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Going fast & slow - How to align Roadmaps, Sprint Planning & Sprints to OKRs

It is a myth in agile environments that everything is tested or achieved in just in short Scrum iterations (e.g. 2 weeks sprints). A 3 months cycle is a sweet spot for impactful results! Our recent clients in E-commerce and Fintech showed that OKRs can create a 3 months reasonable planning timeline while incorporating different IT or Product roadmaps and iterative sprints.


Content

  • What is Agile Planning?

  • What is OKR Planning?

  • How to align agile projects with OKRs?


What is Agile Planning with roadmaps?

To run projects with agile methods like Scrum, Kanban, etc. we have to focus on increments or results to avoid work in progress or so called waste or down times. Similar as in OKRs we focus on achieving product or customer outcomes in a time-boxed manner rather than just producing work output or ticking of tasks.


Even in our E-commerce and Fintech clients, we have seen 3 - 6 months IT & Product Roadmaps with a long-term planning estimation due to the need to engage with external parties like developers, tools, regulators, etc.


On the other hand we have seen 2 - 4 weeks sprints to achieve increments or progress with cross-functional teams. Besides, the team alignment is done is daily scrum meeting to achieve the specific sprint goals.


Often companies use sprint planning to organise 2-3 sprints in advance which translates to a 6 weeks or 3 months timeline, which in both cases we could easily roll up to OKRs (see last chapter).


Measure the impact not the work result with OKRs!
Sprint Example

What is OKR planning?

OKRs are normally a 3 months planning cycle with weekly check-ins, but could also be used in a 4 month or 6 month cadence, depending on the innovation and output speed of the organization or team . E.g. Tech companies or product teams normally use 3 months cycle while more traditional organizations in industries like Banking, Supply Chain, Investment, etc. use 6 months OKRs with bi-weekly check-ins to measure their work against the set Objectives and Key Results.


To start OKRs, we normally prepare in Q4 the strategy and mid - / long term vision of the company (or alternatively a north star alignment for start-ups). Based on this strategy we can than develop yearly estimated targets, which will be broken down into quarters (or half-years). In December we would than microplan the OKRs for Q1 with 3-5 Objectives and 2-5 Key Results each to be achieved until 31 March. Q2 will be planned after the end of March review of Q1 based on Q1 results and so on.


Besides starting in Q1, OKRs can also be planned any time in a running year based on the long term strategy, yearly objectives and the results so far during the year on a 3 or 6 months cycle, more on our blog: "how to try OKRs"


How to align agile projects with OKRs?

We can use 3 or 6 months Product / IT or other teams roadmaps to directly input in the OKR planning, however it is important to align different teams under one company objective. For example Product & IT can have following Objectives and Key Results to collaborate:

  1. Objective Q1: Develop & Launch Payment Gateway

    1. KR1: Finalize MVP by 31. Feb (IT)

    2. KR2: Test MVP with 100 test users (IT & Product)

    3. KR3: Launch Payment Gateway on 15 March (IT & Product)

    4. KR4: Achieve 10.000 transactions on the payment gateway in March (Product & Marketing)

So it is important to align the different division or teams and their respective roadmaps under one Objective and let them collaborate on the Key Results basis to achieve that 3 months OKR results on a longer roadmaps.


On the other hand, Scrums with Sprints and Sprint Planning can be rolled-up to OKRs with a more adaptive planning than 3 months. For example if we run 2 weeks development sprints and apply a sprint planning with 3 sprints ahead, we would have a roughly estimated planning for 6 weeks:

  1. Sprint Planning: Finalize MVP by 15. Feb

  2. Sprint 1: Finalize payment gateway by 15. Jan

  3. Sprint 2: Add API to bank partner by 31. Jan.

  4. Sprint 3: Test & improve full customer - payment - bank flow - 15. Feb

In the OKR planning for Quarter 1, we could add one or multiple Key Results until 15 February with the defined sprint or sprint planning outcomes and than ask the Product & IT Team on 15 February to plan the next 6 weeks for a full OKR cycle. That means we can also allow monthly or 6 weekly iterative planning inside the OKR with an estimated 3 months result.


Often Chief of Staff, OKR Champions, PMO positions or further coordinators roles are created in start-ups to align these planning cycle, read more on our blog "Exciting new roles"


Conclusion

OKRs work well in agile environment both regarding the culture & organisation as well as the iterative and adaptive planning with roadmaps and sprint plannings and actual iterations. Furthermore we realized with various Fintech & Ecommerce clients that OKRs helps to align different roadmaps, 3 or 6 months planning cycles and shorter sprint plannings inside an organisation to achieve common goals and plan together as a team rather than siloed. Once Product, IT, OPS, Marketing, etc. are working towards the same goals with aligned KRs, the coordination of project teams and work results is getting easier. It is also important to mention that sprints can or cannot lead to results and OKR framework enables this short term testing and adaption of next sprint or sprint planning.


For more information how to implement OKRs successfully please contact us on transform@asiapmo.com or on our contact form.


This blog was written by Carsten Ley, Entrepreneur, Enabler & Project Lead in Customer Experience, Project & Business Transformation leading large scale project implementations in Retail, E-commerce, Banking, Consulting & Experience Management for companies like Deloitte Germany, VW Mexico, Rolls-Royce UK, Lazada Vietnam and H&M South East Asia. He founded 2018 Asia PMO, a consulting firm focussing on getting clients fast and efficient into implementation of company objectives, customer & employee experience improvements to foster a result- and team-oriented environment.

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