Dear Andy: OKRs for Storytellers
I develop unscripted tv shows for a living. We are trying to embrace OKRs to keep the team “rowing in the same direction” and it’s a real challenge to see ourselves in the example OKRs. So many are tech industry-focused. Do you have any suggestions on how to cut through the jargon and help us harness the power of OKRs for a company whose business is creating and telling stories? Thanks! Liza
Thanks for writing in! Your trepidations about OKRs are certainly understandable. The “business-ey” jargon that often accompanies OKRs can seem intimidating and exclusionary–especially to those who are more creative-minded. However, we at What Matters can verify that whether you’re Google, AllBirds, or a modern dance troupe, OKRs are for everyone! The applications may vary but the fundamentals remain the same: where do you want to go and how will you be able to tell when you’ve gotten there? To use OKRs, what are the fewest number of words you can use to describe, with specifics, the difference between now and what you want your future to look like? The good news is, if you’re a storyteller, you probably know how to use words beautifully.
OKRs are all about creating meaningful change—and isn’t that every storyteller’s goal? To tell a story well you need to know why you’re telling it and what type of change you hope to see in those who consume it. That same mentality can and should be used when writing your OKRs! Why does your company exist? What is motivating you to tell these stories? I did a little snooping, and I see your company’s mission statement includes the goal to ‘to disrupt the film and podcast landscapes.’ Now this we can work with! Taking your statement at face value, what does a ‘disrupted landscape’ look like to you? What’s the baseline? How far do you want to push that to constitute disrupting? Maybe choose one attention-getting move to make this quarter that counts as a disruption.
I also understand that, while you may be a team of storytellers, you also have production to focus on. The good news is, OKRs work fantastically for that aspect of your company, too! Maybe you are looking for a certain type of story - how do you diversify the subject matter you’re looking at? Or ensure you’re finding interesting subjects? Or upping the number of possible projects that cross your desk? These are all problems you can break down with KRs.
I’ve heard that production companies get paid by how many scripts make it to the box office—can you tell more stories if you’re more efficient with your time and money? That’s a problem that can be solved with OKRs as well.
When it comes down to it, I bet you’ll find you and your team are much better suited to OKRs than you might initially think. After all, saying “Make a prestige-tier true crime podcast” is no different than saying, “Be the #1 mobile banking app in India.” If you look past all of the acronyms and metrics, you’ll find that OKRs are impossible without ample vision and creativity—qualities storytellers have in spades. You can do this!
Well, Liza, I hope this has been helpful for you. Thanks for writing in, and best of luck to you!
Sincerely, Billy from the What Matters Team
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