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Do You Need A Personal OKR?

A primer on setting self-development goals using OKRs and a guideline to do it the right way.

Asif Jamal

Making a contract with your future self

When we started using OKRs in Grofers, it was to ensure that we had a way of getting everyone on the same page around what was important towards our goals as a team and as a company.

This exercise taught us a lot and although we’ve failed in every way imaginable, we continue to improve. In essence, OKRs are a written contract between our current self as an org and where we want to be in 3 or 6 months.

For an organization to be truly excellent, it’s not just about working on the right things, it’s also about the people doing those things. If you are doubling or tripling every year -as we have been for the past 3 years — the team also needs to be growing themselves at a commensurate rate.

Professional or personal growth is not a hand-out and cannot be spoon-fed (even if you want to); it is something the learner needs to initiate and have ownership over. Click to tweet.

And once that initiative is taken, the organization is on the hook to provide resources and time but also to hold the learner accountable to their goal.

So just like for the org, we require each individual to define a self-development goal for themselves, a contract with their future self.

A Mechanism For Self-Development

Most companies are afraid to give individuals the freedom to define their goals. They assume it will result in random or unrealistic goals. In our case, we do review them and have guidelines (cited below).

There is a misconception that you can push learning on people. Using OKRs is a great way to get the team to take ownership of their own development which results in far greater ownership and creativity. Click to tweet.

Often learning and development is not something that’s too complex or time-consuming, it’s just hard to remember with the day-to-day taking up our energy and time. We require everyone in the Grofers technology organization to update their OKRs every week.

Often they don’t move, but since we have mechanisms already in place for reporting on company OKRs, it helps to keep personal ones’ top of mind.

How does a personal OKR look like?

Here are some examples of personal OKRs set by people at Grofers.

Objective: Develop a better understanding of Golang, specifically use cases around k8s and high-performance micro-services.

  • KR #1: Contribute in 1 open-source project written in Golang
  • KR #2: Write a controller or CRD in Kubernetes for general purpose and open-source project

Objective: Become a better design leader

  • KR #1: Read all 7 chapters of “The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman”

Objective: Build my capabilities as a public speaker

  • KR #1: Do 3 mini-talks at internal knowledge sharing sessions
  • KR #2: Do 1 talk at a Grofers hosted open source meetup
  • KR #3: Get a talk accepted at a conference in 2020

The 3-Point Guideline To Personal OKRs

  1. Don’t be ambitious. Expect to spend about 12 hours in this quarter on it. That’s just one hour per week. If your OKR is too ambitious, you wouldn’t feel motivated to do it after a few days. The best personal OKRs form a sense of habit. For example, don’t say you’d read 3 books in a quarter. Instead, say you’d read for 10 minutes every day.
  2. Keep it relevant. Make it easy to do along with your job. Pick something directly relevant to the work that you’re doing or upcoming projects. This way it won’t be a conflict to get it done and you can work with others.
  3. Do, don’t “learn”. You should be able to measure completion and know what to do each week. So learning should take the form of something you can definitively finish.

Takeaway:

At Grofers, we take personal OKRs every quarter and we take them seriously. Some of us achieve them, some of us don’t. The base idea remains simple: make a contract with your future-self and work towards fulfilling it, one KR at a time.

Jacob Singh is the Chief Technology Officer at Grofers.


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