A fair bit of theoretical material exists around Objectives & Key Results. But implementing OKRs is hard. Especially if you are doing it for the first time.
UpRaise for Employee Success is a Jira app that we develop & support for managing OKRs. More often than not we come across the question – ‘Do Jira issues quality as key results?’ or bit of a variation on this one ‘How do we integrate project management in Jira with OKRs in UpRaise?’
In this article, we will address these queries & also put forth a few best practices.
How to map entities in Jira with OKRs?
Jira has a number of different entities to work with. Right from customisable issue types to projects, versions, components and so on. How to map these to OKRs?
Simple answer is – you don’t need to. If these entities in Jira are the source of creating your OKRs, you are doing it wrong. First finalise different levels of OKRs & then lead them into creation of projects. You see, OKRs are short-mid term & as well as strategic. Whereas issues in Jira are more of a task list & very short term.
In fact, for the first time adopters – we recommend to stay away from linking OKRs to Jira issues. Unless of course, you know what you are doing.
Jira issues as key results!
All along we have preached that key results should be outcome focused not effort focused. And that remains true for majority of the cases. But one needs to take into account the context. The context in which OKRs are being set. Blind outright acceptance & rejection can be detrimental.
Companies use Jira for project/task tracking. Then isn’t it incorrect to use Jira issues as key results? Well, answer is ‘Yes & No’. It really depends, there is no singular answer.
For example, our strong recommendation is – not to make every other Jira issue a key result. That would defeat the purpose of OKRs (which is to increase focus). And rather end up as an operational overhead.
When in a confusion, ask following questions to see if the Jira issue can really be a key result –
- does completing this Jira issue mean, objective has moved closer to being successful?
- what if there was no integration between OKRs & project management! Would the Jira issue still make a good KR?
If answer to both these questions is yes, that Jira issue is good enough to be a key result.
Let us explore this further with the help of an example.
Objective – Improve product performance around Browse OKRs feature
Key Results –
- Page loading time is brought down from 4s to 2s
- All technical debt accumulated over the last year around this feature is addressed
- At least 2 customers from each continent testify to performance improvement
Here we have identified the objective and corresponding key results beforehand. Now out of these, what key results are appropriate to be Jira issues?
2nd one – the one that talks about technical debt is the perfect candidate to be a Jira epic. Stories, improvements, bugs etc that need solving as part of technical debt would fall within this epic. That is, as these items get completed objective is moving closer to being a success.
Assume for a second that reduction of page loading time was a Jira issue. Would completion of contained issues/sub-tasks mean loading time is reduced from 4s to 2s? No! This KR is measurable by itself & doesn’t need to be supported by sub-tasks or other Jira issues.
Rule of thumb
If the objectives are stretch & difficult to achieve, there are going to be lot of unknowns. Right from the outset, there will be an uncertainty around how to achieve them. That is where outcome oriented key results play an important part. Success of the objective is not in completing a task, rather reaching the outcome.
If there is certainty about steps to be taken to achieve an objective, its ok to link (those steps) Jira issues as key results.