Product Practice #269: The Timelines of NSMs, Strategy, and OKRs

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​It’s difficult to define an exact timeline, but Vision and NSM are about the (potentially) infinite product development journey, whereas Strategy has a (varying) time horizon.

In a recent conversation, Stephanie Leue, Chief Product Officer at Doodle, told me that “finding that balance in your Product Strategy is challenging. I think you need to clearly articulate what’s the risk of that bet, what’s the evidence behind it, and how big are the risky bets over the next 12 to 18 months.” OKRs, in contrast, typically have a quarterly (sometimes even annual) horizon, to implement Strategy.

How Product Strategy Choices lead to Product OKRs

So to shape Product Strategy you want to rely on the NSM as a key influence. Or, as Daniel Schmidt has summarized:

“By modeling a strategy that’s independent of time-based goals, you get a lot of the same benefits as OKRs. You clearly articulate the “why?” behind your work.”

And though the word “sequence” can have a bad ring to it in Product Management, it is what differentiates metrics from goals as product teams measure real progress toward meaningful destinations in their never-ending journey toward their Product Vision.

Next week, I will talk about turning Lagging Strategy Proxies into Leading  Quarterly Key Results.

Speak soon,
Tim


Content worth your Time

Annual Vs. Quarterly OKRs

Imagine you’re eight years old and your lemonade stand just finished its most profitable year yet. After counting all the quarters in your jar, you’ve made $50 this year! You’re an ambitious eight year old though, with big dreams, and decide you want to make $100 next year. You run this number by your mom/investor and younger sibling/underling and they balk at your audacity. You’ve done the math, however, and you tell them to reach $100, you only need to sell roughly four more lemonades per week than you sold last year. A few extra sales a week sounds much more reasonable than that big scary hundred dollar number, doesn’t it? Suddenly, everyone’s on board and you’ve got yourself a motivated workforce!

How to Win With OKRs and a North Star Metric

“A company-wide OKR pulls everyone in the same direction, serving as your team’s North Star.” I would argue that it is the other way around, your North Star reflects your mission, and your OKRs pull everyone in the right direction. When the What Matters team originally started writing their own company objectives the results were lackluster until one of the co-founders brought the mission into focus: “He pointed out that what we were really trying to accomplish was to create engaging content that helps leaders reach their goals and to operate like a top-tier media company.”

How Figma uses OKRs (and more)

Once we hired a data-science leader, we brought OKRs back and have iterated on this format a bit. In some areas, we’ve become more sophisticated with metrics. In other areas, they still can be a bit more qualitative. Importantly, we’ve tried to keep constructs that allow for us to check on the philosophical alignment. And we’ve played around with branding OKRs more as a “commitment” to make sure that teams actually felt responsible for achieving these goals (versus it just feeling like the technical measurement of success but not something teams are indexed on day-to-day).


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