“Many people fail in life, not for lack of ability or brains or even courage, but simply because they have never organised their energies around a goal.” — Elbert Hubbard

Working towards a goal requires planning; that’s common knowledge. But there will always be things that come in the way of working on your plans. That famous John Lennon quote definitely applies to an IT operations business! And even in a world without interruptions, there’s an endless list of things we could or even should do. Separating the important from the (seemingly) urgent and the less significant is imperative.

We needed to find ways of focusing on important work while still leaving enough space and freedom to deal with unplanned work and the unexpected things that come up in life. In order to have a common way of defining and tracking results, we have adopted a practice called “Objectives and Key Results” (OKR). It works like this:

Let’s take an example:

Objective: Replace our current data centre backup solution with a more scalable one.

Key results:

  1. Find three alternative solutions.
  2. Compare their features, with a focus on scalability, and assign scores.
  3. Discuss your favourite alternative with the team.
  4. Build a prototype of the new system.
  5. Switch the new system to production and shut down the old system.

Setting objectives

Objectives express goals and intents. They must be tangible, objective, and unambiguous. State each objective in a way that makes it easy to say/prove that it has been completed; it should be obvious to a rational observer whether an objective has been achieved or not.

From personal objectives up to company objectives, there should be a continuous narrative. Choose objectives that allow you to draw a line from your personal objectives up to one or more company objectives: