How Amazon define Metrics and achieve higher outcomes

Any company where teams are not able to define robust metrics, move very slow on the learning and growth. In most of the companies, the metrics defined and tracked at team levels are not relevant at all.

But there are companies who are able to define the relevant and robust metrics at the team level, and Amazon is one of them. At Amazon, metrics are defined and established before every initiative and objective is taken up. The progress on those metrics are measured on a real-time basis. Every initiative is a genuine scientific experiment focused on whether it will deliver value to the customer or not. As the metrics are tracked and monitored on a real-time basis, the company knows exactly what is happening on a daily basis.

There are many aspects that needed to be addressed to define enable your teams to define proper metrics within every team. The first is to understand the type of metrics:

4 type of metrics

  1. “Feel Good Metrics” – These are defined when enough influential people within the company believe that defining and tracking these metrics will have some benefits. The definition of the metrics are vague. In the worst-case- these metrics are promoting the interest of the specific group within the company.
  2. “Internal Focused Metrics” – There are metrics which are specific, better than “Feel Good Metrics”, and in no-way related to impact on improving customer experience, revenue and profit of the company(means improving something external), but focused on improving something internal.
  3. “External Focused Metrics” – More focused on improving the external things such as NPS, Revenue and Profit. But its impact on supporting the overall growth of the company is still not that relevant.
  4. “The Impactful Metrics” – These are metrics which truly impact your revenue and profits by improving the customer experience or changing the customer behavior in an expected way. They will truly delight the customer- examples such as availability of the item, speed of delivery, absence of returns and complaints, re-purchases of the product and related products.

Amazon tracks the execution on the fourth metrics – “The Impactful Metrics”. But why most of the companies fail to define and measure the “The Impactful Metrics”. The simple reason is defining and measuring the progress of execution on these metrics on a real-time basis is hard. But winning organizations understand this, and in every early in their stage of evolution, set the guidelines to define them.

Here are the 5 steps that Amazon takes to define and measure the progress under the “The Impactful Metrics”

  1. Obsession with customer value and not stakeholder value – This results in defining the right kind of metrics that enhance customer experience and value.
  2. The discipline of not starting execution on any project/initiative, without defining the metric to measure success. Sometimes the leaders and manager spend their days and weekend on what could be the right metrics before they jump onto executing the project/initiative.
  3. Work is done in small teams working in short cycles
  4. Reviews are around the “The Impactful Metrics”
  5. Linking compensation with achievement of “The Impactful Metrics” . Especially the executive compensation at Amazon is aligned with the core value and principle of “Obsession With Customer Value, Not Shareholder Value”.

Based on the read of John Rossman Think Like Amazon

Key Learnings

  1. Create the culture of defining metrics within every team before they take up the execution.
  2. Keep your teams small to achieve speed in your execution.
  3. Measure the progress on your “Impactful Metrics “ on a real-time basis.

The future of goal-setting

The current process of yearly goal-setting practice in most of the companies is dead. The 3 major reasons for this dead-end process are:

  1. It doesn’t make sense to employees, managers, and management.
  2. It doesn’t help in getting work done on business objectives which the company wants to achieve the next 12 months.
  3. It only states WHAT needs to be achieved, the HOW part is missing.

Let’s look at how this traditional process works in a typical company

Traditional goal-setting
Traditional goal-setting

 

Why it’s done in a way it’s done: The current goal-setting is done to get the annualized rating of an employee & take that rating to decide who will get how much money this year. Against every goal, the employee declares how much she has achieved, and the manager reviews and correct the rating based on his perception. And them someone sitting at the top does normalization(adjustment of the rating) to put people and their rating in bell-curve shaped.

I am not saying that these activities are not important. Differentiating people based on their performance is important; otherwise how someone who is performing average will aspire to perform better. And how the company will come to know who is not performing and need coaching to perform better.

Being an employee & manager while working in corporate, I never liked the process; it was too theoretical.

Someone who is good at acting & driving perception in the last 3 months of the year will get the maximum benefit of the current goal-setting & rating process of the company

The future of the goal-setting process should be business-centric & data-driven; it should support in getting work done on the business objectives which the company wants to achieve in the next 12 months

The high-level process of this future goal-setting process should be something like this

OKR way of goal-setting
OKR way of goal-setting

The progress on these goals is driven by the milestones that define the method of achieving that goal. And these milestones are defined, achieved and refined every month or quarter. I call them as Agile goals, and few companies call them OKR’s. And those of you who have not heard about OKR, they are invented in 1978 at Intel and used by leading companies like Google, Walmart, Uber, and many others leading new-age companies.

How the future ready goal-setting can be implemented successfully: 

  1. Create a core team: This can be implemented successfully then the company creates a core team of a senior business person who understands company business horizontally + a human resource professional.
  2. Spend time in coaching people on how to set agile goals/OKR: For the first 2 years, invest in coaching employees and manager on how to set the agile goals/OKR. Don’t consider to generated score in the final employee rating for 2 years.

Why the company should take this pain(what’s the business case): Why someone in human resource or CEO should think of changing this current approach of goal setting; here are a couple of reasons

  •  Implement the new approach of goal-setting to achieve your yearly sales & operational targets. If done right, it can increase your top-line by 3% to 8%.
  • It can help the CEO and company to achieve a higher level of alignment across teams.
  • It will help HR to get this activity closer to company 12-month strategy and contribute towards company growth.

The future of goal-setting has already arrived. The new-age goal-setting process should create the habit of thinking, planning and executing goals that will drive company agenda & growth ahead.

Learnings

  1. The traditional goal-setting process leads to a bureaucratic culture in your company
  2. The traditional goal-setting process is not data-driven
  3. To implement the new-age goal-setting process, create the core implementation team which is a mix of business and HR.

Biggest Mistaking in OKR Implementation: Cascading OKR

One of the biggest reasons for failed OKR(Objective & Key Results) implementation is Cascading OKR’s. Cascading means your Line of Business(LOB) Head Key Results becomes the Objectives for the reports of LOB Head. And then the flow of cascading goes own till the last mile in the company. It looks something like this:

OKR Cascading

The 3 major flaws with Cascading OKR’s

  1. If your OKR cycle is quarterly, which means you create and close OKR’s every quarter, then you end up spending too much time going top-to-bottom. What if the cascaded OKR ownership needs to be changed? In 90 days, deciding your OKR’s and then cascading means you end up your entire time in cascading than execution.
  2. Cascading means CXO’s and Managers are not owning any Key Result, which means they are not executing anything. But that’s not true in the real world and should not be true. If that’s what you want to implement, then you are again promoting hierarchy in your company.
  3. Deciding which Key Result to cascade and which to not is not always clear.

We at qilo,  have learned it in a hard way after many implementations. Clients want Cascading, and we have given them what they want. But at the end, any OKR Software success depends on the OKR implementation and adoption by the people who will execute those OKR’s.

That’s why we at qilo, have focused more on 2 things for successful OKR implementation:

A.  Aligning OKR’s with CEO’s Annual Operating Plan or Strategic Initiatives. This approach is bi-directional and works wonderfully. It gives clarity to CEO and his team that as an organization, where we are going, and how we are doing. And for an employee working below the CXO level, it gives them clarity of how they are connected with the big picture. The only trick here is to successfully come up with the set of 3 to 5 business priority statements that don’t overlap and clearly linked with what company wants to achieve in that financial year.

B. Creating Team-based OKR’s: Rather than cascading, create the team-based OKR’s where Key Results are owned by multiple people. These KR’s go beyond the hierarchies and departments.  The concept is bit more difficult to digest at first, as managers want to hold their boundaries and don’t want people coming from different teams and hierarchy coming directly to their OKR’s.  But it beautifully solves the problem of cross-functional communications and collaborations. Mind you, this needs a bit of change management to occur.CEO and/or COO himself has to take the ownership of communicating why we are doing this.

Summary

  1. Cascading OKR’s results in wasting too much time setting OKR’s.
  2. For successful implementation, Align OKR’s with company’s Annual Operating Priorities or Long-term Strategic Priorities.
  3. Creating a team-based OKR’s aligned with the company’s priorities results in better team communication and collaboration.

Are you failing to Execute your Strategic Projects

It’s the department heads and teams under them who takes care of executing companies strategic projects (strategy execution). And these strategic projects are the ones which will in-turn drive companies growth in future. And most of the time these strategic projects & goals are delayed because of the number of reasons. The CEO’s/PMO office struggles to get the work done on these strategic projects; forget about getting them done faster. “Capitalizing on time is the critical source of competitive advantage”.And most of the time, execution is delayed because:

a) No one is focused on how we can shorten the planning loop. Defining -What needs to be done, -How it will be done and -Who will be accountable takes too much time. And the processes & endless meetings take over the actual work to be done.

b) Companies fail to answer “What’s in for me” for the people involved in executing the strategic projects.

In this post, let’s focus more on answering point (b) here – “What’s in for me”.  If as a company, you can answer this question for your people-especially those who are involved in executing these strategic initiatives and projects that “how failed execution is going to impact their growth in the company”, half of the battle is won. This is what Infosys, one of the most respected IT services companies in India did recently.

Infosys has struggled to keep pace with changing times of IT outsourcing model and recent changes in top leadership have lowered the confidence of all the stakeholders in the company. As per a recent article in one of the leading newspapers, now Infosys has linked their leadership performance & bonus directly with the successful execution of companies growth agenda and strategy execution; which is driving revenue from the digital services. Digital services mean providing software services in the area of cloud computing, analytics, IoT, and machine learning. The entire article is worth reading, but the most important line is “measuring growth in digital as a component of executive compensation is a good way to ensure alignment with stakeholder expectations”. 

If you are not as big as Infosys, but still thinking about applying the same concept of linking your people performance with your strategic project execution, here you get one more validation about your idea. But if the thought is that these big company things are not for your company, think again. Or you probably have tried to apply it in your company, but have failed( in this case, qilo can help you).

If your company is also struggling to grow your revenue in your new line of business OR want to introduce a new product/service to market OR want to take your existing product/service to new territories. And your company also fails to go to the next level of growth because your team and department head not taking ownership of your growth agenda with best best strategic planning & execution of projects. If that’s the struggle, then link your team performance & bounces with the execution of your strategic projects. And make sure that this entire performance measurement is data-driven and quantifiable in nature.

Another very important point highlighted in the above article that out of 3 business priorities which are assigned to Infosys’s CEO “Revenue”, “Margin” and “Organization Effectiveness & Development”, how many resources & budget have you put in against enhancing your “Organization Effectiveness & Development”. Taking your company from point B to point C needs investment in enhancing your team capabilities, especially when you cannot have access to the talent which Infosys has.

Summary

  1. Someone if the company should be continuously focused on shortening the planning loop to define WHAT, HOW AND WHO of your strategic growth projects.
  2. Linking the part(please note I am saying only part) of your team compensation with the execution of your strategic growth projects will ensure that your people get the message straight.
  3. Investing in your “Organization Effectiveness & Development” often takes back seat among other top priorities of driving “Revenue” and “Margins”. But your journey of growth will get unlocked only when you invest your resources in your “Organization Effectiveness & Development” too.

Execution is the Key For Business Growth !

 

The biggest challenge for leaders who drive strategy execution is the lack of visibility on who is executing and who is not. And most importantly building predictability in Achievement. 

Very soon, qilo will be unveiling it’s Navigator feature. Which will empower CXO’s to clearly see the depth of the iceberg!  Whatever Strategy Execution Software model you use, OKR, BSC, Hoshin. If not executed well is just theory without impact.

Unveiling soon…

Goal Setting gone wrong

In most of the companies, goal-setting is done to either achieve one or all three perspectives mentioned below.

  1. To achieve the annual sales targets.
  2. To achieve the annual operational plan and strategic priorities.
  3. To fulfil the annual checklist activity of performance management.

Ever wondered why all 3 works in silos and doesn’t connect with the big picture? Almost all the companies do the exercise of annual sales target setting but do the half cooked job for setting goals to achieve the annual operational plan and strategic priorities. If done right, goal-setting helps you to accelerate growth, bring alignment and accountability across the organization.

If your goal are not the guiding force of your day to day work, they are not the goals, but just a formality.

There are various goal-setting frameworks that a company can opt to drive their sales, operations and strategic plan. 3 of the major goal setting frameworks that are widely used are:

  1. Hoshin Kanri
  2. Balanced Score Card
  3. OKR

Hoshin Kanri

Hoshin Kanri (also called Policy Deployment) is a method for ensuring that the strategic goals of a company drive progress and action at every level within that company. This eliminates the waste that comes from inconsistent direction and poor communication. Hoshin Kanri strives to get every employee pulling in the same direction at the same time.

It achieves this by aligning the goals of the company (Strategy) with the plans of middle management (Tactics) and the work performed by all employees (Operations). The 4 steps for Hoshin Kanri are:

Hoshin Kanri Step 1: Clarify your current state and identify Mission, Vision, and Behaviours

Your company’s Vision and Mission statements are a good place to start if they have been well written and are still relevant. Answer these questions to help you identify your vision, mission, and behaviors

Mission: Why do we exist as a company? or How is the world a better place because of us?

Vision: Where do we want to be in the future (5-15-30 years)

Behaviors: What are the behaviors that you and your employees should be living by on daily basis to achieve your mission. These behaviors are different from the values which live on your website.

Hoshin Kanri Step 2: Define Breakthrough Objectives (Hoshins)

The breakthrough objectives are mission-critical objectives. These objectives may take 3-5 years to fully accomplish.A few good questions to ask your team to get to these Breakthrough Objectives are:

Q1. In 3 years from now, if we look back on what we have accomplished from now till then, what is the biggest, most significant accomplishment we could achieve?

Q2. What is the single most important objective we need to accomplish to remain competitive 3-5 years from now.

Hoshin Kanri Step 3:  Define Annual Objectives (Goals & Metrics)

Breakthrough Objectives should then be broken down into Annual Objectives. These annual objectives are the basis for your departmental and even individual annual strategic plans.

Hoshin Kanri Step 4: Deploy Annual Objectives through the organization (Catch-ball)

Cascading your goals is a powerful and important part of Hoshin Planning. Each Annual Goal or Objective must be broken down into specific goals and projects for each functional group or team. It is only when each team member has a challenging yet achievable goal that they can see how they contribute to the overall Hoshin Plan.

Balanced Score Card

KPIs traditionally have had a bias by measuring past costs, revenues, and profits but offering little insight into how an organization was likely to perform in the future. Robert Kaplan and David Norton’s balanced scorecard framework, introduced in 1992, revolutionized how businesses connected KPIs to the company’s broader mission. The balanced scorecard, incorporating financial and nonfinancial measures to guide operational and strategic goals achievement.

If you’ve ever seen the Balanced Scorecard in action, you’ll know it’s essentially a strategic framework, divided into four areas (called “perspectives”) that are critical to business success.

OKR(Objective & Key Result)

Objectives and Key Results (OKR) is a management tool that brings in the discipline to achieve excellence in execution aligned with organization and CEO’s priorities. OKR is a goal setting framework originally created by Intel and later adopted by Google in the way back in 1999 when it had had not even celebrated its first birthday. OKR has supported Google’s growth from 40 employees (when it first started using OKR) to more than 60,000 today, proving that it can be used by small organizations as well as large corporations. Today, both technology and non-technology companies are moving fast to leverage OKRs to enable a high-performance work culture.

Here are a few examples of what objectives could be:

1)  Reduce the variable cost in production by 2.5 %.
2)  Increase revenue from product X by 10%.
3)  Become a more effective sales machine.
4)  Move to the new office by December end to provide a happy environment to employees.
5)  Solidify brand and position as market leader.

And following are some example of ‘Key Results’ with respect to above-stated objectives. There can be more than one key result(s) that can define how one will achieve one’s objectives.

1)  Hire a consultant to review and improve the six-sigma process.
2)  Ensure at least 75% of the sales team members achieve their quota.
3)  Hire three sales managers by end of June.
4)  Identify an office that facilitates company and employee growth for 250+ employees.
5)  Hire a new branding agency by end of Q1.

Whatever goal-setting framework you are selecting, expecting it to work out magically and contribute towards your company growth without the involvement of your leadership is naïve. At qilo, we have seen many implementations succeeding when leadership from the CEO to every business gets involved, and many fail when you implement these frameworks just for the sake of implementing it because someone else is also doing it.