Agile and OKR's?


I started to write this post in response to this other thread here: Mashup of “Scaling” frameworks
… but realized I didn’t want to send us down a rabbit hole on another person’s thread. (@MikeC, looking out for ya!)

Here’s what I wrote, pre-emptively broken out in a new thread here:

I’m also quite tired of these “cash engines” and “scaled formal frameworks”… and I’m also tired of “destination” processes. I keep trying to explain that any prescriptive anything (Scrum even) is just a starting point… don’t people understand continuous improvement? #soapbox

This does remind me of a related thought I was having…

My company is starting to dig into OKR’s (“Measure What Matters” by John Doerr is our point of reference) and after reading the book, I had a slight light bulb moment (still to be flushed out). That light bulb moment was… what if agile is the bottom up tactical process, and OKR’s are the top-down strategic steering. Put the two together and maybe some of this other scaled/framework/cruft becomes less necessary?

Anyone else had the pleasure of considering Agile in an environment where OKR’s are cultural important? How do they gel? Does that impact this framework discussion at all? Thoughts? What are your experiences? As a person new to the OKR discussion, what should I be watching for? thinking about?


I’ve worked with two organizations which used OKRs. (and scrum, for that matter).

In both settings, I found the OKRs discussions were treated superficially and with significant discomfort (just like conventional performance measurement approaches). I have seen zero evidence that OKRs are positively effective outside Google’s environment.

My caution is simple: OKRs are a pattern designed by others, it may have worked for them but don’t expect to copy and paste them into another context successfully.


Hi @kschlabach - I feel I’m in a very similar boat to your own regarding OKRs. Our organization is trying to run with them with mixed success so far. I feel we are at a point where we are recognizing what @David pointed out and that’s we just can apply them the same way as done somewhere else. So we are having discussions around what they should look like for our org (to your soapbox point we are moving away from any prescriptive thing and doing what works best for us). If we stumble across and good insights as we are working this I’ll be sure to share them in case they are helpful to you. Wish I had more help for you but struggling with the same thing. lol Till then good luck!


I’ve seen this with Agile too… the main criteria for success is bringing in coaches (not certifications) to enable agile to start in a serious manner on the right trajectory. Luckily my company is investing in a top tier coach and I’m hoping that has a similar affect for OKR implementation.

Crappy implementations of any mindset/process/change are still crappy!


We’re dipping our toes into OKRs now; we went thru a vision exercise where we came up with a unified vision of where we want to be, and are now in the process are creating objectives and what results we’re looking for to satisfy this objectices. It’s still early in this initiative but the looks around the table give me confidence as the dialog is shifting towards this approach. Biggest step forward is its not just an IT exercise, and we’re soliciting feedback across the org and up and down the totem pole.

I’ve also been accused of being an eternal optimist, so take that with a grain of salt :grinning:.


Good point… our efforts here are to start with the executive level in the next quarter, then come down a layer each quarter after that. (or something like that).


Update: we are in our 2nd quarterly cycle attempt with OKR’s… and it’s providing value already. I think in another quarter or two, I might be able to speak on how it can work as a strong complement to Scrum/Agile. Having a coach aid with this effort has been critical. (Also, I hear rumors that there’s a podcast episode interviewing Dan Montgomery, an OKR coach, in the queue from NYC last week… looking forward to that.)


We started OKRs in Q2 and I view the process as top-down strategic and bottom-up Agile as a tactical process. The company OKRs focus on putting the customer first and maximizing value to them. As a product owner, the company OKRs help me select the most valuable features, improve planning, and give a path for building solutions over iterations.

Prior to OKRs, my company had a poorly stated mission and no vision statement. Teams would lob work over the wall at the Dev and Data Experience teams declaring the work was critical to company success, the market, it was promised, their bonus depended on it. Now, work is tied to an OKR and prioritized within that. Still a some of the pushings of agendas, but the OKRs provide a standard for the engineers.


@sgroot - this is awesome… that’s very similar to what is happening here!