How To Integrate Project Management With OKR Methodology

How To Integrate Project Management With OKR Methodology

UpRaise, an OKR app is an add-on for JIRA, a project management tool. One of the frequent questions that we hear from our evaluators is – how objective-key result relationship is different from project-task, epic-story (or whatever combinations you can think of) relationship. In this article, we address this potential source of confusion and how OKR methodology can be integrated with project management.

Objectives & Key Results

OKR methodology (Objectives and Key Results) is a popular system for setting goals. The framework operates on a simple principle. Each Objective requires about 3-5 Key Results, which need to be measurable. Measurability is one of the most important factors when it comes to Key Results.

For example:

Objective: Create a blockbuster goal setting and feedback software

Key Results:

  1. 10% of companies using JIRA use UpRaise before end of this year
  2. Rated amongst top 5 most useful software on the Atlassian marketplace
  3. 7500 active installations by Q4 FY 2017-18
If you are interested, you can find a few more OKR examples here.

Project Management

Project management is the art of managing project and its deliverables with a view to produce finished products or service. There are many methodologies in which a project can be carried out & these approaches may vary depending on the industry vertical. Scrum, Kanban, Waterfall are some of the examples.

Project management includes everything from identifying requirements, setting clear and precise targets, balancing the competing demands from the different stakeholders as well as ensuring that a commonality of purpose is achieved. It can be very difficult for organisations to successfully execute the projects within the constraints of time, scope and quality and deliver the required result without relying on a scientific approach. In other words, there has to be a framework and a defined way of doing things to ensure that there is a structure to the art of project management.

For example:

Project: Set up the sales process

Tasks:

  1. Hire an experienced VP of sales
  2. Draft training programs for SD Reps
  3. Create sales brochure
  4. Target companies already using JIRA

How does OKR methodology fit into Project management:

In the above examples, you would notice that OKRs are defining the end results – the WHYs and the project-tasks are identifying HOWs. In order to achieve the KR – 10% of companies using JIRA use UpRaise before end of this year, the project – set up the sales process must be executed. While the project-tasks can certainly be completed, their completion does not guarantee achievement of the results. That is why one should set mid to short term goals (aka OKRs) & then try to achieve them via day to day structured steps (aka project-tasks).

Once you have a clear understanding of what the end result should be, you can leverage project management to outline a series of steps that determine how to achieve these OKRs. OKRs & Project management are complementary to each other. If you only set OKRs & don’t take necessary steps to achieve them, you are daydreaming. And if you are only performing routine tasks without an ultimate goal guiding you, there is nowhere to go.

OKRs are going to inspire & motivate the team while project-tasks are going to make them understand minutiae involved. It is macro vs micro.

Let us take an example to understand how OKR methodology can lead to projects for different functions.

Referring to the content marketing team from the marketing department – it is their responsibility to increase awareness about the product, attract prospects to the marketing website and increase engagement with the product. Here is how a couple of projects may look like for them

Project 1: Increase efforts on content marketing

Tasks:

  • Write blogs on relevant leading publications
  • Enrich on-site content with specific keywords
  • Exchange guest post publications
  • Grow number of followers on all social channels
  • Create 2 infographics around each product feature
  • Publish and promote customer success stories
  • Create videos to display insights about product and its features
  • Measure website engagement

Once the content marketing helps to increase engagement on the website, the sales team can take over to convert these prospects to customers.

Project 2: Convert prospects on website to customers

Tasks:

  • Create a prospect list of all visitors
  • Set meetings with these prospects
  • Conduct Presentations and Demonstrations
  • Handle their objections and queries
  • Close the deal
  • Follow up for feedback

With these projects, we move a step further to achieve one of the Key Results viz 7500 active installations by Q4 FY 2017-18.

Difference between a Key Result and a Task:

One of the most common confusions from companies adopting OKR methodology is how to differentiate between a task & a key result. A rule of thumb is –

  • if it is an end in itself, it is a key result.
  • If the value delivered is getting measured at this step, it is a key result.

For example, ‘write blogs on relevant leading publications’ cannot be a key result because just writing of blogs does not measure value. It would be a key result & not task if it said ‘Receive at least 4 inbound follow links from 3 relevant publications > 10000 visitors/month’. Let us look at few more examples to understand this difference.

Task
Key Result
Notes
Write guest blogs on relevant leading publicationsReceive at least 4 inbound follow links from 3 relevant publications > 10000 visitors/monthKR is measurable & talks about the end result. Task of writing guest blogs may not be the only way to achieve this end result
Enrich on-site content with specific keywordsAppear on the first page of Google, Bing & Yahoo search for these keywordsThe task is clearly laying out the minutiae steps for achieving the KR
Grow number of followers on all social channelsIncrease social media engagement by 4% – engagement is defined as followers, shares/retweets, likesKR here is precise in terms of the value it tries to measure, whereas task is just one of the steps to achieve the KR
Create videos to display insights about product and its featuresIncrease marketing website engagement from 45% to 55%Creating videos is one of many ways the key result can be achieved
Set meetings with prospectsIncrease influx of MQLs from 2300/month to 3000/monthKR is actually the bigger picture to which the task is just contributing

This relationship of OKR methodology and project management lets your team collaboratively discover new ways to achieve the end goals. Managers in your team now are not micro managing but helping individuals see the bigger picture.