Q: How do teams/programs reconcile different units of measure for understanding both progress and effectiveness of the work delivered and value received?

This is a post about Objectives and Key Results where the deliverables and/or the units of measure are not the same type but the outcome is dependent upon realizing all of the different deliverables.

The very best Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are client-focused (what’s in it for them, whoever ‘them’ is as the client) and provide a clear alignment of focused effort towards easily understood outcomes. As such, if doing A and B are both required to deliver value (whatever that value is), but A and B are two different types of deliverables and/or measurable unit types, it’s important that both A and B have a shared over-arching Objective they are trying to help achieve.

While A and B are not the same type of units, the reason A and B are being done is that they help accomplish a larger Objective, though done independently. So A can be one type of unit and B can be another type of unit. What we have to understand are the commonalities between A and B.

Typical commonalities:

  • Due Dates
  • Resource allocation (i.e. individuals)
  • Costs
  • Rate of Change / Rate of Growth
  • Life Cycle

Whatever the A units and B units are, if they are both under a shared Objective, then there is some outcome(s) that they also have in common. This is the place where we talk about an Impact Assessment for A and also for B.

An outcome is always measurable across at least two dimensions: Value to the customer and Level of investment (time, money, people). This is the basic matrix format for an Impact Assessment, where the Y-axis is value to the customer and the X-axis is the level of investment and where the top of the Y-axis and the far right end of the X-axis are “high” and the bottom left of both axis is “low”. In this way, it’s possible to look at the units of A and B in the common denominator format even though the units of A and B are different. (See illustration below)

Simple Impact Assessment Matrix example

Was A a high value to the customer and a low value of investment (top left quadrant)? Was B a high value to the customer but also a high level of investment (top right quadrant)?

The Impact Assessment provides a common ground to assess the impact of an outcome so that the OKRs can be reconsidered, adjusted, or scaled based on assessment.

Over-simplified Example

North Star: Build the most efficient Apple farm in the world.

Objective 1 (O1): Plant and cultivate the most robust apple types to have the highest yield of apples per tree per square acre.

Key Result (O1-KR1): Identify the hardiest apple tree types and plant four of these types of trees on 10% of the land to test the yield within one growing season.

Key Result (O1-KR2): Compare the yield of apples per tree to establish the top two apple yield types and plant the remaining 90% of the land with these two varieties of apples.

Objective (O2): Build the apple orchard infrastructure to maximize the gathering capacity of industrial apple-tree shaking/gathering machines.

Key Result (O2-KR1): Determine the most efficient path and path size for the harvesting machine to minimize land usage and maximize machine throughput.

Key Result (O2-KR2): Identify the growing height and dimensions of the top-yield apple trees to maximize the density of trees on the available land in the off-season before planting the trees.

In this example, there are several factors to take into consideration and multiple units of measure to consider. However, the success criteria are also clear and reasonably able to be plotted on the Impact Assessment grid to find the optimum thresholds.

In this way, different types of activities and units of measure (for the metrics and KPIs) do not have to be the same in order to be helpful together.

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Anthony Coppedge

I lead the vision for how business agility is infused in Digital Sales at IBM. I relish the chance to sabotage mediocrity.