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Align Your Teams by Writing Good Objectives and Key Results

May 6, 2020

7 minute read

If you’re looking at outcome-based roadmaps for the first time, you may be asking yourself – is this even important? Do I really need to link objectives and key results to my roadmap? Do I even need initiatives? Can’t I just show features on a timeline?

These are valid questions. Your executives may even be asking them already. 

A good product roadmap focuses on your product’s vision and direction. The what, the why, and for whom you’re building. It comes down to communicating strategy. It is not about how fast you work or what the final solution looks like.

“Your users don’t care about what you are building. They care about what problem you’re solving for them and what outcomes you’ll enable them to achieve through your product. Setting OKRs forces your team to focus and to deliver a meaningful result for your users and the business.”

Gabrielle Bufrem, Product Manager @ Pivotal Labs, and Mind the Product Trainer

Tying objectives and key results to your roadmap ensures your team and customers understand the value you’re bringing to them. But they also promote transparency, healthier conversations, and help you to manage expectations. Most importantly, they give your product team the flexibility to adjust and pivot as needed.

What does a good objective look like?

Think of an objective as a goal you want to achieve in the future. They set clear direction and should provide motivation. It’s helpful to ask the question “where do you want to go?”

It is likely your portfolio will have both company-level objectives and product-level objectives, with each group supporting the other. A company objective aims to help the business, while a product objective aims to help the user. 

“Company objectives are derived from the company vision and strategy for building a successful company. Product objectives, on the other hand, are derived from the product strategy and vision. This will be different from the company vision (of course the product vision must support the company vision.)”

Simon Cast, ProdPad CPO on Company vs Product Objectives

What do these objectives look like? Well, it depends. And it really does. They will vary according to your industry, company size, growth stage and of course, your vision. With that in mind, there are some common objectives that companies may look at:

Company ObjectivesProduct Objectives
User GrowthFeature Adoption

Once key objectives are defined, they can be used as a basis for the roadmap. It’s not advised to focus on more than three objectives at a time, otherwise you’ll have too much on your plate and not know where to keep focus.

“Less is more when it comes to getting started with OKRs. Moving from a focus on outcomes instead of output requires a mindset shift as well as changes to the tactics of prioritization/collaboration/communication. Don’t underestimate this effort. It’s better to start with even just one OKR for a quarter to understand how to make them work for you in a successful manner, and thus feel motivated to stick with them long term, rather than be overly aggressive and experience major failure on your first try.” 

Robin Zaragoza, Product Coach and Founder at The Product Refinery

You can now use these objectives to prioritize your initiatives.

Stay outcome focused with ProdPad

ProdPad’s roadmap section allows users to focus on outcomes and objectives. Objectives are available both on the portfolio (business) and product (user-focused) levels, and you can tie them back into your roadmap initiatives.

A ProdPad roadmap card which has two objectives attached to it.
There are two objectives attached to this initiative

This means your entire team can see what you’re working on, which objectives you’re affecting, and the overall direction of the product and company.

What does a good key result look like?

Key results are the specific metrics you measure to ensure your work is having a positive impact. They stem from the objectives you have identified for your roadmap. A key result is always measurable and must be quantitative. They show you how you’re progressing towards your objective. Again, ask yourself the question “how do I know if I’m getting there?” Try not to overwhelm yourself with loads of key results.

As well as being measurable, there are other attributes to consider when creating your key results, such as:

They should make you feel a little uncomfortable

Key results should mean that you have made a significant change, something that is noticeable by others. It is thought that if you hit 70-80% of your key result target, you’ve done a good job. Try to make them tough; you should feel a little uncomfortable when looking at them. You’re not challenging yourself enough if they’re too easy to achieve.

Make them specific

Key results at the portfolio level should cover broader metrics. However, those at the product level should measure more granular progress. For example, the adoption of a specific area of your product.

You can’t just get it done

Key results are not things that you can do. They are things you can influence. Better results tend to come from the initiatives that are influenced by your actions. For example, don’t just build a website – build a website, and then increase website views by 25% each month.

Taking the previous initiative as an example, and looking at the objective of “User Growth,” a possible key result to track would be to Increase the count of Nimble users by 40% by the end of 2020. You now have a very specific metric to track, its hoped-for impact, and a hypothesis that ties back to how you will get there. Success!

Add key results in ProdPad

ProdPad allows you to add key results for each objective, so you not only have the ability to set direction but also understand how each initiative affects a key result. For each key result you can link to specific initiatives on your roadmap, giving you the whole picture on your objectives, key results, and the contribution of your team’s work against them.*

Key results with roadmap initiatives
This key result in ProdPad has two roadmap initiatives linked to it

Tying it back to your roadmap to understand the impact of your work

An outcome-based roadmap allows you to look back at your work and understand its impact on your customers and business. In combination with key results tracking, it means you can keep an eye on progress, assess risk with more detail, and pivot with more flexibility as you prepare for the unknown.

“Before your objectives are realized, how do you track your progress? Metrics, key results, KPIs, or some form of measurement along the way can inform you. This is critical to knowing how far along you are to solving those problems identified on your roadmap.”

C.Todd Lombardo, co-author of Product Roadmaps: Relaunched

Document progress in ProdPad

ProdPad provides a space to outline your objectives alongside their specific key results, and you can also tie initiatives to them. As you work to reach your goals, you can update ProdPad with status updates, so your entire team is able to look back at your work and understand how it’s moving along.

Outcomes can be recorded on completed key results
Outcomes can be recorded on completed key results

When you’ve completed the initiative, you have a space to write down the outcomes for both the initiative itself, as well as the impact of the initiative against your key results. 

Using objectives and key results: the takeaways

Tying back objectives and key results to your roadmap lets you focus your attention on projects that best support your wider strategy. You and your product teams can remain outcome-focused, learning as you go, while reducing future risk. Meanwhile, your executives and key stakeholders can view your roadmap and easily identify what you’re working on, and why.

Looking for a little more info? Book yourself in for a free demo with one of our product experts – they’ll be more than happy to answer all your questions and talk you through ProdPad.

*Objectives and roadmapping are available on all plans. Key Results are available on our Performance plan.

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