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OKRs for Agile Transformation: Promoting Company-Wide Agility

How OKRs supports a successful Agile transformation? Through clear goals, greater focus, and continuous improvement.

At its core, the Agile mindset’s focus is set on creating a flexible, collaborative, self-organizing environment where change is embraced. While activating adaptability through early and continuous delivery of value, such as delivering working systems/products, true organizational agility calls for aligning each output with business goals.

Let’s get a closer look at how the OKRs framework supports a successful shift to being Agile and how the Kanban method provides the right means.

How OKRs Supports an Agile Transformation?

A true Agile transformation of your organization calls for adopting agile thinking. 

This is a challenging task requiring high engagement from everyone to focus on continuous improvement and progressively elaborating project actions rather than creating detailed plans upfront. Adopting the Agile approach to project management and scaling it across the company requires solving challenges such as alignment with the company’s goals, creating agile teams who are adaptive to changes, and achieving synchronization between strategy and execution. 

Let’s look at how setting and tracking objectives and key results can help a successful Agile transformation.

  • Clear & Adaptive Goals

Agile thinking calls for simplicity and achieving a sustainable working pace. This approach to performing work when applied on a strategic level promotes action-oriented and concrete company goals.

On one hand, company-wide agility stems from bringing full transparency in the strategic goals so they can become clearer and easily accessible to all stakeholders. On the other, the constant collaboration between customers and internal teams when defining your business vision enables the ability to respond to changes in an untroubled and stress-free way. 

  • Greater Focus & Work Prioritization

The Agile mindset calls for avoiding upfront planning to allocate more time for value-adding activities. Applying the OKRs framework on a strategic level means that objectives and key results are continuously being evaluated, allowing their timely synchronization with emerging market trends or shifts in the company’s priority. Combining the two approaches when setting your high-level goals creates a clear understanding of the current priority and allows for a greater focus on producing actual customer value.

  • Continuous Feedback & Improvement

At the heart of Agile lies the principle to welcome changes during the project’s progress. Being receptive to change gives you the leverage to adapt and satisfy the latest demands. 

Since market conditions and client requirements can alter at all times, creating an environment where an abrupt shift of priorities will not bring chaos into the workflow is crucial. As vital as synchronous communication is for Agile teams, the synchronization of your strategic objectives and their execution needs to remain pulsating at all times. 

Establishing regular feedback loops to reflect on and evaluate your strategic OKRs will create another layer of agility in your organization at its management level. Achieving a steady feedback flow at a strategic level using the OKRs framework lays the foundations for a continuous assessment of your business goals and success criteria. It also helps to easily identify improvement opportunities.

How OKRs Enables Agility at Scale Through Kanban?

As discussed, OKRs support agility across company levels and ensure a long-lasting and successful Agile transformation. However, it’s crucial to find the right way to relay your business objectives and key results across the company, keep your processes flowing and aligned with your goals. By combining OKRs and the Kanban method for workflow management, you can introduce agility at all levels in your organization. 

Let’s look at a few practical angles of how Kanban and OKRs complement each other to boost agility.

  • Transparency at a Global Level

The Kanban visualization technique will help you keep everyone engaged and aligned with your high-level objectives. Mapping your strategic goals and key results on Portfolio Kanban boards, for example, will ensure that all relevant teams and shareholders are aware of your company’s business direction.

Visualize objectives Portfolio Kanban

  • Next-level Collaboration

By defining clear company goals, success criteria and enabling team autonomy and flexibility, you will introduce a deeper collaboration across your company. 

It’s a good practice for individual teams to break down the management OKRs into actionable projects and track their execution across their workflows. The use of multiple related Kanban boards, for instance, comes in handy for achieving company-wide transparency and alignment between strategic OKRs and their actual execution.

Kanban related boards breakdown

On one hand, this creates a clear message about the company’s goals, and on the other, it invokes the mindset that all efforts should contribute to the desired outcome. That way, you will cultivate a sustainable collaboration across teams where work is dedicated to achieving outcomes rather than output.

  • Synchronization between Business and Execution

Applying the Kanban practice of periodic review meetings at various hierarchical levels ensures that information flow between business people and team members is steady. This connection is crucial when it comes to reassuring that all requirements are clear. 

When execution is aligned with the business perception, individuals feel more engaged in the work process because they can understand how their daily efforts create a real impact on the company’s development. While this encourages people’s creative thinking to solve a specific challenge, it also boosts their morale.

For instance, the Service Delivery Kanban review provides an understanding of the teams’ progress toward achieving the specific delivery metrics and discussing ideas for continuous improvement on the team level. The results of these reviews become decision-making input during strategic meetings dealing with improving work processes or reviewing the company’s strategic course.

Kanban Cadences

In Summary

An Agile organization’s main characteristic is flexibility, while the OKRs framework aims to align strategic goals and execution. Applying the two concepts simultaneously can promote agility across all layers of the organization. Kanban compliments this by:

  • Creating transparency at all organizational levels
  • Bringing the focus to value-adding actions
  • Encouraging effective communication
  • Improving through continuous learning

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