This guest blog article from our friends at Oboard delves into how OKRs and Agile are compatible, and explores how and why you should integrate them into your organization.
Agile is the default project management framework for most modern companies. It is robust, simple and promotes transparency, adaptation, and continuous improvement. That said, Agile is focused on day-to-day (or Sprint-to-Sprint) management, lacking instruments that focus on the strategic side. And while there are some hacks of the framework that introduce “Agile Goals”, they are awkward or simply remake OKRs in Agile under a different name.
So, instead, let’s go to the source and use the OKR methodology instead of hacky substitutes. OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results and is a goal-setting framework that structures your organization and aligns all employees to one goal. There is more to it, but the crucial part is that OKRs and Agile are compatible — and in this article, we’ll explore how you can integrate them into your organization and why you should do so.
The Benefits of Implementing OKRs in Agile
While Agile handles the routine, OKRs ensure that your employees are invested and focused on things that matter on the macro scale. They do not interfere with one another, combining into a single “OKR Agile” framework with surprising ease. Basically, OKRs handle strategy, while Agile is focused on tactics.
That said, a lot of their requirements are the same. For example, both frameworks demand transparency — though for different reasons.
- In Agile, transparency matters because some tasks may have dependencies, and it’s impossible to plan if you don’t know what state they are in.
- In OKRs, transparency helps people understand their role in the overall grand design of the company and motivates them by showing how important it is.
These shared requirements make implementing OKRs in a company that already follows the Agile framework — or vice versa — much easier since the vast majority of the work is already done. You just need to look at it from a slightly different angle.
Incorporating OKRs in Agile: A Practical Guide
Agile already brings transparency, open communication, and iterative progress through adaptability. And that’s great — but while those are important for OKRs, they are not at the framework’s core.
OKRs are built on top of Vision and Mission, expressing them as specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound Objectives and then tracking progress toward those Objectives using Key Results. For example:
- Vision. Enable a green future where every person has access to eco-friendly transportation.
- Mission. Manufacture and sell reliable and affordable bicycles.
- Objective. Increase bicycle sales by 30% next year to support environmental sustainability.
- Expand the retail network by adding 10 new stores.
- Introduce 2 new eco-friendly bicycle models.
- Increase marketing efforts in eco-conscious communities by 15%.
You can then break down each of those Key Results into smaller Initiatives that your Agile Sprints will be dedicated to.
Best Practices for Agile-OKR Integration
Integrating Agile and OKRs is not without challenges. However, these challenges can be overcome with our cheat sheet for the best OKR setting practices:
- Setting OKRs should involve all team members to ensure buy-in and collective understanding.
- OKRs should be ambitious but realistic and measurable to avoid setting the team up for failure.
- All team members should understand the OKRs, ensuring everyone works toward the same goals.
- Regular check-ins and reviews are vital to track progress and make necessary adjustments to the business environment, mirroring Agile’s iterative feedback loops.
Finally, we highly recommend using specialized software for setting, tracking, and managing OKRs. You technically can do all this in Google Sheets or Excel, but your managers will spend a lot of time tracking OKRs during each review or check-in. And this unnecessary work will make user buy-in much more complicated.
On the other hand, OKR software like OKR Board for Jira by Oboard allows you to link Jira Epics and Issues to Key Results and track their progress automatically. This automation alone saves a lot of time and makes OKR management non-intrusive to the work routine — but you can do so much more. For example, you can set up Dashboards that generate PDF overviews of user selected Key Results in one click, simplifying preparation for executive reports.
The Power of OKRs in Agile Environments
In conclusion, integrating OKRs with Agile methodology can significantly enhance the efficacy of teams and align them better with organizational objectives. It encourages transparency, flexibility, and continuous improvement, fostering an environment that breeds success.
If you’d like to learn more about OKRs, Oboard and agiledrive are hosting a free OKR Basic Training session on August 15th, at 7 pm CEST. Among other things, they will be showcasing case studies with Anaconda and Panasonic — so drop by and see the power of OKRs firsthand!
Oboard is run by people who deeply appreciate the OKR framework and build the best OKR software for its implementation and adoption. Our mission — is to integrate OKRs into the everyday work environment and let you enjoy their benefits without any drawbacks. Find out more at: oboard.io
Valiantys is the leading global consulting and services firm dedicated to Atlassian. We accelerate business transformation by digitizing processes and modernizing teamwork, using the best Agile methods and tools. Our Atlassian technical expertise is unparalleled and we support our customers across the entire spectrum of their projects on those platforms. As a recognized Specialized Partner, we help organizations accelerate time to value with Agile at Scale, Cloud, and ITSM implementations. Find out more at: valiantys.com