McKinsey and WorkBoard: Building a Digital Operating Rhythm with OKR Software

DEBORAH PETERSEN  ::  Strategy & Execution

WorkBoard CEO and Co-founder Deidre Paknad joined Daniel Eisenberg, an Executive Editor at McKinsey & Co. for a recent conversation that covered the genesis of WorkBoard, the imperative for digital inclusivity, and what enterprises of all sizes can learn from the constraint mindset of startups.

If you haven’t yet had a chance to listen to the latest McKinsey on Start-ups podcast, it’s one you won’t want to miss. This most recent episode about “Building a Digital Operating Rhythm with OKR Software” is now available wherever you get your podcasts including Audible, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google.

We don’t want to share too many spoilers, but here are a few key highlights you’ll hear more about in the McKinsey podcast.

Wanted: A Single Source of Strategy Truth

It was Deidre's experience working for a large enterprise that made her first realize the need for the kind of solution that ultimately became WorkBoard.

When IBM purchased a startup she had founded several years ago, she was surprised to find no single source of truth or system within the company to answer fundamental questions:

  • How is the company doing on its strategy right now?
  • What are the biggest risks?
  • Where are the biggest opportunities?
  • Is everyone aligned?

“I was trying to run it with the same speed and mission metric alignment that my startup had and I found it extraordinarily difficult. It was all manual and labor intensive,” she said. “I started to think of the labor that went into trying to drive alignment and get transparency as competing with our ability to create value for the business and for its customers.”

She surveyed dozens of other organizations and discovered that most had no single, cohesive operating system. “Every business and every leader has a strategy and urgency to achieve it, and very few companies have a single source of truth.”

Today’s CEO Imperative: A Digital Operating Rhythm

It’s 2022. Transformation is the business model. The fast and unpredictable shifts that have jolted companies nearly every quarter since the start of the pandemic, combined with the digital acceleration it brought on many fronts is changing the way organizations must operate.

‘“Startups are no longer the only companies that have to do that iteration. Every company had to iterate,” Deidre said. “In every industry sector, transformation is the business model.”

And during transformation, every organization resembles a startup, learning each quarter as it drives a new business model in new sectors and operates in new ways. The conditions in large enterprises look much like the conditions they have always looked in a young company trying to create a segment or a category or launch a new product.

With OKRs built into their operating rhythm, established companies can operate with the same velocity, iteration and scarcity mindset as startups, something that today’s market demands.

“OKRs are a technique for larger companies to operate with the same sort of notion of constraint of startups, and that constraint helps drive choices,” Deidre said.

The Future of Digital Inclusion and Collaboration

Software has traditionally served as a place where you input data, fill out forms, and then with the results of that data, perform the rest of the work offline. Today there is a wholesale shift in how we interact with software and what we expect it to do for us.

“We're online in a digital world all of the time, and there's an epic shift in how we want to interact with each other online, and how we want to interact together within the tools we use for our business,” Deidre said.

WorkBoard is focused on making such interactions inclusive to every stakeholder. There are opportunities to close the gaps between our understanding of the strategy and our execution of it, she said.

“I'm very excited about a set of things we are announcing later this quarter and later this year that make the interaction in software, the collaborative aspects of software, more inclusive and more fulfilling for every stakeholder,’’ she said.

“We will do some pretty novel things with respect to the experience of working together in software. And those are oriented around the notion of inclusion and making it more fulfilling to do the work we need to do together.”

Listen to Learn More

Hear the full McKinsey on Start-ups podcast “Building a Digital Operating Rhythm with OKR Software” on Audible, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google.

Download the full transcript.

To learn more about how WorkBoard can help your organization build a digital operating rhythm with OKR software, reach out.

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More Resources

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