In a perfect world, strategies would directly lead to clear goals and benchmarks. But often, we’re dealt a hand that’s far from perfect, with unclear objectives or even no direction at all.

In this article, I’ll share five hands-on tips to strengthen your OKRs definition process. These strategies are designed to help you set meaningful goals and a solid plan, no matter the hurdles you might face starting out.

Whether you’re struggling with vague instructions or a complete lack of guidance, these approaches will help you forge a path to realizing your product dreams.

Turning Ambiguous Goals into Meaningful OKRs

Turning a vague or overly ambitious aim into practical OKRs might look daunting, but it’s definitely within reach with a strategic method.

First, tackle ambiguous goals by pinpointing key hypotheses. For instance, if your aim is to boost app engagement, start with assumptions like enhancing the interface will increase user interaction. This process converts broad goals into actionable objectives.

Then, move on to validating these assumptions. For example, by revamping the interface, you can directly observe its effect on user engagement. Set precise, measurable OKRs such as improving interface engagement to raise session times by 20% and cut bounce rates by 15%. The focus should always be on achievable, quantifiable outcomes rather than vague aspirations.

Reverse Engineering OKRs

Even teams perceived as just “feature factories” can craft impactful OKRs by pinpointing and tackling distinct challenges and risks relevant to their specific circumstances. This approach allows for alignment with broader goals while focusing on areas where the team can truly make a difference.

Many teams I’ve worked with have felt pigeonholed as mere executors of features or tasks, leading their OKRs to become task lists or, inversely, to formulate OKRs that simply align with predetermined projects. This reverse engineering of goals, often seen in Scrum Teams, involves setting sprint goals that retrospectively fit an assigned agenda, highlighting a misalignment with strategic planning.

The key is to identify unique challenges—like addressing technical debt or improving process metrics—and setting strategy-aligned goals that bridge the gap between assigned tasks and the team’s capabilities, fostering real progress and development.

Using Metrics to Define OKRs

Let’s consider another practical approach from the perspective of product metrics.

The Whole Deal with Leading vs. Lagging Indicators

Getting to grips with the difference between leading and lagging indicators is pretty important. Think of leading indicators as your heads-up for making swift tweaks to what you’re doing, while lagging indicators are more like looking in the rearview mirror to see the outcomes of your actions.

A Real-World Scenario: Streamline App

Imagine you’re working on a task management app. A leading indicator might be something like “The percentage of daily active users who try out new features.” This kind of metric gives you the chance to quickly shift gears based on how engaged your users are. On the flip side, a lagging indicator, such as “Quarterly growth in user retention,” shows the longer-term effects of your efforts but doesn’t really help you make immediate changes.

Zeroing In on Leading Indicators

When you’re trying to figure out what actions will drive improvements, start by asking, “What needs to happen to see a positive shift in our lagging indicators?” This approach helps you focus on metrics that are both measurable and significant.

Setting OKRs for Your Squad

The trick is to pinpoint the metrics that you can actually influence and keep an eye on consistently.

Question the relevance of each metric: Does it genuinely predict success? Can we track and influence it within our current goals? Steer clear of vague metrics and tailor your focus to the unique needs of your team and product.

While lagging indicators give you the comfort of certainty, leading indicators are all about agility and being able to pivot quickly. The real magic comes into play when you find the right balance between the two, ensuring your actions are both strategically aligned and adaptable to change.

Understanding the nuances between leading and lagging indicators is key to setting up effective cycles of building and iterating, ultimately steering your product towards success.

Impact Mapping

Once you have defined your desired objectives, they will serve as the starting point in your impact map (the WHY), helping you to define the product roadmap.

Turning Strategy into Action with OKRs - Impact Mapping - Gerard Chiva

Identifying Desired Outcomes

Starting from your big-picture goals, it’s all about zeroing in on what you really want to achieve using some key data points. Take an eCommerce setup, for instance. You might want to cut down on operational costs, so you look at things like why there are so many customer service calls or why you’re stuck doing payment stuff by hand.

Creating User Profiles

This is where you spot chances for specific kinds of users within your impact map and then turn these opportunities into solid plans for each outcome you came up with earlier.

Customer Experience Maps

These maps are gold when it comes to figuring out your OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) or finding spots on your roadmap to improve. For example, in an eCommerce world, you might focus on how customers feel about the service info you provide. You’d pinpoint the exact spots where they’re hitting snags, all in line with your strategic goals.

So, from one big strategy, you draw out different outcomes and themes for your roadmap.

Wrapping it Up

In the end, nailing your OKRs is both an art and a science. It demands a mix of creative thinking and hardcore analytics.

The strategies we’ve talked about—like turning fuzzy goals into clear targets, using metrics smartly, reverse engineering, impact mapping, and walking through customer journeys—give any product team a full set of tools to work with.

Just remember, the trick is to keep your OKRs specific, measurable, and realistic, making sure they fit the unique vibe and vision of your team.

As someone who’s here to help you lead the pack in product development, I’m all in on encouraging you to give these strategies a go. Watch as your team’s approach to product management and strategy execution transforms.

Here’s to bringing those strategic dreams to life!

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