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BBI of Chicago
August 2021

Similarities between OKRs and Business Agility 


By: Felipe Carvalho de Figueiredo.

The market for the development of digital solutions is today one of the hottest, has one of the highest growth perspectives and exponential returns. In this context, one of the challenges of companies is to align the strategic, tactical, and operational levels in the same direction, to attain positive results for the business while preserving agility in decisionmaking. To that end, one of the methodologies widely used today is of OKRs (Objective Key Results). 

This methodology promises such alignment in all of these management spheres, through clear communication of objectives set on the strategic level. It is structured by key objectives broken down into metrics. The objectives, referred to as OKRs, must be qualitative while the metrics, referred to as KRs or Key Results, must be quantitative and should represent the expected results of the business. 

These objectives should be set by a multidisciplinary team of managers, to ensure that the product, technology, operations, and marketing areas have goals in common. A unique goal for the entire company helps to optimize the whole by sacrificing local optimizations, which contributes to the deconstruction of the so-called “silos”; typical structures of traditional companies that tend to bureaucratize the decision-making and disturb an eventual agile repositioning or replanning. That is because, in a silo structure, each area has its own goals, leaderships, and projects, which compromises the cooperation between two different areas if there is a conflict of interests or goals. Therefore, one of the biggest challenges when talking about Business Agility is to “break down the walls” of these silos and make the company as a whole cooperate for common goals. 

After implementing and communicating the OKRs, the tactical level needs to set the direction towards initiatives and projects that bring the expected impacts to businesses. That can be done by an initiative backlog (portfolio backlog) where each idea, while still not well defined, must have its expected business value determined. Many mistakes made when using this approach occur because the projects and initiatives developed don’t match the desired business results. That can cause a loss in market opportunities and even compromise the company’s position. After the initial prioritization phase, the initiatives and projects must be broken down into deliverables, known as Epics or User Stories in some approaches, so that development teams can abstract what needs to be done. It is also interesting that adequate methodologies be used when creating a solution to be followed, such as Jobs to be done, Design Thinking and Lean Inception. The common denominator between these being the identification of the customer’s needs and the mapping of the entire user’s journey when using the product. That allows for the idealization of features that are appropriate to the identified market opportunities in the discovery process, in a way that the target audience has a higher chance of being exposed to the product. 

After establishing the communication and the correlation between the initiatives and the results, and having the epics and stories broken with their respective definitions, one must measure constantly if the products and features released to the costumers are having the desired impact. Consequently, they must establish cadences of measurement and adaptation, to guarantee that the business remains agile and responsive to the scenario changes. These cadences must be guided by the tactical management responsible for the roadmap, and the same managers must guarantee that the communication flow is flowing well on all degrees, regarding eventual replanning. 

A company that has a clear goal, connects initiatives with these approaches, and has quick decision-making, using discovery and development techniques, has a notable competitive edge to grow. 



Business Agility Institute bibliography. (January 19, 2021). Source: 

Cagan, M. (2018). Inspired: How to create tech products customers love. John Wiley & Sons. 

Leopold, K. (2018). Rethinking Agile: Why Agile Teams Have Nothing To Do With Business Agility.  

Malone, M. S., Ismail, S., & Van Geest, Y. (s.d.). Organizações Exponenciais: por que Elas São 10 Vezes Melhores, Mais Rápidas e Mais Baratas que a sua (e o que Fazer a Respeito).  

Thiel, P., & Masters, B. (2014). Zero to One (De Zero a Um).  

Ulwick, A. W. (s.d.). Jobs to be Done: Theory to Practice. 

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