How to apply Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) in SAFe

OKRs are a great way to align and measure strategy. They can help to set direction and allow for cadence-based tracking of strategic targets. SAFe 5.0 applies OKRs on Portfolio Level. We found additional places, where OKRs can be of value. Download our mm1 OKR Template!

OKRs are a management framework that helps to set targets on different levels of an organization. It combines the insights and experiences of 50 years of management in innovative businesses, like Management by Objectives (MBO) from the 60s, SMART Goals and KPIs from the 80s.

OKRs have two elements: The Objective as descriptions of goals to be achieved in the future. It should set a clear direction and provide motivation. And the Key Results as metrics with a starting value and a target value that measure progress towards an Objective. Sometimes Initiatives are added to describe the work to be done to influence a Key Result.

SAFe incorporated OKRs in their latest update to version 5.0. On the Portfolio Level, OKRs are a way to describe the Strategic Themes that connect the Portfolio with the Enterprise Strategy. They should be set, tracked and re-evaluated quarterly and create alignment in the organization.

Many of our clients started to apply OKRs in different environments in the past months. In the context of SAFe we see many ways how OKRs set direction and create alignment. Usually OKRs are used to define strategy or Business Context on Portfolio or Solution Level, as well as for Agile Release Trains. Some clients use OKRs additionally to define Epics, Features or Enablers.

 

Key success factors for great OKRs include:

Objectives

  • Write them directional, impactful, inspirational
  • Less is more: pick 3 or 4 objectives to keep focus
  • Define ownership per objective!
  • Define the horizon for each objective!
  • Define the cadence for tracking and re-evaluation!

Key Results

  • Write them ambitious and measurable
  • Write them value-based (apply SMART criteria) or activity-based

A link to our mm1 OKR Template can be found below

If you want to find out more about how define great OKRs, apply them to SAFe or how to transform your organisation into a digital and agile organisation, contact us directly!

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