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Product Management Webinar: OKRs & High Performing Teams

The Darkside of OKRs with Christina Wodtke

Do you feel like your OKRs may not be working for you? There may be a reason for this, and it’s one you’ve probably overlooked.

Watch our webinar with special guest, Christina Wodtke, Product Expert and Author of ‘Radical Focus’ and ‘The Team that Managed Itself’, and host Janna Bastow, CEO of ProdPad and inventor of the Now/Next/Later roadmap as they explore OKRs and how to create high performing teams.


About Christina Wodtke

Christina is currently a Lecturer at Stanford in the HCI group in the Computer Science department.
Christina teaches worldwide on the intersection of human innovation and high-performing teams. She uses the power of story to connect with audiences and readers through speaking and her Amazon category-bestselling books. Christina’s work is personable, insightful, knowledgeable, and engaging.

Her books include Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web, Pencil Me In, and The Team that Managed Itself. Her bestselling book, now in its second edition, is a business fable called Radical Focus. It tackles the OKR movement through the powerful story of Hanna and Jack’s struggling tea startup. When the two receive an ultimatum from their only investor, they must learn how to employ OKRs and radical focus to get the right things done.

Key Takeaways

  • OKR processes in dysfunctional organizations 
  • Why OKRs may not be working for you
  • How to build high-performing teams
  • How to achieve radical focus
  • And so much more!
Dots watching a webinar

[00:00:00] Janna Bastow: Hello, everybody. Welcome. So glad to have you all here. We are just about getting ready to kick off. Let me get my notes up and then we’ll get going. All right. So hi everybody. This is the. Product expert series of webinars that we run here at ProdPad, it’s a series of webinars. We always record them and there’s always a mixture of different presentations and fire size that we have.

And we always have a mixture of different experts who come join us here. It’s always with this focus on them bringing their insights and their expertise to the table, their experiences. So there’s always like the focus on the content, the learning and the sharing. So today is going to be recorded and it’s gonna be shared with you.

It’s gonna be up on our YouTube channel and up on the same page where you registered for this. You will get a chance to ask questions today as well. So you can use the Q and a section H is the preferable way to drop in your questions but also feel free to use the chat to drop in your thoughts about what we’re talking about here today.

I’m gonna be trying to keep on top of both these things best I can and make sure that we’re seeing everything, what everyone’s talking about. Now a little about broad pep before we get started. Now, this is a tool that was originally built by myself and my co-founder Simon. When we were both product managers, ourselves, we needed tools to do our own jobs as product people.

We needed something to keep track of experiments. We were running in order to hit the business objectives that we were given and in order to solve our customers problems and basically to keep tabs and all the ideas and feedback that made up our backlog. So building propa gave us control and organization and transparency.

And so it wasn’t long before we started sharing it with other product people around us. And so today it’s used by thousands of teams around the world. So it’s free to try. And we even have a sandbox mode where it has example product management data. So you can see how lean roadmaps and OKRs and experiments and everything else fits together in a product management space.

And our team is made up of product people. So start a trial today and then get in touch and let us know your feedback. We’d love to hear from you.

Now let’s start jumping into the guts of today. So, I’m really happy to introduce Christina Waka, who I know through the mind, the product world a lot of, that I’ve been involved with mind. The product is one of the founders. Christina has worked with mind the product as a speaker and workshop, presenter and general, just friend of the product community.

Really. We last got a chance to hang out in Hamburg for the MTP engage conference there. When Christina was the closing keynote speaker with a fiery talk called the knowing doing gap, or I like the subtitle, how agile lean and now OKRs went from useful to stupid. So Christina is a product expert and she’s author of radical focus, which is now in its second edition, which I’ve heard is much more fleshed out if you’ve read the first one, definitely pick up the second one.

I’d definitely recommend reading it. The first one was revelation for me and also the team that managed itself, which I’ve got right here as well. She’s had a brilliant career involving work with LinkedIn, MySpace, Zenga, Yahoo, and others. She’s founded three startups and online design magazine called boxes and arrows.

And co-founded the information architecture Institute. And she’s currently a lecturer at Stanford in the HCI group in the computer science department. So brilliant career, as I said everyone welcome Christina. Thank you so much for joining us. 

[00:03:34] Christina Wodtke: Oh, it’s such a pleasure to be talking to you again.

Jenna Hamburg was so long ago it 

[00:03:40] Janna Bastow: was, yeah, I’ve had a week off and a move since then. My entire zoom background has changed and it’s all outta sorts. So good to see you again here. And I love that people are already saying that they’ve they read radical focus V2.

Somebody said that boxes narrows changed their life. So great cred right there. So again, thanks so much for coming into to join us here today. And one of the things that I’ve loved about your writing is you write your books in the form of fables, like, the team that managed itself, you’ve got this story about the gaming company you’ve got radical focus, which is a fable.

It’s a story. It makes ’em really digestible and enjoyable. Like, how did you come to this form of writing. 

[00:04:20] Christina Wodtke: I’ve always loved fiction. My whole life and I read so much fiction. And then I read the Patrick Lei books, of course five dysfunctions of a team, which I highly recommend and death by meeting.

They’re both very good. And so I was thinking, I wanna write a book about OKRs. I hadn’t read a written a book in 10 years. I had written a book on IA back in the old days. But I wanted to write about it because I found it so incredibly useful and I thought, oh my God, I’m gonna write a book about an acronym.

Who’s gonna read that my God. So I thought let’s make it fun to read. Let’s tell a story. And it’s been amazing to, to see how it affects people because not only do they get the ideas, they get them in context of work, but they learn other things that I didn’t even mean to say, like when you’re reading a nonfiction book, you’re like, do this, like I’m reading inspired second version right now.

But with fiction, people have come up to me and said things like, I had to fire someone and then in radical focus, you gave me the script for it because the CEO fires someone and there’s all these little things that come up that you didn’t even realize you were putting in there. Little, best practices.

So I wrote the fable for radical focus. It kept it really simple. I would say team imagine itself is actual fiction. Like if you wanna know what it’s like to work in a game company Not all game companies, some place like EA or Zynga where it’s a little more intense, I think it’s a decent representation of it.

So say my friends as well, so who worked in game companies, but it’s more important to realize that I wanted to really show how hard it is to be a product manager and how you never have that wonderful mentor that comes down and says, here’s how to do it. And now your life is better instead. Ally, the product manager and team that manages itself is like, okay, I found something over here and I found something over here and somebody said this and I’m putting it together.

I wanted to capture that, putting together a solution for yourself. Cause I think in reality, nobody’s stuff really works for you out of the box. You have to build it and change it. And Mo like Ikea hacks, I guess that’s what being product manager is about. 

[00:06:17] Janna Bastow: Yeah, you’re right.

And it does actually really capture that, it captures some of the chaos that we have as product managers, the real life situations, where it’s like, actually, you know what? You might have gathered all these frameworks. You might have all these tools. You might know how scrum works and sprints work and all this other stuff, you might know what a roadmap should look like, but bam, you’ve just been hit by reality.

 Do does all this work when you’re faced with this situation at the workplace and it’s, it really helps when somebody’s actually showing them the way showing them 

[00:06:46] Christina Wodtke: the script. Absolutely. And it I think I’ve had some people say that it’s comforting to know that you’re not the only one trying to dig their way through all that chaos and nonsense.

So, yeah.

[00:06:58] Janna Bastow: absolutely. And you said it was a book about, a little acronym, three letters, who’s gonna read that, but these three letters have been transformative to the way that companies work. When did you first get introduced to OKRs? Like how did you get bin by the OKR bug.

[00:07:12] Christina Wodtke: Zenga was an OKR. It was a John door company. Right. And we used OKRs. The four square is a mod of the way CityVille did their OKRs, which was quite good. And so I started with that and then I left Zenga rage, quit it if you want. And I spent about six months trying to figure out, like, what am I gonna do with my life?

What do I actually want? I don’t wanna do, I don’t wanna do another industry job LinkedIn had just had their IPO and I had a little bit of money, not enough to change my life, but enough to buy myself a pause. If you know what I’m saying. And I thought, okay I’ll do some consulting. And I did consulting with some startups and they were just such a mess.

They were tripping over their own feet. So I was like why don’t we use OKRs to give them that sort of focus? And it worked really well. And I ended up using it all my own life as well, to try to figure out who I was gonna be in this post industry life. And it worked extraordinarily well for my personal life.

In fact, I’ve realized the other day that I’ve been doing personal cares for like 10 years, every single week, sending a weekly update to my coach. Oh, wow. Saying, this is what I’m trying to do. These are the things I’m trying this week. These are the things that are also coming up. Yeah. It’s incredible.

I keep thinking for the 10 year anniversary of personal cares, I should write them up again because that’s, how did I go from, a general manager at ZDA to a lecture at Stanford? It, yeah. It was constantly going. I wanna, I want joy in my life. I wanna optimize for joy. I’m tired of optimizing for.

Just cash or just a sexy title. In the valley, everybody’s obsessed with titles. Yeah. And I was like, I just wanna be happy. And it led me to CCA where I was happy. And then when the Z the Stanford thing showed up, I was like, God, you don’t mess with happy, but it is a better commute cuz I do live in Palo Alto.

So I went for it and I got it. And I’ve been insanely happy at Stanford since cuz basically if you teach there, you’re learning every day. It’s just so incredible. Yeah, 

[00:09:04] Janna Bastow: absolutely. And you know what you’ve achieved there, not just for your own personal achievements for using the OKRs, but the fact that you actually used OKRs for 10 years, most companies can’t stick with them for more than two quarters.

, I think that’s an achievement in itself and actually somebody Michael, thanks so much. You’re actually sharing Christina’s work on writing about a personal. OK. So everyone check out those links, definitely some stuff in there. And Christina, if you wanna write updates on how that’s been going, I’m sure everyone’s gonna wanna read about that stuff.

Cuz it’s valuable and I don’t think other people have made it that far. I don’t think, I think you’re definitely at 

[00:09:37] Christina Wodtke: the forefront of that. I was talking to another friend of mine, so I created a little support group of four women who we, I send my re my care reports out to and they send their sometimes and I was talking to one who has been sticking with it pretty well.

And she pointed out that we both have ADHD and that we desperately need some kind of structure to keep us pointed in one direction. And I thought, yeah, it’s not that I’ve been good at staying at OKRs. It’s like, without OKRs, I just spend the whole week, like, I don’t know what I’m doing, what’s going on.

So just, I need something that keeps me pointed in a good direction. 

[00:10:12] Janna Bastow: I love that. And I love that hat tip to ADHD. If anybody here has ADHD stay tuned until the end. I’ve got a little bit of an announcement for you there, but I think OKRs are actually useful for companies as well. Cause I think companies have ADHD this lack of focus and this ability to end up running off in different direction, because what you end up with are people who, one person wants to go this way and one person wants to go this way.

And one person thinks that they know the answer, which leads them off in this direction. Somebody else knows the answer, which leads them off in this direction. And the core purpose of them is really to give them that that centralized direction that everyone pointing in the same direction.

Is that right? Yeah. 

[00:10:49] Christina Wodtke: Oh gosh. Yeah. I think the reason people go, I wanna go this way and I wanna go that way is because there isn’t that clarity, there isn’t that strategy. Nobody knows where they’re going and if they do know they’re not communicating it properly And people always seem to complexify everything, so the executive team comes up with OKRs, but then they really are OKRs.

There’s like 15 of them and they’re pointing all these different directions and people just look at it and go, I cannot be reading all of that. It’s too much, if you could just, that’s why I called it radical focus instead of a guide to KRS or whatever, because I think it’s absolutely critical to make sure that you have at least one message that says we are going to do this full stop, and then you can have 14 after it, but make sure there’s one, that’s like, this is happening this quarter period or this year.

Yeah. And so what 

[00:11:37] Janna Bastow: does radical focus mean to you instead of just focus? 

[00:11:43] Christina Wodtke: I guess it really means to me, we, everybody talks about focus. And sometimes we get it when we’re in a flow state, maybe we’re working on, so. But it’s really hard to maintain focus in life. Life’s full of sh shiny objects, right?

It’s like, oh, I could do this. Or I could do this. Even in my life, somebody mentioned that I was talking to a friend at another university and they’re like, oh, you could make the same amount and be a tenure track. So maybe you should consider that. And I could spend a lot of time, looking into it and digging into it, but I have OKRs and I could look at them and go, this is what my life is really about.

And then I can evaluate whether or not I should be spending time on it. So radical focus is being incredibly crisp and clear what your goals are and what I call touching them every week by touching them. Opening them up, looking at them, asking yourself, this is still true. Am I gonna be able to accomplish this?

How confident am I that I’m going in the right direction? What am I trying to do? And that’s why you only have a couple things you do each week. Cuz you gotta spend the rest of the week. Driving the kid to school and getting the car renewed and getting the dishwasher fixed. I’m just listening my life.

 So how do you actually do the things that really matter, but they aren’t urgent and okay. Arts work really well for me that way, I just know that every single Monday at 8:00 AM, I’m gonna be looking at my week going, I gotta do something that helps me move forward. Yeah. I think companies are the same way.

Yeah, absolutely. Hundred percent. That 

[00:13:07] Janna Bastow: makes a lot of sense. Yeah. And so, in your years of working with companies who are implementing and using OKRs, you’ve taught it, you’ve trained in it and everything. You must have seen some companies take to it. And some companies not take to it. What are some of the OKR fo pause, the gotchas that you’re seeing you seeing companies trip up over?

[00:13:27] Christina Wodtke: I wrote mistakes in OKRs ages ago and I feel like there’s a new generation of them after measure what matters went out and. Managed to reach a lot of enterprise companies as opposed to little startups. The people who are most successful is always gonna be a very small company with a single product or a small team with a product.

Right. Anytime you’re trying to get bigger stuff happening, it just can get very messy. It inspired says, just use ’em at the company at Toplin company level and at the product team level and nothing else. And I think that’s really good advice. Originally I was like individual cares are okay. And now I’m like, no, I’ve never seen that work ever in any company.

You can do personal okays for yourself, but that’s between you and your God. You can decide is this forming areas it’s not for me, but I don’t think companies should be telling people how to live their lives because I have literally seen companies that are making you set very personal individual OKRs and I’m like no.

And then other companies that are saying you are responsible for these big company metrics and as one person, like you can’t do very much as one person, unless you’re like maybe an SEO hacker that’s been hired growth hacker. That’s been hired to do something most of the time. Most people are so interdependent that OKRs at the individual level just don’t make any sense.

And then people go how do we do performance reviews? And I’m like, how have you done them in the past? right. It’s so weird. That’s why I ended up writing team that managed itself. Cause I was so sick of it. Yes, Tom, I’m sorry. The cat pops up. But yes, there’s software people are the worst because they’re like, oh my God, there’s so many reasons.

They’re the worst. So just 

[00:15:02] Janna Bastow: to give some context to people listening in Tom, Tom pointed out that unfortunately there’s a whole raft of software vendors selling stuff that encourages that sort of daft personal OKR stuff, which absolutely. Yeah. so Christina, go, what’s your take on this 

[00:15:17] Christina Wodtke: oh my God. Yes. This is just I try, I tell my customers, every single piece of software is a point of view.

That’s been put into Amber and been frozen. And the problem then is that you, by buying the softer, you’re buying into their point of view, Which may not be your point of view. So what I tell people is please use Google sheets, use stocks, use whatever use I’ve seen people use Trello successfully.

Just use what you got until you have a rhythm. And once you have a rhythm, then you’re gonna be able to look at these OKRs and go, I don’t want that. Or, Ooh that’s close, but you gotta figure out how are OKR is gonna work before you spend good Lord, so much money on a piece of software. So that’s the tricky part.

So I always say, get your process right first. And I think it’s true for propa probably. Right. Like get your process good. And then look at the piece of software and say, are they doing it better than us? Are they doing it worse than us? Are they just like aliens and a lot of people don’t ever get the software, but I felt that way because better works in particular just was really I was like, this is product management.

This is in product management. This is project management. It’s not OKRs. I didn’t even know what it was. I was looking at this going, you don’t. Need this? No, , I don’t know what this is for. And I know a lot of people like it and have bought it, but it doesn’t really fit into my worldview of OKRs, which considering I’ve been helping people be successful with OKRs for a very long time.

I don’t know. I don’t know it’s but the software people are really problematic also because they tend to add features all the time, right? Like we need more features because more features and people will buy it and the buyer is not the user. And so they’re, some CTO is looking at these things or HR person and saying this one does so many things and this one does only a few things, but what if only doing a few things was the right idea.

So there’s a wonderful podcast. I just started listening to by Katie milkman called choice and the one I’m listening to right now talks about how human beings. Have this cognitive bias against taking things away. And they did this study with Legos where they had this platform that was crooked and you had to make it balanced.

And everybody added Legos, nobody took ’em away, but you could have taken one, just one Lego away that would’ve balanced. And I think that’s what product managers and software creators get into is they’re just like adding and adding. But sometimes the answer is take as much away as possible.

And the thing about OKRs is they’re very simple and they’re very hard. And so people keep trying to add stuff, do this and do this. But no it’s like eat less and exercise more. You just have to focus. You have to stay simple. You have to make hard decisions. This literally is more important than.

And then they’ll work. And if you don’t have an appetite for making that hard prioritization decision, it’s not gonna work for you. Yeah. 

[00:18:10] Janna Bastow: I often find it easier to get people’s heads around OKRs by taking away the acronyms, taking away the objectives and key results framing, and just saying what is it that success looks like?

Like, how do you know. Your company’s doing good things. Is it increasing revenue? Like, we’re profit making. Yeah. Okay. Probably increasing revenue and probably you want some market share or maybe you want some user growth and are other things like that. And then how are you measuring that?

Right? What does, what, how do you know that it’s actually going in the right direction? Those are your key results. And generally speaking, if you break it down that way, they were already doing that anyways, probably in some way in somewhere in their business. It’s just about, who had that information and whether they’re tracking it and whether they’re doing it on a quarterly cadence or on a, whenever they wanted to cadence, which you know, could be fine for them, if that’s what worked

[00:18:59] Christina Wodtke: I think when I when measure, what matters came out I don’t know if you’ve looked at the book, but at, on the last page it says for more information, read radical focus, that’s it . And when people that’s beautiful. Yeah. I know. I’m like, thank you. That’s 

[00:19:13] Janna Bastow: beautiful. But it made 

[00:19:14] Christina Wodtke: me get a lot of these folks.

From, regular middle America or Europe or Asia, and just, the big companies, the older companies who are trying to figure out what does this have to do with us. And and they’re trying to do OKRs and they haven’t instrumented yet. They don’t have metrics. They barely have any numbers.

They don’t even know how to start collecting numbers. Their teams are all interwoven. Everybody’s on like 14 different team projects at once. They have coordination issues. They sometimes, often they have a culture of fear and no psychological safety. And I’m like, no don’t use them. Don’t use them.

See I teach for a living. I don’t need to sell OKRs. I don’t need the consulting work. So I can just say, Nope, not for you. Here’s your homework. Go figure this out instead, go check out mine, the product, get your product development process sorted first. And then they just go and call it OKRs and do whatever they want anyway.


[00:20:08] Janna Bastow: Yeah. One of the big questions that I often get from from organizations, big organizations, the ones with all these complex hierarchies and team structures and people working on a million different things is how does this all work when I’ve got dependencies, this is dependent on this, and this is dependent on the other.

The way that I always phrase it is, OKRs will help with that. Really? It should help. As you say, quite strongly in, you mentioned it in this, like OKRs is cascade, you should very clearly point out which things leads into which other things, but when it comes to dependencies, like you’ve just gotta communicate them.

There’s no shortcut. There’s no simple way of just saying, ah you know what? This piece is, we’re just gonna not communicate this or anything like that. 

[00:20:50] Christina Wodtke: Oh my God. Yes, Jenna. So, so, so, so true is because this is another thing people mess up. They think of OKRs as this giant. It’s not it’s just this little tiny goal setting thing to make sure you don’t forget about the important strategic things.

It’s not, it doesn’t have anything to do with dependencies. Dependencies are irrelevant to the OKRs. They don’t care. They’re like, we’re gonna try to do this. And this is the metrics we wanna move done. Yeah. You guys get to figure out dependencies and that’s when I’m like, you know what? You need product management.

Like I point them at you guys. And I point ’em at Bruce. I’m like go look at these videos and do that first because OKRs can’t fix that. They’re just not built for that. And then of course we have other people saying, oh no, they’re magic. They do everything. Just if you put OKRs in, everything will get awesome.

And I’m like, no, no cares are really good at showing you your dysfunctions though, yeah. Like, oh look, we try to do OKRs. And it turns out you don’t have psychological safety. Oh, we try to do OKRs and guess what? You’re not working agilely, yeah. It’s like, a test, but mostly the results are negative.

Yeah, absolutely. 

[00:21:51] Janna Bastow: And you know what the it’s the radical focus that OKRs insist upon that actually make the difference. I’ve got a story for you going back some years in broad pad land. We were a very small company. It was just me and Simon at first. And we were growing, broad manager for signing up.

And we’re like, this is great. And we hit a point when we started hiring in people. And we started, we got our first office and we started spending money on ads and on events and other things. And we called it in hindsight, I call it the year of fasting about and British terms.

It means, doing stuff and not actually getting anywhere. Right. Whereas before we were hyper focused on just building and, getting people, telling people about it we started faffing about, cause we were training people and we were onboarding and we were getting an office and all this other stuff happened and our numbers, it showed you could see it went from growth to flat lined and we looked at it going oh, this isn’t good.

Gross anything. And it was by taking it, wasn’t fully OKRs it’s in hindsight, what we could have called something similar to OKRs is setting that radical focus and saying, here’s our top line objective. And here’s how we’re measuring it. We just created an entire quarter where we just focused on that one objective and it turned the company around, it got us out of that period and allowed us to grow again.

And we actually write about that period and the experiments we ran to improve the use. It actually happened to be around our trial conversions. Cause we’d just done a bad rewrite of our app and needed to redo the the trial onboarding PR part. But as that focus, that spotted that and got that going.

But it was basically, wasn’t the objectives per se. It was the focus that it made us do that it that it forced us, that it was the focus that it made us have. Yeah, because it made us drop everything else to just look at this one, focus, this area of 

[00:23:35] Christina Wodtke: focus.

Absolutely. And I like to tell the story from the personal OKRs experience, because it’s clients, don’t always want you to tell their stories of how dysfunctional they are. So, funny that so, 

[00:23:46] Janna Bastow: I’ve got stories I can share if you’ve got anything you’ve got 

[00:23:50] Christina Wodtke: So there’s me and in the group, there’s another woman and she will call her MIS precise and she was all about getting things done and she would put her, priorities as in a certain percentage and just super measuring everything like crazy.

And then I had this other woman so I will call her miss getting there and she’d be like, I don’t know. I haven’t really set my OK yet, but I’m thinking this because I don’t really like this. And I’m unhappy with this part of my life. And there’s me in the middle, very lightweight, but still fairly precise.

MIS, precise, crashed, and burned. After about a year, just she got to an area and like, Boom. She’s too much overhead and miss. I don’t know. She changed her life. She went from being a product manager to being a product management coach to an executive coach got Toal coaching and is now making way more money than me helping executives, which allows her to help women and people of color in particular and LGBTQ people.

It’s just amazing. And so the moral of the story is all you have to do is every Monday say, what am I actually trying to do? Cuz those emails would say, oh yeah I should be thinking about this. I’m not happy with my life. I’m not happy with where I’m going. And I really think that’s so super valuable and companies do that.

Just say, what are we trying to do every. And are we, and what are we gonna do about that? And you’ll get that. Yeah, 

[00:25:14] Janna Bastow: absolutely. And you talk about something in the the team that manages itself about no, it wasn’t in the team that manages itself may, maybe it did. It was in the mind, the product talk the engaged talk it was about having temporal landmark temporals landmarks.

[00:25:27] Christina Wodtke: Right. So good. Yes. So I got this from Dan Pink’s book when he talks about temporal landmarks and temporal landmarks are things like new year’s Eve or your birthday, especially big birthdays, like 16 or 50, ones that you’re like. Ah and so these are things that will make you stop and look up and therefore those are particularly good moments to build your rituals on.

So with OKRs they’re best quarterly. For a variety of reasons. Three months is long enough to make progress, but not long enough to get stuck in one direction, but also all businesses have that quarterly rhythm. You might not see it as much if you’re like a designer or engineer individual contributor, or you might, but the quarterly rhythm is really good.

So you say, what are we doing with this quarter, at the beginning, open the quarter with a question and close the quarter with an answer, hopefully. Which is it worked? It didn’t work. It was a good idea. It was a bad idea whatever. And then weeks are wonderful. Temporal landmarks, Mondays and Fridays are super valuable, because Mondays you’re like, oh, even if you’ve worked all weekend, I know you entrepreneur types.

There’s something about a Monday that says, okay, what am I really doing? Let’s get down to business. And then Friday you can close. I’m a big fan of opening and closing things. I always close the week when I’m teaching, which means, tidy up the desk. Look, if anything’s on fire, and then lock the office and walk away.

And I have an office at Stanford, so ha first time in my damn career. I love that I have 

[00:26:55] Janna Bastow: something similar. We do something here at broaded called tidy time. And basically we’ve given everybody a couple hours in their, the last hours of the week, generally Friday, between three and five or whenever.

And it’s literally to, clear out your inbox and tidy up your desktop. , do the install on your computer. That’s been asking you to do all week. Just whatever it takes to like be ready for Monday. So you’re not just constantly having all this admin overhead, this admin debt, 

[00:27:20] Christina Wodtke: as I say.

Yeah. Not only that, the celebrations on Fridays are huge. There, there an instinct to skip that part which is what have we done. But if you think about it, OKRs are always stretch goals. I’ve had a lot of conversations with people. Should they always be moonshot goals? Sometimes it can be yoga stretch goals.

I’ve started using that phrase, which is, with yoga, you’re stretching till you feel the stretch, but don’t hurt anything. Don’t wanna break anything. Right? Yeah. So some companies that aren’t used to stretching or it’s been penalized not making your goals you can work yoga stretch and then other companies moonshot are fine.

Yeah. Sorry. Those a little aside, but No, you still, I know one company that found out about OKRs, they were about six weeks into the quarter. So they were like, let’s wait till the next quarter to set them. But they started the company celebrations. And then a couple weeks later, the CEOs like that was amazing.

Like just the celebrations alone. So everybody would get together. And I, I don’t wanna propagate the alcohol world, but in this case they were doing, having some beer, having some pizza, people were bragging about what they accomplished this week and that alone increased velocity of output because people wanna be able to have something to brag about.

And it connected them with people cuz you know, we get this thing where there’s silos and who’s that guy and I’m better than them. But if we’re made into a team that holds together and knows, you’re doing awesome stuff and you’re doing awesome stuff and I’m doing awesome stuff and we’re going to try and make this thing really happen.

That’s beautiful. And also Coming together in a circle and eating is just such a profoundly human thing. It makes you into a tribe in the small tea way. You’re connected in a really important way. So I say, yes, have a Friday celebration, please have it at four, not at six people have lives.

I need to go home there’s traffic, but do celebrate. You could even do lunch, just do something to say, isn’t it amazing how awesome we are. 

[00:29:10] Janna Bastow: Yeah. I love that. That’s really good advice. I like that. 

[00:29:13] Christina Wodtke: Yeah. The thing is so OKRs. It’s not about writing good ones. It’s about living them and that’s part of living them.


[00:29:20] Janna Bastow: And I like your your take on the yoga stretch versus the moonshot. One of the ways that I always translate the setting, the objective setting, the K right. What you’re actually gonna say there. It’s more about you’re setting your, the your X axis you’re setting, what you’re actually going to measure yourself on.

And you’re just trying to create the thing by which your team is gonna be able to see your graph going up and to the right by. So if you set something way too high, you’re not gonna be able to see anything it’s not meaningful. If you set it way too low it’s gonna, you’re gonna blow right through that graph.

It’s not gonna be helpful. So really you’re just, throwing a ball or a stick as far as you think is reasonable. And then seeing if you can get to it in that time, and it doesn’t really matter, it’s completely arbitrary, but you’re using your best guess then your best guess your first few quarters is going to be rotten, right?

Like you don’t know. It’s a guess, but you’ve just gotta forgive yourself and push through really. And then over time you’ll get better 

[00:30:13] Christina Wodtke: and better at. Oh, yes. What people don’t realize is estimation is actually a skill estimating estimation I’ll make up my own language. It’s a skill that you build, you start it being bad at it, but as long as you’re making a guess, every time you try to estimate anything including how much can we move this?

You get better at it. The other thing I really love about that guessing is that it’s I, when I started at Stanford, I got real hardcore into the learning science side. And it turns out that if you try to predict something and then you find out the answer, you are going to have much better recall of that information.

Then if you just hear the information. So every, yeah, it’s amazing. It’s hard science. So when you’re making that guess, you’re actually increasing the intelligence of the. Which is amazing. I remember at Yahoo when we first started doing AB testing we put bets on what would win and I don’t think we knew it cuz we’re just making it fun, but that actually increased the intelligence.

We got really good at making winners in the AB test. 

[00:31:14] Janna Bastow: So introduce OKRs and gambling ring into your company. You will make your team smarter. I like it. 

[00:31:19] Christina Wodtke: Science, no gambling with jelly beans please. But yeah, absolutely. nothing less. excellent. Jam babies, know what are they called? God damnit.

You know what I mean? The doctor 

[00:31:30] Janna Bastow: saying, I, I don’t know what you mean. No. 

[00:31:33] Christina Wodtke: Oh. There’s a Hoan out there in the chat probably who knows 

[00:31:36] Janna Bastow: what I’m trying to say. Oh, right. Okay. Yeah. Fair enough. Any anybody got her? Drop it into the chat and yeah, we’ll link to it in the into the, in the transcript. jam Dodgers.

Oh see this is my problem. I live here in England, but I am not British. I am Canadian by birthright, so I am not good at the biscuits yet. I almost said cookies and nearly got like deported. So jammy Dodgers for everybody listening in are this beloved biscuit cookie thing. I don’t get them though.

So, and somebody’s just saying, telling me that cookies are not the. So, yeah. Maybe we’ll do another webinar about cookies versus biscuits versus cakes here. It’s a whole thing, but we’ll 

[00:32:17] Christina Wodtke: get there getting very close to the discussion of what is the sandwich. So let’s move on. yeah, right now, 

[00:32:22] Janna Bastow: actually, when we were setting up this chat Christina, you said that one thing that you wanna talk about, you had some thoughts about was how product Deb has morphed into its own thing.

What do you mean by that? I wouldn’t mean product dev is morphed into its 

[00:32:34] Christina Wodtke: own thing. Oh, wow. So, sure. You don’t want more ranting? No. 

[00:32:38] Janna Bastow: So I had a feeling this was a rant 

[00:32:41] Christina Wodtke: oh, it’s not a rant. It’s something I’m really excited by. It’s really wonderful. So, preparing for the product management class, I look at how people explain things, right.

And so I was watching a bunch of videos, reading a bunch of stuff, and I saw both Marty Kagan and Jeff Patton talking about how things have changed. And that really got me thinking. So bear with me for a second. So when TV first started, they did radio plays, but you could see them and eventually TV figured out what a, what it was as a medium, what are we actually, what are we for?

What can TV do that only TV can do and now we’re seeing sort of this amazing Ren I dunno if Renaissance is the right word, but these amazing long form stories, like game of Thrones, cuz that’s what TV can do. It can tell a really long form story VI visually and it’s fabulous. And then I feel like then podcasts are finally coming into their own, like what is a podcast actually gonna be?

And they said it was, they were gonna kill radio with TV. Look it’s back. I’d say podcasts. People like to listen to things. Yeah. So what we saw is we had software and it was new and the web is sort of this new medium. We’re still figuring out exactly what it’s for to be quite honest, you think, but I would say it hasn’t really found its form.

And the first thing people realized is you could do. The very first thing I think was you could talk to users and then you could roll out what you learned right away. And designers were doing it. We were doing it back in 19 96, 19 95. Where we would talk to users. Once I had a boss who said, no, we don’t have time for that.

So I just went to the mall, remember malls, and I did intercepts. And I learned anyway, because just cuz your boss says, we don’t have time. Doesn’t mean you can’t make it happen. And that was design thinking or UX design. I’d rather say UX design. Cuz I think that design thinking is not as interesting as design doing.

And then we had the agile folks and they’re like, instead of making this monolithic thing, what if we talk to users and we worked iteratively, what if we talked to users and worked iteratively? And so when product management, I first saw product managers and worked with them. They were always. The domain, but not about process.

They didn’t give a shit about process. They’re like yeah. You guys we’ll use agile, whatever you like, but I really wanna make sure I’m building the right product for local or the right product for car sales. But lean changed that lean said, you’re doing it wrong, right. There’s a much safer, less risky way of doing it.

The lean startup movement. And that was the third piece. Because every time we talk about technology, we were always saying, yeah, design engineering and business and lean was the business piece and went clicked in, we got this new thing and that’s what Jeff and Marty are talking about. He said, there’s this new thing where there are product teams new and by new I’m fucking longer scales than months.

Where entire teams, all the core pieces. Are working iteratively, reducing risks, running experiments, releasing continuously continuous discovery. We’re seeing it fall into place and it’s really cool now. I was bugging Martin the, the face of mine, the product very often. And he says, I just call it modern product development.

I have an art background and I will tell you, Mar modernism is really old. It doesn’t, and then I think about in Paris, the oldest bridge is called the new bridge. Right, right. Yeah. Like let’s not use modern or new. And I started referring to them as nimble. I don’t know if people like it or hate it, but I’m gonna put it out there.

Nimble teams are lean. They’re agile, they’re iterative, they’re user centered, it’s slipped into place. And I feel like we now know how to develop things with, for mobile and for the web that now that we can do that, I’m really interested to see if we’ll start getting things that are just.

So utterly web, and I think that will be web three, but not MFTs and distributed, but I get yelled at when I say MFTs are a. A Ponzi scheme. So we’ll see,

[00:36:36] Janna Bastow: sorry. 

[00:36:36] Christina Wodtke: Those are very long ramp, but I’m very excited by this. No and 

[00:36:39] Janna Bastow: I am too. Cause what I think we’re actually gonna start seeing is more and more case studies more and more proof that this stuff actually works because what we’ve had in the past are disjointed pieces saying we worked agile for a while and this is the story we have to tell.

And we used lean principles for a while, and this is what we have. And this is our stuff on research and this is why it worked here. And we used OKRs and this is how it worked. But when you start seeing entire teams just coming together and naturally using all these pieces and it just sort of fits and you go of course it seems to make sense.

And yeah, we look at it now just saying, yeah it’s, natural product management, it’s modern product management and it’s the way it should be. But we look at it. But has it worked? Is it actually working? We’ll only know when we see companies do it, pull it together and then we can retrospectively write the books on it and say, here’s a case study of this company, did it from beginning to end.

Didn’t have to digitally transform into it, but just was born that way and rocked it. And that’s what we need to see because that’s gonna be get more and more companies who can do that way do it that way and not waste resources, building it the wrong way. 

[00:37:40] Christina Wodtke: Here’s the question, like I have always worked on I’ve always worked on very good teams.

I’m you could say I’m lucky or whatever, every group I, even, when I was at Yahoo, they were really good. The team I was on was just amazing. It was run by Jeff Wiener who went on to be CEO of LinkedIn, took the IPO and I really love it. But the thing is I didn’t even know people were developing it any other way, except nimble.

Even before there was lean people were trying to work iteratively, and they’re trying to bring user feedback in. And every team I worked on was like that. So we know it works. We actually literally know it works. We’ve seen these companies, we’ve seen, the Googles and the Airbnbs and such, and they are working this way often without those labels or they go, we’re Agile-ish I think everybody’s Agile-ish.

Yeah. So I think we know it works. I don’t think it’s Anser for everything just cuz it works in tech doesn’t mean it’s gonna work for railroads. Do we still have railroads? That would be nice. you do? And we don’t know this doesn’t work for everybody, but cuz tech always like, oh this works beautifully.

Everybody should use it, but often it’s not appropriate, but this really works well for technical products. It makes good products. It makes smart products, but it requires you. Stay user centered work iteratively constantly be testing hypothesis. It’s just, it’s got these pieces that you have to use and you have to do well when it comes together, you can be nimble.

And once you’re nimble, you’re allowed to play with OKRs, but not before yeah, absolutely. And that’s the thing, one of the things that 

[00:39:10] Janna Bastow: switching to these ways of working requires this mindset shift. And the thing is if people just have this mindset to begin with, if they’re trained in it from university or from before, right.

They’d see companies around them being run that way. They grew up with their parents working at companies working that way. It, yeah, it becomes this natural way of working and soon they’re gonna be looking at the companies of old the ones that, where we started our careers and going, how did you ever operate that way?

We’re like, we didn’t, you should have seen the waste. 

[00:39:40] Christina Wodtke: like, we, the problem is gonna be, how are they gonna transform? Like, yeah, digital transformation was hard, but this feels. Like seismic in the change for most companies. I think they have to do what the New York times did. So, I was very, from the beginning of the web I was hired, I was part of a consultancy that I founded with a couple other people, cuz I found things not so much anymore.

It’s exhausting. And we were consulting with the New York times and they hired us cuz I worked with search at Yahoo and I was a search expert and they told us what happened. So what happened is they brought, they read innovators, dilemma, they brought Clayton Christensen in and he said, you cannot figure out the web period unless you build a separate company and a separate building with a separate CEO and they can build the New York times.

Because this otherwise the New York times big New York times, the proper newspaper will kill you, which was true. When I was there, the circulation department was constantly convinced the web was destroying them instead. And they’re like, we should shut this down. We should make them charge all this other stuff.

And they were protected cuz they had their own CEO and they worked apart. They were in a separate building. And I think if big companies are gonna change, they’re gonna have to do that. They’re gonna have to say, okay, we’re gonna spin you out this little product team. That’s gonna work in a modern fashion in a nimble fashion.

And you’re gonna build these products for us, which then the big company will act as a, I don’t know, a publisher, a distributor because doing it within, I don’t even know how to do it. I can’t imagine it being possible. So, maybe somebody smarter than me will figure it out. 

[00:41:18] Janna Bastow: No, that’s a really good story.

Good to hear that. Thanks. And comb from the chat was saying Clayton Christian Christiansen was a prophet, such brilliance and humility. So yeah, amen to that. He’s pretty good. Yeah. 

[00:41:29] Christina Wodtke: You know though, eventually the New York times website people did fold back in and they’re all big new building.

Just because it was good at one moment in time, doesn’t mean it’s good forever. They brought those insights and that understanding that technical knowledge back into the company after they’d gotten big enough and strong enough to survive. And how many websites do you go to their news? Like Washington post, New York times guardian.

That’s my list. Yep. Now that’s no, that’s 

[00:41:56] Janna Bastow: fair. If that makes sense. Yeah. As somebody, the Chad was saying they they, they spun out and got big enough to challenge and status quo. 

[00:42:03] Christina Wodtke: Yep. Exactly. They had to be protected while they grew. Yeah. And this 

[00:42:07] Janna Bastow: is actually something that I’ve talked about in some of my talks in the past is how you can disrupt yourself before other companies do like you, one of the models is to, create that incubator, create that startup within yourself and imagine that startup is there to disrupt you.

But of course, they’re not gonna disrupt you. They’re part of you. And so you’re actually funding them to work faster than your big company ever could because sometimes the only way up is to like break out. Yeah, break out of that space. And if this little company, this little space that you’ve created, on the cool floor with all the plants and, hipster furniture can do it faster, then that’s so much better than trying to change the mindset of the people who are, sitting at their desks and expecting to work the same way that they always have for the last 20 years.

When you’re talking about healthcare and media and FinTech or finance type spaces, it can be really difficult. 

[00:43:02] Christina Wodtke: The other thing to think about. Is there are teams that should be stable. I think of ’em as nimble teams and stable teams. There are people who should be working like they did well, maybe not 20 years ago, depending on who they are, but it’s, maybe the lawyers, maybe they don’t change so fast or it’s, I don’t, I can’t say sales cause I don’t know as much about as I used to, but maybe sales doesn’t change that much.

And knowing what are the parts of the business where it’s understood accounting’s good choice. It’s understood. We know how to do it. It’s been pretty optimized. And everybody’s like, oh, everything can be optimized. I’m like, but not all at once. So meet them alone, let them be a stable team. And then over here you’re nimble team are the ones who are trying to disrupt change.

There’s less knowledge. So you have to ask how much do we know about the space and not lie to yourself? Yeah, absolutely. What all teams have to be nimble. I don’t think so. That’s a point. 

[00:43:55] Janna Bastow: No, that’s a good point. And actually, somebody’s got a question question from the audience here. How big is too big for a company to be successful with OKRs?

And I guess I can add to that. Is it a function of size or are there other prerequisite 

[00:44:05] Christina Wodtke: prerequisites? Yeah, it really, isn’t a function of size. It’s more a function of, do you have independent groups that are developing product you, those people can have OKRs. If you’re super independent interdependent, you can’t, if you don’t have psychological safety, you can’t because you have to be able to trust this team.

You have to be comfortable saying, this is why I want you to have, these are the metrics I want you to move. Go figure it out. And if you don’t trust them or you can’t trust it’s not really gonna work. You’re not gonna get the results you want. Somebody on Twitter said, if you trust me enough to hire me, can you trust me enough to get it right?

Which I’m like If people’s hiring processes were more robust maybe, but that trusting is really hard. Lots of reports, lots of hands off until they’ve proven they can’t do it. You have to have work casually. You have to be able to release, continuously, which some, a lot of companies still can’t do that.

They still have the big train and you have to Bo jump on the big train for the monthly release. You have to be able to have hypothesis. You have to be able to test some people are like, don’t put that messy test out there. People will think Coca-Cola is building shit products or whatever. Like, no, you have to have some comfort with this way of working.

So yeah, until you’re nimble, which means working in this iterative user centered way, you can’t like OKRs are gonna work for you. I don’t think. Yeah. That’s good 

[00:45:27] Janna Bastow: insight. Yeah. Thank you. And somebody else had a another question here Osama asked something quite practical. Is it wrong to have one product level OKR contribute to multiple top level 

[00:45:36] Christina Wodtke: OKRs?

If it works. I, it’s not a religion there’s no wrong or right. There’s only things that work better and things that work less better. And if that you’re in a situation where that’s gonna work. Awesome. 

[00:45:49] Janna Bastow: Excellent. I like that. I like that. Cause so many teams I think get really dogmatic about following a particular way or saying I read about it in this book or this is how we did it last quarter.

And honestly, it’s about what’s working for your team. I think so good to hear that from you, 

[00:46:03] Christina Wodtke: it has stopped working, right? Yeah. Yeah. Cause some things that worked in the past don’t work anymore. This is the value of 

[00:46:09] Janna Bastow: retros, right? Actually retro, not just the code that went out, the product pieces that went out, but the processes and how you work together as a team are OKR working for us is lean working for us.

And if not, then 

[00:46:21] Christina Wodtke: do something about it. Yeah, absolutely. Is it lean or is it you 

[00:46:27] Janna Bastow: Yeah, no fair. 

[00:46:28] Christina Wodtke: John, the biggest mistake people make. Oh, I was just gonna say, cuz you asked me this earlier is they try to roll OKRs out to everybody in the company all at once. Yeah. That is a recipe for disaster.

That’s a shit show. Yeah. When in theory 

[00:46:41] Janna Bastow: it could work. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be able to work, but it 

[00:46:43] Christina Wodtke: never does. Like, it’s just, it never does change management at the same time. Nobody spends the time to actually understand what OKRs and what they’re doing. They just go ski. I read an article.

Let’s just do it everybody at once. It’s like, of course it’s gonna fail. Of course it’s gonna be a giant mess. It’s confusing to people. I just, I feel so angry sometimes cuz people who say they tried to do OKRs. I’m like which book did you read? Where’d you get your information who helped you?

And it’s like, oh yeah. I read, a third of measure, what matters on the airplane. I’m like, , it’s like, if you’re going to put in entire company, especially thousands of people, right? Big companies through this nonsense, at least somebody should understand it properly and know, and then you run a pilot.

It’s not, it just, I beg people, run a pilot, find your best team, give them the OKRs best independent, blah, blah, blah, nimble. See, it’s easier to say nimble than talk about blah, blah, blah, blah. Find your best, most nimble team and give it to them and say, try this. Here’s the right way, best practice.

But change it if you need to, if it’s not working and then come back to us and let us know how it went. Oh, it just makes me crazy. It just I, when you look at it, logically, of course it’s gonna be a disaster. Yeah. How could it not. 

[00:47:56] Janna Bastow: It’s like rolling out enterprise software. Like you can’t just, say, oh, here’s everyone’s logins go nuts.

Like they’re not gonna use it. And then, when renewal comes, they’re not gonna be, they’re not gonna be using it. They’re not gonna sign up again. You’ve got to run a pilot program. I like that terminology. You’ve got to train them up. You’ve got to check in with them. You’ve gotta have an account manager.

What’s your take on having a a champion or an advocate or person who’s in charge of training and owning the OKR program. 

[00:48:22] Christina Wodtke: There’s always a champion or else you wouldn’t be doing OKRs, right. but yeah, I know what you mean. I’m sorry. You have having some I think it’s a good idea.

Originally. I was against it. I was like, everybody should do their own thing with OKRs, but then I realized, unless you have somebody who’s been spending time to read everything out there to dig through mind the product, to figure out what could go wrong and what the solutions are. You need somebody who has the head space and the time to do that and really understand it.

And they have to be pragmatic. They have to be flexible. They can’t be dogmatic. A person like that can be invaluable. They also probably will be doing themselves out at a job, but I’m sure there’s a very lucrative job as a consultant after doing that a few times because you want people to be able to do it without that help.

It’s not like having whatever your scrum owner product thing. I, my brain is blah, blah. Yeah you they’re, it’s not a permanent position, but it could be a year long position easily where they help them get to that place. But then what happens if you get hired and the company isn’t ready for it? You know that I wonder about a lot too.


[00:49:28] Janna Bastow: no, 

[00:49:28] Christina Wodtke: that’s a really good point. It’s hard. Yeah. And if you’re gonna commit to it, you gotta commit to all of it. Yeah. 

[00:49:36] Janna Bastow: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve got another question here. One from John here, which says, one thing we’ve always wondered about is having goals that span across a quarter. How do, okay.

Those work when you’ve got that? 

[00:49:47] Christina Wodtke: Oh, that’s in my second edition. Excellent. You have no, I’m not gonna make so this one I end up arguing with sleep Castro a bunch on, but I think it’s possible to have milestone OKRs and they aren’t milestones, like, okay, we’re gonna have the database done.

They still have to be outcomes. So let’s say you’re building something that’s gonna take, nine months like a baby three quarters. And that’s a big project there it’s high risk. And if you think about what lean tells us about it, we don’t, we wanna be able to evaluate whether we’re going in the right direction as often as possible.

So then you could say, okay, at three months, what would tell us we’re going in the right direction? In this big nine months project, would it be very positive, early user tests? Go to lean for so many things. Wizard of Oz, concierge do we think the technology is going to be able to do this right?

So, build some prototypes, figure out scaling, blah, blah. We have to answer those questions. So at three months we should have to have a good sense of we can actually build the thing. People are actually going to want it and they’re actually gonna be willing to pay for it, classically in thinking.

So if you can put those milestones at the end of each quarter, it’s going to allow you with a huge project to not get sucked into it so far apart from your customers and everything else that when it comes out, it doesn’t do anything. If that makes some sense. 

[00:51:16] Janna Bastow: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Now we’re just about out of time here.

So, everyone you’ve sent in a ton of great questions, I had to prioritize based on the ones that were actually short enough for me to parse well, still talking to Christina. So I’m really sorry to get to everyone’s really detailed questions, but thank you so much for taking part in this. And Christina, thank you so much for being a part of the conversation here today and answering everyone’s questions and answering my questions.

Absolutely. I’ve had a great time. 

[00:51:43] Christina Wodtke: I wanna say first, the second edition literally has so much information. So many of these questions that people ask are covered in it, if you can’t afford the book. Hit me up on Twitter and I will get you a digital version. And I will ask you to not share it with the world though.

I think there’s a lot of companies already on scribed that like so many of my copies have been pirated right. Be good people yeah. Be good people, but you know what, I’d rather, you have good information than I have another couple bucks. So. Just let me know if you can’t afford it, but if you can’t afford it, think of me, of my four children and my mortgage all right. 

[00:52:18] Janna Bastow: Everyone grabbed your copy of Christina’s new book. The second edition of radical focus everyone there, this has been recorded, so it will be up on our YouTube channel and it will be emailed a copy of it the link to it in the coming day. So keep an eye out for that. Thank you so much for joining for today’s product expert series. And we will chat to you again. 

[00:52:37] Christina Wodtke: Thank you everybody. Bye. Thank you. Bye.

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