"The forgotten cousin of OKR that could make it 10x better: Practical Ways to Earn Respect as a Product Manager"

Aviral Vaid

Hatched by Aviral Vaid

Nov 13, 2023

3 min read


"The forgotten cousin of OKR that could make it 10x better: Practical Ways to Earn Respect as a Product Manager"

In the world of goal-setting frameworks, OKR (Objectives and Key Results) has gained significant popularity. It is widely used by companies to align their teams and track progress towards their goals. However, as a product manager, I have often found that OKR falls short in certain areas.

One of my main criticisms of OKR is that it fails to capture how my work as a product manager directly relates to the company's goals. It focuses more on the outcome rather than the process. This lack of clarity can lead to confusion and a lack of motivation among team members. Without understanding the bigger picture and how their work contributes to it, employees may feel disconnected from the company's mission.

Furthermore, OKR does little to ensure focus and maintain alignment as a company. It provides a framework for setting objectives and measuring results, but it doesn't offer much guidance on how to actually achieve those objectives. Without a clear roadmap and actionable steps, teams may struggle to stay on track and deliver meaningful results.

Another issue I have with OKR is that it often feels like an unnecessary administrative task. It can be time-consuming to set and update objectives, especially when the connection to the company's goals is not entirely clear. This extra administrative burden can take away valuable time and energy that could be better spent on actually improving the team's ways of working.

So, what can we do to address these shortcomings and make OKR 10 times better? The answer lies in incorporating a forgotten cousin of OKR - the Department of Product's practical ways to earn respect as a product manager.

One practical way to earn respect as a product manager is to actively participate in conversations with engineers, even if the technical details go beyond your expertise. By making it clear that you expect a non-technical summary at the end of the discussion, you not only stay informed but also demonstrate your commitment to understanding the key challenges and takeaways. This level of engagement and willingness to learn will earn you respect from your engineering team.

Furthermore, starting a new product management role without prior experience in a specific domain can be a strategic advantage. Without any pre-existing notions of how the industry "should" behave, you can approach problems with fresh eyes and think outside the box. This lack of knowledge can be turned into an asset by leveraging it to ask valuable questions and challenge the status quo. By doing so, you can gain respect as a product manager who brings new perspectives and drives innovation.

Additionally, there are times when product managers need to be agreeable, patient, and open to different opinions when deciding on strategy or what to build next. However, there are also times when PMs need to apply pressure and assert themselves. One way to earn respect is by embodying the principle of "Get Shit Done" (GSD). By taking ownership, driving execution, and delivering results, you can establish yourself as a reliable and effective product manager.

In conclusion, while OKR is a popular goal-setting framework, it has its limitations. To make it 10 times better, we need to incorporate practical ways to earn respect as a product manager. By actively participating in conversations with engineers, leveraging a lack of domain knowledge to bring fresh perspectives, and embodying the principle of "Get Shit Done," we can enhance OKR's effectiveness and ensure that it truly aligns with the company's goals.

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