Delivering Value By Focusing on Outcomes

Aditya Sawhney

VP of Engineering at Axcient



"I was in a situation where we weren't doing any upfront planning for our organization and it was total chaos. We didn't know where we were heading or why, and so things would randomly get thrown at us and we would start working on it without any sense of the value it would provide. We tried putting in place a quarterly OKR planning process but it ended up being too rigid, almost like a prescription, and very much activity-driven. There was no emphasis on the outcome of the things we were working on nor on the impact they would have on the business. We needed a framework that allowed us to focus on delivering value by focusing on outcomes."

Actions taken

To help drive us toward a more outcome-based perspective we took the business problem that needed to be solved and set goals in that direction. For example, if the product was having retention issues we would set out to reduce retention by a certain percentage by the end of the quarter. Or, as another example, we would look at business opportunities and try to increase the number of trials by X percentage for that quarter. So we would find some high-level business issues that we thought were causing the business from tracking in the right direction. These were both top-line perspective and bottom-line perspective for each of the products. Then we gave these problems to the teams and it was up to them to figure out how to solve them. Do they want to go fix bugs? If so, which ones? Want to improve the trial process? Which user research could be beneficial in figuring out why the trial process is not effective? Then go and fix that piece of the product. Another adjustment we made was that we began making smarter goals. This meant the goals had to be measurable, actionable, and attainable within a quarter. We emphasized these smart-based goals, although it took us several quarters to get the point across. As a result, the team's mindset shifted toward thinking about the metrics they needed to start capturing to prove that they had met the goal. Consequently, we started getting a lot of data and visibility into the product. Thus, we transitioned into a mode of being more data-driven from a decision-making process and planning perspective.

Lessons learned

  • "Allowing the team to take ownership of issues and outcomes gave them a purpose. It drew in a lot of engagement, a side effect we didn't envision early on. The team was more focused on getting the business outcomes and as a result, attaching themselves to the goal. They began to see the purpose and reason behind it all. It was a real tangible business impact and they had some skin in the game."
  • "Data-driven thinking helped us with our future business strategy planning. We could see tangible results because of making those data-driven decisions."
  • "We made our OKR process less rigid and more flexible. We acknowledged that business priorities change in the middle of the quarter so if the team wanted to adjust the goals we were flexible with their changes. We also limited the number of initiatives to no more than two or three higher-level business problems. That way the focus wasn't spread too thin and we could deliver value on those measurable outcomes."
  • "We gamified the OKR process. We used a weighted scale based on impact and listed all of the teams and their initiatives. The leader dashboard showcased the score for each of the teams which started driving positive healthy competition. We made it a point at the beginning or end of each quarter to bring all the teams together to discuss their achievements, how they got there, and any lessons they learned. As of right now, we use the dashboard as a learning experience but we are thinking of it so that the team with the highest score will get a bonus. It would be an experiment to see what kind of impact incentivizing would have on the outcomes."

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Aditya Sawhney

VP of Engineering at Axcient

Organizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentPerformance MetricsLeadership TrainingPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionSkill Development

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