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OKRs, ‘Early Stage Startups’ edition

Andrew Chen (Andressen Horowitz, ex-Uber) has recently published a pretty valid point on most advice on OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), and on whether they’re even appropriate for pre-Product–Market Fit startups.

OKRs are most certainly harmful for [pre-Product–Market Fit] startups because it causes teams to optimize towards goals instead of constantly asking if the goal I even the right one to begin with? Plus the OKR cycles are typically quarters when iteration should be happening weekly.
Every blog post / book on business processes — OKRs, (…) — almost need [sic] a label to describe the stage of [company] the ideas are for.
(…)

Andrew Chen on LinkedIn

The argument regarding OKR literature is strong, and I recognise myself in it (no, I’m not so vain as to thing this post is about me). My 2-part series on OKRs does present a narrow view, centered on the experience it stemmed from — post-Product–Market Fit, B2B product company. But is it still fair to say OKRs are harmful for early stage startups?

I responded to Andrew making my case for OKRs to be not only appropriate but particularly helpful to early stage startups.

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6 Principles for Truly Effective OKRs (Part 2)

Well-crafted OKRs require a team and organisation context that fosters collaboration and learning

In Part 1, we have seen 3 principles for effective OKRs, focused on the OKRs themselves:

  1. At least one of your Objectives should be cross-functional and stable.
  2. Its Key Results should express the outcomes that show your progress towards your Objectives (not the work you’re willing to put into it).
  3. Key Results should be unequivocally measurable.

Let us now look at 3 more principles, focused on the best team and organisation context for OKRs to thrive as an alignment and learning tool.

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6 Principles for Truly Effective OKRs (Part 1)

How we use cross-functional collaboration and focus on outcomes to maximise the impact of product teams at Onfido

At Onfido, we work in cross-functional, mission-driven and long-lived teams. For almost 1½ years, I was the Product Manager for the Hire team (and product line), whose mission was “Scalable, repeatable and trustworthy verification for high-volume recruitment”.

We also use OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) across the whole company (not just Technology) to create alignment around each team’s mission and goals — both within the team and across the company. As we grow more and more, this last bit is harder to achieve without a simple and effective way to create global visibility on how 200+ people are contributing to Onfido’s core vision.