Dear Andy,

It was clearly mentioned by John Doerr in his book that, especially at managerial levels, OKRs would not encompass all you do. You will definitely have some day-to-day operations too. He also says that at lower levels, people’s OKRs might represent close to 100% of their work output. For jobs that are operational by nature, like technical/customer support, this means that they have day-to-day operational tasks to do that will not be part of OKRs.

From my understanding OKRs should be transformational and strategic in nature and should not include day-to-day tasks. If this is the case, how do OKRs work for frontline team members whose work is primarily focused on day-to-day tasks and who aren’t directly involved in company strategy?

Thanks and regards,
Nathalie

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Hi Nathalie!

Thanks for writing in and for your very thoughtful question.

You are correct in your understanding that a team member’s day-to-day duties should not be included in OKRs. OKRs are used for high-priority change and should not look like a job description or ‘Business As Usual’. As John Doerr once shared: “If my objective is to grow a beautiful rose bush, I know without asking that you also want me to keep the lawn green.”

That being said, the folks whose job it is to keep the lawn green can still use OKRs in meaningful and valuable ways.

No matter where a team member falls in the company’s hierarchy, the basics of OKRs remain the same. Whether you are directly involved in the higher-level strategic planning or if your responsibilities are, as you say, mostly routine operations, there are still problems to solve and needles to move forward.

If your role is mostly ‘Business As Usual’, consider using OKRs to make BAU more effective. Is there a process that needs tightening or a chain of communication that needs clarifying? From the POV of that role or team, what does success look like in its most ambitious yet obtainable form? Here are a few examples of ways that OKRs can work side-by-side with a team member’s everyday tasks:

O: Reduce team’s prep time for sales calls
O: Our team can scale to handle twice as many transactions by year end
O: Execute every customer install flawlessly

On another note, never underestimate the insight of team members working on the front-lines. They are closest to the problems! Who better to recognize ground-level issues than the folks working on the ground level? You may be surprised how many team members have goals, ambitions, and visions for the company that go beyond their day-to-day tasks. In fact, many companies adopt a ‘bottom-up’ approach to OKRs, finding innovation from lower-level employees adds premium value to higher-level goals.

Whatever path you choose, we hope you can see how OKRs can be effectively and valuably used by everyone in the company, no matter where they sit on the totem pole.

Thanks for writing in Nathalie, and best of luck to you and your team.

Sincerely,
Billy from the What Matters Team

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