In this letter:
- How we set our OKRs
- Thoughts on the tension between valuing people and profit
- Some unlikely inspiration for good stewardship
Remember when we talked about OKRs that one time? As we’re going into our third planning quarter, I’ve come to really appreciate the clarity setting good OKRs can bring. So much so that we not only set them for ourselves, we also set them with our clients as part of our cold read assessment.
If you've never done this exercise, it’s deceptively simple (which doesn't mean it’s easy). The O in OKR stands for objectives. Objectives are ambitious, high-level goals that answer the question “what do we want to achieve?” Good objectives are inspiring and meaningful to you and your team.
The KR stands for Key Results. Key results are specific, measurable goals that answer the question “how will we know we’ve achieved our objective?” Good key results describe outcomes, but they do not prescribe how to reach those outcomes.
Here’s an example we’re currently refining:
- Objective: &yet has a solid, predictable pipeline based on our new positioning
- Key result: 15 inquiries from new qualified prospects for our cold read assessment
- Key result: 10 inquiries from existing clients for projects using creative technology to achieve their growth objectives
We have another objective that’s specifically tied to profitability, focused on quarterly revenue versus expenses and building our reserve. We separate the two because while they’re related, they are not the same thing.
At this point, these are the only two objectives focused on the money side. Our other four are focused on service; serving our team, our clients, and our community. These are a bit harder to set key results for, which is why I haven’t shared them (how do you quantify “people on our team are experiencing personal and professional growth”?), but we’ll have those figured out within the next week or two.
• • •
I’ve had several conversations this week about the nature of growth. It’s not surprising to me, but I’m observing that often, the folks who most need to focus on growth are the ones most resistant to it.
As someone who cares more about living out my values and being a contribution than achieving some external notion of success, aligning myself with our need for financial growth has historically been a challenge (as with most things, it’s easy to do for other people, but hard to do for myself). I go along with the notion in theory, but when it comes to setting actual numbers, I start to get antsy. How do I reconcile my values with setting profit goals? Won’t focusing on the numbers sully our intention to be ourselves and be of service? Isn‘t striving for achievement unhealthy?
I used to think so, at least on some level, but the longer I’ve been in business, the more I’ve realized the value of good stewardship—of doing the best we can with the gifts we’ve been given.
If you want to be inspired to embrace good stewardship and you’re into fantasy novels, read Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (recommended to me by the excellent book recommender Guan Un, who also has an excellent newsletter on sentences).
It’s not a story about values or generosity or putting people first—it’s a story about survival and what happens when you decide not to be a victim anymore. I admire the main character for her strength and determination to turn one into two and two into four and four into eight. It makes me look at my own handful of coins and wonder what is possible when I value them for the potential they represent rather than treat them with ambivalence or suspicion.
• • •
It’s taken me almost a year to learn how to set ambitious, meaningful, measurable OKRs, even though I thought I understood it immediately. I think it’s an especially hard thing for leaders who value people over profit.
The truth is, good stewardship is not in opposition to doing meaningful work and taking care of people. In fact, stewardship works hand-in-hand with service to create a healthy, sustainable system that generates greater and greater potential for positive impact.
If you’d like some help setting objectives for your growth (and reaching them), just reply to this email. It goes directly to me.
@andyet / @sarahavenir