OKRs – Hype or a fundamentally new approach?

Objectives and key results (OKRs) are being discussed everywhere. Obviously, they are helpful to align the direction of the company across different teams. But does this make them fundamentally new?

Origins

OKRs showing the way for organizations?

You should be aware that they have first been mentioned already back in 1975 (read more here). Everyone who has some business education will know “Management by Objectives (MbO)”. We would argue that the framework is anything but new. Nevertheless, the fact that today it has become fashionable to implement OKRs in organizations is new. Above all, there seems to be an imminent need to align not only Product and IT, but also strategy and execution, business and product, product and marketing, etc.

Organizational Starting Point

Let’s take a look at the starting point. Organizational silo structures have made it increasingly difficult to have a competitive advantage over others. In a world where customer demands are getting more and more sophisticated, it is vital to be organisationally effective and efficient. At the same time, defining, designing, building and operating products requires an aligned approach. This cannot be planned like a waterfall project. The big word is “agility”. Most importantly, being able to ad hoc react to new insights and the ability to change direction whenever necessary. In a world where this matters most, a product leader needs to stand up. It all boils down to the ability to influence and to lead people into the desired direction. SPLSG have named those skills “horizontal skills.” Based on product management expertise, the responsibility of a product manager is ever-broadening.

Focus areas of SPLSG - graphical overview
Horizontal vs. vertical skills of a Product Manager

OKRs might be a good framework. But without the overarching skills and without the mandate to lead, the implementation will simply end in a mess.

Get to know more

Discuss this topic more! We would recommend our next Product Leader Roundtable on September 14th in Berlin. It is fully dedicated to the topic “OKRs for Product Leaders.” Secure your tickets here.