Introducing Our OKR Canvas

Learn about our strategic planning canvas set designed to bring stronger definition to annual and quarterly OKR goal-setting and initiative planning.

Objectives Canvas

Introduction

The OKRIA model moves beyond the basics of OKR providing a holistic and scalable framework for strategic goal setting and achievement. We’ve created an OKR canvas set (which includes initiatives and activities planning) to help you get started.

How does it work?

If you’re familiar with OKR, it’s pretty easy to summarize OKRIA (it’s in our name). OKRIA stands for Objectives and Key Results, Initiatives and Activities.

In the OKRIA model, we have explicitly delineated the often compounded process of planning initiatives and activities from that of setting objectives and key results. In doing so we have worked to define a more holistic strategic planning process. Following the OKR example, we’ve defined simple (but opinionated) rules for the application of the process, considering organizational hierarchy and scalability.

Put simply, we’ve extended OKR to help connect the dots (and ensure a clear separation) between the goals companies set and the work teams do to achieve them.

Getting Started

To help get you to get started with the application of the model we’ve created an OKRIA canvas set. If you’re familiar with running canvas-based workshops you’ll get the gist of it. Our canvas set comes with 4 canvas:

  1. Objectives canvas
  2. Key Results canvas
  3. Initiatives canvas
  4. Activities canvas

Each canvas is designed to build off of the learnings of the previous, and transition through the organizational hierarchy to ensure proper input from groups at every level. In an applied example, the complete canvas kit will allow you to:

  1. Workshop with executives to set company objectives and key results
  2. Guide managers in planning cross-departmental initiatives
  3. Workshop with team members to Identify activities towards completing initiatives
  4. Loopback to set initiative level objectives and key results with teams

In this article, we’ll walk you through the canvas set and canvas sections to help you get familiar with the OKRIA model. In a later article, we’ll cover how to best operationalize OKRIA at your organization as laid out above. Make sense? Great. Let’s get started.

Objectives and key results

Objectives are qualitative goals towards a vision, key results are the quantitative evidence that our objectives are completed. Together they allow us to set goals, and define proof (via measurement and grading) that these goals have been achieved at the end of a given term.

The OKRIA canvas set is designed to help writing better OKRs. It does so by providing a templated structure for crafting objectives and key results statements, while still encouraging creativity and collaboration.

Objective Canvas

The objectives canvas is split into sections. Through collaboration, you’ll fill out each section to help brainstorm your organizational objectives. The objective canvas is designed to help you craft concise objectives which are:

  • Qualitative: i.e. focused on the qualities of things
  • Visionary: i.e. positioned towards a vision, aspirational
  • Actionable: i.e. action-oriented, and within a circle of influence
  • Directional: i.e. clear in the scope of change
  • Time-bound: i.e. including a clear date for achievement

To become familiar with the canvas, we’ll review the canvas section by section providing instructions on how to complete the canvas, including examples, and key questions to guide facilitation and clarify intent. Objectives Canvas

Vision Statement

At the top of the canvas, you’ll find a space to write a statement of company or initiative vision. While composing a vision statement is beyond the scope of this article there are many great resources on the subject. Most reading will recommend a vision statement which is:

  • Concise: i.e. short and specific
  • Understandable: i.e. easy to read; clear in intent
  • Ambitious: i.e. it has not yet been achieved
  • Purposeful: i.e. it will inspire others; clear in meaning

If your organizational vision feels to broad, we recommend starting with a strong vision for the term strategic planning (typically 1 year) directed towards a central theme or initiative (e.g. a digital transformation). This vision and its core initiative will act as our north star in composing objectives and it is the first section we will complete in our objectives canvas.

Examples
  • “Our vision is to create a better everyday life for many people”- IKEA
  • “A world without poverty.” - Oxfam
  • “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” - Tesla
  • “To give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible.” - Nordstrom

Goal Date

In the top section, you will also find an area to enter a goal date for the completion of this vision. While a vision may be guiding and long term, setting a goal date for achievement ensures we position objectives precisely and ensures a sense of priority.

Examples
  • By the end of the decade
  • By Q4 2025
  • December 31, 2020 - 12:01 pm

Rows and Columns

Moving to the rows and columns of the objectives section, each row represents an objective and each column represents an area of consideration.

The columns to the right are where we brainstorm. The purpose here is to identify key considerations in each category (implicated in our vision) which will be the subject of our objectives.

The space at the far left of each row is reserved for composing objectives statements. This area will be completed last, drawing from the contents of the key activities, channels, and changes columns.

Key Activity

The first column from the left. Here we identify key activities towards the vision. Key activities may either:

  1. Refer to the practical activities of a given business unit, or
  2. Be more general and positional

In both use cases, activities are typically verbs and are most effective in constructing objectives when stated in an action-oriented way.

Examples
  1. Design, develop, support
  2. Grow, pivot, transform
Key questions
  • What key activity will be engaged towards the vision?
  • What actions are necessary?
  • What business functions will be engaged?
  • What current or future capabilities will be required?

Channel

The second column from the left. Here we identify the features of the business which will change in order to achieve our vision. Channels may be:

  • Any touchpoint, process, system, or tool
  • Internal or external
  • Current state or future state
Examples
  • A marketing website, point of sale application or physical product
  • A sales pipeline, HR policy, or quality assurance process
Key questions
  • What areas of business are implicated in our vision?
  • Which internal or external channels will be engaged?
  • Where will our key activities be reflected?
  • Where will the required change occur?

Change

The third column from the left. Here we identify the desired change our activity should have on our channel (or the change required to our activity in this channel). Changes are typically adjectives, or adverbs, which describe either:

  1. The manner in which our channels will change
  2. The manner with which we will engage our key activity
Examples
  1. Make it better, faster, stronger
  2. Do it faster, better, stronger
Key questions
  • What is the desired change to our channels or activities?
  • What new qualities will our activities bring to our channels or products?
  • What qualities are important to the way we engage our activities?

Goal Date

Finally the last column from the left. Here we identify a specific date or strategic interval in the year which should be considered in setting our objectives. At the company level objectives are typically annual, however, depending on the goal date of the vision your cadence might vary.

Examples
  • By December 31, 2021
  • By Q1 2020

Objectives

Once we have completed brainstorming activities, channels, changes we can begin to craft objective statements (returning to the far left section of the canvas). To kick-start this process we can simply source directly from each column to craft objective statements following a templated structure i.e.

  • [Key Activity] [Change] in [Channel] by [Goal date]

However, this templated model may not result in the most impactful statement of objective. We recommend specific effort and consideration be given in composition to wording before finalizing and distributing your objectives.

Remember: these objectives will be used to inspire the initiatives and activities of your teams. Ensuring statements which are both clear in their outcomes and purpose is critical to ensuring strong alignment.

Example

To help illustrate this process let’s complete the canvas together, to see how the canvas columns can come to be leveraged to compose strong objective statements.

Vision and Goal Date

Bring customers joy in using our products by Q4 2021

Activites Channels Changes Goal Date
Messaging, communication Social media, email, blog Greater positivity Q2
Product design, development and release Product on-boarding More delightful sprint 6
Customer service, support Support portal Be accommodating June 1, 2020
Objectives
  1. Communicate with positivity across marketing touchpoints by Q2
  2. Release a delightful product on-boarding experience by sprint 6
  3. Support customers with accommodating service in the support portal by Q3
Composing Meaningful Objectives

As you can see by our examples, a rote statement that perfectly follows the template is not our goal. This process requires finesse. While making our objectives clear is important, we also want statements to be short and memorable to communicate effectively. Reviewing the above statements, we could compress the statements further focusing squarely on the desired change e.g.

  1. Communicate positively by Q2
  2. Delight in onboarding by Sprint 6
  3. Provide accommodating support by June 1, 2020

In the right circumstances, short, punchy statements can be very effective. For some companies, however, these may be abstract and leave team members without direction. Feel free to find the right balance of detail in your objectives based on your culture (keeping in mind your key results serve as an additional layer of detail).

Summary and Next Steps

Assuming you’ve followed each section and completed the objectives canvas, you should now have 3-5 strong objectives. Our next step will be to define 3-5 key results for each objective.

We’ll cover how to best operationalize workshops using the OKRIA canvas set in a later article. For now, we recommend a few key considerations in order to ensure a strong transition from objectives to key results:

  1. Ensure consensus on the objectives: objectives are directional statements and so we want to ensure there is a strong executive and/or team buy-in before we proceed with our key results.
  2. Gather data and know your key metrics: setting key results requires a strong perspective on the current-state quantitative performance of the company. Bring your reports, analytics, and subject matter experts to the table.
  3. Book enough time to workshop each objective separately: each objective will have its own canvas, and so requires its own dedicated workshop to define key results. When planning workshops remember to book enough time for each objective.

Key Result Canvas

The key results canvas works just like objectives canvas. Again, through workshopping, you will brainstorm to complete the canvas and synthesize key results. In this case, however, we will complete a unique Key Results canvas for each objective.

The key results canvas is designed to help us develop key results that are:

  1. Strictly quantitative: i.e. indicate a measurable change of a given values
  2. Directional: i.e. clear in terms of value increment (e.g. plus or minus)
  3. Precise: i.e. known and calculable in terms of current and goal values
  4. Time-bound: i.e. including a clear date for achievement (and measurement)

As with the objectives canvas, let’s first review the canvas section by section in order to become more familiar with the model. Key Results Canvas

Statement of Objective and Goal Date

At the top of each key result canvas, you will fill out an objective and goal date from the previous canvas. Again, the objective is our qualitative goal which defines the desired outcome. Adding the objective here provides context to our key results which represent the quantitative evidence that the objective has been achieved.

Examples
  1. Communicate with positivity across marketing touchpoints by Q2
  2. Release a delightful product on-boarding experience by sprint 6
  3. Support customers with accommodating service in the support portal by Q3

Rows and Columns

Moving to the columns and rows of the key results section, each row represents a key result, each column an area of consideration. The space at the far left will be reserved for composing key result statements from the different areas of consideration This area will be completed last, composed from the metrics, direction, and changes identified through brainstorming.

Metric

The first column from the left. Here we identify the key metric which forms the basis of this key result. Key metrics are the quantitative terms of your organization. They represent the quantities used to measure the performance of your organization i.e.

  • Marketing, product, or customer metrics
  • Financial, sales, or account metrics
  • Operational, hiring, or employee performance metrics, etc.
Examples
  • Revenue, customer churn, lifetime customer value
  • Burndown rate, issue resolution time, net promoter score
  • Active monthly users, conversion rate, bounce rate
Key question
  • What key metrics will we measure to determine objective success?
  • What key metrics are implicated in our activities for this objective?
Choosing Key Metrics

Your key metrics may be unique to your organization, or generic to your industry. Most important is to identify metrics that quantify the qualitative change set out in each objective. In this regard, revenue, for example, maybe of limited importance to an objective towards more positive customer experience.

While it may require research and a bit of scientific thinking to find strong key metrics for your objectives, this is the true power of OKR: by investing in improving our quantitative understanding of the qualitative features of our business we become much more effective in achieving vision and purpose.

Direction

The second column from the left. In this column, we identify the direction of the change i.e. the change relative to the existing value for the key metric.

Options

Here we recommend sticking to 4 specific predetermined options:

  • Increase: i.e. an incremental increase of the key metric value
  • Decrease: i.e. incremental decrease of the key metric value
  • Achieve: i.e. a first-time key metric value, e.g. a key metric has never been measured
  • Complete: i.e. Indicating a boolean value (yes or no)
  • Maintain: i.e. indicating a key metric must remain a constant value
Key Question
  • What direction must the metric take indicate achievement towards this objective?
  • Is the metric either achieved or not? Is it a boolean result?

Change

The third column from the left. Here we denote the desired change, including its start (previous or current state value) and goal value, and considering its direction.

Examples
  • Increase: From 1 to 3
  • Decrease: From 50% to 40%
  • Maintain: 15%
  • Achieve: From 0 to 1
Key questions
  • What will be the measurable changes?
  • What is the current-state value?
  • What is the goal-state value?
  • What difference between the start and goal value represents a meaningful improvement?

Goal Date

Finally the last column from the left, our key result goal date. Here we identify a specific date or strategic interval in the year which should be considered in setting our key result.

Examples
  • By the first quarter (or Q1)
  • By June 1st, 2010
Goal Dates As Strategic Milestones

It stands to reason that our key results should have goals equal or lesser than our objective. However, it isn’t necessary that our key results be laid out in a sequence towards the objective. In fact, as key results act as the measurable evidence of the objective being achieved, it is often preferable to keep the same goal date as our objective (at a key interval for grading and retrospective).

In some cases, however, it may be strategically important to layout key results at different intervals. For example, we may have dependencies, resourcing, or budget constraints to consider. In these cases we can certainly layout goal dates as milestones, bearing in mind that dependencies can have a cascading effect when unmet.

Key Results

Returning to the left of the canvas and the key result rows: once we have complete brainstorming key metrics, direction and changes, we can now compose our key results statements.

In the case of composing key results, we can strictly apply the following templates based on the direction option we’ve identified i.e.

  • Increase [Metric] from [Start value] to [Goal value] by [Goal date]
  • Decrease [Metric] from [Start value] to [Goal value] by [Goal date]
  • Maintain [Key metric] of [Goal value] by [Goal date]
  • Achieve [Key metric] of [Goal Value] by [Goal date]
Example

Let’s look at an example of how this all comes together.

Objective and Goal Date

Communicate with positivity across marketing touchpoints by Q2

Metrics Direction Change Goal date
Email share rates maintain of 20% Q2
Positive social sentiment increase from 10% to 25% Q2
Blog subscriber net promoter score (NPS) achieve of 60 Q3
Key Results
  1. Maintain email share rates of 20% by Q2
  2. Increase positive social sentiment from 10% to 25% by Q3
  3. Achieve blog subscriber NPS of 60 by Q4

Summary and Next Steps

After completing the key results canvas as demonstrated you should now have 2-3 key results for each of your objectives.

Our goals are set. Now, we must plan the work necessary to achieve them. This is where OKRIA builds on the OKR model to consider initiatives and activities.

Before we get started with our next phase of the process, we recommend a few key considerations for the transition to initiative planning:

  1. Ensure your OKRs aren’t todos: a common trap is setting objectives or key results that read like top-down tasks (i.e. todos) instead of clearly defined goals. Objectives may reference a specific channel; key results may use a boolean metric. However, both should be focused on a measure of change, not simply completion. Ensure your OKRs are in fact goals by considering:
    1. Do our objectives identify clear qualitative change?
    2. Do our key metrics outline a clear quantitative change?
    3. Can either our objectives or key results be actioned immediately and directly (i.e. without additional planning, or input from team members)?
  2. Validate your key results for measurability and accuracy: a research-based approach is essential. As we improve our knowledge of quantitative methods, we move towards a less heuristic model for our business and improve our chances of engineering achievement. Take the time to research your key metrics to ensure they are both:
    1. Measurable i.e. you have tools to measure, manage, and report key metrics
    2. Accurate i.e. your metrics provide solid quantitative evidence of an objective
  3. Loopback to your key activities to identify key resources: as we lead into initiatives and activities, review the key activities identified in the objectives canvas. What key resources or teams are implicated? Here you’ll identify the subject matter experts to bring to the table in engaging initiative planning.

Initiatives and Activities

Here we solution the work necessary to achieve our goals. Initiatives are the projects you will complete (i.e. products or features you will develop) to drive key results. Activities are the functions (i.e. work or processes you will engage) to complete initiatives.

But don’t confuse this with project planning. Our objective here is not to arrive at a list of rote tasks. Instead, we’re looking to ideate a solution. To ask:

  • How will we achieve the objective?
  • How will we drive key results?

The OKRIA canvas set is designed to facilitate this process. By continuing to build on our previous effort as we transition through the strategic planning process, we maintain context and improve alignment.

Initiatives Canvas

The initiatives canvas follows the pattern of the objectives and key results canvas. Split into sections, we complete the canvas, in its columns and rows to brainstorm our initiatives. The initiative canvas is designed to ensure initiatives which are:

  1. Aligned: i.e. targeted to drive individual key results
  2. Clearly scoped: i.e. specific in terms of focus
  3. Segmented: i.e. specific in terms of audience
  4. Time-bound: i.e. with a clear date for completion

As with objectives, and key results, we will have multiple initiatives for each key result. In this case, however, it is likely we may identify the same initiative for different key results (i.e. not all initiatives will be unique). Initiatives Canvas

Statement of Key Result and Goal Date

At the top of the canvas, we find a section to enter a key result statement from the key results canvas. This provides us with a clear metric to lever with our initiatives. Again we include the goal date as the context for setting the completion date for our initiatives.

Examples
  1. Maintain email share rates of 20% by Q2
  2. Increase positive social sentiment from 10% to 25% by Q3
  3. Achieve blog subscriber NPS of 60 by Q4

Rows and Columns

In the rows and columns of the initiative canvas, each row represents an initiative, and each column an area of consideration for the initiative. The space at the left will be reserved for composing our final statements, completed last, and drawing from the channel, features, and segments identified during brainstorming.

Channel

The top column from the left. Here we consider the channels which must be changed or developed in order to drive the key result. As you recall from the objectives canvas a channel may be any specific touchpoint, product, process, or tool, where individuals are engaged. In this case, our channel is the target area of focus for our initiative.

Examples
  • Website, app, product
  • Sales pipeline, marketing funnel, customer response pipeline
  • HR, legal, operations
Key questions
  • What channels are implicated in driving this key result?
  • What functions of the business will be changed or developed?
  • In what channels do we measure change to the key metric?

Feature

The second column from the left. Here we define the specific feature of the channel we endeavour to work on in order to drive this key result. Here we drill down into our channels to identify the specific features which will drive key results. A feature is generally a component, section or attribute of a channel.

Example
  • Home page, onboarding feature, specification
  • Lead qualification stage, remarketing, issue response time
  • The interview process, diversity policy, developer handbook
Key questions
  • What specific feature of the channel will be engaged or developed?
  • What channel feature acts as a strategic lever to our key result?
Channels (Macro) And Features (Micro)

You may struggle to delineate channels and features. Our objective here is specificity: to consider exactly what part (feature) of a system or process (channel) will drive the key result. When we think in channels we’re thinking macro: touchpoints, interfaces, pipelines, etc. Meanwhile, users (i.e. customer or employee) interactions are typically micro: steps, transactions, clicks, etc.

When defining initiatives it’s worth considering the difference and targeting the micro. Its unlikely changes defined at the macro level will act as a lever to drive meaningful key results. Focusing on a specific feature we can better narrow our efforts on the micro-interactions which are often the substance of what we measure (i.e. our key metrics).

Of course, in some cases, current state, a channel simply doesn’t exist and the solution (our initiative) is something net new. In these cases, it’s tempting to say “This big initiative will drive the results we’re looking for!” However, as anyone who has worked on this type of top-down project will tell you, this kind of macro-level solutions rarely produces intended results. And so, even when defining a net-new solution, it’s critical we understand enough to identify the specific features we’re hoping to benefit from.

Segment

The third column from the left. Here we identify the segments which will be impacted by the initiative. These are the users or user groups, either:

  1. External users
  2. Internal users

Who will be targeted by the outcomes of this initiative: namely, the specific features we develop to drive key results.

Note: Don’t confuse segments with resources (i.e. the team members or external partners responsible for delivering the initiative). We’ll focus on defining our key resources when we identify activities.

Examples
  1. Customers, product managers, millennials
  2. Business development representatives, HR managers, developers
Key questions
  • What segments will be impacted by changes to our channel?
  • What users internal or external is the target of this feature?
Why Segmentation Is Important

Though we ought not to have to say it: considering the user is really important. However, in initiative planning, they are too often forgotten. While we tend to be user-focused when we’re thinking about vision and objectives, it can be really easy to dismiss this thinking when we starting thinking about project practicals.

Avoid this common error. In almost all cases, key metrics are driven by aggregate user behaviour. The more narrowly we can define the individual or individuals who are the target of our initiative, the more accurately we can assert our key metrics will change by our activities.

Goal Date

Finally, in the last column, we define the goal date for this initiative. Here, it’s important we consider our objectives and key results to ensure our initiative completion date is in alignment. This date should likely be more narrowly defined than our quarters (i.e. a specific month, sprint, or date).

Examples
  • By January 31
  • By Sprint 2

Initiatives

Back in the far left rows of our canvas, we can begin to compose our statements of initiative (or initiative names if you prefer). In the case of initiatives, as with objectives and key results, we can begin by following a template i.e.

  • [Channel] [Feature] for [Segment] completed by [Goal date].

Note: Similar to our objectives, simply plugging our terms into a template may result in some awkward grammatical statements. Feel free to adapt accordingly, while ensuring the final initiative statement is clear in terms of segment, channel and feature.

Example
Key Result and Goal Date

Increase email share rates from 5% to 15% by Q2

Channel Feature Segments Goal date
Monthly newsletter Updated Content Members January 31
Mailchimp New templates Marketing managers January 31
Blog Editorial strategy Millennial subscribers February 15
Initiatives
  1. Updated monthly newsletter content for members completed by January 31
  2. New Mailchimp templates for marketing managers completed by January 31
  3. Blog editorial strategy targeting millennial subscribers by February 15

Summary and Next Steps

At this point, in completing the canvas set you should have 2-3 initiatives towards driving the key result. We can now move on to complete the fourth canvas in the set: activities, where we look more specifically at how we’ll action our initiative. Before we do, a couple of considerations in transition:

  1. Consolidate your initiatives: as we’ve identified initiatives, patterns have likely emerged in both the general channels and specific features impacting key results. In fact, your initiatives may have become repetitive. Before we proceed with the activities canvas, feel free to consolidate duplicate initiatives in the next step (while noting their connections back to each key results in the canvas).
  2. Identify your initiative team (i.e. key resources): at this point, we should have a clear perspective on the specific resources necessary to complete our initiatives. To successfully workshop our activities (and subsequently set goals for initiative achievement) ensure you gather these key contributors (team managers or members) who will be responsible for engaging the effort.

Activities Canvas

As with the previous canvases, here we’ll complete the columns and rows of the canvas, in this case working from a previously identified initiative in order to identify our activities towards its completion. Activities are the specific functions (i.e. tasks, jobs or processes) you will engage towards initiatives. The activities canvas is designed to help us identify activities which are:

  • Aligned: i.e. aligned to our initiatives
  • Owned: i.e. indicating responsibility and resourcing
  • Action-oriented: i.e. specific in terms of work and task
  • Atelic: i.e. ongoing, without a specific end in and of itself Activities Canvas

    Defining Atelic

    Telicity is the property of a verb that indicates action as being complete. Atelic is the opposite. Our activities are atelic in that they are not one-off tasks; they are ongoing business functions that are engaged to perform work.

In setting initiatives and activities:

  • The initiatives being completed are telic tasks i.e. we will complete an initiative
  • The activities are atelic tasks i.e. we apply activities to complete the initiative, and then we move on to apply those activities to other initiatives.

We make this distinction, as we’re not looking to micromanage and create todos. We’re looking to identify the type of work that must be engaged. This helps to normalize our strategic planning process across different business areas, ensuring that practical project management can proceed in whatever way is most optimal e.g. in agile project management, we will create a backlog of user stories, and prioritize sprints. Following this example, when we invoke the activity we’re engaging a process, e.g. agile development, rather than, say, engaging the development of a specific user story.

Statement of Initiative and Goal Date

At the canvas top, we add one of our previously identified initiatives and its goal date. For each of our initiatives, we will define all activities necessary for the completion of our initiative.

Examples
  1. Updated monthly newsletter content for members completed by January 31
  2. New Mailchimp templates for marketing managers completed by January 31
  3. Blog editorial strategy targeting millennial subscribers by February 15

Rows and Columns

In our rows, we will summarize our activities after brainstorming the features, resources and actions, in our columns. First, we work through the columns.

Feature

In the first column from the left, we indicate our feature (the target of our initiative). In this case, we might simply use the feature as denoted in the initiative (e.g. content, template, strategy, etc.). However, there is likely a more specific aspect of each of these features we wish to target (i.e. a sub-feature) for which a specific resource (team member, or team) will be responsible. We can clarify here for specificity.

Examples
  • Content strategy, template design, editorial research
  • Home-page wireframe, design, prototype
  • Process step, stage, phase
Key questions
  • What feature will be the focus of this activity?
  • Is there a sub-feature a given activity should focus on?

Resource

In the second column from the left, we identify the resources to be engaged in delivering our initiative. Resources can be any individual or group of individuals who will be primarily responsible for working towards our initiative. This may be an internal team, an external partner, a product owner, etc. What’s important is that this resource takes full ownership of this activity, towards the initiative.

Examples
  • Marketing team, development team, designers
  • Development vendor, software partner, cloud service
  • Chief of staff, director of sales, product manager
Key questions
  • What team or individuals will be necessary to achieve this initiative?
  • Who owns a specific aspect of the initiative, or the initiative itself?
  • Who is responsible for the success of the initiative?

Action

The third column from the left. Here we indicate a central action for towards a given feature for which our identified resources will be responsible. This term should derive from the indicated resource and their role, and be a normal business function for which that resource is generally responsible.

Examples
  • Campaign, develop, designs
  • Manage, procure, configure
  • Delegate, strategize, plan
Key questions
  • What specific function must be engaged to drive this initiative?
  • What responsibilities do our resources offer that will be required?

Cadence

Finally, in our last column from the left, we indicate cadence. Different from our objectives, key result, and initiatives canvas, here we want to indicate the frequency of this action or the strategic period for which this action will be engaged towards the goal date of the initiative, instead of an explicit date of delivery.

Examples
  • Daily, weekly, monthly
  • In 2 week sprints, 2 hours per day
  • 40 hours
Key questions
  • In what cadence is this action engaged?
  • What cycles or periods are typical for engaging these resources?
  • What frequency do we check-in, measure, or monitor this activity?
Defining Cadence

Cadence is likely a new term for you in this context, and so it merits definition. In music or speech, cadence typically denotes the rhythmic flow of a sequence of sounds or words. In the case of activities, cadence refers to the workflow cycle of a sequence of tasks.

If your team is developing products, you’re likely familiar with the concept of agile sprints. Sprints are typically 2 weeks, iterative cycles, for delivering features. If you are an agile team, this is the cadence of your work and work is typically planned in this cadence.

For other roles, cadence may perhaps be more elusive. However, there is always a natural period, cycle, or time constraint for any role where work is most effectively engaged. To determine activity cadence consider:

  • Is the action engaged once a day?
  • Once per week? Once per month?
  • Will it continue for 2 weeks?
  • Will it require 8 hours? 40 hours? 80 hours?
  • What is our resource availability?
  • What is our resource allocation?

Cadence is critical to ensure we’re able to effectively schedule work back, allocate resources, and audit feasibility, towards our initiative goal date (ideally, without disrupting the natural cadence of work for the activity).

Identifying cadence has the added benefit of giving us a key strategic interval for measurement of the activity (more on this below in the section on activity key metrics). For example, a key metric for agile development is often burndown rate.

Activities

Once we have completed the columns of our activities canvas we can move on to summarize our activities in the rows at the far left. Once again, we can employ a template to get started i.e.

  • [Resource] to [Action] [Feature] [Cadence]

As with the previous canvases, feel free to adjust the verbiage of the statement as necessary to make it most legible (ensuring clear indication of resource, action, feature and cadence).

Example
Initiative and Goal Date

New Mailchimp templates for marketing managers completed by January 31

Feature Resource Action Cadence
Template designs user interface designer design 40 hours
Template copy freelance copywriter write 40 hours
Template HTML development team code agile sprints
Development template QA team test 40 hours
Production template marketing team deploy weekly campaigns
Campaign analytics marketing team report Weekly
Activities
  1. UI designer to design template designs in 40 hours
  2. Copywriter to write template copy in 40 hours
  3. Development team to code template HTML in agile sprints
  4. QA team to test development templates in 40 hours
  5. Marketing team to deploy weekly campaigns
  6. Marketing team to report campaign analytics weekly

Summary and Next Steps

Now that you have completed the activities canvas you should have a list of activities, with a clear perspective on specific features, resources and responsibilities in order to complete this initiative.

Further, as we review the canvases we have completed, we should be able to trackback:

  • From activities to initiative
  • From initiative to key result
  • From key result to objective
  • From objective to vision

This should provide a strong sense that the initiatives you have defined are rooted in your vision. But let’s not lose sight of our objectives. Without looping back to the why of our initiatives we miss an opportunity to reinforce our vision, and ensure true bi-directionally alignment (i.e. top-down and bottom-up).

Loopback

Now that we’ve completed our canvas top-down, it may seem like we have everything we need to get started. However, before we go ahead and engage our initiative it is critical that we ensure alignment.

To do so, we must loop back in our process and define team level objectives and key results for our initiatives. Leveraging the canvas set: we simply start the process over again, with a new blank objectives canvas, this time focused on our goals for each initiative.

Initiative Vision Statement

Reviewing the objectives canvas we introduced at the beginning of this process, you’ll recall we started with our company vision. Reviewing our initiative canvas, we have summarized our initiative in a statement, which is practical, but not terribly inspiring. While this practical statement makes for a nice and concise executive summary, it lacks a sense of why.

To kick-start our new objectives with purpose, we can bolster our initiative statement by sourcing a vision statement. The easiest way to achieve this in short order is by looking back to your original root objective for this initiative (laddering back up through our key result):

Example Initiative Vision Statement
Initiative

New Mailchimp templates for marketing managers completed by January 31

Vision

Our vision for this initiative is to communicate a positive tone by developing new Mailchimp email templates.

Workshop A New Vision Statement

It can be effective and quite powerful to have your initiative team workshop a vision statement of their own, if for no other reason but to sow the seeds of ownership. As long as there is a clear line back to the original statement of purpose (the root objective), there is little risk to having your initiative team own the process if guided wisely.

Activity Key Metrics

One of the benefits of having taken the time to map out our activities (and consider cadence) is the opportunity to consider the key metrics by which team members measure performance.

At the team and individual contributor level, there may be novel key metrics (i.e. micro-level) we simply don’t consider when setting director, or executive (i.e. macro-level) key results.

Take, for example, our previously discussed agile team. If product development is only one function of your company, you think about product key results mostly in terms of end results e.g.

  • Lifetime customer value
  • Customer retention
  • Monthly active customers

But as developers, and managers responsible for product developer a number of additional metrics are considered to gauge performance towards these outcomes, e.g.:

  • Avg. story points per sprint
  • Burndown rate
  • Resource allocation

These three metrics have a direct correlation to value delivered, however, they were not primary in the mind of executives or directors setting goals for the company. But at the initiative level, these activity level key metrics are extremely useful, if not necessary, in defining meaningful key results.

So, before setting your initiative objectives and key results take a moment to consider:

Key questions
  • How will the initiative team measure team performance?
  • What key metrics reflect the performance of our activities?
  • How do we measure the value delivered at this level?
  • What is the key strategic cadence for tracking activities at this level?

Initiative Objectives and Key Results

Having completed the canvas, and looped back, we’re now ready to set our initiative-level objectives and key results with the OKRIA canvas set. By following the instructions as originally outlined in the above Objectives and Key Results section, let’s work through an example:

Objectives Canvas
Initiative

New Mailchimp templates for marketing managers

Vision and Goal Date

Our vision for this initiative communicate with positivity across marketing touchpoints by developing new Mailchimp email templates by January 31

Activites Channels Changes Goal Date
Design email template more visually friendly December 5
Develop email copy communicate a more positive sentiment December 10
Deploy email to small sample segment December 15
Observe analytics more data-driven January 31
Objectives
  1. Design more visually friendly email templates by December 5
  2. Develop email copy with a more positive sentiment by December 10
  3. Deploy new email to small sample segment by December 15
  4. Observe analytics to be more data-driven by January 31
Key Results
Objective and Goal Date

Develop email copy with a more positive sentiment by December 10

Metrics Direction Change Goal date
Email copy iterations achieve From 0 to 3 November 15
Email copy content sentiment score increase from 0.2 to 0.8 November 31
Email copy final approval Achieve yes December 1
Key Results
  1. Achieve 3 email copy iterations by November 15
  2. Increase email copy content sentiment score from 0.2 to 0.8 by November 31
  3. Achieve email copy final approval by December 1

Summary

Congrats! If you’ve read the article and followed the process you should now be an expert. Just kidding. Organizational goal setting and achievement is not a trivial undertaking.

However, we do hope you’re beginning to see the value of the OKRIA model, setting out to create a more scalable framework for goal-oriented strategic planning.

To summarize the article, as we’ve walked through the canvas set, we have learned to:

  1. Use the objectives canvas to work from executive vision to actionable objectives
  2. Leverage the key results canvas from objective to measurable achievement
  3. Use the initiatives canvas to identify projects and features that drive key metrics
  4. Used the activities canvas to define the actions and resources to deliver our initiative
  5. Looped back around to define OKR for our initiative to ensure alignment

Of course, putting this all into practice in the real world requires a lot more effort i.e.

  • Operational planning, scheduling, meetings
  • Buy-in, approvals, onboarding
  • Workshop facilitation, training

Our objective in creating the canvas and writing this article is to introduce the OKRIA model. For a small team, we hope the article and canvas will be helpful in onboarding, planning, and operating workshops more effectively.

For organizations looking to implement at scale: we’re excited to further expand on the concepts introduced here in future articles and through our service offering.

To learn more about

  • How to run OKRIA workshops
  • How to operationalize OKRIA at your company
  • OKRIA training for executives and managers

Please Get In Touch