Using OKRs with Scrum and Evidence Based Management
OKRs are a great framework for setting goals. Setting high quality goals, goal clarity, and self-management, positively affect team performance . This increases productivity and significantly affects perceptions of outcomes, particularly with virtual teams . When used with Scrum and the value-based metrics of the Evidence Based Management (EBM) framework, the ability for the enterprise to inspect and adapt its initiatives in order to meet the challenges of disruptive change increases both the relevance and outcomes driven by OKRs supported by Scrum's empiricism.
Using OKRs with Evidence Based Management (EBM)
EBM's value metrics provide a framework  for articulating whether the OKR Objectives will create specific enterprise, stakeholder and customer outcomes:
- Reduce the customer satisfaction gap through improving the delivery of current value or delivering an un-met need.
- Build internal capability to innovate or improve time to deliver value.
Importantly, EBM provides value-based metrics to use with Key Value Areas (KVAs) to help executives avoid the trap of:
- Metrics devolving to delivery milestones.
- Using tasks and activity-based metrics.
When OKRs are paired with EBM an empirical practice evolves that avoids the Waterfall cascade of task-based objectives from executives down to individuals. It reinforces that the focus for executives is to provide teams with a clear, realistic, audatious goal that has a measurable, tangible impact that will drive improved performance for both stakeholders as well as the teams.
Embedding OKRs into Scrum's Inspect/Adapt Cadence
Evolving the Sprint Review to inspect OKR metrics
Scrum's ability to provide executives with an ability to inspect real progress based on product increments, and then adapt, underpins a superior operating model to the predictive, large batch planning and execution model of Waterfall. When OKRs are embedded into the inspect and adapt process, the Sprint Review provides a unique opportunity to inspect steps toward Objectives by assessing movements in Key Result Areas, i.e., EBM measures such as:
- Lead time from idea to delivery to market.
- Customer sentiment, e.g. Net Promoter Score.
- Revenue per employee.
- Customer usage index.
Adapting Initiatives / Hypotheses
Where metrics indicate that no progress is being made by a specific Initiative toward the Objective, Sprint Review provides the opportunity for executives to:
- Continuing with the existing Initiative - Perhaps the metrics are lagging indicators and it's too early to make any decisions.
- Is part of the Initiative worth continuing?
- Do you stop other parts of the Initiative?
- Consider alternative Initiatives - Are there other solutions or approaches to the solution?
When an adaptation to an Initiative is required, the engagement with stakeholders at Sprint Review creates a feedback loops to discuss the impacts of changing part of the whole the Initiative, particularly where budget and previous forecasts of roadmap delivery is concerned, and adapt execution immediately next Sprint.
Adapting the EBM metrics for Key Value Areas
How do you know if you've chosen the right things to measure? In a complex environment, most assumptions are an experiment, outlining what we expect will happen, but may not necesarily occur. When metrics don't make any movement, it may be because:
- The metrics are lagging indicators. It will take some time before the Initiative will create any impact or outcome for stakeholders and customers.
- Metrics are being impacted, but we're not measuring them.
We may also not have a very complete picture of the impact our Initiative is making. We may need a broader range of metrics to fully understand how the Objective is being realised. When inspecting metrics in Sprint Review, consider:
- What do the metrics tell us?
- Are the metrics comprehensive enough?
- Are we trying to measure too much? We may not be able to see the proverbial forest through the trees if we're measuring everything.
- Do we need to add or remove metrics?
Download the OKR with EBM Poster
You can download the OKR with EBM poster from the Zen Ex Machina website today for free.
Remote or otherwise, goal clarity is key to business agility. For agile teams who are able to pivot to meet the challenges of disruptive change, and for executives who set objectives, OKRs with EBM can add much needed transparency regarding tangible progress initiatives are designed to deliver.
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1. Scrum.org (2020) The Evidence-Based Management Guide. Measuring Value to Enable Improvement and Agility.
2. Forester, G., and Thomas, P. (2007) Importance of goal setting in virtual project teams. Psychological Reports, 100 (1): 270-4.
3. Van der Hoek1, M., Groeneveld, S. and Kuipers, B. (2018) Goal Setting in Teams: Goal Clarity and Team Performance in the Public Sector. Review of Public Personnel Administration 2018, Vol. 38(4) 472–493.