Week Notes 2024-06-14

Life is a bowl of OKRs
23 June 2024

Borough Market, art, and a terrific week of workshops with lots of new people!

Over the weekend I went with the family to Borough Market and Tate Modern to check out the Zanele Muholi solo show. They’re a young photographer with an already extensive portfolio that makes a marginalised community in South Africa highly visible in a strikingly beautiful way.

Among the hoards at Borough Market
Brave Beauties, Durban beach - Zanele Muholi

I spent two wonderful half-days with a well-loved consumer packaged goods company working with the Digital & Technology senior leadership team. I was really impressed by the servant leadership of the CIO and the keen engagement of the team. Prior to our workshops, each went through my online course and made a first attempt and writing some OKRs. I was skeptical how this would go but even the act of writing imperfect OKRs was a tremendously useful exercise and made it much easier to see where we needed to spend more time together.

To kick off the first day, we did a “gallery walk”. This is one of my favourite workshop techniques where I put some provocative “posters” on the wall and ask people to wander around (sometimes with musical accompaniment) pretending they’re at an art opening. I ask them to pause in front of something that catches their eye for any reason whatsoever. Perhaps they agree with it or violently disagree or feel a strong curiosity. Then we talk about why they paused there. Years ago I wrote some posters of controversial OKR advice. This time, I asked ChatGPT to generate 20 more pieces of controversial OKR advice. What it came up with was remarkable. Some of it I strongly agreed with. Some of it felt downright offensive. It did the job beautifully and got us talking. Let me know if you’d like to see them, I might open source them.

Next up, we played “Circles and Soup”, which was a useful exercise in helping get teams understand where they have control and influence. It’s a nice way to start thinking about OKRs and a fun alternative to the “Mad Tea” activity I often use with bigger groups.

We have more control than we thought!

We realised that there was a lot more within our control than we first thought, it led us to create a whole lot of potential OKRs using my “OKR Map” technique. After a couple of hours we arrived at a few draft OKRs around the central theme of getting more people to use our analytics tools on a monthly basis. This would require us to improve a lot of supporting metrics like data quality, data availability, usability, data literacy, and more.

At the end of the first day, I had the privilege of joining the team for a wonderful dinner at Hakkasan. My dessert involved chocolate “caviar”, raspberry sorbet, and dry ice. What a treat!

The next day we opened with an extended debrief and some Q&A about the experience thus far. We continued to edit down our OKRs to an even tighter single objective with 3 key results. We did an initial check-in to test it out and see how well it would serve us. The resulting conversation opened a pandoras box of activities yet gave us clear direction about which would be most useful right now. It inspired some healthy dialogue and some useful strength tests. The OKR was doing what we needed it to do!

I was really happy with the outcome and felt assured that OKRs would serve this group well!

On my way out, I saw that the Premiere League trophy was on display in the canteen. I’m not sure what this thing is but people tell me it’s significant so I snapped a photo with it 😉

My 'excited' face

Friday, I had a great half-day workshop with the senior leadership team of a renewable energy company to wrap up the previous quarter’s OKRs and begin writing some new ones. The conversation made it clear that we’d been using OKRs as more of a todo list – as is so often the case – and that folks were feeling overwhelmed. We identified the handful of truly game-changing outcomes that would inspire this group and provide meaningful feedback on the work at hand in the next 6 months.

Immediately after the workshop, I was delighted to welcome my friend from Palo Alto that I haven’t seen for years, Angela Grammatas. We had about 2 hours to catch up and then I had to jump on a plane to Hong Kong for a speaking engagement with a new client next week.

More to come!

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