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Coordinated OKRs: Navigating Shared Objectives Within Operational Teams

Exploring Effective Shared Objectives within Operational Teams: This article delves into the dynamics of coordinated OKR in operational teams. It highlights the need for collaborative objectives that complement team efforts while maintaining autonomy. The piece emphasizes understanding organizational structures for successful shared objectives and advocates for team-specific goals that enhance each other’s endeavors.

During a recent OKR training session, a participant posed a question that led me to reflect on the dynamics of shared OKR versus coordinated OKR within operational teams. As someone deeply involved in facilitating OKR sessions for operational teams, my focus lies in aligning, crafting, and executing on team-specific objectives and key results. While my previous article delved into the concept of strike team OKRs – where members of diverse teams unite for a common OKR – this article aims to explore another dimension of shared OKRs: when two distinct teams find common ground and contemplate creating shared objectives.

Navigating Shared Objectives in Organizational Context

In any big organization, regardless of how its teams are set up, it’s essential to have a clear idea of where the organization is headed and the main goal that all teams are aiming for.

However, each team should still have its own independence by having specific objectives and key results to strive for.

A Deeper Dive into Shared Objectives

Let’s consider the following objective: To increase sales by 20% by the end of the year. Let’s imagine this is a shared objective for both the sales and marketing teams. Now, let’s delve deeper into it. From the perspective of the sales team, this objective fits well and meets the ACCID criteria:

  • Aligned with the organization’s mission and values
  • Clear, concrete, and specific
  • Challenging yet achievable
  • Inspiring
  • Deadline-oriented

However, when we look at it from the viewpoint of the marketing team, the shared objective lacks clarity, specificity, and achievability. This objective isn’t clear or achievable for the marketing team! It doesn’t give them a clear direction for how they can contribute. Objectives should be clearly defined and possible to achieve within a team’s scope and abilities. And this is not the case for the marketing team.

comparing the objective for the two teams

comparing the objective for the two teams


A Simulated Conversation Towards Coordinated OKR

Below I simulate a conversation with a marketing professional to unfold their specific marketing objectives. The dialogue shows that teams can collaborate via objectives that complement each other instead of having a shared objective.

Conversation Start:

FACILITATOR: So, what’s the objective?

MARKETING PERSON: Um… To increase sales by 20% by the end of the year.

FACILITATOR: But you’re from the marketing team. So, what’s your specific objective?

MARKETING PERSON: To contribute to increasing sales.

FACILITATOR: What does “contribute to increasing sales” mean?

MARKETING PERSON: Well… to carry out effective marketing activities that lead to higher sales.

FACILITATOR: Alright, we’re making progress. So, your objective is “to perform marketing activities that result in increased sales.” But what’s your team’s specific marketing objective? I know you’ll be working on marketing, but what’s the tangible outcome of your efforts?

MARKETING PERSON: Well, we have the sales funnel. Our role in marketing involves increasing the number of people entering the sales funnel.

FACILITATOR: I understand. And in terms of quantifiable progress, how much do you think you need to increase the number of people entering the funnel by? So that, by December, our organization, could achieve a 20% boost in sales?

MARKETING PERSON: Um… I think we’d need to double the current number of qualified entries into the funnel.

FACILITATOR: Great. So, how about we consider this objective for the marketing team: “Double the number of people entering the sales funnel by Q3.”

Conversation End:


Redefining Shared OKRs

The exploration of shared OKRs unveils a crucial insight – they arise in scenarios similar to the one presented above, where closely intertwined teams work toward a common high-level objective. Yet, the solution does not entail enforcing shared objectives upon teams. Rather, it lies in a contextual comprehension of the organization’s structure and the multifaceted nature of its operational teams.

In our example, both the sales and marketing teams maintain their distinct OKRs. For instance, the marketing team, beyond contributing to sales, may also strive to amplify brand awareness. This dynamic can yield multiple OKRs for the marketing team – one harmonizing with the sales team’s OKR (e.g., doubling sales funnel entries by Q3), and another linked to heightening brand recognition. This approach preserves individual team autonomy while fostering a nuanced contribution.


Embracing Coordinated OKR

To sum it up, shared OKRs among operational teams aren’t a favored approach. Instead, operational team OKRs should focus on collaborative team objectives that supplement each other’s efforts. This alignment ensures that distinct teams maintain their essence while contributing synergistically. In essence, shared OKRs should be a rarity, and the emphasis should be on operational teams that enhance each other’s endeavors. In instances of shared objectives spanning teams, strike team OKR provide an avenue for concentrated efforts and goal attainment. Remember, in the realm of Team OKRs, success thrives when objectives are aligned, concrete, and unique to each operational team.

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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