David Tuite

January 2019 OKR Review

January 28, 2019

My new year’s resolution this year is to track my personal goals using the Objectives and Key Results methodology.

In an effort to hold myself accountable, I’m publishing a monthly check-in where I go over my goals and try to understand how I’m performing. This is January.

The OKRs which were active in January are below:

My OKRs listed with progress towards each goal

Increase knowledge of OKRs and Roadmaps

This is a three-month OKR which is currently two-thirds elapsed. It contains the key result which I’m currently furthest behind on.

Make notes and 15 blog posts

I’m doing ok on the writing key results. I’m making up volume mostly by producing notes on other people’s books. As part of my effort to learn, I’m reading a lot. It’s not too difficult to take some notes as I read and turn them into a blog post. For example, I’ve done Radical Focus and Product Roadmaps Relaunched (2 chapters left to publish).

There’s some original thought in there too. I collected my own thoughts on what makes a good roadmap.

My confidence that I can complete these KRs is probably a 7/10. One of the benefits I’m already accruing out of doing this work is the ability to look back at the original thoughts I penned before doing this intense study and think about how they have changed.

Start conversations with 100 PMs

My confidence that I can complete the Start conversations with 100 PMs KR is approximately zero. This is the most difficult key result I have because when I reach out to someone I feel the need to be available when they reply. Let’s be honest, it sucks to send someone a message and have them respond into complete radio silence. At the same time, my personal life at the moment just doesn’t allow me to be available in the way that I need. Hence, I’m avoiding committing to this KR fully.

Lose the dad bod

This Objective is coming along well. I hit my running goal about 8 days early. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol all month and I’m highly confident that will continue. I’m lagging on one KR but I can live with that.

A chart showing my weight over time. 81.6kg at the start of Jan down to 80.5 today.

Run 80km

I’m crushing my running goal. I wanted to run 80km this month and I’ll finish at around 120km of running. This type of KR is an interesting case study for looking at OKRs because being too ambitious has a potentially negative impact.

Take customer retention as a KR example for a second. You might set a KR to increase retention by 5%. Nothing bad happens you end up increasing retention by 10%. You just smashed your KR. Well done!

Beating a running distance, on the other hand, has a potential negative impact. If I’d ran 300km this month I’d likely be injured right now. It has this inbuilt pressure of wanting to hit the goal but not wanting to absolutely destroy the goal. I’m not quite sure how this is expressed by the OKR framework.

My running KR next month will be 140km. February is obviously only 28 days so I don’t want to over-reach. At the same time, my long runs at the end of December were only 10km and I feel comfortable doing 15km now.

By the way, I’m not starting from scratch here. I used to run A LOT. If you’re just starting out with running, please don’t try 80km in your first month.

A screenshot from Strava, the exercise tracking website

Don’t drink alcohol

I’m tracking my alcohol intake in the Loop - Habit Tracker app (which is a fantastic, open-source Android app by the way). I’ve actually been tracking my alcohol intake for 18 months so I have a good bit of data built up.

I have found it fairly easy to cut out alcohol completely. Perhaps that’s a victory for the power of habits. I’ll keep going after January is over but it won’t be such as strict KR. Something like “Drink alcohol fewer than 5 times in February” will achieve what I want.

screenshot from the Loop habit tracker app. Each day checked off to indicate progress

Lose 2kg

I’m not hitting my weight loss KR but I am trending in the right direction. I could really cut hard in the last few days in an effort to shave the last bit of weight, but ultimately, what’s the point. The reality is that I haven’t actually put any effort into this KR at all. Any gains have purely been a side effect of the increased physical activity I’ve been doing.

It’s interesting that the existence of this KR didn’t actually seem to increase my motivation.

Publish more

This last OKR is motivated by a desire to get more of my thoughts out in the world. I’ve always imagined that huge benefits can accrue from writing and publishing a lot but I’ve never been able to sustain an effort for long enough to see of them. I am one of those people who has started 10 blogs over the years, each one with only one post!

Publish 6 blog posts

I think I can squeak this one in before January is over. I have some posts that are almost ready but need some cleanup. The astute readers will note that this post you’re reading now is a meta attempt to achieve this KR.

Disappointingly, all 4 posts I’ve published so far are notes on other people’s work rather than original thoughts. Also, while I’ve published fairly frequently, I haven’t actually written that much. Some of the posts I published were already largely written before December started. I think I need to alter this KR slightly in February to ensure I write as well as publish.

Tweet 150 times

This is actually the most surprising result for me. When I created this KR, I remember worrying that I was sandbagging a little bit. I thought it would be easy. It’s just 5 tweets per day after all.

However, over the last 28 days, all my Twitter metrics are down and I have only managed 74 tweets so far (these stats are inflated by the last day of December 2018).

I’m going to seriously ramp up my Twitter activity over the next few days in an effort to give it a real shot but it doesn’t feel like I achieved what I wanted to here.

My twitter analytics. Engagement, tweets and everything else is down

Conclusion

Overall I’m pretty happy with how this experiment worked out. Unfortunately, it is difficult to say how much of the gains are caused by OKRs vs. how much I could have achieved naturally.

One thing is for sure, I couldn’t have run the analysis and produced this blog post if I hadn’t laid out my goals in a clear and metrics driven fashion at the start of the month. Perhaps the real value is in the ability to look back.


David Tuite

Written by David Tuite who is a product manager at Workday and used to be a software engineer. You should follow him on Twitter