Strategy, alignment & accountability: CMOs talk OKRs, V2MOM and more

Matt Heinz

If your personal, department or organizational goal-setting system is focused on accountability, great. But that’s only part of what’s needed.

The best systems – be they OKRs or B2MOM or EOS or any variety of others – intermix strategy, accountability and alignment to create truly efficient, cross-functional focus on results that matter.

Last Friday’s CMO Coffee Talk was a deep dive and master class in alignment/accountability systems. Below are several highlights from the conversation. Special thanks to Seth Elliott and Casey Carey in particular for leading the discussion and sharing their insights/experience.

"Management is doing things right, Leadership is doing the right things." -Peter Drucker

Too often agile is used as an excuse for not having a strategy.

Our dev team “uses Agile” aka has relatively no accountability.

We use a “modified agile” approach on my teams. Mostly to focus on making sure things get finished and we actually deliver the work.

You have to be careful with “top-level” corp objectives. When we were on OKRs, one top level objective was market expansion. Sales “translated” that to international expansion, and CS “translated” that objective to scaling by use cases. It was a mess to unwind..

We had issues with one team not considering the other team requirements e.g. “Outcomes team will publish a white paper in the quarter on the research” And marketing had an OKR to publish, but the Outcomes team never intended to finish the research until the end of the quarter so Marketing had no chance to achieve their OKR.

Circle of control vs circle of influence is a delineation line for success of OKRs.

Other departments needing marketing help to support initiatives and forgetting to tell marketing?? Never happens….

Mid quarter we review progress across Sales, Marketing, CX (CSM, Support and Solutions) to see who might need help to achieve.

The year we implemented OKRs at my pervious company, marketing “met their objectives” and the company missed the target by $14 million. So I am skeptical. Yes, we probably implemented it poorly, but it did not help us succeed.

My last company was absolutely crushing it on the run to an eventual IPO and the attempt to rollout OKRs failed because they were not at all connected to the success of the business.

I wonder if OKRs yield a demonstrably better outcome vs. more traditional MBOs / cascading goals or other means of fostering / driving alignment and accountability? And on a "relative to the amount of work to implement " basis? All of these models require a lot of work to do properly and keep on the rails.

Seems like many struggle with the specific and measurable part which is interesting in the new data driven world of marketing.

I always ask folks on my team and others, "Does this help us reach our #1 OKR? If not, for the love of God, stop doing it!"

I get a lot of pushback when activities are this quarter and the outcomes aren’t until next quarter, because you can’t measure that you met the measurement this quarter.

We treat OKRs as stretch goals that can also stretch beyond the quarter/year as we learn/pivot/reprioritize what’s delivering the most impact.

I think it's very interesting how it all comes back regardless of V2MOM or OKR's (whatever you call it) to culture and management style/leadership...I’ve just seen where OKR's are then used against executives each other due to that transparency but clearly not collaborative environment...the pointy finger syndrome.

Rather than did you achieve it maybe the first question is what did you learn? Then did you achieve it.

Have the leadership team read "Measure what Matters". See if the team can believe and support.

“Would you put this OKR on my resume?” also helps take care of the “but if I don’t achieve 100%, how will I build my promotion case,” etc.

We just introduced Rocks as our quarterly product launch inspiration. Game changing for focus on most important use cases / features.

I think oftentimes the mistake that companies make is that they focus on the “symptoms” vs the “underlying issues”

To encourage aspirational objectives, having 7/10 as the “green” score threshold makes it safe for teams to aim high and show. Have found across companies that If a team consistently hits 9/10 then the objective wasn’t BHAG enough.

OKRs should help with accountability and prioritization & bridge the gap between strategy and daily execution

Culture characteristics

·      Empowering and trust based

·      Transparent and open

·      Growth minded

·      Intellectually honest

·      Collaborative

4 key principles

·      Do as little to get as much out of it as possible (focus on team level vs individual) 

·      Focus on outcomes

·      Manage fast 

·      Be transparent

"Objectives are the sizzle and key results are the steak"

Objectives:

·      Qualitative

·      Inspirational

·      Tell a story

·      The vision (align across exec functions)

Key Results:

·      Measurable

·      3-5 KRs under each objective

·      (1) measured metric inside each KR

·      Owner of the KR needs to be able to deliver on it with their team/ often cross functional

·      Leave little room for subjectivity

OKRs should be stretch goals & not hitting them (red) is a learning opportunity

Books shared:

·      Measure What Matters

·      Execution - Discipline of Getting Things Done

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