Category Archives: Team Management

OKR Design Patterns For Successful Implementation

design pattern is a general repeatable solution to a commonly occurring problem. In the context of OKR (Objective & Key Results)  many companies fail at the implementation stage as to how to arrange the OKR’s in a way that can lead to successful implementation and adoption of the framework.

This challenge will come to you when you have understood the basics of OKR and probably have read a couple of books and articles on the subjective. When implementing the OKR in your company, you need to remember that the organization is not made of different parts and pieces but it’s a complex adaptive system. And this system is run by people who have different motives and need to be satisfied at gut, mind and heart level. Any change we bring into the system needs to be carefully thought through.

The question here we are trying to answer is how you will arrange the OKR’s in your hierarchical complex system. There are 4 basic design patterns which can be applied to implement OKR’s

  1. Silo Pattern
  2. Team-based OKR Pattern
  3. Top-to-bottom flow pattern
  4. Top-3-level flow pattern

1. Silo Pattern: Each individual owns the objective and all the keys results are owned by the objective owner herself. Its simple to implement and easy to modify but again encourages silos in the company.

OKR

2. Team-Based OKR Pattern: Its different from silo pattern in a way that the Key Result are either owned by (a) objective owner reports(team members working under objective manager). Or the Key Result are owned by someone else working under a different manager,  but working with the Objective owner to achieve that Objective.

3. Top-to-bottom Cascade Pattern: In explaining this pattern (which means a way to arrange OKR’s) I am assuming that your company has 4 level hierarchy. This OKR design pattern connects the top level execution agenda with the bottom level execution. This means that the agenda of execution is cascaded down till the last mile of the company. But it also assumes that most of the execution is taken care by the bottom layer of the company.

OKR

4. Top-3-level Cascade Pattern: Again assuming that your company has 4 level hierarchy. In this OKR pattern, we connect top 3 levels of the company and cascading stops at the 3rd level of the company. And the 4th level will have their OKR’s based on silo pattern. It is based on the understanding that if the top 3 levels of the company are in sync then we will have a better flow of the agenda.

OKR

If you are struggling to implement the OKR successfully, we will be happy to have a conversation with you and help you in achieving success in OKR implementation. Feel free to drop mail talk[at]qilotech[dot]com

 

Preparing your company for next level of growth

As a CEO/Founder, you have already taken your company from point A to point B. You have survived the initial 2 to 5 years of journey to build a company. Now you clearly understand what kind of people will be able to work with you and in your company, and most importantly you are revenue positive too.

Now it time to scale your company and take it from point B to point C. And this kind of scaling comes with its own kind of challenges. It’s the time you must bring in more experts inside your company especially at the leadership and mid-managerial positions. And most importantly, allow them to run the show on your behalf. Since people will be executing things on your behalf and you will move from PUSH to PULL mode of execution, you must invest heavily in the organization, people efficiency & effectiveness. The 3 most important work areas for you apart from arranging capital to support execution are

  1. Hiring right kind of people.
  2. Constantly aligning People beyond Leadership with your Strategic and Annual Business Plan.
  3. Investing in people efficiency and effectiveness.

1. Hiring right kind of people

Hiring the right people is the core of every business. It makes sense to outsource your hiring if you choose to remain small. To grow your business from point B to C, you need more people.

It starts with investing in the right kind of talent acquisition team who will be in charge of hiring the right people for you.  And making sure your existing people are accountable for hiring the right people. And make your talent acquisition team accountable for hiring the people with right kind of behaviors.

The first step of hiring the right kind of people is to create the data-driven process of hiring. You create the Interview Score Cards which are easy to be understood by employees who are hiring on your behalf. These interview scorecards are created for each department separately.  Even if you don’t want to score people, just identify the required skills and required behaviors specific to your company and mark it yes and no.

Interview Scorecard

Skill/Competency Score by

Team member 1

Score by

Team member 2

Skill-1
Skill-2
Skill-3
Skill-4
Behaviors
Behavior – 1
Behavior – 2
Behavior – 3
Behavior – 4

 

Example : Hiring a Sales Manager

Skill/Competency Score by

Team member 1

Score by

Team member 2

Ability to hiring the Sales People
Ability to train the new Sales People
Ability to pitch the product/service with clarity
Negotiation Skills
Ability to Build Relationships
Behaviours
Realistic and Rational
Open Minded/Open to Change
Ability to Learn new things
Disciplined to the core
  1. Constantly aligning People beyond Leadership with your Strategic and Annual Business Plan

Probably Strategic Business Plan and Annual Business Plan(also called Annual Operating Plan) are big jargonish words for you. Many first-time entrepreneurs & CEO’s don’t understand them, and many feel that it’s a corporate company thing.

Strategic Business Plan(SBP) is about what you as the founder(s) & CEO want to achieve in next 3 to 5 years. Its about what point “C” looks like. If you don’t want to put in detailed SBP, you can simply put in place 3 to 5 statements indicating what as a company you want to achieve in the next 3 to 5 years. Draft these statements and get these statements validated by your leadership team.

Annual Business Plan(Also called Annual Operating Plan) is about how as a company you have to performance in a particular financial year to meet your Strategic Business Plan. Many companies break down their revenue targets till sales executive level and think they are done with it.

And many do create a plan beyond achieving sales number during their annual offsite; but post that CEO struggles to see the action plan and execution on that action plan. Here is a quick step-by-step process to set your Annual Operating Plan and to make sure execution happen on that plan.

  1. Before annual offsite, share the 3 to 5 statements that describe what needs to be achieved in that financial year. These 3 to 5 statements should be linked(aligned) with your strategic business priorities.
  2. Validate these annual priority statements with your team before going to onsite.
  3. While you are preparing for the offsite,  ask the team now to come up with 1 to 5 projects & goals for the next 3 to 6 months that will help the company to achieve these annual priorities.
  4. During the offsite, the entire leadership team validates those projects. And put in place the action plan & milestones to achieve those projects & goals.
  5. Post offsite, leadership team discuss, validate and correct these projects with their respective teams. And put this plan in action for execution.

Though this sounds simple, making sure that the team remain focused on drafting the projects and milestones to achieve those projects. You need to put a person in charge who will own this entire end to end process & activity. Usually, this person has a very good understanding of your business horizontally and to whom rest of the team members will listen to.

Frameworks like Objective and Key Results (OKR)  can help you in achieving how to creating the strategic and annual plan and how to link people and execution with this plan.

  1. Investing in people efficiency and effectiveness

This is the part where most of the CEO fails to do a good job. And end up hiring the team of consultants/guru who end up giving you ready to eat meals which probably don’t work for your company. Organization effectiveness and efficiency is majorly about:

  • 3. a) Properly defining the business KPI’s & Projects to achieve your achieve your Annual Business Plan.And then making sure execution happens on to achieve those KPIs and Projects.
  • 3.b) Investing in tools that enhance productivity and get work done.
  • 3.c) Enhancing leadership capabilities through training or workshops

3.a) Properly define the business KPI’s and Project:

Most employees hate taking accountability towards what needs to be achieved by them in a company. And most managers take the decision of who is making progress and who is not based on perception; not on data. When the company invest time in setting up the process to define KPI’s and projects to achieve execution properly, it enhancing decision making, transparency from top to bottom and reduces biases between teams and across the company.

3.b) Investing in processes and tools to enhance productivity: The next question to answer is what kind of tools are required by employees so that it can enhance & accelerate the execution on business KPI’s and Projects to be executed. Many companies invest time in drafting a plan, but only a few invest time and resources in making sure that the plan gets executed. At company level you primarily need 3 kinds of tools :

  • One that enhances execution on your Business KPI’s and Projects. Example: CRM’s, Project Management tools, Goal-setting tools, Task management tools.
  • Second is that help the company in enhancing customer centricity. Example: Tools to measure customer satisfaction, tools to listen to customer voice/opinions and tools to provide awesome customer support.
  • Third are tools that reduce administrative work. Example: Financial Support Systems, HRMS etc.

Not all listed tools are required immediately. You need to decide which tools are more important and which can be implemented later. Another important point here is, many of these tool implementations fail for many companies. This happens because of many reasons. I am listing down few of them for you:

  • Company is not able to define the requirement clearly and you end up buying something which doesn’t fulfill your need.
  • An Owner and internal champions are not defined who is responsible for successful implementation.
  • Vendor is not helping the company to identify their requirements.
  • Company doesn’t go into the detail on evaluating the tool in detail and don ask the right question.
  • A UAT (User Acceptance testing) is not done properly against the requirement before rolling out to the larger audience.
  • Not leveraging vendor expertise in implementing solution successfully.
  • Owner of implementation is more bothered about her learning from the implementation than successful implementation.

3.c) Enhancing your leadership capabilities through training or workshops

The first few training or brainstorming sessions you need to invest are in:

  • Visioning Workshops
  • Team Alignment workshop
  • Building accountability across company workshop

Visioning: In a 1996 HBR article, James Collins and Jerry Porras showed that companies with a strong sense of vision had outperformed the others in the stock market by a factor of 12 since 1925! Vision reflects what we care most about and is derived from our sense of purpose and values. It provides meaning, attracts commitment, and focuses human energy by drawing on our deepest yearnings in striving towards a purposeful goal. Visions provide a clear, easily understood image of a better future. Strong visions inspire employees. They embody values & behaviors, provide people in the company the purpose, and direct them to what will be different and distinctive.

Team Alignment : The biggest challenge we have seen while implementing qilo is that of alignment towards the annual and long-term goals of the company. A simple test of this is to “ask your employees what are the 3 to 4 things the company wants to achieve in this financial year”.  Almost 80% people in the company fail to answer this. This is CEO and leadership failure, not employee failure. With alignment workshop, focus on communicating what company wants to achieve and help people align their work with CEO’s agenda.

Accountability workshop: Accountability means I will deliver the expected results from me, come what may. I will collaborate with people across teams and will not wait to be lead by someone to get work done. Building the behavior of accountability is far more difficult. And that the reason companies prefer people from top institutes and people with the excellent academic record because it shows that the likelihood of this person being accountable for execution is very high. But every company doesn’t have access to these people, and the best way to build this behavior is to constantly communicate about the importance of the same across the company.

Summary

  1. Invest in setting up the strong process and people who hire on your behalf.
  2. State your strategic business priorities in 3 to 5 statements.
  3. Draft 3 to 5 statements that will summarize your annual business plan. And link these statements with your strategic business plan statements.
  4. Invest in enhancing your leadership capabilities. And invest to set up processes and tool to enhance people productivity.

Difference between OKR and KPI

CEO’s and companies who want to implement Objective & Key Results(OKR) as goal-setting framework are often in the dilemma on how OKR is different from traditional yearly KPI/goal setting methodology. And Why they should invest in a change that comes with OKR implementation. There must be good reason for implementing OKR over KPI(Key Performance Indicators).

The similarity between them is that both are the goal-setting approach but with different purpose, starting points, and execution ownership.Here are 3 major differences in both the approaches:

PURPOSE

The purpose of OKR is to achieve and improve Alignment and Execution across the company. The purpose is to enhance the accountability. The purpose is to improve the discipline across the company for how we can grow better & probably faster.

The purpose of annual KPI’s/Goal setting is to measure the performance of the individual at the end of the year. At the start of year, KPIs are set and than are put in under the carpet. At the end of the year, dust is removed from the KPI’s and people are asked to prove themselves as how good they have performed against those KPI’s.

STARTING POINT 

The starting point for OKR is the CEO’s/business Annual Operating Priorities(AOP) and/or Strategic growth & innovation priorities.

The starting point of KPI are the Job Description of the person or should I say the role to which that person belongs to or should I say Google.

OWNERSHIP AND WAY OF EXECUTION

For OKR the execution ownership lies with the CEO or COO or Strategy Head of the company and HR.  You have to create a team who understand the business horizontally and a team which can put stretched objectives and the team that can teach people across the company how to set OKR’s which are directly aligned with company’s operational agenda and strategic priorities.

In Objective & Key Results(OKR) framework, you define WHAT needs to be achieved(Objective) and HOW you are going to measure the progress on your Objective(Key Result). The Key Results can be owned by either the Objective owners or team members of Objective owners or team members from other departments. This results in breaking silos and accelerate the execution. Further Objective and Key Results are agile in nature and are not fixed for year. They gets adjusted based on business conditions.

The ownership to set the KPI’s across the company lies with the HR. KPI’s sit in the silo without any context to an individual as how its impacting the company growth or help in achieving the operating plan. KPI approach worked when the organizations were simple, cross-functional collaboration was not that critical and bureaucracy & hierarchy was the acceptable norm. KPI’s are usually fixed for a year and remains static even if business conditions change.

Summary

  1. Purpose of OKR is alignment and execution, whereas the purpose of KPI is to measure the performance at the end of the year.
  2. CEO or people who understand the business horizontally drives OKR implementation, whereas KPI’s execution are owned by HR.
  3. The starting point of OKR is your Annual Operating Plan or your Strategic Priorities/Themes, where are input to KPI’s are your Job Descriptions.

Blitzscaling 11: Patrick Collison on Hiring at Stripe and the Role of a Product-Focused CEO

This is my ninth blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

Session 2 notes can be found here. Session 3 notes can be found here. Session 4 notes can be found here.Session 5 notes can be found here.Session 6 I haven’t covered. Session 7 notes can be found here. Session 8 notes can be found here. Session 9 notes can be found here. Session 10 notes here.

Patrick Collison is the co-founder and CEO of Stripe that allows both private individuals and businesses to accept payments over the Internet.In session 11, Patrick shared learning of being a CEO and production guy. Here are the session notes and my interpretations on the insights shared.

  1. For your hiring and other processes, people just copy paste processes of bigger companies.People keep following it assuming that it will work for them. For example- Google hire’s people from top universities with highest GPA’s . This might work for Google, but probably will not work for your company. Even ex-CPO of Google accepted this that there is no correlation between higher GPA and higher performance at work.
  2. Think and take as much time as possible in hiring right guys. Effort spent is worth because that way you will hire the one’s that will suit your organisation culture.
  3. If you get one great A player, there is a high possibility that your next hire will also be an A player.
  4. If you are an engineer and don’t know how to do business development, hire or get a guy on board as a co-founder to do that. At Stripe, because co-founders didn’t know how to sell, they hired BD guys very early who has helped them crack big accounts.
  5. CEO and founding team needs to be involved in the day to day decision’s on the product, at least for the first 5 to 7 years. Because no one else can better understand what should go in the product to solve customer need than founders.
  6. The reason why product innovation stops in growing start-up is that of people who you hire to support growth adds complexity to the system called the organisation. With more people comes slower decision making and its lowers down the sense of accountability of innovation.To support innovation and keep building new things, create a separate small team of 3 to 4 people to execute the new innovations. And the decision of what kind of new product, idea or feature should this team focus on should be based on NPV or net economic value of that new thing.
  7. Talk to your prospective customers base as many times as possible before you start building or before you ship the product out of the building. At Stripe, for every new line or feature of the product, they talked to the developer community(their customer base) before the new things go in production.
  8. As you grow, most of your time as a founder will be spent on communicating with your different teams and defining priorities for them. The transitioning from “Thinker + Doer” to “Thinker + Getting People Think + Getting People Do” is very difficult. And that’s where you have to invest your time in defining processes.
  9. As company grow, founders and CEO need to shift the way they communicate. You can no longer put all those people in the room to talk to them. You have to pick up the habit of writing in an informal way about what you are thinking, how business is going, what are your learning and even failures that you are encountering in your journey. Written words have much more clear and longer impact. And it gives your employee more one-on-one feeling than those town halls and virtual meetings.

Blitzscaling 10: Selina Tobaccowala on Building a Global Business at SurveyMonkey

This is my eighth blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

Session 2 notes can be found here. Session 3 notes can be found here. Session 4 notes can be found here.Session 5 notes can be found here.Session 6 I haven’t covered. Session 7 notes can be found here. Session 8 notes can be found here. Session 9 notes can be found here.

Selina Tobaccowala was President and chief technology officer at SurveyMonkey. She has contributed alot in taking Survey Monkey global. In session 10, she shared the insights on how she managed the technology and tech people @ SurveyMonkey.Here are the session notes and my interpretations on the insights shared.

  1. When you architect your software application, not only it should scale on handling traffic, but it should also be able to handle more developers working on it. This basically means that if tomorrow you have to add more technology people in the team, they should be able to work on your code.
  2. Even if you have ended up with software code base which is monolithic( All software layers are mixed), rather than re-creating the system in new technology, pick up the part of the system which is most difficult and try to rearrange and refactor those blocks in existing architecture.
  3. When you have to take your SaaS platform globally
    1. Localisation- which means displaying data and numbers in local language, number system, and currency
    2. Integrating different payment gateways
    3. Your messaging
    4. More technology and customer support people
  4. A/B testing is important part to validate & improve the user experience of your web and mobile app
  5.  For subscription-based businesses like SurveyMonkey, important metrics to measure is (a) Number of free subscribers (b) Number of subscribers converting from free to paid
  6. While hiring, focus on behavioural interviewing to reduce bias in selecting candidates. The question in behavioural interviewing aims at learning about your past behaviours in specific work situations. In a traditional interview, you ask general questions such as “Tell me about yourself.” In behavioural interviewing, questions will be like “How would you handle XYZ situation?” Try this in your next interview. At qilo, we have adopted this and it has helped me pick up really good team members.
  7. Finding up people who can help you scale up the things is damn hard. Pick up people who have both start-up and big company experience.As your company grows, keep people motivated, focused on their role/job & engaging them for the next level of the journey is a challenge.
  8. To reduce the churn rate, look at the insights from the data produced by your customer. And present that on the continues basis to right stakeholders in your company.
  9. A tech engineer looks for following qualities before joining a technology lead company:
    1. The product(s) should excite them as they will be spending many years in building and maintaining it.
    2. They will be getting the right mentor or people there to work with.
    3. Other that engineering, what other things they will learn their.
  10. Anything that is critical to run your business should be in-house. If its outsourced, bring it in-house as soon as possible
  11. Once you have money, hire a BI analyst who looks at the data and tells you: “what you have built”, “how well it was doing” and “how well its is doing”
  12. Service oriented architecture helps you to scale the software system. And as well as helps you to strcture your backend and frontend engineering teams in the proper way.
  13. People management is not for everyone. Put only those people to managerial positions who can serve their teams by acting as servants. For people who want to remain technical, define a roadmap so that they can see how they will grow in your company.
  14. Successful manager’s get satisfaction by influencing people. Technology people get satisfaction by deliverng the product.
  15. Plan every quarter what you want to achieve. And track the progress on that every week.If you don’t do it when you are small, adopting that when you will scale will be much more difficult. On tool to implement this is OKR.
  16. Reduce the time it takes to take your code from keyboard to production. To achieve this automate the deployment process.

Feedback !

Feedback is breakfast of champions. Feedback is for those you are hungry for success. Feedback is for those who never settle on ordinary. Feedback is for those to want to strive for growth.

If feedback is so good, why does it lead to conflicts?

It’s because people do not know how to give feedback and people do not know how to receive feedback.

Behaviours expected from the feedback givers are off coaching, leadership, and empathy. Behaviour expected from the receiver is of learning.

Wherein in reality behaviour exhibited by giver is like an authoritarian and of an assessee is; I know it all.

The problem is much bigger than just receiving or giving feedback. The challenge is of lack of trust and belief between leader and subordinate.

Leaders have to first display a coaching behaviour and lead by example before even giving feedback. You have to pitch yourself as a leader first and ensure that you succeed in pitching.

The day you do correct this core and build managerial effectiveness – You will have a culture of constructive feedback conversations.

Build leaders first before building feedback culture…