OKRs and a Trampoline Park
Inspiration comes in many forms, the treadmill, meditation and even a ten year old’s birthday party. Over the weekend I attended a birthday party at a local trampoline park for my girlfriend's ten year old son. We assembled as a small group of eight, and I was amazed at the large number of trampoline goers despite a global pandemic. Nonetheless I could appreciate the fact that we were attending on a Saturday afternoon and it was apparent that this was peak trampoline time and not uncommon to find group numbers similar to ours if not larger.
Despite the large number of trampoline attendees; what really caught my attention was the tremendous lack of efficiency with the check-in and payment process. Standing in line was shy of an hour before we finally took our turn at the payment counter, which oddly enough was staffed by just a single employee. The payment process and validation of the legal waiver tacked on another twenty minutes for our modest-sized group, and in total we had spent approximately an hour and fifteen minutes waiting in line before our feet would hit our first trampoline. Unfortunately, It seems that our experience was not unique as many Google reviews recall a similar lengthy process.
As a software professional, strategist and agile coach, I was troubled by how unnecessary our experience had been. How many party goers and families had experienced dampened expectations by wasted time? And how many employees unnecessarily bore customer frustration for something beyond their control? And yet a solution was well within reach
through the aid of software.
A responsive UI and dynamically generated QR codes could easily streamline the online waiver, check-in and payment process to within mere minutes, and this was easily attainable in just a few short sprints for any mature scrum team. But I had to ask myself, was a software solution even necessary and is this the most efficient way to address the problem of long lines and a poor customer experience.
In his bestselling book Measure What Matters, John Doerr identifies OKRs as:
A collaborative goal-setting protocol for companies, teams, and individuals.
A management methodology that helps ensure that the company focuses efforts on the same important issues throughout the organization.
Objectives represent what is to be achieved, no more no less. They are significant, concrete, action oriented, ideally inspirational and when properly designed and deployed they are a vaccine against fuzzy thinking and fuzzy execution.
Key Results benchmark and monitor how we get to the objective; they are specific and time-bound, aggressive yet realistic and most of all they are measurable and verifiable. Key results evolve as the work progresses and you either meet a key result’s requirements or you don’t; there is no gray area, no room for doubt.
Fuzzy thinking could lead one to assume that a responsive UI and QR codes were an ideal solution to my use case. But I had to ask myself, what is the trampoline park’s mission statement and who is their target audience? A quick check of their website makes no reference to a mission statement nor do they identify their core customer. But, perhaps I am naive when it comes to the trampoline world and the target audience is often implied and a lack of a mission statement is commonplace.
With the frustration of wait times behind me, I decided to take a page from Doerr’s book and construct my own set of OKRs. I would put myself in the shoes of the trampoline park owner and I would give myself and my imaginary team a supporting mission statement and objective targeted at finding a permanent solution to the issue of unnecessarily long lines.
Mission: To be the premier trampoline park for family gatherings
Objective: To delight our customer by reducing long lines during peak hours to an average of twenty minutes or less for groups of five or more, so families can spend more time having fun in our facility, resulting in increased return visits, better customer reviews and a better experience for our customers and employees.
Key Result 1: Staff two employees at the payment counter during peak hours to include Fridays between the hours of 4pm and 8pm, Saturdays and Sundays between the hours of 11am and 4pm.
Key Result 2: Observe and record the average wait time for groups of five or more 100% of the time during peak hours.
Key Result 3: To determine if we are trending in the right direction; distribute customer surveys offering 10% off (the next visit) to 100% of all groups of paying customers during peak hours. Include questions related to wait times and frequency attending our facility.
Key Result 4: Complete discovery including identifying the scope, cost and estimated time for deployment associated with implementing a software solution to address the issue of long lines.
The Objective in this example is action oriented, significant and concrete and it serves as an opportunity for discussion when definitions within the objective are unclear and open to interpretation.
Key Result 1: Serves to validate our hypothesis that staffing two employees during peak times will reduce wait times.
Key Result 2: Serves as a way to observe the potential root cause of the issue. It also serves as an opportunity to record our findings and to validate the outputs for our first key result.
Key Result 3: Serves as a way to measure output and if executed properly, it also serves as an opportunity to collect customer data for the purposes of marketing and customer engagement.
Key Result 4: Serves as an opportunity for a group of software professionals to collectively put their heads together and come up with a solution that may or may not involve QR codes.
Throughout my career I've been fortunate to coach and work with many talented teams on the principles of goal setting and processes. I’ve worked with executives, engineers, designers, product professionals, marketing, sales and every profession in between, and if I’ve learned one thing, it's that individuals are not always aligned. You could ask a group of ten individuals to paint a beautiful landscape with trees and water and you will get ten very unique variations.
OKRs serve as mechanisms for alignment and problem solving and they help to establish better organizational goal-setting and collaboration. OKRs are worth considering if your organization has reached a point of scale where everything is a priority. OKRs however are not one and done; they do not serve as a one time project to support the narrative that our organization uses the OKR framework. They require repetition, commitment and discipline. They are improved over time and when properly executed they help facilitate outcomes over outputs.
“Ideas are easy, execution is everything”
~ John Doerr
About the author
Jim Apodaca is the founder of Apodaca Consulting and an industry professional with over 15 years of experience in the areas of product development, project and operations management. Jim has a leadership background in SaaS start-up and fortune 1000 enterprise organizations and he has lead teams and organizations through various stages growth including the implementation of OKRs, scrum and the development of PMO center of excellence.