Businesses have been focusing on delivering value. The projects must be aligned with the strategic objectives of the organization. Without alignment, no value is created for the business.
Several changes are happening in the IT industry. IT is no longer a cost centre, it is business. New technologies like AI/ML, Data Science, IoT, and Cloud are emerging, and organizations must adapt to those to make the customer experience better. To take businesses to the next level we must change our ways of working.
To create value for customers, new approaches of working like DevOps, DevSecOps and SRE must be adapted. ITIL 4 framework have included Service Value System and Service Value Chain. These approaches talk about everyone in the organization having a common shared objective.
In the book “Measure what Matters” by Jonh Doerr, there is a statement “An OBJECTIVE, is simply WHAT is to be achieved, no more, no less. Objectives are significant, concrete, action-oriented, and (ideally) inspirational.”
The author also describes “KEY RESULTS benchmark and monitor HOW we get to the objective. Effective KRs are specific and time-bound, aggressive yet realistic. Most of all, they are measurable and verifiable”
The 3rd Principle of DevOps is about being a journey of continuous improvement. As Deming has mentioned, “What you cannot measure, you cannot improve”.
That’s right, improvement requires measurement
Key Results (KR) fits well into the scheme of things. However, the goal must be finalized after much thought. In 2009, the Harvard Business School published a paper – “Goals Gone Wild” which talks about how wrongly set goals can be destructive and even posted warning labels.
“Goals may cause systematic problems in organizations due to narrowed focus, unethical behaviour, increased risk taking, decreased co-operation and decreased motivation.”
A well set and defined goal becomes a yardstick for success. OKRs also helps in bringing all the teams in the organization on a common ground of understanding which helps in breaking down silos to achieve a common objective.
To get the best results, it is important to have the autonomy of teams. Each value stream team needs to be given the autonomy to do whatever is needed to achieve the KRs which will help in achieving the objective.
It is also important to have a flatter organization without too many hierarchies. Google adopted this approach by increasing the number of employees reporting to each manager. With a higher reporting ratio, the organization will be flatter leading to lesser top-down oversight and more autonomy.
To be successful, it is not only important to define the OKRs but also do cultural changes. In this, merit will be more important than seniority as in Kotter’s Network Model. Here there is no place for Managers. They need to become Coaches, Mentors and Architects. They need to be involved with the product team as part of the team and not managing people.
This can happen when there is TRUST.
T = (C+R+I)/S
T = Trustworthiness
C = Credibility. The person must be credible. It is about the words we speak. Other employees should be able to believe what the person says.
R = Reliability. This has to do with action. The person has always delivered what he has promised.
I = Intimacy. This is about the psychological safety we feel when we trust someone. We should be able to trust the person with the information and not be apprehensive.
S = Self-Orientation. This is about the person’s focus. Is the person self-centred?
When we have a common objective, the focus becomes common for all. So the denominator part is taken care of.
Let us now look at the “Superpowers”, as mentioned by John Doerr in his book.
- Focus and Commit to Priorities – High-performance organizations will be focusing on the most important work. This means they can prioritize and work on the most value-creating work. When we look at SRE and DevOps, we see that we need a single Product Backlog and SREs work with Product Owners to prioritize the work and decide whether to take up new feature related work or stability related work in the next sprint.
- Align and Connect for Teamwork – OKRs bring transparency to the common shared objective across the value stream team or the product team. We can get better results with the Product team, as mentioned by Dr Mik Kirsten in his book “Project to Product”.
This connection of the people’s work to the organization’s success gives meaning to work and thus motivate people. This requires collaboration and breaking down of Silos. DevOps, DevSecOps and SRE strive to break down the silo across the organization and between the Dev and Ops.
- Track for Accountability – OKRs are driven by data. In Agile, DevOps, DevSecOps, we are also looking at decision making using data. The Value Stream Team, Squad, generates their own data more and use them for decision making. “Inspect and Adapt” is the rule of the game. Empiricism and not Rationalism. Measurement is continuous.
- Stretch for Amazing – OKRs motivate us to excel by doing more than we think we can achieve. It helps us to be more creative and helps in further innovating. Modern-day work needs innovation, finding better ways of doing things.
OKRs goes hand-in-hand with CFRs. The traditional appraisal process does not work. We need to have continuous performance management. If there is a 2-week sprint, we need to have an appraisal at the end of 2 weeks. The appraisal is about improvement and not for Rewards and Punishments. Thus, we need CFRs – Conversation, Feedback and Recognition.
This brings up the context of Continuous Improvement, the 3rd Way of DevOps and the 2nd Way, which is the Shorter Feedback Loop. We have always had Continual Service Improvement in ITIL. We need to get feedback from every peer as early in the day. The earlier the problem is identified, the lesser is the effort to rectify it.
We also need Leadership action. The leaders must be transparent, share the goals, have their OKRs and share them with others across the organization and be ready to hear feedback from them. We need action-oriented leaders and not just “Memo – Leaders”. (A leader who just sends a memo to the employees on the goal and doesn’t work with the team).
A combination of implementing DevSecOps, SRE along with the OKRs, Value Stream Management, looking holistically from the value creation point of view, having a Kotter’s Dual Operating Model, led by Transformational Leaders and having an evolutionary transformation is the winning formula to succeed in the current situation.
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