my scope and his? And, when would my colleague need to finish his work?
- As a Product Manager with an eye for details, it was easy for me to miss the forest for the trees. I’m thankful for the questions that Product Narrative asked because they served as a reminder for me to always be aware of the bigger picture. For instance, when I didn’t manage to achieve my KR, they were quick to ask how it would affect the team OKR. Then, they would ask what needed to change or what I should do differently in order to catch up in the next cadence.
Product Narrative also made themselves present to guide us in writing the OKR. As it turned out, I learned a valuable lesson from this disciplined and consistent process. A well-defined and well-written OKR requires a change in the mindset. Instead of thinking from a task-based perspective, I was encouraged to think in terms of the outcome.
And, it was challenging at first.
An outcome must fit into certain criteria (quantifiable and measurable) and it has to be written in a specific manner. I have to know the exact scope and which state the KR would end. I have to take into consideration the effect it would have on the team OKR and on other Product Managers as well.
I realized that OKR — especially the Key Result — is essentially a representation of my thought process. It introduced a new approach to structure my thoughts better by giving a template to determine my priorities and examine it thoroughly by looking at the scope, complexity, and impact.
Suffice to say, this understanding — that OKR is a thinking exercise, instead of as a grand goal-setting framework — is the highlight of adopting the OKR practice for me.
“OKR is a thinking exercise, instead of as a grand goal-setting framework.”
As a team lead, there are other benefits that I directly experienced. For one, striking a balance between guiding and micromanaging is a delicate matter. I feel obligated to help my team members, especially the more junior ones, while at the same time giving them the space to grow and make their own decisions.
OKR helps me to do just that by facilitating my team’s coordination. During OKR Setup, each team member would explain their priorities for the next week. Afterward, there’d be a conversation among us to give constructive feedback about those priorities. This is beneficial for me because:
- I have a clear understanding as to what each of my direct reports would like to accomplish;
- An opportunity to remind them of the bigger picture, i.e. the Team OKR, which should serve as their North Star when setting the priorities
As a result, I can manage my team better and help them to prioritize when necessary. The best part is this conversation happens organically!
“I realized that OKR — especially the Key Result — is essentially a representation of my thought process. It introduced a new approach to structure my thoughts better by giving a template to determine my priorities and examine it thoroughly by looking at the scope, complexity, and impact.”
In addition, I got to know my direct reports better. For instance, one individual had the tendency to focus on things that have been going well; while not giving the same amount of attention to things that are in need of improvement. In terms of personality, I realized the individual that is outgoing actually had difficulty in detailing and explaining her work, especially compared to her peer that is more reserved. These data points — even though it might seem trivial — inform us on how to understand and communicate better with one another, while also enriches the team’s characteristics.
Thank you Product Narrative for guiding and assisting us every step of the way. The climb is tough but the view from the top is worth it!