WorkBoard at Workday
CEO & COO
Business Process Owner:
Chief of Staff to COO
Enterprise-wide platform and OKR coach certification
Outcome aligned, amplified entrepreneurial DNA
WorkBoard CEO Deidre Paknad sat down with Greg Pryor, SVP, People & Performance Evangelist at Workday, to talk about how they’re using OKRs to accelerate growth. Greg talks about why OKRs are important, what impact they’ve had, how Workday harmonizes individual goals with team OKRs, and the primacy of teams to organization performance.
Deidre Paknad, WorkBoard CEO: Greg what drew you to OKRs?
Greg Pryor, Senior Vice President, People & Performance Evangelist at Workday: I think for where Workday was in our growth strategy it was definitely time to really think about how we operate at that next level of growth, how we operate in a broader context. And so, for me OKRs were really a tremendous opportunity to do a couple of things. First of all, to help us align and really concentrate our forces against those things that would matter most, become clear-minded as it relates to these things.
I think second, to help us really think about it from a team perspective: How do we align, enable, and support our teams to think about the most important work? And finally, I think, how do we advance accountability? How do we use OKRs as a forcing function?
Where did you start and what was takeoff like?
We all had a pretty good sense that we were going to need to be clear minded about how we aligned and did our work. It really started with our executive team and individual conversations with our CEO, our Chief Operating Officer, our Chief People Officer, and our Chief Product Officer. We were having a similar set of discussions on what would be the best way for us to really align and focus our intentions as a company, and enable everyone to participate in that — all 12,000 employees.
It started at the top of the house, with our most senior folks coming together, appreciating that we needed a set of principles to help us operate in this new growth space. And then it was very organic. And I would say that OKRs have been very natural for us. The way our culture works, the way we enable a focus on teams, the way we empower and enable individuals, the fundamental philosophy of OKRs felt very natural and similar, I think, to our culture.
WorkBoard has been an essential part of putting OKRs into practice; it makes them part of the cadence of our business.
People were excited, energized, and happy to have new platforms, and new capabilities to collaborate and contribute together.
We had a bunch of really neat Saturday and Sunday learning sessions with Deidre — she was a wonderful coach, and helped us think about how we could be more capable. And we went to school for many hours and explored and identified a lot of different ways to think about communicating and aligning on outcomes. And we landed at a place that was natural for us.
We introduced it to the company in a company meeting. I had the privilege to join Jim [Bozzini, COO] on stage following Aneel’s [Bushri, CEO] introduction and talk about why it made sense for us, what were we trying to accomplish, how were we enabling our people to all be successful and to all see how their great contribution fit into our company aspirations.
We outlined our six company OKRs. Our whole company could see that our senior leadership team had used them to help clarify, crystallize and focus our attention, and that was really cool. It didn’t feel like some external bureaucratic process. It felt like a way that we could collaborate more successfully and do that at scale and across the company.
Let’s talk a little bit about teaming with OKRs and lateral alignment and how you’ve harmonized this with individual performance management at Workday.
There are three very discrete and specific ways to think about strategy to execution. You’ve got the organization strategy and organization layer. OKRs at the senior leadership team levels set a beacon and blueprint for what we wanted to go accomplish, and then enabled the organization level teams to localize that.
Localization to teams versus cascade to individuals was very intentional. Our goal was to inspire, enable, and engage our teams. We’re now seeing — and one of the reasons that OKRs are so powerful is — that work is increasingly done through teams or teams of teams.
I believe that teams are really the new point of organizational primacy. It used to be the role, the individuals, and now the reality is it’s networks or teams.
At Workday, we identify and localize OKRs and the work at the team level. At the end of the day, a team owns the outcomes we’re trying to achieve and accomplish at the local level. At Workday, we keep our team OKRs in WorkBoard — it’s the platform we use.
And then we look at our individual contribution, and our talent management practices, or what we call performance enablement in Workday. And that is a nicely related, but also independent practice. And I do think getting those two practices to be synergized, to be both independent and interdependent at the same time, is really important.
Our goal was to inspire, enable, and engage our teams.
We’re now seeing — and one of the reasons that OKRs are so powerful is — that work is increasingly done through teams or teams of teams.
Three words that would describe or characterize the impact of the practice and platform over this past year?
I would say aligned, accountable and enabled. How do we work together to align? How do we each hold ourselves accountable? And then ultimately, how do we enable? I really think it has helped us concentrate forces and align around those things that matter most. I think it’s helped each of us maintain a level of accountability in what we commit to, and how we now practice that in the rhythm of our business. And then I do absolutely believe it’s enabled our teams to operate better. It’s enabled individuals to collaborate more effectively. It’s enabled us to operate as a stronger organization.
One of the fundamental shifts with OKRs is outcome mindset — the shift from a list of deliverables, of tasks to do to clarity on why we would do it, right? Talk a little bit about your journey to an outcome mindset over the past year.
We absolutely knew that the shift from output to outcomes would be an interesting part of our journey, and a muscle that was important and exciting for us to build. In the earliest days of the company, our early entrepreneurial years, it was not about outputs — it was all about outcomes. Did I have customers that bought? Do we have people who are using our technology, are people evangelizing to other prospects? Are we able to see the innovation in real time?
As the organization gets bigger, people lose a sense of the outcomes they create for customers. This journey has reinvigorated our entrepreneurial spirit and the focus on the outcomes we create rather than the outputs. It has actually reinvigorated a core part of our DNA. In the early days we were really focused, because it really mattered as a young organization. If you weren’t getting those outcomes, if people weren’t buying, if you weren’t generating revenue, if people weren’t in love with your product, nothing else mattered.
And as we’ve grown, the average workmate gets further and further away from experiencing the twinkle in the eye when a customer says, “I love that feature.” Here’s how it makes a difference in our business. It’s re-sparked one of the factors that always made Workday a great place to work. And it’s been pretty cool to see. It’s a little bit hard to get that back once you fall into an output mindset, and become too focused on activities. I’m personally very excited that we have gotten that spark back, that twinkle in our eye around outcomes.
WorkBoard as a platform enabled and provided data to support the process?
WorkBoard has obviously been an essential part of putting OKRs into practice; it makes them part of the cadence of our business. People were excited, energized, and happy to have new platforms, and new capabilities to collaborate and contribute together.
And I’ll tell you a little funny story: we accomplished a pretty big outcome that we had set out as OKR, and the team went to WorkBoard to click “yes, we’ve done that,” and then to see the confetti and the celebration around that... it’s a little geeky, but people love that.
They want to say, “Yeah, we set out a bold aspiration to accomplish something.” And we literally joined around this individual’s screen as she identified our collective accomplishment, and then we had a little celebration. So, that idea of celebrating, of accomplishing together, of being able to see that and publish it, has just been really super.
As the organization gets bigger, people lose a sense of the outcomes they create for customers. This journey has reinvigorated our entrepreneurial spirit and the focus on the outcomes we create rather than the outputs.
It has reinvigorated a core part of our DNA.
Let’s talk more about “team of teams” and team enablement. I find team OKRs enable great decision making and, in a sense, democratize good decision making broadly through the organization. How you think the future of work teaming and work unfolds?
From a future of work perspective, we will increasingly see the democratization of work, maybe even the uberization of work. We’re going to be able to curate bodies of work to our people, based on their skills, career interests, capabilities, and connections.
One of the things that I really believe OKRs and the platform allow us to do on a quarterly basis is re-imagine great and re-think work. What do we want to accomplish now? I believe it’s going to enable teams of teams to come together faster and more thoughtfully. That it’s going to be a platform to help us build more agility within organizations.
I think that investing in OKRs as a set of principles and a platform that enables people to collaborate against outcomes in different ways, I think it’s the way we should all expect to work in the future.
Ultimately our organization needs to be as dynamic as the markets that we operate in.
Bureaucracies and hierarchies are increasingly becoming a constraining factor for how dynamic we can be. And at least for us at Workday, moving to a quarterly cadence, changing the fundamental rhythm of the business to be focused on more of these three months intervals begins to prepare us and builds new muscles to exercise our ability to operate in a much more dynamic environment. So, it’s still early days but these are the skills — what we would call the mindset / skill set / tool set — that organizations are going to need to increasingly operate in dynamic markets.