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Strike Team OKR: The Power of Temporary Collaborative Goals

In the world of OKRs, the concept of shared objectives between operational teams has been a topic of debate. As an OKR strategist, I often encounter questions about the effectiveness of shared OKRs and how they impact strategies and team alignment and execution. Through my experience, I’ve come to appreciate the significance of distinguishing between “Operational Team OKRs” that complement each other and “Strike Team OKRs” for temporary, collaborative efforts. In this article, I will delve into the concept of “Strike Team OKRs” and their unique potential.

 

Collaborative Pursuits: Challenges and Responsibilities in Shared OKR

When individuals from different teams come together in pursuit of a shared objective, a series of challenges related to commitment and responsibility can arise. The very nature of involving multiple teams can complicate the clarity of who is responsible for what and how the necessary actions will be carried out to achieve that objective.

The concept of shared OKRs aims to address this very issue. While the answer is affirmative regarding individuals from distinct teams collaborating on a shared OKR, it’s essential to understand that this approach isn’t about unifying entire teams under a single objective. Instead, it’s about aligning individuals with complementary skills to achieve a common purpose.

However, this is where the management of commitment and responsibility plays a crucial role. When multiple people share an objective, it’s important to understand accountability and responsibilities clearly. This involves identifying who will be the owners of the OKR, who will be key contributors, and how collaboration will take place. Furthermore, the group responsible for the OKR  should define the objective, how to evaluate progress (Key Results) and ensure that each individual is committed to their part in achieving the OKR.

The challenge of maintaining commitment and responsibility can be addressed through effective communication and transparency. Collaboration on a shared OKR should be supported by constant communication among those involved, where updates are shared, doubts are clarified, and potential obstacles are resolved. Additionally, recognizing and celebrating achievements along the way can foster a sense of shared accomplishment and motivation to keep going.

In summary, the possibility of pursuing a shared OKR among individuals from different teams exists, but to ensure commitment and responsibility, careful planning and management are required. Clarity in accountability, constant communication, and a focus on individual contributions are essential elements for overcoming the challenges inherent in objectives shared by many people.

An example of a shared OKR and a strike team

To illustrate the essence of shared objectives and the concept of strike teams, let’s explore a scenario within a large organization that embraces team-based OKRs. (Coming soon, in another article, I will explain the difference between OKRs and Team OKRs.)

Within this organization, two distinct teams exist – the payment flow team and the search team. Each team operates with a distinct set of objectives tailored to their specific functions. However, a captivating twist emerges as both teams encompass individuals skilled in user experience (UX). Recognizing a convergence of interests in certain UX components, these adept UX professionals collaboratively devised a distinct Objective:

OBJECTIVE: Enhance the standard UX components for optimal mobile responsiveness by the end of Q3.

The objective is about optimizing the typical user experience (UX) components of their products to ensure they function well and appear correctly on mobile devices. The UX people on both teams decided to join forces as they have quite a few common UX components. This improvement is targeted to be completed by the end of the third quarter (Q3).

An example of a Strike Team OKR

Now, let’s probe further – does this new objective truly embody a shared objective? The answer lies in the affirmative, yet it’s imperative to comprehend that this objective doesn’t encompass the entirety of the payment flow and search teams. Instead, it signifies a purposefully tailored shared OKR meticulously crafted to resonate with individuals like Mary, John (representing the UX experts in the payment flow team), Anne, and Thomas (representing the UX professionals within the search team).

OBJECTIVE: Enhance the standard UX components for optimal mobile responsiveness by the end of Q3.

  • KR1: Achieve a Mobile Page Speed Score of 85 for the Search Result page on Google PageSpeed Insights by the end of Q3.
  • KR2: Decrease mobile bounce rate by 20% on key landing pages by the end of Q3.
  • KR3: Ensure that 90% of common UX components exhibit consistent behavior across various mobile devices by the end of Q3.
  • KR5: Receive positive feedback from at least 75% of users regarding the improved mobile experience by the end of Q3.
strike team example - UX Shared Goal

Strike Team example – UX Shared Goal

 

Mary, John, Anne, and Thomas established this OKR, designed to enhance the mobile user experience. While it may not encompass all aspects of their original teams, it aligns with their UX Strike team objectives. With specific goals such as achieving an 85 Mobile PageSpeed Score, reducing bounce rates, and ensuring consistent UX elements, this OKR propels substantial change toward their strike team’s objective.

An example of OKR for the operational teams

Does this newly formulated OKR truly embody a shared OKR? Undoubtedly, but with a crucial distinction. This OKR doesn’t encompass all activities carried out by the payment flow and search teams. Instead, it was precisely designed to align with the needs identified by user experience professionals.

In this context, it’s essential to recognize that a shared focus doesn’t imply complete unification. Instead of trying to converge all teams objectives, it’s about identifying intersecting areas where individual goals can harmonize towards a common purpose, forming a strike team and enabling them to create and pursue their OKR.

Now, to provide further clarity and exemplify, allow me to introduce specific OKRs for each of these teams:

Payment Flow Team Objective

Objective: Optimize the efficiency and reliability of the online payment process to enhance user satisfaction by the end of the third quarter.

  • KR1: Reduce page load time for the payment page by 30% by the end of the third quarter.
  • KR2: Increase the conversion rate in the payment process by 15% by the end of the third quarter.
  • KR3: Implement a real-time error detection system that reduces transaction errors by 25% by the end of the third quarter.

Search Team Objective

Objective: Enhance the search experience on the platform to increase user retention by the end of the third quarter.

  • KR1: Increase search result accuracy by 20% by the end of the third quarter.
  • KR2: Implement an advanced filter allowing users to refine their searches across 30% more categories by the end of the third quarter.
  • KR3: Reduce the average time to display search results by 40% by the end of the third quarter.

Every one of these OKRs is meticulously crafted to align with the distinct goals and responsibilities of their respective teams. Such an approach empowers both operational teams and strike teams to establish and pursue their unique OKRs, fostering a culture of accountability and ownership that drives success.

Unraveling the Strike Team Dynamics

Picture this: Mary, John, Anne, and Thomas pool their collective talents to create what can aptly be termed a “strike team.” This dynamic ensemble converges temporarily to pursue a specific objective – in this case, enhancing selected UX elements. Their modus operandi parallels that of regular team objectives, albeit with a unique and temporary twist. It resembles a special task force that dedicates intensive effort toward achieving specific objectives within a defined timeframe.

 

Exploring the Essence of Strike Teams OKR

Essentially, these individuals coalesce to form a “strike team,” a transient assemblage aligned around a specific objective, in this case, augmenting UX elements. This strike team OKR adheres to principles similar to the OKRs of their original teams, with a fundamental difference: the OKRs of this strike team are shared among individuals from different teams, and this strike team is temporary in nature, unlike the original teams that tend to last longer.

 

Another Example of Strike Team OKRs – improving the build pipeline

Allow me to present another scenario from several years ago when I was deeply engaged in a large program of work encompassing many development teams. A recurring issue emerged across many of these teams – the shared build pipeline was plagued by unreliability, leading to disruptions. Recognizing the urgency, we acknowledged that addressing this challenge was a collective responsibility, transcending the confines of any specific team’s objectives. Below was the common objective across the development teams:

OBJECTIVE: Enhance the reliability of the shared build pipeline to mitigate disruptions across development teams and foster a collective approach to addressing this challenge by the end of the year.

Path to Resolution – forming the Strike Team

Our recourse? The formation of a “strike team” – a dedicated assembly of individuals impassioned by addressing this challenge head-on. This strike team convened to deliberate the issues, align their perspectives, and collectively forge a unified objective aimed at rectifying the pipeline’s shortcomings.

 

The Pipeline Warriors Strike Team OKR

While the structured framework of OKRs wasn’t explicitly in place back then (I was on this team in 2007, before I got to learn about OKRs), our approach closely mirrored its principles. We constituted a distinct strike team, named “the Pipeline Warriors” for this specific purpose. Developers from various teams didn’t forsake their original teams; instead, they dedicated Fridays exclusively to address pipeline challenges. The “Pipeline Warriors” team remained active for five months, the duration in which they worked towards achieving the desired pipeline improvements.

strike team example - The Pipeline Warriors

strike team example – The Pipeline Warriors

Notably, throughout this endeavor, we didn’t impose a shared OKR across all operational teams pertaining to pipeline improvements. Instead, the Pipeline Warriors’ team carefully formulated a set of objectives and key results customized to promote clarity and resolute concentration on their specific mission.

OBJECTIVE: Enhance the reliability of the shared build pipeline to mitigate disruptions across development teams and foster a collective approach to addressing this challenge by the end of the year.

  • KR1: Reduce build pipeline failures by 30% through proactive monitoring and preemptive issue identification by the end of the year.
  • KR2: Achieve an average build time reduction of 20% by optimizing the pipeline’s architecture and resource allocation by the end of the year.
  • KR3: Implement automated testing protocols to ensure consistent build pipeline performance, resulting in a 25% decrease in regression-related disruptions by the end of Q3.
  • KR4: Establish cross-team collaboration channels, resulting in 90% of reported build issues being addressed collaboratively within 48 hours by the end of August.
  • KR5: Gather feedback from development teams through regular surveys, aiming for an 85% satisfaction rate with the improved pipeline reliability by the end of the year.
  • KR6: Document best practices and standard operating procedures for the build pipeline, ensuring that 100% of the development teams are aligned with the collective approach by the end of Q3

The Potency of Strike Team OKRs

In lieu of imposing shared OKRs across operational teams, an alternative emerges – the concept of “Strike Teams.” These teams excel in temporary, collaborative initiatives, bringing together members from various teams who are united by a shared aspiration.

However, what sets “Strike Team OKRs” apart is not only their collaborative nature but also the heightened sense of accountability and responsibility they foster. Unlike the potential confusion and misalignment that can arise from broadly shared OKRs among diverse operational teams, “Strike Team OKRs” establish a clearer line of responsibility.

Each member of a strike team is acutely aware of their specific role and the direct impact they have on achieving the team’s objective. This heightened sense of individual responsibility is a direct result of the temporary nature of the strike team – with a focused timeline, the urgency for tangible results is palpable. Members feel an increased ownership of the shared mission, knowing that their actions significantly influence the team’s success.

In optimal scenarios, strike teams are assembled to tackle challenges that require a blend of expertise from various operational areas. These scenarios often span teams and demand concentrated attention, making the formation of a strike team the most pragmatic approach. During their collaboration, team members don’t merely coexist; they synergize their diverse skill sets, contributing to a shared outcome.

Concluding Thoughts

In summary, “Strike Team OKRs” have the power to transform how teams approach collaboration, responsibility, and commitment. By bringing together individuals focused on a specific and temporary objective, these teams create an environment of ownership and results-driven action.

This increase in responsibility and commitment isn’t limited to individual members; it encompasses the entire strike team. Collaborative efforts evolve into a network of commitments, where each contribution intertwines to achieve the team’s collective goal. This clear sense of responsibility motivates teams to strive for excellence and fosters an environment of mutual support.

When facing collaborative challenges, forming a strike team with specific objectives proves to be a notable and highly effective option, especially when it comes to shared OKRs. Embracing the capabilities of temporary collaboration and empowering your teams to navigate the complexities of today’s dynamic work landscape is a way to achieve remarkable accomplishments and cultivate a culture of collective accountability.

I extend my gratitude to Allan Torres for his valuable review and assistance in conceptualizing the term “Strike Team OKR.”

 

Did you like this content?

If you are interested in the topic, check out more details about the following training: Team OKR Facilitator: Unlocking Team Success with OKRs and join this WhatsApp group with the people interested in this training.

 

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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