Less is More: How to Introduce OKR’s

Nellian Solaiappan

Vice President Of Engineering at Zume Inc.



An OKR goal we did in the first quarter was aimed at improving customer satisfaction. It was a wordy sentence that really became a fluffy cloud that was neither at the objective level nor the key responses level. We were not able to get down to the ground and establish a clearly articulated action that people could wrap their heads around. In other words, its lack of strategy led to failure.

Actions taken

  • We changed the verbiage of the goal to something more direct, simple, and understandable.
  • Limited the number of objectives and key responses to a handful, keeping them short and concise.
  • Rallied around the OKR's so that the teams could really come together and focus on the same few goals.

Lessons learned

  • The more simple your OKR's are, the easier they are to achieve.
  • OKR's need to be strategic. You have to show what you want to capture and how you are going to do it with key responses.
  • Once you start focusing on OKR's, it is very important that the company speaks the same language. This is something that has to be adopted.
  • Sometimes you are forced to pick arbitrary numbers and that's okay. The most important part is creating the vision, getting everyone on board, and offering a clear understanding that supports it.
  • You can't learn the correct implementation of OKR's from literature. It is more about absorbing information from the experiences of others.
  • Ensure that your OKR plan is working by evaluating if it is automatically happening without your help. If you get your team to buy into the OKR's, they should be able to thrive on their own. If not, it is a failure and you can't scale that.
  • Do not go back and forth between OKR and KPI, you will lose traction, making it less measurable, and sending mixed signals as to what is important for a manager and director.
  • A merging OKR model is counterintuitive. It is better to implement OKR's in a way to have company centralized thoughts about it rather than getting every engineer's light item contribution.

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Nellian Solaiappan

Vice President Of Engineering at Zume Inc.

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