PM#2 : OKRs to an Intern

I sat by the poolside at Bota Bota in Montreal as I began to read “Measure What Matters: OKRs: The Simple Idea that Drives 10x Growth” by John Doerr. The next time I glanced up, my skin had gotten 5 shades darker and I, had become fascinated with the idea of OKRs.

Objective and Key Results, OKRs, is the 3 letter acronym that propelled the growth of companies like Intel, Google, Amazon, and Uber. Put simply, Objectives are goals, while Key Results are measurable milestones to show the achievement of those goals in a timebox. Doerr shared a powerfully structured concept with strong use cases. But by the end of his book, I figured it would be the first and last time I would hear about OKRs.

I was wrong.

When I stepped into my internship the next week, I was given my summer project stitched together with a list of organizational OKRs. Shortly after, my skip manager had created a new set of OKRs for Q1, and our team had made our own too. 

If you want to read more about OKRs, I highly recommend you check out the actual book. But here are some value adds that OKRs have given me as an intern:

  • Allowing me to do my best work. Most managers and mentors that I’ve had in the past know the importance of defining goals for me as an intern. Sometimes these goals were directly matched to my project, while others gave more transparency on the top down goals. However, I can’t count the amount of times that I’ve worked through a project and only upon speaking to different stakeholders, do I realize that everyone’s version of the team / organizations’s goals differed. Hence, everything I did, from doing user research, making feature specs, to every meeting I sat in felt like I lacked clarity. With clearly defined OKRs, I can align my project’s goals directly to that of the organizations, while being confident that those are the agreed upon goals— and not just what my idea of what it should be. This is something I never even knew there was a solution to, until I stopped struggling with it.

  • It’s simple. Big ideas are boiled down to concise bullet points that are easy to read and digest. There is no room for confusion as every KR is measurable, so the desired outcome feels more attainable. I know how to get there.

  • Transparency of teammates’ work. It’s not easy to keep up with what my coworkers are doing, especially as an intern because 1) our work is often isolated, 2) there is so much to learn— learning about other people’s work becomes deprioritized, and lastly 3) their work often takes too much context to understand thoroughly, I don't know where to start. However, defining OKRs as a team allowed me to learn what everyone was working on, and their goals. I enjoy being a part of something greater.

  • Are we on the same page? It’s helpful to understand what my team is fundamentally focused on, not just because it helps me with my work, but also because it prompts me to think about if my personal values align with that of the team’s.