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Tracking OKRs The Agile Way: How Execution Follows Strategy?

Understand how Agile helps you track OKRs and what are the benefits of OKR tracking.

Why tracking your objectives and key results matter? Once you adopt the approach to set and pursue your goals, you’ll need to learn how to track if your goals and their related actionable steps lead your company toward its strategic direction.

In the following paragraphs, we’ll discuss why and how to track OKRs in an Agile environment. You’ll understand how the Agile mindset creates the perfect conditions for setting and tracking your high-level goals, getting a closer look at your processes, and making a habit for continuous evaluation and improvement.

Why Tracking OKRs?

Once you set your objectives and key results, tracking them will guarantee you understand how work is moving forward. You’ll understand if your processes run smoothly, or they need some fine-tuning if teams and individuals are motivated enough, or you need to take some actions to boost their engagement. Let’s look at the benefits of tracking your OKRs:

  • Transparency of Work Progress

Through monitoring OKRs, you’ll have a clear understanding of the state of the progress toward specific goals. It enables easy synchronization between strategic goals and operations, calls for course correction actions on the spot, and improves communication at all levels.

  • Increased Accountability

Encouraging teams to set their own goals cultivates a team collaboration mindset. On one hand, sharing high-level goals with teams and individuals boosts their engagement, while on the other, their self-organization. Through OKRs tracking and continuous search for feedback, people become aware of how the actual impact of their work contributes to the company goals.

  • Continuous Strategic & Workflow Improvements

The ability to continuously understand the pace of your workflow guarantees you’ll be able to adjust your ways where necessary. High-level management has a clear understanding of each team’s progress or the company’s goals altogether. Tracking OKRs and establishing feedback loops also enables informed decisions for process improvements and strategy shifts to adapt to changing market conditions or customer requirements.

How to Bring Agility to OKRs Tracking Through Kanban?

The OKRs framework serves as a way to roadmap a company’s vision to concrete, actionable goals. To ensure that you are moving toward achieving your vision, setting, tracking, and assessing objectives and key results is essential. The Agile approach to project management makes these processes work smoothly and effectively by using its best practices. Through sharing company goals across teams, you achieve transparency and foster alignment. Furthermore, establishing regular feedback loops allows you to continuously assess your performance while promoting self-organization encourages decentralized control and boosts organizational agility.

The Kanban method to workflow management, for example, offers the means to introduce this agility to your processes. Let’s have a practical look at how Kanban can enable better OKRs tracking.

Create a Centralized Work Management Hub for OKRs

A great approach to efficiently track OKRs is to have a central hub where all strategic goals and their breakdown to actionable projects is visualized and distributed across teams. This global view creates room for a straightforward evaluation of the ongoing efforts toward fulfilling the company goals. Sharing all that critical information with everyone ensures not just alignment. It also provides a deeper understanding of how individual teams contribute and progress toward the company goals.

Applying the Kanban method for visualization of all work activities creates an environment where everyone is on the same page. We should mention here that it’s a common misconception that this visualization works only on the team level. 

In fact, Kanban allows you to scale it across all management levels so you can achieve full transparency inside your organization’s strategy.  For instance, at Kanbanize, we use Portfolio Kanban boards to map and track our high-level objectives and key results.

This acts as a work management hub where we can see our strategic initiatives at a glance and then use a network of Kanban boards to visualize their breakdown across lower organizational levels.

Portfolio Kanban

Breakdown Key Results into Actionable Steps

When breaking down your OKRs into actionable steps/projects, it’s important that you highlight the interconnectivity between them. This will allow you to shift your focus on the outcome - achieving key results and strategic goals rather than the output - finishing more projects in a given timeframe. 

With the strategic OKRs in mind, individual teams can create their team-specific key result(s) and break them down into actionable steps. Setting these requires people’s creativity to brainstorm ideas and develop concrete steps that will support their respective key results. 

At Kanbanize, for instance, we connect the above-mentioned Portfolio Kanban boards to team Kanban boards to establish this connection between strategic key results and their execution on a team level. 

Once that’s done, we start tracking the progress of every team project. As our teams are progressively completing them, that’s immediately reflected in the progress of the connected key result (see the circled percentiles in the image below). This way, managers can monitor the progress of each key result and, respectively, the advancement toward achieving the company’s objectives.

Kanban related boards

High-level and Team-specific Feedback Loops

Just like the principle of continuously reflecting on your work in Agile, regular OKR meetings help you keep control of the progress of the fulfillment of your goals. In Kanban, for example, we use cadences, which represent a set of meetings. With their help, you can achieve a symbiosis between all levels in the organization, stay agile to changes and align planning with execution. 

It’s important to mention here that a good practice for using those meetings is to integrate into the ones that already exist inside your company. This will help you reduce waste and keep a steady workflow. 

Having said that, let’s take a look specifically at 2 of those that can help you track your OKRs at the strategy level and their execution across teams. 

  • High-level reviews

For instance, the cadences designed for strategic management - Strategy Review - provide insights into how well the key results (performance indicators) are met and their progress pace. They answer questions such as whether you are moving toward fulfilling your goals and if you need to change course to satisfy new clients or market requirements.

  • Team-level reviews

On the other hand, the Service Delivery Kanban cadence helps track your OKRs by surfacing workflow improvement potential. By reflecting on the work processes and team performance challenges, you will develop ideas on how to improve. A good practice to get further insights into the team’s progress rhythm toward completing the key results is to integrate KPI meetings along with Service Delivery cadences.

Both cadences help you to track OKRs on different levels. Strategy reviews track your strategic OKRs by discussing if you are achieving your goals, if your goals align with the company’s mission and if you are complying with the latest market trends. On the other hand, Service Delivery reviews track the execution of actionable projects/initiatives supporting your strategic OKRs. The Service Delivery meetings accumulate actual data (delivery metrics and KPIs), which serves as a key input for higher management reviews.

Kanban Cadences

In Summary

Some of the OKRs goal-setting approach’s core benefits are related to alignment with the company’s vision, focused prioritization on actionable goals, and increased performance through encouraging self-organization and accountability. 

Using Agile to track OKRs is possible through:

  • Mapping strategic goals and actionable key results in a single work management hub
  • Setting key results into actionable team projects
  • Tracking real-time progress of team projects
  • Regular meeting at all levels

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