How technology champs set goals – the power of OKRs

I find it increasingly challenging to stay aligned with the company and team goals of a modern business organization. The reason is simple, I believe we live in super fast paced times and it has become imperative for a business to make swift turns on its path to success. This is why OKR seems to be an excellent (and proven) system to align and quickly adapt to change while at the same time measuring results.

OKR is an abbreviation for Objective & Key Result. The concept comes initially from Intel Corporation and is well known for being used amongst the biggest technology companies like Google and Uber.

OKRs are meant to set strategy and goals over a specified amount of time for an organization, teams and individuals.

At the end of a set period, the OKRs provide a reference to evaluate how each piece of the organization did in executing the objectives.

If you have an hour and half I recommend to watch Rick Klau’s video on the topic. If you don’t, take a look at my notes on the topic. Credit goes to Rick but there is plenty of examples and resources on the topic.

Rick Klau about OKRs at Google

The OKR starter hints:

  • Works well if OKRs are publicly available to the entire company.
  • Do not turn them into performance evaluation.
  • Set, reviewed, and revised quarterly (and annually).
  • Initiated or at least supported by the management.
  • Try to do with ready tools. There are plenty of them e.g. Perdoo (Made in Berlin), BetterWorks, 7geese.

Objectives (the WHAT you want to achieve):

  • Cannot exceed 5 in total.
  • Must be strategic.
  • Not necessarily measurable (e.g. grow profit margins).
  • Should cascade – relate to the OKRs one level up and same time to what the individual wants to work on.
  • Mostly (60%) set by the individual.
  • Should get a score.

Key results (the HOW you know you have achieved your objective):

  • Must be measurable (e.g. launch a new feature; reduce defects by x%).
  • Should be hard to achieve so there is a substantial effort.
  • Are graded quarterly (should average 0.6 or 0.7 so it is fairly hard to get 1; 0.4 or below is bad, but a learning opportunity, not a failure)
  • Max. 4 key results per objective

Jason Carlin summed it up quite well:

The most useful thing I was ever told about writing effective OKRs is “Key Results must describe outcomes, not activities. If your KRs include words like ‘analyze’, ‘help’, ‘participate’, they’re describing activities. Instead, describe the end-user impact of these activities. ‘Publish latency measurements from ADR ad serving study by March 7th; is better than ‘assess ADR latency’.”

If you want to see further example OKRs just go to 00:07:36 and 00:36:32 of Rick’s video.

As said there is plenty being said about the topic. If you are sensitive on your spend, try to work out your OKRs using tools like the Startup OKR template. For established businesses I would recommend getting a coach and a good tool to get you started (Perdoo, BetterWorks).

The seven truths of innovation for Lego

This post is about Lego and how it reinvigorated its growth.

As a child I loved Lego. But I had none. Back then it was prohibitively expensive.

So I watched the shiny bricks and structures through the shopwindow. I actually doubted kids played with them, i thought nobody can afford them.

Funny enough Lego indeed got in trouble – but it had nothing to do with my post-communist low-income motherland. Instead in the late 90s kids were no longer fascinated with their products – it was the time of video games and a new wave of electronic toys.

This meant that Lego had to reinvent itself. So the iconic toy company rolled its sleeves to define a unique formula for creating new products and services.

David Robertson put it altogether in his book “Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry”. He summarized the seven truths of Lego innovation as follows:

  • “Hire diverse and creative people.”
  • “Head for blue-ocean markets.”
  • “Be customer driven.”
  • “Practice disruptive innovation.”
  • “Foster open innovation – heed the wisdom of the crowd.”
  • “Explore the full spectrum of innovation.”
  • “Build an innovation culture.”

Nothing more to say, just let it sink. And for those who want to read the book, here is the full story.

Ready player one? I am back to blogging

It has been a while but I am finally back to blogging. Some exciting developments kept me away – my kid, my new professional challenge, my many other hobbies.

Rest Later, No.9…

Blogging mostly means discipline. It is just that the only free time I have is either late at night or early in the morning – in either case I need to get going and that, requires discipline.

So here is the short version of what happened in the last year and a half.

I met an amazing girl.

Not so long after we became +1 (yes, a baby).

I had a short advisory stint at Contentful.

And currently I steer the digital transformation at rtv media group (a Bertelsmann SE company).

There will be some changes to the blog. If previously I mostly focused on some of my “visionary” thoughts, now I want to get a bit deeper in tech, management topics and share the progress of some exciting tech ventures.

So let’s see how this turns. Wish me good luck.

Founders Hack was in Bielefeld and it was great!

Some (or none) of you may have wondered what was I doing on a mid-June weekend. Me being me, I went to the city of Bielefeld and mentored in the first Founders Hack. It was a typical gloomy German weekend, yet the hackathon was probably the best thing I have seen in a while.

The best part of the hackathon were actually the teams. I was impressed with the stunning mix of experienced business professionals and pumped up techies. In fact each team without exception managed to deliver a well thought over and absolutely uptodate solution.

It started during the day.

And went on during the night. Some went on till 4am.

A big differentiator to other hackathons were the real life challenges. They were drawn from actual opportunities (or problems) and provided by industry leaders from the Bielefeld area: Wortmann, Miele, Boge, Alcina, Benteler, Claas.

Some went a step further e.g. Boge impressed by bringing an actual product to make the teams play with their machine.

Challenges focused on IoT and machine learning with 2 prominent IoT ones being: 1) build an IoT based business model for the laundry care in sharing economy, and 2) track spare- & wear parts in a complex machine. Then the machine learning challenges explored using external data sources to track fashion trends and ways to increase efficiency in farming with data from agricultural engines.

The final delivery was in the form of a short pitch in front of the cheering crowd in a fully packed theater. And the prize was a unicorn!

Now add to this the fantastic Lasse Chor who orchestrated the event with a ton of great vibes and the tiresome Founders Foundation team, and you have an unforgettable weekend.

This event has definitely left a mark. I believe it is the first time when I saw corporates connect with startups and take over the initiatives into their agenda. For me the secret sauce to make this work would be well summed up with few words: curated team building, well defined areas of interest and business opportunities for the corporates, unhindered access to corporate executives, energising moderation and mentoring.

Most importantly, there was plenty of food. Just kidding but there was indeed good food :). All the time!

Before

and after

“This is Bielefeld” – these are the true words of Jackson Bond from Relayr, the word is spreading. One thing is clear, entrepreneurship is no longer reserved for Berlin, Hamburg, München and Cologne.

The perfect storm in transportation is near and … not just there

 

Not a big fan of breaking headlines but certain technology highlights in the last years are starting to connect better then ever before. And it seems that visionaries and industry finally start to agree. We are witnessing major trends that will re-shape whole industries in a shorter period that we have ever experienced before.

I am pointing at trends in transportation such as::

  • Carsharing
  • Electric vehicles
  • Autonomous driving
  • Machine learning

Carsharing has taken the market by surprise and is becoming more popular by the day. European providers like DriveNow and Car2Go address the daily transportation needs in the city while Drivy, Croove and SnappCar are taking a share from traditional car rental by using privately owned cars. These companies effectively reduce the number of cars on the streets, remove the burden of car maintenance and undermine the desire to invest 30K+ in buying a car. The idea is so good that carsharing is being eyed by established players such as EasyGroup, the company tasked to expand the EasyJet empire, or Europcar, the 2nd biggest European car rental company (via its investment arm).

Takeaway: expect less cars on the streets in the long term, less car sales and revenue from spare parts for car manufacturers.

Electric cars are around us and whoever has tried the i series BMW or Tesla, knows the driving experience if not better is at least at par with current cars. And the acceleration is unbeatable so I am definitely in :). But more importantly electric cars are simple, they have 18x less moving parts than a combustion engine car and thus need close to zero maintenance. And even if needed, I am in no doubt repairs will be done by a robot in the very near term. A major concern before, recharging, is becoming significantly less of a concern with battery life getting longer and charging stations growing in numbers.

The advantages of electric cars and wide acceptance of the public are being unmistakably recognised by car makers such as Daimler which recently announced its own Gigafactory. It came as a result of the acceleration of its electric car plans and backed by $11 bn. KUDOs should go also to Tesla which has pushed the whole car maker industry to move faster and bolder.

Takeaway: expect less demand for oil and gas, increasing uncertainty for energy companies, less revenue from spare parts for car manufacturers, job losses in car maintenance.

Autonomous driving and machine learning are no longer an innovation. Self driving cars are around us, make total sense and are here to stay. Machine learning as one of the ingredients of autonomous driving is being adopted so fast that it will soon be considered a commodity.  Autonomous driving makes our roads safer, eases traffic and saves us tons of time. It is good not only for private use but also in public transport and moving goods. There are already autonomous driving luxury cars and truck trains on our highways but have you thought about autonomous driving buses? Because it won’t be long before you find yourself on one of those.

Takeaway: expect job losses in transportation e.g. professional drivers, even greater increase in efficiency in transportation and car sharing, further reduction of vehicles on the streets.

So what would our life look like in less than 10 years? I think something like this.

The rosy part: Commute in cities either by car, bus or rail will be driverless. Most vehicles will be electric. Very few people will own a car. The fee from A to B will vary based on provider, vehicle brand, transportation experience e.g. the latest interior and entertainment Audi concept. It might even happen that cities abandon public transport and outsource it to private providers that offer autonomous fleets on demand. These fleets might well optimise the routes so that they do not follow a predefined route but drive commuters to their door.

Car manufactures will become vertically integrated fleet manufacturers and managers. New type of vehicles will emerge, many models will become obsolete and will be abandoned.

Technology providers like Google, Uber and other technology-first giants will enter the transportation sector, and will have an edge on autonomous driving technology over car manufacturers.

The not so rosy part: Professional drivers, mechanics, petrol station workers will become obsolete. Smaller car manufacturers will fight for survival, some brands might disappear. Garages will disappear. Energy companies will be seriously hit from lower than expected demand for oil and gas as well as investments in oil and gas exploration.

And to ease a bit my apocalyptic predictions, stay tuned for the next blog post about my exciting experience at the Founders Hack event in the city of Bielefeld.