How To Start Using OKRs

Doug Daniels

VP Engineering at Datadog



"When our engineering team reached around 125 people, we started looking into using Objectives and key results (OKRs), as we had too many valuable things we needed to do, and we needed a way to make decisions about what things we should and shouldn't do. In addition, we wanted to ensure we were regularly checking in with the projects we were working on, and wanted to give teams more focus and clarity."

Actions taken

"We looked around at what was available from Google and a few other companies that were using OKRs, and then decided to start out with a small pilot, where just a few teams were involved. Unfortunately, this wasn't as successful as I had hoped. While some people found it useful, others didn't do it at all because we hadn't spent much time training people in what this change meant. We had sent them videos about OKRs, but didn't contextualize it for them, and we didn't have a process for how we set them, how they'd use them, and how we check in. I realized it was very important to educate everybody who was going to be involved. We designed a presentation to contextualize why we wanted to do this, what was important, how to do it, and how it would run. We also recorded it and held on to the slides and video, so that new engineers to the company could also be provided with this context. We then set up times for each team to talk with all the executives each quarter to discuss why the business wanted to do things versus why the teams wanted to do them. This was actually extremely effective."

Lessons learned

"Once you find it hard to have everybody who cares about what work you do in one room, you need to make sure there's time set aside to ensure you're working on the right stuff. Even when rolling out OKRs in a small way initially, you need to make sure you invest in education for people who may not have been in companies before where OKRs have been used. However, once you do this OKRs are very helpful for giving teams a focus."

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Doug Daniels

VP Engineering at Datadog

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsFeedback TechniquesTraining & MentorshipLeadership & StrategyTeam & Project Management

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