Agile and OKR practice (how to make OKR and agile plan coexist)


Rigid detailed long-term planning (tracking progress against expended budgets) is rapidly becoming a faded nostalgic memory of the past in agile organizations, replaced by forecasts and non static roadmaps. By meeting regularly in front of these visualizations, you will be able to learn, share, and trigger important conversations, resolve dependencies, and invite the behavior of service leaders. Make your OKR and forecast plan coexist!

In this blog, I’d like to give a visual example and the accompanying ritual of repetition. Visualization and accompanying rituals can share progress and ensure continuous resolution and mitigation of barriers and dependencies. It also turns predictions into conversations (as opposed to fixed estimates captured in project plans that are seen as commitments).

The core questions answered by the participating teams are:

Knock on the blackboard - Highlight
“Are you confident that key results will be achieved by the end of the quarter? “

You may also like the Google OKR brochure

If you are not familiar with the concepts of OKR, objectives and key results, you can think of the goals as “let us double our research on this area / problem / requirement”, and the key results as “let us complete this specific impact / outcome / goal / delivery”, which will drive us towards our goals. “For each quarter, the target number is usually limited to 3-5. Each goal has 3-5 key results in turn. The common guiding principle is that, on average, you should succeed at 70% of the key results, or fail at 30%, which is normal and acceptable. The guidelines ensure that we set bold goals and avoid security concerns. Why? Well, if we punish things with a success rate of less than 100%, we will eventually optimize the warlord system.

OKR white board standing meeting

When OKR was reintroduced in 2017, I was an agile coach at spotify. The tribe I work for (the semi autonomous sector) doesn’t want OKR to be a static slide in PowerPoint, which is quickly forgotten, but in life we can “plan” at any time to find out how to help each other.

Instead of summarizing the okrs of the tribe’s collective collaboration in the form of a digital demonstration, we write them (okrs) on a large white board that stands out in the hallway next to all the teams. Once every two weeks, we have a standing meeting on the OKR whiteboard. Everyone who wants to join is welcome, but we require at least two representatives from each team (eight teams).

The routine of the meeting is very simple. We went to the whiteboard and achieved one goal at a time. For each goal, we read the wording of the key results out loud. The team that provided this key result briefly shared the progress and announced their level of confidence. The meeting lasted 15 to 25 minutes.


For each key result, the team answered the following questions:

“Are you confident that key results will be achieved by the end of the quarter? “

Green confident smile–Completely confident that this will happen. We can prepare marketing activities.

Orange worried smile–We may not be able to, and stakeholders should be reminded.

Red sad smile–No way. This will not happen in the quarter. However, we are still trying.

inspect–Done. Delivered. Done.

stop it–We have stopped doing this (… Because of a change in priority or the key results themselves have become irrelevant).

There are 6-7 boxes below each key result (depending on how many two-week cycles have occurred in the quarter), and one box is used for each OKR whiteboard standing meeting. When we stand for the third time, we fill in the third box, and so on. This approach gives us a historical understanding of our level of confidence.

If several teams provide the same key results, then each of them shares their progress and level of confidence. However, the most pessimistic confidence level is the confidence level shown in the box.

The name of the team that provided the key results is shown in small text below the box.

In fact, we have the sixth symbol -? The question mark means “we don’t know yet.”. Sometimes it turns out to be a reality, and they really don’t know. But it was strange to me. If the team is not sure if it is determined to achieve its goals within the OKR cycle, how can the team “commit” to the key results? But it turned out to be useful, so we used it.

Key Conversation trigger

But what matters is not the renewal of the confidence smile itself – the important event is when the color of the smiley has changed since the last OKR whiteboard.

These changes are key triggers for important conversations. When the green smiley turns orange or red, we pause until we’ve figured out how to act together. Who can help in the room? Who in the room can connect a team in need with someone who can help? Do we need to remind stakeholders? Who reminds stakeholders? What needs to be done to change the confidence level? wait.

Only after we have decided on at least one powerful measure that has the potential to move us forward, do we proceed to the next key outcome.

Even though each team does its best every day to reduce barriers and resolve dependencies, OKR whiteboard stand-by meetings provide a recurring opportunity to escalate problems to organizations of friends and leaders who need expanded support.

Celebrate completion

When someone announced that they had completed the “key results” and ticked the box, we obviously celebrated with thunderous applause.

Opportunities for service leadership

Initially, an agile coach helped OKR get up on the whiteboard. In previous standing meetings, none of the three tribal leaders found time to attend. But at the fourth standing meeting, one of the tribal leaders joined.

Within a few minutes, I believe he realized that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to read the pulse of all teams, summarize progress, and provide useful service-oriented leadership behavior. He can offer advice (when asked) on the way forward when the team faces difficult choices, and help because of his or her extensive network, linking the team in need with stakeholders and other parts of the organization.

At the next OKR whiteboard standing meeting, all tribal leaders attended as observers, ready to help and support when asked. Soon they even took turns helping the ceremony itself.

OKR whiteboard review meeting

At the end of the quarter, we gathered for the OKR whiteboard review meeting. We review the key results that have been completed and discuss the unfinished results. What can we learn? What can we bring with us in the next OKR cycle? How can we improve visualization and OKR board standing?

Percentage complete

In the second quarter, we ran OKR whiteboard standing meetings, and we added an aspect to try to make the progress update more complete. For each key result, the team not only answers how confident they are, but also estimates how much work they have done so far. (translator’s note: this percentage should be increased carefully)

Why are we doing this? Well, we feel like we’re missing a part of the story. We’ve learned that sometimes teams feel super confident even if they just guess they’ve done 10% of their work. Sometimes, even if 90% of the work is done, the team is very pessimistic. In some cases, this is very useful information.

Intra organizational communication

In the next OKR cycle, the way we follow up OKR whiteboard has spread internally. To our surprise, several tribes copied our methods.

This is the best “proof” that a tool / technology / method is useful and valuable when something is disseminated and carried out internally.

Possible changes

If this approach is enlightening to you, but you don’t use OKR in your team or department, there are many variations of this approach that still converts static predictions into continuous conversations, triggering important conversations.

Forecast poker plan

If we assume that we are dealing with a specific set of problems or can’t deliver the product until the functionality is complete, we can ask team members to guess one by one“How many weeks / sprints can be done and we need to reach x? “By writing down their guesses on post it notes.

Delete the most pessimistic and optimistic votes and write down the remaining ranges on the whiteboard. If the estimated range does not decrease by one week per week, then you have an opportunity to discuss possible measures or mitigation measures.

Deadline confidence

Sometimes we have to deal with a fixed deadline. Maybe our window of opportunity is limited, or maybe we have to meet legal requirements (such as gdrp) by a specific date. Then we can ask the team“How confident are we to finish X by date Z? “

You can vote with five fingers. One finger stands for super pessimism and five fingers for optimism. Three fingers can mean tension. If confidence doesn’t increase once a week, we’ll talk about what needs to be done or the choices that lie ahead of us.

Version guessing

Some teams will continue to deliver, but still need to communicate progress and expectations with stakeholders and customers. They pull work from the product to-do list and add it to sprint.

The way to visualize the prediction is to add two lines to the backlog (for example, using tape).

Each member of the sprint review team will ask themselves two questions:

“Are we confident in how many product list items will be delivered in the next four sprints? “

“How much more can we offer in the next four sprints? “

Draw a green line to visualize and we are confident that we will complete the list of products. Draw a red line to visualize the optimistic range.

If the team uses story points to estimate their user stories and keep a historical speed record, this is undoubtedly an important input into the team’s guessing work.

Of course, you can replace the “four sprints” time frame with “the next two months” or some other time appropriate for the team.


Don’t make your estimate, plan, or forecast into a static digital document, which should be located deep in the cloud folder. Be sure to visualize it so that it is visible and accessible. Often gather in front of visualization files and share progress, update forecasts, and discuss how to help you mitigate obstacles and resolve dependencies. Make it coexistence.

This is not rocket science. It’s a simple health habit.

You may also like the Google OKR brochure

Author: Jimmy janl é n
Translator: Bob Jiang
Link to original text

  • okr
  • forcast
  • Agile planning

This article starts from Bob Jiang’s blog. Please contact Bob Jiang for reprint