Too often, teams mistake strategy planning for OKR planning. These are separate activities so it’s important to build your planning process accordingly. Ideally, you’re able to generate clear and opinionated strategy prior to doing any OKR planning.
At Coda, we believe that good strategy is an answer to a specific challenge. That simple but powerful idea is inspired by one of my favorite strategy books,
by Richard Rumelt. When done well, strategy creates leverage for your best insights and enables OKRs to drive solid execution.
“A strategy coordinates action to address a specific challenge.”
― Richard Rumelt, Good Strategy, Bad Strategy
We created a simple system for conducting strategy planning that culminates in company Big Bets. After that, quarterly OKR planning ensures all team-level OKRs ladder up to the company’s Big Bets for the year. The whole process can be summarized in three steps:
(quarterly): Once Big Bets have been defined, each team can plan their OKRs, and share them through a writeup/presentation.
We distilled our process into this simple planning guide, which you’re free to copy and adapt to suit your team’s needs. For a deeper dive into our process, feel free to check out my conversation with Lenny Rachitsky,
, and our annual strategy planning process kicks off the same way. The goal is to get the hard challenges out first, and stack rank the most important ones that need to get addressed during the planning cycle. Our key challenges form the basis for what our Big Bets will be.
Next, we ask a group of leaders in the company to outline potential strategies to address the key challenges we agreed upon. This exercise helps us quickly envision: how we might address a particular challenge, what success would look like, and how we might organize some initial efforts. We’ll run a few
to see how people feel about the reasoning. We also revisit our annual strategy plans regularly throughout the year.
Quarterly Planning — Quarterly Plus OKRs
The Big Bet writeup will give the teams the basic guidance on company-level strategy, and enable each team to run their own planning exercises to get specific about strategies and objectives they’d like to adopt to support the company Big Bets.
Startups are fast-moving, and it’s difficult to commit to long-term plans when markets, customers and the team are evolving quickly. So we ask teams to plan at two levels. First, a set of OKRs for the quarter that they can commit to getting 100% done. Second, a look ahead (the ‘Plus’ in ‘Quarterly Plus’) which is a set of loose ideas of where we’ll head in the following quarter. Here, we ask teams to identify big decision points or big risks that the company should be aware of. We’ll then use OKR dashboards (like the one in