Posted: 12 Nov. 2020 05 min. read

It’s time to be clear on the outcomes you need achieved and empower your teams to deliver with focus and intent.

Value, learning and all things inbetween – structuring your portfolio as outcomes

Every week we are having conversations with senior leaders and executives, from a range of organisations and industries, on how to inject agility into their organisation. What we have observed is that everyone is struggling with a similar challenge. “We were able to achieve so much during our initial pandemic response. Why can’t we do that now?” One of the root causes is the ability to create focus and flow across the enterprise.

A way to achieve this is through enterprise coordination and developing an outcomes-based portfolio with clearly defined objectives and key results (OKRs).

What does this mean? Simply put, teams are coordinated within a portfolio and will work collaboratively towards achieving the organisation’s strategic objectives. By establishing an outcomes-based portfolio, the organisation has greater flexibility and control to prioritise and sequence outcomes in an iterative rhythm, to achieve what is of most value to its customers.

This is where OKRs come in.

What is an OKR?

OKR is a method of structuring your business strategy as outcomes, while they have been used in industry for a while, they are now becoming increasingly popular in organisations.

Usually time-boxed to a business quarter or a 90-day cycle, OKRs consist of an objective, which is the outcome that your portfolio is trying to achieve, and between 3-6 key results that capture both leading and lagging indicators.

Our Enterprise Agility Leaders forum, which is made up of leading industry and professional services experts, like to think about OKRs in the following way:

Think about going on holiday. Your objective is the holiday destination, however, how do you know that you’re on the right track to get there? On the way, there will be certain results that you would expect to see, for example passing through a town at a particular time or observing familiar landmarks, these would be your key results. Similarly, if a road is closed and you need to take an alternate route, you will still be able to arrive at your destination. Using a GPS, there may be multiple routes that you can choose to take to reach your objective and naturally, each option will have their benefits and challenges.

However, how does this example deal with KPIs that exist for many of us within our current organisations. In the above scenario, KPIs can be viewed as your car’s dashboard, which indicates at any given time that your vehicles ‘health’ is normal, for example, your engine temperature.

How do you develop an OKR?

Setting OKRs for the first time can make some feel uncomfortable, but that’s good! It is not easy to develop a ‘good’ OKR. The key is to get started and to treat it as a muscle that you need to build over time. OKRs should be ambitious and not tied into compensation or performance reviews. It’s important to establish this upfront as it will help put your team’s minds at ease and encourage collaboration.

We advise the following approach to developing OKRs:

  1. Work with your teams to define the strategic priorities for the quarter. Create outcomes, no more than 3-5, that align to these priorities. This is important to limit work in progress, so that the objectives will have adequate focus. Try to make these outcomes simple, aspirational and time-boxed to 90 days.
  2. Identify your key results, these will help inform how you are progressing and determine where re-adjustment is required. For each objective, define 3-6 desirable and measurable KRs. KRs should give you confidence that a team is progressing towards their objective or if re-prioritisation is required.
  3. Once you have defined the outcomes and key results, schedule in a weekly checkpoint with your teams to understand how your portfolio is tracking. By doing so, you can identify early on what is working and what hasn’t been working, so that you can re-adjust where appropriate and your teams can stay on track to achieving the defined objectives for that quarter. 
  4. At the end of the quarter, review your objectives. Assess, did these create value? Were they ambitious enough? And what could be improved next time?

More so than ever, it’s important for teams to feel motivated and connected to achieving the organisation’s strategic objectives and vision. Your ability to play offense is underpinned by a network of high performing team. It’s time to create a portfolio of teams and establishing clearly defined OKRs. This will not only enable organisations to effectively prioritise and be flexible in their approach to achieving their strategic objectives, but it provides a transparent path for teams to collectively work towards.

For further insights on how to set-up the ‘system of work’ and operating model in your organisation, please refer to:  Virtual enablement through high performing virtual ‘team of teams’. If you need to establish the 90-day operating cycle, please refer to: When ‘big room’ planning goes virtual.

It’s time. It’s time to play offense and improve your organisation's ability to be adaptable. To read more in this series, please visit: It’s time to play offense: Digital Transformation.

More about our authors

Maria Muir

Maria Muir

Partner, Consulting

Maria is the Lead Enterprise Agility Partner in Deloitte’s Consulting Practice in Asia-Pacific. Maria has worked with a wide variety of teams, leaders, and organisations to re-wire their management philosophy and enable the shift in thinking required for her clients across Asia-Pacific to deliver projects better, with more value, sooner, safer and happier. She has been working with her clients to create customer-centric, high performance delivery, and learning ecosystems across industries, particularly with extensive experience in financial services, telecommunications, and energy & resources. Based on her technology delivery background, Maria’s approach to change and leveraging new ways of working is pragmatic and has an effective balance between delivery and an outcome focussed mindset and culture.

Peter Huguenin

Peter Huguenin

Manager, Consulting

Peter is an experienced Agile practitioner specialising in delivery, strategy and transformation. His focus is enterprise agility, end to end delivery and lean portfolio management. He has a deep interest and understanding of agility in finance, telecommunications and higher education.

Tanya Duinker

Tanya Duinker

Consultant, Consulting

Tanya is an experienced Change practitioner who specialises in large-scale strategic change management and is also a core member of the Enterprise Agility team, within Deloitte’s Organisational Transformation practice. With experience working across a breadth of industries, particularly in Financial Services and Public Sectors, Tanya is passionate about solving people-related problems that drive innovation and efficiency within organisations.