"The Forgotten Cousin of OKR That Could Make It 10x Better: A Problem-Solving Playbook"

Aviral Vaid

Hatched by Aviral Vaid

Sep 30, 2023

5 min read


"The Forgotten Cousin of OKR That Could Make It 10x Better: A Problem-Solving Playbook"


OKR (Objectives and Key Results) has become a popular goal-setting framework in many organizations. However, there are some shortcomings in OKR that prevent it from fully capturing the essence of effective goal management. In this article, we will explore the forgotten cousin of OKR that could enhance its effectiveness by addressing these issues. Additionally, we will delve into a problem-solving playbook that can sharpen your thinking and help you become a better problem solver.

The Limitations of OKR:

While OKR has its merits, it often fails to establish a clear connection between individual work and the company's overall goals. This lack of alignment can result in a loss of focus and productivity. Moreover, OKR may be viewed as an unnecessary administrative burden that provides little tangible benefit to teams. To overcome these limitations, we need to incorporate a complementary approach that emphasizes problem-solving and value creation.

Multiplying Value Instead of Solving Problems:

To become a better problem solver, it is essential to shift our mindset from solely focusing on solving problems to multiplying value. By considering the broader impact of a problem and its alignment with the company's long-term vision and strategy, we can prioritize effectively. Asking questions such as, "Is this problem merely a symptom of a bigger problem?" and "How impactful is this problem for the customers?" can help us assess the true value of addressing a particular issue.

Assessing the Impact and Importance of a Problem:

Understanding the reach, intensity, and user segment affected by a problem is crucial. The impact of a problem can be evaluated by considering the number of customers impacted, the depth of pain caused, and the specific user segments affected. This analysis allows us to prioritize problems based on their significance to the company's mission and the customers' needs.

Deprioritizing and Cost of Delay:

Sometimes, it is necessary to deprioritize certain problems to focus on more critical ones. Considering the cost of delay or the consequences of doing nothing can provide valuable insights. Some problems require immediate attention, while others may worsen gradually over time. By evaluating the urgency and long-term implications, we can make informed decisions about which problems to tackle first.

Thinking Beyond Product Usability:

The Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) framework encourages us to think beyond product usability problems. Understanding the customers' job-to-be-done allows us to identify their ultimate goals and aspirations. For example, when a user takes a flight, their intention is not merely to ride a plane, but to meet colleagues or attend an important meeting. By aligning our solutions with the customers' desired outcomes, we can create deeper value and differentiate ourselves from competitors.

Building a Deeper Moat for Your Product:

Creating a moat around your product is essential to maintain a competitive advantage. One effective way to build a moat is by leveraging network effects. As more people use your product, its value increases for each individual user. This positive feedback loop creates a barrier to entry for competitors and strengthens your product's position in the market.

Disrupting Your Own Product:

It is crucial to continuously challenge and disrupt your own product before someone else does it for you. By constantly seeking ways to improve and innovate, you can stay ahead of the curve. Imagining how a new, ambitious founder would pitch their disruptive solution can help identify potential weaknesses in your product and inspire you to make necessary changes.

Driving the Solution Discovery Process:

While problem-solving requires input from various stakeholders, the product manager plays a crucial role in driving the solution discovery process. By collaborating with engineers, designers, data scientists, and other stakeholders, the product manager can amass the necessary expertise to develop effective solutions. It is essential to foster an environment that encourages diverse perspectives and constructive criticism to ensure the best outcomes.

Feasibility and Diminishing Returns:

When evaluating potential solutions, it is important to consider their feasibility. A good solution should be desirable to users, viable for the business, and feasible to build with the available resources and constraints. Additionally, understanding the point of diminishing returns can help determine when to stop investing resources into a particular solution and explore alternative approaches.

The Importance of the Red Team:

In the process of evaluating solutions, it is beneficial to adopt the perspective of the Red Team. The Red Team exercise involves critically examining your solution as if you were the enemy, biggest critic, or competitor. By challenging your own assumptions and identifying potential weaknesses, you can strengthen your solution and mitigate risks.

De-Risking Assumptions and Delivering Value:

Identifying and de-risking assumptions is crucial to increase the chances of success. By understanding the riskiest assumptions and developing strategies to mitigate them, you can minimize potential setbacks and increase the likelihood of delivering value. Additionally, considering the smallest chunk of value that can be delivered allows for quicker feedback loops and reduces the time lag between research and implementation.


By combining the principles of the forgotten cousin of OKR and the problem-solving playbook, we can enhance our goal-setting and problem-solving capabilities. Here are three actionable pieces of advice to apply:

  • 1. Prioritize problems based on their impact and alignment with the company's long-term vision.
  • 2. Think beyond product usability and focus on the customers' job-to-be-done.
  • 3. Constantly challenge and disrupt your own product to stay ahead of the competition.

By adopting these practices, we can create a more focused, aligned, and value-driven approach to goal management and problem-solving.

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