OKR TALKS
OKR TALKS. INTERVIEW WITH PETER BJELLERUP
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by By Kate Devyatkina, CEO of Ahundred
on Febuary 17, 2020

Today we are happy to present the Interview with Peter Bjellerup who has developed a merge between OKR and Goal Setting Theory. He regularly helps businesses boost employee engagement, set ambitious goals and coach in other managerial aspects. He strongly believes that OKRs have a great impact either on a company's or personal success. In what way? Keep on reading.

Peter Bjellerup
Organizational Consultant
at Brightsider AB
— What was your path to OKRs?

— Quite simple, actually. Being frustrated by having experienced so many change projects run out of steam as they were actively fought by middle management, I realized that the reason for this was that their performance goals had been left untouched and conflicted with the change initiative.

I, therefore, started digging into goals and performance management, primarily following the track of Locke's Goal Setting Theory which, in turn, is based on the well-proven theory on motivation - Self Determination Theory. As I was in the process of gaining a deeper knowledge of this, I was prompted by my daughter (a Master in Industrial Engineering) to look at OKR. It didn't take me long to realize that they had very much in common, but some nice supplementary characteristics.

— What do you do now? What is your main professional activity?

— Freelance consulting in Leadership for Employee Engagement, Motivational Goal Management, Change Management, Requirements Elicitation, and Management as well as Workshop Facilitation.

A couple of resources on Goal Setting Theory are: "Goal Setting Theory of Motivation" and "What is Goal-Setting Theory?"

— I know that you use Goal Setting Theory (GST) could you please tell me more about it?

— It's based on the Self Determination Theory of Motivation, which concludes that the three main drivers of motivation for work are: Competence, Relatedness, and Autonomy. You can read more about it here.

A couple of resources on Goal Setting Theory are: "Goal Setting Theory of Motivation" and "What is Goal-Setting Theory?"

— What does OKR, actually, mean to you? Let's say, what are the 3 points that keep you as its permanent implementor?

— The three aspects of OKR which I like the most are: 1) The aspirational, but not necessarily quantifiable Objective. 2) The distributed and employee-driven setting of their own deducted OKR's. 3) The frequent following-up, which actually makes OKR an operational tool, not only a strategic tool that is revisited once in a blue moon.

You might not want to limit the number of Objectives systemically, but I think you could well have a pop-up asking users if they really want to add one more objective and warn them about the distraction effect

— Do you think it can be useful to have some special software for OKR management? Do you use any tools which help you in setting, tracking - generally, managing your OKRs?

— It would be too much for a one-man company like mine, but as soon as you become a team, I see the value - for transparency and operationalization.

You might not want to limit the number of Objectives systemically, but I think you could well have a pop-up asking users if they really want to add one more objective and warn them about the distraction effect

To maintain focus and avoid conflicting goals. Also, with too many goals, the risk of missing one/some increases drastically.

— After figuring out the OKR-implementation process, let's take a look into the future. What can a company expect from using OKR? Which specific needs it may cover?

* Alignment of work and efforts throughout the organization with the greater objectives across the entire organization. * Greater autonomy (and thereby agility) of the organization. * Making goals and follow-up part of day to day work. * Increased employee engagement, while guiding attention to shared overarching objectives.

You might not want to limit the number of Objectives systemically, but I think you could well have a pop-up asking users if they really want to add one more objective and warn them about the distraction effect

— In the tool developed by my team, we don't limit users with the number of their OKRs. We share the information about how is it supposed to be, however, we don't limit them. As for you, one must not create more than - let's say - 3 Os and 5 KRs? Why or why not?

— I'd say max 4 O's (3 is even better) and 5 or 6 KR per O. Purpose: To maintain focus and avoid conflicting goals. Also, with too many goals, the risk of missing one/some increases drastically.

You might not want to limit the number of Objectives systemically, but I think you could well have a pop-up asking users if they really want to add one more objective and warn them about the distraction effect

— Are there any kind of companies where using the OKR method is not a case? How do you deal with those, if there are some?

— I suspect there are some, but I really can't think of what they would be like. But I'm sure, though, that there are industries or companies where you have to be more creative in setting both your O's and KR's

* When identifying your Initiatives (i.e. the level below the KR's) you split them into three types: Performance targets, Competence targets (to improve your chances of reaching your Performance targets) and Activities - which are very hands-on actions to help you to reach the previous two * Let the person who has the OKR's be the driver of the review, not their manager. Think "Retrospective" as you would using agile methodology.

— Finally, your opinion about when it is better to switch to OKR goal-management. From the very beginning or when the company becomes big enough; on January, 1st/Monday/mid-September? Are there any frames?

— I'd say that it's better to start with OKR's from the beginning. If the company is already established and using traditional performance management, I'd suggest making it part of some other major change initiative. Maybe you introduce a new ERP-system and let employees get to know the OKR methodology as part of that change project. Then, when people have gotten used to this way of working, you can switch your overall processes of goal-setting and follow-up to OKR.

* When identifying your Initiatives (i.e. the level below the KR's) you split them into three types: Performance targets, Competence targets (to improve your chances of reaching your Performance targets) and Activities - which are very hands-on actions to help you to reach the previous two * Let the person who has the OKR's be the driver of the review, not their manager. Think "Retrospective" as you would using agile methodology.

— Want to add something?

— Merging OKR with GST (Goal Setting Theory) is really easy: * Strive to set Initiatives (the level below KR's, that is) that can be reached autonomously by a person or - possibly - by a team. Things you can achieve without being dependent on others - and which - therefore - the success is totally dependent on you, not on others.

* When identifying your Initiatives (i.e. the level below the KR's) you split them into three types: Performance targets, Competence targets (to improve your chances of reaching your Performance targets) and Activities - which are very hands-on actions to help you to reach the previous two * Let the person who has the OKR's be the driver of the review, not their manager. Think "Retrospective" as you would using agile methodology.

Let the person who has the OKR's be the driver of the review, not their manager. Think "Retrospective" as you would using agile methodology.

All the answers provided by Peter are the additional proof of what advantages OKR can bring to your company. We'll post the interviews on a regular basis so to give you an opportunity to get to know the OKRs in action but not as something theoretical and not applicable.