From BSC to OKR

I’ve been a proponent of Balanced Scorecard (BSC) for years.

It literally helped me pay my mortgage, feed my family, and bought us on a one-year travel.

That’s what I use when advising schools and businesses on strategic planning.

BSC is also something I use personally to help me plan, set my objectives, formulate initiatives to achieve those objectives.

But there is a problem.

Because of its cascading effect, sometimes the initiatives at the lower perspectives can be too remote from the overall objective.

In some instances, you could have a bunch of initiatives and by the time you are done with them, you lose track of why you embarked on those initiatives in the first place.

Besides, each objective required at least two key performance indicators. When you add up all the objectives you have on the scorecard, the number of KPI grow geometrically.

As I reflected on my workflow the last few weeks, it has come to my realization that I’ve been busy with the initiatives. But I’ve yet to see any results.

That got me upset.

I then came across the goal setting system called OKR (Objectives and Key Results).

In a nutshell, OKR is a methodology that sits in between Management by Objectives and BSC.

I like it for its simplicity and brutally stringent criteria for what constitute a key result.

But it requires a few tweaks. Here’s how I implement OKR.

It starts with a vision

A vision is simply a BHAG or big hairy audacious goal.

My vision is:

Multiply talents by building a community based on relationships and results.

Now, in order to achieve the vision, I need a series of objectives.

According to Doerr:

Objectives are significant, concrete, action-oriented, and (ideally) inspirational.

My definition of an objective is “what must be done in order to achieve the vision”.

There are many examples of objectives given on the website.

However, what appears to be missing is a process to guide you in defining your objective.

In my case, I have three objectives that will enable me to achieve my vision.

How I derive those objectives is based on a combination of what I know, what I’ve done, and how I expect things to work.

In other words, it is based on my assumption of how I think the vision can be achieved.

Once you have defined your objectives, you then need to identify a series of Key Results.

Again, according to Doerr:

Key Results benchmark and monitor how we get to the objective. Effective KRs are specific and time-bound, aggressive yet realistic.

That in part, similar to the idea of a SMART goal: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Perhaps the only element that’s missing is aggressive.

Once again, the website gave numerous examples of key results but failed to provide a process to guide you in identifying them.

As such, the quality of objectives and key results are pretty much dependent on the ability of the person setting it.

Which, if you think about it, is pretty much the case for just about any tools for goal setting.

Validating my assumptions

As I’ve discussed earlier, what guided me in defining my objectives and key results are based on my knowledge, experience, and expectations.

The only way for me to know if my OKR are well-defined is for me to put them into action, collect data to inform me, and then make improvements along the way.

In other words, a validation of my assumption is needed.

What is your experience with goal setting?