Six Insights on OKRs from Sportsbook Engineering Manager - Mirosław Zajdel

Back in January 2020, we started a journey with Objectives & Key Results framework - aimed to boost company-wide transparency, focus and alignment. Since then a number of learnings and experiences has been gained. They're invaluable as going to play a key role in further framework adoption!

In case you're not familiar with the framework: Objective & Key Results (OKR) is a method of setting up and managing goals that help organisations to focus on things that matter. When adopted successfully, benefits in FACTS by enabling Focus, Alignment, Commitment, Tracking and Stretching. 

We caught up with Mirek Zajdek - Engineering Manager in Sportsbook Team and asked for some insights, tips and tricks for anyone who'd like to start OKR journey and implement them within their organisation or team.

As Mirek said:

Along the way OKRs turned out to be like Scrum: simple to understand, difficult to master and empiricism is the key. I would like to share with you some lessons learned from our journey with OKRs.

1. Start early!

Starting conversations with your team in advance pays back. Understanding the difference between Objective and Key Result in practice and setting up OKRs properly is a long journey and may be really different for people on various levels. You need to give your people time to settle down with OKRs, show them examples, let them play and get used to working with OKRs on a regular basis.

2. Experiment

There is no algorithm. There is experience. To become good at calculating the integrals, one has to keep calculating various integrals. To be good at setting up OKRs, one has to keep setting up various OKRs. Analyze some examples, have some conversations to share with your colleagues, collect feedback and set up what you think is best at the moment. Then do the retrospective. Spend first quarters on experimenting and let yourself fail and learn.


3. Think big, act small

Think about the long-term objectives like yearly or even longer ones but just to have a context. Then shift your focus to the next month or quarter only. What can you achieve within such a short period that can motivate you to go further? Build a short-time plan only to meet that objective and be confident about that plan. And especially at the beginning of your adventure with OKRs, it is important to rather have too little than too much on your plate. 


4. Top-down approach

This is an extremely crucial one. We need to have top-level OKRs defined first if we want people to be contributing together, on the same side. Once people have main aspirational objectives set up and SMART key results in place for the purpose of transparent monitoring, one vision can be followed up by the team.


5. Building the confidence

You want your people to follow you? Raise transparency. Show and tell your direct reports what are you working on, what you want to achieve, how does it contribute to a higher level OKRs and how can they support you with that. Then ask them to do the same with their direct reports. On each level, a specific contribution may be different. But still understanding the dependencies is needed to build confidence on each level.


6. Alignment

OKRs allow to combine the company objectives with personal aspirations of each employee and that is absolutely brilliant! The company can be sure that people are contributing and people know that they are not isolated with their development as the company has a pretty much logical reason to be truly interested in supporting them.