Designing the Design OKRs

The famous Objective and Key Results (OKR) goal framework adopted by the likes of Google, Uber and others landed on to Hike this quarter. OKRs help align the company towards common strategic initiatives (which are typically decided at the start of a quarter). These are structured hierarchically, broken down into smaller objectives, starting from company OKRs to function OKRs to team OKRs and finally individual OKRs.

Typically, at all levels, there are 3–5 Objectives, each having 3–4 Key Results. Objectives are ambitious, Key Results are tangible and trackable. Hitting 70% on a Key Result is excellent.

Thats a quick byte about OKRs, this article however intends to deep dive into interesting case of Design OKRs.

Source: Dilbert

Those who have used this framework might understand how hard it is to set good OKRs at team and individual levels and well, its a notch (pun-intended) harder for Design.

Given the nature of a creative field, it can be tricky to assign tangible timelines without exploring depths of a project. More-so, it’s easy to compromise quality and achieve goals. Examples: design for happy flows only, ignore the edge cases, or don’t go the extra mile for delighting the user; deliver visual assets for one screen size only; or don’t create that one micro-animation that connects two screens so seamlessly. Nobody would know all this!

In a true designer spirit, after diverging (read Design Thinking) on multiple models that can tackle these issues, we converged on to the following balance: keep two productivity objectives, and one cultural and personal growth objective.

For the later, peer and industry benchmarking are great for ensuring quality. Another important tool is external validation of mocks/prototypes. For the first (and more critical) one though, it is important to tie Key Results to the (stages of) process along with the work output. This not only gives clarity on what needs to be delivered in how much time, but also who would own what stage of the delivery. It can be UX, or Visual, or Graphic, or Research. Some projects might not require all stages, so it becomes even more easier to segregate projects and assign timelines. Example KR here would be: Deliver two diverging holistic wireflows by X date. Again, a good KR needs to be tangible and trackable.

Thankfully, in our case, while adopting OKRs, we were also in middle of restructuring product design team into UX and Visual Design teams and building up a new UX Research function. OKRs not only became easier to define, but also provided great focus and discipline in implementing this structure smoothly.

It’s the last month of the quarter, first one where I tried my hand at OKR framework. Comparing it to all the previous works, I think there could not have been a more transparent and autonomous way for delivering results in a subjective field such as Design. I am happy that we are close on some KRs, but feel these could have been more ambitious.

We will be fine tuning the framework over next few quarters. In the meantime, I would be delighted to hear more thoughts from others, particularly from creative practitioners in India.

This story is published in Noteworthy, where 10,000+ readers come every day to learn about the people & ideas shaping the products we love.

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Design Leader at Intuit. Ex head of design at 1mg, hike messenger. Creator of Braille Phone. TED Fellow, Rolex Laureate, Echoing Green Fellow.

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Sumit Dagar

Sumit Dagar

Design Leader at Intuit. Ex head of design at 1mg, hike messenger. Creator of Braille Phone. TED Fellow, Rolex Laureate, Echoing Green Fellow.

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