Our work can often been seen as either ‘strategic’ or ‘everyday’ and this can lead to a battle about priorities. When planning our strategic or project work it’s hard to include the everyday stuff, the things that just must get done. When it time’s to do the work, it’s all too easy to end up reacting and loose focus on the big picture and the things that could ultimately make a big difference. We get caught in the tyranny of the urgent.
Our strategic work ends up competing with our everyday work, and one of them must loose.
A tool like OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) has been helpful in focusing our work, but the struggle has come when we want to put a lot of the everyday work into this framework. How do I treat something like ‘sending invoices’ into my OKRs? I could be spending a significant amount of my time doing this.
Firstly, this could be a sign that either I’m not working on the right things. Perhaps I should re-evaluate and look at what I should actually be doing. However, in this situation these are things I actually need to be doing. I need to find a helpful way to encompass this work into my OKRs. I don’t want to get to my reflection time and not be able to reflect on a significant part of my work. If this situation continues I would end up feeling guilty that I’m not hitting my OKRs. I am setting up my work everyday in competition with my strategic work, and one of them will loose.
What if instead my everyday encompassed the strategic. That’s a pretty easy sentence to write, but turning it into an OKR is a lot harder. So remembering what an OKR is:
“We will (Achieve our Objective) as measured by (These Key Results) .”John Doerr
Perhaps it is helpful to ask ourselves the question of what does it mean to do our everyday work well? This becomes the objective. Then we can identify 3-5 keys things that we can measure that become the key results.
Example: Sending Invoices
Let’s say it’s your job in the finance team to send invoices. Seemingly it’s hard to turn this into an inspiring OKR. Let’s give it a go. Our objective could look something like below (I know this isn’t that inspirational!)
Objective: Send all invoices well
We would likely to want to do some work on wording here, but I’ve deliberately left this as a basic as I can.
Now our key results can speak to what it means to send invoices well. I want them to be:
- sent at the right time
- easy to understand
These alone aren’t great key results, so lets put some metrics in there.
KR1. Invoices are accurate as measured by less than 2% of all invoices requiring changes.
KR2. Invoices are sent within 1 day of signing the contract.
KR3. Invoices are clear and easy to understand as measured by less than 5% of all invoices having a query after being sent.
So hopefully what we’ve done is not just mash existing necessary everyday work into the OKR system, but we’ve focused the work. Now we don’t just send invoices, we have a way to measure and stretch how we send invoices so that we can innovate and improve our everyday work.
These key results could drive better system integration (to ensure they are more accurate), or it may lead to better communication between teams (as you work to send them in a timely manner).