A Book Report (of sorts) by Robert Drews - vintage enthusiast, GIF expert, and two-wheeled traveler.
Two and a half years ago, I returned from paternity leave to a First Friday meeting in a crowded conference room. It was the end of Q2, 2017. PlaceWise had recently gone through a perilous transformation. Long story short, we’d emerged a lean and scrappy version of our former selves. (I wish I could say the same for my emergence from paternity leave).
For context, we have a long standing “First Friday” meeting tradition here. The meeting rarely falls on the first Friday of the month, but we keep the name because it has a ring to it. In these meetings, we typically go around the horn with our president giving company status and directional updates, the Sales team will then regale us of their efforts on phone calls and in person, and the Creative team oohs and awes with new designs. We celebrate wins - large and small - from a client satisfaction standpoint, and I give updates into what new advertising tools are at our disposal (obvious plug here).
While each of our meetings is significant at that point in time, few are as pivotal as the Q2 2017 meeting. Our lean and scrappy organization had just endured a massive change - but we knew lean and scrappy wasn’t going to get the company where we wanted to be. We needed to pivot from “staying afloat” to “building our ship”, so to speak.
Huddled around a C-shaped conference table, our director of product gave us the keys to a new goal setting tool known as OKRs (which stands for “Objectives and Key Results” if you’re new to this term). This system was the brainchild of Andy Grove, President of Intel in the 1970s and is widely credited with the success of later Silicon Valley adopters such as Google, Zynga, LinkedIn and Netflix, among others.
The system involves setting larger company-driven objectives, then setting a goal for your team, and then listing the key results necessary to achieve that goal. The Objective is aspirational - a big, hairy audacious goal that moves the company forward. The Key Results include quantitative figures to measure against, which easily reveals progress toward the goal.
Since the second half of 2017, we’ve iterated on our goals and processes in an effort to better grasp, and effectively utilize, OKRs. It’s led to some great realizations and growth in our products and services. But, like any endeavor worth undertaking, it’s about the journey, not the destination.
In an effort to better guide our journey, we read the book Radical Focus, (Full Title: Radical Focus. Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objectives and Key Results (A business book in the form of a fable)) by Chirstian Wodtke.
Having just finished the book, I wanted to give my two cents (warning: spoilers ahead). The fable portion of the book is an okay read. It follows the journey of a small, investor backed startup through their initial trials and tribulations, only to be set a course and saved by OKRs. At the end of the book, the author jumps ahead one year post OKR implementation. At that point in time, the startup is all smiles and sitting atop a pile of investor cash. It’s a complete farce really a heartwarming tale. It’s a quick, easy read and if you’re interested in business fables, then I’d give it a 5/5 rating and highly recommend giving it a read.
This fictitious account provides an entertaining story. But the reality, for a member of a team that’s been wrestling OKRs for the better part of three years is, *Results May Vary. While PlaceWise moves ever closer to our objectives as a company, each quarterly reckoning with OKRs brings us face to face with the reality that while we’re making progress, we’re still chasing our goal.
But, as we iterate, we learn. We are finding our focus and I know we are making progress. I can see it in our work, and I hope that if you are a client, partner or competitor, you see it, too. Our objective for 2020 is simple: Accelerated Growth, Innovation & Awareness. It will take everyone at this company working toward departmental objectives to obtain this. Of course there are metrics we must hit to know if we “made it”. We must launch a new SaaS platform that will blow the doors off any other retail content management system in existence, including our own (which I might add is currently best in class).
Will this be the year we have our own fabled business fairy-tale ending? I can’t say for certain. I’ll confidently say this though: PlaceWise will provide more services to more clients utilizing the world’s best shopping center marketing platform than we ever have.