What are good OKRs for a Scrum Master?
So, OKRs stands for Objectives and Key Results. It is a goal setting system developed by Intel and whilst not necessarily a day-to-day measure, it does provide you with the ability to measure your effectiveness in relation to your overall objectives on a regular basis.
Unlike other metrics, the purpose of an OKR is for you to stretch. It isn’t about achieving 100% of your key results on a weekly basis, instead you are using the system to push yourself out of your comfort zone and aim significantly higher than you ordinarily would.
Achieving 70% of your goals is a great sign that you are setting good OKRs and that you are working effectively toward achieving your goals. If you are consistently achieving 100% of your OKRs, you need to aim higher and stretch those goals a little further.
Scrum Master Objectives
So, your objective is that you create a great team. You want to create an environment where your team can excel and work as a cohesive, collaborative, and creative unit.
Now, that isn’t directly measurable in the form of a single metric. That is where the Key Results come into play.
What are the measurable ways that help us understand that we have a great team environment and that our objective of creating a great team is being realised?
One of the key measures of a great team environment is psychological safety. The ability to speak truth to power. It is a measurable phenomenon.
You can run surveys with your team to identify how comfortable they feel speaking up and voicing their opinion. You can measure how confident they are that voicing a concern or disagreeing with someone else in the team will result in a backlash or unwarranted consequences for them.
So, you want to start by measuring psychological safety in your team. If you don’t know where you are on the spectrum, that is ok, just start with a baseline and monitor how that improves over time.
If you do have other teams who are measuring psychological safety, you can also compare how your team are feeling and identify what needs doing to escalate the level of psychological safety in your team environment.
I think I have mentioned this in the past, but I’m not fussed about team ‘happiness’.
It is great to have heaps of people who are happy at work, but ultimately, I am looking for people who are satisfied within their job role, within the organisation, and within their lives.
It is hard to sustain an environment where people are high fiving all day and swinging from the chandeliers, so you want to focus on people who walk into work every day feeling like they have a strong purpose and that they derive a great deal of satisfaction from their work and environment.
Someone who recognises that they do a good job and that what they do contributes to something larger than themselves.
There’s a quick and easy way to measure satisfaction on a regular basis. Just use the simple ‘fist of five’ approach.
You ask the team how they are feeling in terms of satisfaction and people simply raise their hand with the number of fingers that represent how satisfied they are on a scale of 1 to 5.
You can do formal surveys or electronic check-ins for this but it’s quick and easy to do in a team meeting and you get a general feel for how everyone is doing. It also offers you the opportunity to raise questions or probe why there might be dissatisfaction in the team through conversation.
Satisfaction is a better indicator of success than happiness. If people are satisfied, they will stick around and work through tough times whereas happiness tends to fluctuate daily and sometimes, for arbitrary reasons that lie beyond the team environment.
I would be looking at how effectively and consistently the team are able to deliver on their work commitments, goals, and objectives. I would be looking to measure how often the team are able to deliver what they said they could do within the time frames they committed to delivering.
As a scrum master, we are helping the team face reality.
We don’t have direct control and authority so we can’t tell the team what needs doing and wave the stick if the team are failing to deliver. Instead, we are looking for a measure of consistency and using the key result to help us understand what might be standing in the way of progress.
If a team are consistency delivering 100% of what they committed to delivering, I wouldn’t say that is a good thing. It’s great that they are delivering but it could also be a sign of complacency at best or gaming the system at worst.
Ideally, you want the team to be delivering in the range of 100%. Certain sprints might deliver 80% of what was committed whilst other weeks might see 120% delivery as the team get through work far quicker and more effectively than they anticipated.
Monitoring this key result informs you whether the team are stretching every week and whether they are committed to continuous improvement. You can see that the team are not in a comfort zone and predictably delivering the minimum requirements, instead they are taking on the most valuable work and actively committing to a sprint goal that challenges the team.
Trend of Velocity
This key result tracks the change in velocity over time. Velocity is the number of points the team are able to deliver within a sprint and monitoring the variance in velocity allows a scrum master to measure how effectively the team are working.
As with the predictability measure, you aren’t aiming for 100% consistency across the board.
In some weeks, the team may be solving problems they have never encountered before and will be able to deliver less than anticipated. At other times, they may have acquired a new skill and are able to deliver more points in each sprint than before because of that new skill acquisition.
It may also be policy changes within the organisation that positively impact a team’s velocity and you can use these measures to demonstrate how much of an impact those policy changes have made.
Understand that different teams solve different problems, so you don’t want to measure your team against another team’s performance. You can burn your team up by doing so and seriously damage team morale.
You want to assess your team’s performance, over time, against their capabilities and the context of the work they are doing. Monitoring this key result will give you a great sense of whether the team are improving and whether they are working in an environment where they can consistently excel.
One of the things that has come to me recently is evaluating the effort of work in relation to gym training. If you have to lift 100Kgs but aren’t trained or conditioned for it, it can be near impossible to lift that load.
If you are an Olympic lifter, you would find it almost effortless to lift 100Kgs, yet physics tell us that the effort required to lift 100Kgs is the same, regardless of how frequently or effectively you are able to do it.
So, we want to be like the Olympic lifter that has spent years practicing and evolving into an elite level athlete.
In the beginning, they battled just as much as everybody else to lift 100Kgs but over time, it became easier and easier for them to deliver that level of effort and they are now able to do so sustainably, predictably, and well within their capabilities.
This is a great sign that the team are growing and evolving over time. Monitor this key result and you should see slow but steady increases in their rate of velocity over time.
You might receive this as an NPS score (Net Promoter Score) or something like that, but it is a measure of how satisfied your stakeholders are with what is consistently being delivered or built.
Stakeholders could be customers, product stakeholders, product/project sponsors, etc…
It is anybody that you are working with to create a product or solve a complex problem.
You may have a great team who are satisfied, hyper-productive, creative and collaborative but if they aren’t satisfying the customer, you aren’t achieving the right objectives.
The first principle of the Agile Manifesto is to ‘satisfy customers through early and continuous delivery’ and it is a core foundation upon which the Scrum framework is built. We need to be satisfying customers and stakeholders, frequently and continuously, for our work to be valuable.
Measuring stakeholder satisfaction is also great for team morale. If they know that they are nailing each sprint goal and producing products, features and services that blow customers away, they are going to be more creative, collaborative and effective as a team.
Those would be my recommended OKRs for scrum masters.
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