Goal setting

How To Integrate Project Management With OKR Methodology

By on July 6, 2017

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 the objective and 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 it can be integrated with project management OKRs.

Objectives & Key Results

OKR (Objectives and Key Results) is a popular system for setting goals, and the OKR framework operates on a simple principle. Each Objective requires about 3-5 Key Results, which need to be measurable at the same time. Measurability is one of the most important factors when it comes to Key Results, and they help project managers focus on the next step.

For example,

Objective: Create a blockbuster goal setting framework and feedback software

Key Results:

  • 10% of companies using JIRA use UpRaise before the end of this year
  • Rated amongst the top 5 most useful software on the Atlassian marketplace
  • 7500 active installations by Q4 FY 2017-18

If you are interested, you can find a few more project management OKR examples here.

Project Management

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

Project management work includes everything from identifying requirements, setting clear and precise targets, balancing the competing demands from the different stakeholders as well as ensuring that commonality of purpose is achieved. It can be very difficult for project managers across organizations to successfully execute them 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 an OKR framework and a defined way of doing things to ensure that there is a structure to the art of setting the objectives and corresponding key results.

For example:

Project: Set up the sales process

Tasks:

  • Hire an experienced VP of sales
  • Draft training programs for SD Reps
  • Create sales brochure
  • Target companies already using JIRA

What is OKR in project management?

In the above examples, you would notice that OKRs are defining the results – the WHYs and the project milestones are identifying HOWs. In order to achieve the Key Results – 10% of companies using JIRA use UpRaise before the end of this year, the project – setup of the sales process must be executed. While the project-tasks can certainly be completed, their completion does not guarantee the achievement of the results. That is why one should write project plans and set mid to short-term goals (aka an OKR system) & then try to achieve them via day-to-day structured steps (aka project-tasks). Starting OKRs with little know-how can cause huge issues.

How to write OKRs for project management?

Once you have a clear understanding of what the result should be, you can leverage results from one project management activity 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 the necessary steps to achieve them, you are daydreaming. And if team members are only performing routine tasks without an ultimate goal guiding them, there is nowhere to go.

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

How do you write an objective for a project?

Thinking about the initiatives that can help the customers, employees, or any stakeholders can give a good idea of the common objectives an organization should set. Often, team members don’t have an idea about what their projects are supposed to achieve. They depend on the project manager to tell them what needs to be done – and it cascades up the leadership chain. By defining clear and unambiguous objectives and corresponding key results, the project manager can provide the organization and individual team members with enhanced visibility of the future. It also helps in increased focus (because they know what they are working towards), as company goals get aligned with employee goals. Going through project management OKR examples set for other organizations can give a good idea of what to expect, too.

Setting up OKRs using Project Management Software

The process of OKRs can be achieved using a multitude of tools available in the market, but there are a few factors to consider. From the rate of adoption to measuring effectiveness, certain benchmarks need to be laid out. The process can start by defining the objectives and then creating relevant key results. Objectives and key results can also serve as motivational tools in the hands of capable project managers. An add-on OKR management solution like UpRaise provides the advantage of managing set objectives through a familiar window of Jira.

Difference between a Key Result and a Task – through project management OKR examples

Let us take an example to understand how the 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 stories where customers achieve success
  • Create videos to display insights about the product and its features
  • Track performance of website engagement activities

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

Project 2: Convert prospects on the 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 with a sign-up
  • Follow up for feedback

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

Differentiating between a task and a key result is One of the most common mistakes from companies adopting OKR methodology is how to differentiate between a task & a key result. A rule of thumb to constructively deal with it 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 blogs does not measure value. It would be a key result & not a common mistake if it said ‘Receive at least 4 inbound follow links from 3 relevant publications > 10000 visitors/month’ or ‘achieve a trial ratio of .75’. Let us look at a few more examples to understand this difference.

Task

Measurable Key Result

Notes

Write guest blogs on relevant leading publications

Receive at least 4 inbound follow links from 3 relevant publications > 10000 visitors/month

KR is measurable & talks about the result. The task of writing guest blogs may not be the only way to achieve this result

Enrich on-site content with specific keywords

Appear on the first page of Google, Bing & Yahoo search for these keywords

10 published product reviews on play and app stores/month

The task is laying out the minutiae steps for achieving the Key Results

Grow number of followers on all social channels

Increase social media engagement by 4% – engagement is defined as followers, shares/retweets, likes

KR here is precise in terms of the value it tries to measure, whereas task is just one of the steps to achieve the Key Results

Create videos to display insights about the product and its features

Increase marketing website engagement from 45% to 55%

Creating videos is one of many ways the key result can be achieved

Set meetings with prospects

Increase influx of MQLs from 2300/month to 3000/month

KR is actually the bigger picture to which the task is just contributing

This relationship of OKR and project management lets your team collaboratively discover new ways to achieve the end goals. It also allows for better transparency and increased focus among team members. Project managers in your team now are not micro-managing but helping individuals see the bigger picture.

1 thought on “How To Integrate Project Management With OKR Methodology”

  1. It seems that OKRs may not always work for projects. Taking your example above “Enrich on-site content with specific keywords” could be a stand alone project By the time the impact is measured the project has been completed and the PM assigned to another task (or if a consultant, moves on).

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