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Setting the Right OKRs With Your Team

Melby Mathew

Sr. Engineering Manager at ex-LinkedIn

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Problem

As a SEO team, we were set an objective to increase our page indexing in Google to 7 percent. While that came as an overall objective from management we were tasked to come up with our own OKRs that would help us achieve that objective. At that point, we were trending at minus 4 percent that meant that our indexing was going down and that we had to grow 11 percent in order to reach the targeted 7 percent.

Actions taken

I called up a meeting inviting everyone on the SEO team, including PMs, engineers, project managers, etc. We were all gathered together in a large conference room when I divided the group into very small teams mixing people with different competencies. I handed each team a pile of sticky notes and encouraged them to think through the problem and come up with whatever silly ideas they had.

I facilitated the session encouraging input from all the teams and having all ideas written on sticky notes. Then, we would place sticky notes in a quadrant that was divided by the level of effort it would take and the impact it would create. Before placing any note in quadrant people would have to explain why that idea would, for example, require small effort and have high impact, and everyone got to vote on that.

Obviously, we decided to first consider ideas that would require small effort and have high impact, and then we would discuss in greater detail each of them. We would pick up five sprint stories for the upcoming quarter aiming to accomplish an 11 percent increase. Then, we developed stories and tasks, rolled our sleeves up and at the end of the quarter, we managed to reach 13 percent which meant that we made a total increase of 17 percent.

Lessons learned

  • Involve your team in goal-setting as much as you can rather than pushing it top-down and the participatory approach will doubtlessly have a positive impact on the ownership and engagement. Also, invite everyone on the team to share their input, not only PMs. The collaboration will reinforce a sense of a common goal that everyone will try to achieve by working together.
  • Some ideas that were proposed were more technical than the others. Some were not technical at all. But having people across different competencies together, spurred some novel ideas that engineers would have to dissect and see if they were feasible at all. Collaborative brainstorming was particularly rewarding to engineers who felt that they are working on the ideas they conceptualized instead of receiving requirements from product and just nodding their heads. Having a sense of ownership made them more invested in the process and the whole process was faster and more engaging.

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Melby Mathew

Sr. Engineering Manager at ex-LinkedIn


Team & Project Management

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