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Connecting the dots – Vision, OKR, Scrum, Lean Inception, Outcome and output

The very first step on making an enterprise succeed is by having a vision statement that anyone can understand.

The Vision is the ultimate goal. It is long-term thinking. You must describe it as a clear and concise statement that everyone understands and adhere to it with passion.

Below are a few vision statements examples:

“Our vision is to create a better everyday life for many people.” – IKEA

“To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” – Tesla

“Our vision is to be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” – Amazon

“Empower people through great software anytime, anyplace, and on any device.” – Microsoft

I will assume that you did your homework and have created a coincide and inspiring vision statement. And now what?

Now you have to plan how to achieve (or maintain) your vision. You have to work on your strategy.

Strategy is the path to make the vision happen.

And here you can get a little overwhelmed with so many ways to think about, to plan and to execute on the strategy. To throw a few terms: Waterfall, Agile, Lean, Design thinking, Lean StartUp, Dual track, OKR, Jobs to be done, Lean Inception, Design Sprint, Double Diamond, 3Hs, Pace Layers, amongst many others.

We, as a community, have been using and talking about all these (and many more) concepts because we are pushing to get better, to be more effective. But there are so many options and combinations that you might get confused or overwhelmed by so many possibilities.

So, I want to connect a few dots that have been working extremely well for me and for many colleagues. I will not connect all the dots, even though they are amazing dots. I will make a few connections on the dots I have been repeatedly using with amazing results and great success.

“Be stubborn on vision, but flexible on details.”

You should follow a trail, not a track.

If you want flexible planning, don´t be like a train that has to follow a track. Be like a mountain hiker. You have the vision (the top of the mountain) and you go on a trail. Whereas the trail is not fully mapped (you are taking some unique paths and decisions that have not been taken before). You keep an eye on the mountain top, but you deal with the current context, the learnings from what happened so far to decide on the next steps to achieve your vision.

Here is where you use OKR (Objectives and Key Results)

Usually, you are not alone on that pursuit. You are not alone on that trail walk. As Bezos said, you probably want to be stubborn on vision, but flexible on details. OKR is a great framework to help with this duality – focused and flexible.

OKR is the compass the group is carrying that enable the group to answer these important questions: How do we focus on outcomes and how do we align everyone on working towards same outcomes?

The Objectives align with qualitative goals towards the vision – Where do we want to go? –. The Key Results are quantitative measurable outcomes working towards the Objectives — How do we know if we are getting there?

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”

“I don’t much care where –”

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

This is the dialogue between the Alice and The Cheshire Cat
On Lewis Carroll´s amazing book Alice in Wonderland,

“If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland. Be intentional and decide your steps with mastery.  Tweet This.

I hope you are convinced your team should be using OKR, and you know where you are going.

But it is not a straight line. For sure, there are intermediate steps.

The outcomes are the intermediate steps — level of performance or achievement — towards the vision. The outputs are the items that contribute to reaching an outcome. Tweet This.

Vision and OKR works towards outcomes. But we still need output to keep us moving forward and reach the outcomes.

That is where Scrum comes into place. Following a cadency, on every Sprint we plan, execute and then verify: Are we building the right thing? Is the output in the direction of the desired outcome?

“Scrum is a framework for developing and sustaining complex products. Scrum definition consists of  roles, events, artifacts, and the rules that bind them together.” – Scrum.org

So far, so good. We have a vision, OKRs and a cadency via Scrum. But what are we working on, really?

Well, we decided to go to the top of the mountain (we have a vision). We decided to use OKR to guide us. And we will take great benefit from the cadency and transparency Scrum provides us with.

This is great as a process on achieving a vision. But we need to plan before starting the walk. We need to align people on the vision and the first steps on the trail. On the product world, we need to align people about the product vision and the MVP, the Minimum Viable Product. We need a Lean Inception.

Lean inception is a collaborative workshop that will help a group of people — typically an agile team, a squad, or a product team — understand, align and plan the building of the lean product.

To be continued… (next article on this series will be about connecting a few more dots… Discovery, Lean StartUp, Lean Inception, and Delivery).

Paulo Caroli

Paulo Caroli is the author of the best-selling book “Lean Inception: How to Align People and Build the Right Product” (the first on a series of books on business agility). He's also the creator of FunRetrospectives.com , a site and book about retrospectives, futurospectives and team building activities. Caroli writes on this blog frequently. Receive the next post in your email. Sign up here.
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