WorkBoard at Secureworks
Business Process Owner:
Chief People Officer
Enterprise wide platform, program launch and OKR coaching services
Raised urgency, energy and accountability
Deidre Paknad, CEO of WorkBoard sat down with Stacie Hagan, Chief People Officer at Secureworks, to talk about how they’re using OKRs to drive new energy and urgency in the organization. Stacie talks about why OKRs are important in driving organizational alignment during transformation, how they foster both learning and accountability, and the impact at Secureworks.
Deidre Paknad, WorkBoard CEO: You’re a strategic partner to Mike Cote, Secureworks CEO, and I know this gives you a unique cross-organizational vantage point on the transformation he’s driving.
Stacie Hagan, Chief People Officer at Secureworks: In my role as Chief People Officer, I work very closely with the CEO to make sure that we’re aligning our resources effectively across the organization to achieve our objectives. Especially now, with all the change that we’re going through – and that I know most companies are going through.
The traditional role of HR has always been to make sure that we can attract and retain the right talent. But I think it’s much more than that. To really get that competitive advantage from your talent, you have to be sure that people are really focused and working together very, very effectively. That is much more of a systems approach to organizations, and the CHRO is in a unique role to look at the organization as a system and how all those parts are working together, while other leaders might be driving their geographical area results or their functional area. Having that holistic perspective is a critical role to partner for growth.
It’s increased our energy, urgency, accountability and learning.
What brought you and Mike to OKRs and WorkBoard?
We arrived at OKRs because we were suffering from lack of focus and we knew that we had to address that. And then our CEO read Measure What Matters and said, “This is it. This is the answer.” I actually followed — as did several of our executives — and read that book and realized that this is a tremendous opportunity to drive alignment across the organization. I had been working at this for several years and felt we just weren’t quite getting there. So I saw the OKR methodology as an opportunity to really focus and allow people to say no to some things that we needed to stop doing.
We decided to get started with OKRs by trying it out as an executive team, saying “if we’re going to ask the rest of the organization to do this, we should do it first.” We quickly learned that we needed some help. We thought: “We read the book, we get it, this should be easy.” Not so much! There’s actually a lot of learning involved, so we decided that for our first quarter, one of our OKRs would be to actually find a partner and find a tool — and that led us to WorkBoard.
As I first got to know WorkBoard, I had an opportunity to be certified in the way that they approach the OKR methodology, which was fantastic. It was a little bit about their app, but it was really about the methodology and succeeding at scale.
After looking at WorkBoard demos, we realized with demos of the app that we could really bring OKRs to life and make everything we were doing very transparent across the organization. That transparency is so critical to our people and to driving alignment that the WorkBoard approach and tool was definitely the right answer.
OKRs in WorkBoard helps us to drive alignment and transparency in a very agile way.
How did the organization respond?
The response to the OKR methodology has been a great deal of enthusiasm. The leadership team took it very seriously from the beginning. We quickly realized this is not as easy as it looks on the surface and there’s some learning here. So the first realization among the leadership team was that we have a lot to learn, and learning together is the whole point after all! We get better every quarter.
OKRs quickly became a part of our vocabulary, and you started seeing it in team meetings and monthly briefings and so forth — people incorporated this language. That was really exciting to see. It’s also been exciting to see how much others explore. What are the other people in the organization doing? What’s their focus this quarter? Why does it matter? How does it relate to my focus? That’s been a great learning and we still have lots more alignment to do and precision around that, but it’s now visible and it’s simply wasn’t visible before.
Another reaction that’s been a little bit surprising is, they don’t like to miss their OKRs, and when you have some OKRs in the red zone, it’s been interesting to see the level of discomfort that people have with that. And yet we want to make sure that they still set stretch goals and that we’re really trying to achieve great things together. So now we’re working to adjust our culture to “red means learning.” Red means we had a great opportunity to try something, and we learned a ton, and that’s going to make us so much more effective next quarter or the quarter thereafter. That’s a cultural shift that’s happening now as a result of this methodology.
Over the course of your first year, you relied on WorkBoard for alignment coaching and establishing your practice, as you built your own internal OKR competencies. Today you have a cadre of OKR coaches.
The people in our organization that participated in coach certification and the subject matter expert certification with WorkBoard really saw that as an investment in them, an investment in their business acumen, their skills, and their career development. So they considered it really an honor to be able to be trained and play this kind of role for the organization.
The WorkBoard team has been phenomenal. The coaches and engagement team are excellent, they’re terrific partners, and the platform is baked into how we grow the business.
How has the OKR program and platform affected the way you lead the people function at Secureworks?
Using WorkBoard and the OKR methodology really has changed the way I run my part of the organization. I used to have a every other week team meeting with my direct reports. We changed that to weekly because of the OKR methodology, and we shortened it. So we meet more often, but in shorter spurts. And we start with “Where do we stand on our OKRs? How are we performing?” We look at the ones that are falling a little behind or not quite on track. We look at how do we need to course correct. Sometimes we find that we actually need to let something go. HR is a support organization. So sometimes the things we planned at the beginning of the quarter don’t turn out to be the right priorities when there are needs that come to us from other parts of the organization. Having this methodology and that weekly discipline allows us to be very conscious about when we need to reprioritize and put our attention in other areas.
Our executive team uses WorkBoard’s running business reviews and we all use our phones to watch how we’re tracking on results. We have systems for updating our KRs on a weekly basis, so it’s real time. And that’s made a big difference.
What advice would you give to others who are trying to implement OKRs?
The OKR methodology, and the WorkBoard app along with it, have been the most powerful way that I’ve found to really drive consistent organizational alignment and rapid learning. The advice that I would give to others who want to try to take this on is: Dive in, but do it with absolute full commitment. This will not be as easy as it looks on the surface, but then again, alignment is worthy of effort. It isn’t easy and it isn’t working now! What I think is unique and powerful here is the combination of a really solid methodology with the platform that completely supports that and makes it transparent for the organization. In the past I’ve had one or the other, but having both is the secret sauce.
If you described in the impact in 3 or 4 words, what would they be?
The first is energy — the increase in energy in the organization as a result of the focus. The next is urgency because we are now aware that a quarter goes by very, very fast. A third powerful impact is learning. Using this methodology allows us to really institutionalize learning in a way that wasn’t happening at all before. If some groups learn something new, others didn’t necessarily discover that. This has allowed us to share those learnings more effectively.
A fourth word that captures the impact is accountability — that transparency and visibility of what we’re all trying to do holds us accountable. We’re accountable to our peers; we’re accountable to other groups in the organization. Really making accountability work in an organization is tough and this has such a powerful impact.
Our executive team uses WorkBoard’s running business reviews and we all use our phones to watch how we’re tracking on results.
What is your favorite WorkBoard feature?
Probably my favorite feature is the alignment view, where you can work through the organization chart and see what everybody’s working on. Or you can take a particular objective and a set of KRs and find all the others in the organization that are related to that. That has really helped us make sure that we have the sign off that we need and those cross functional dependencies are known.
Aligning the organization on strategic priorities also means aligning investments around those priorities. Tell us how you’re adjusting the budget and operating plan development cycle since adopting OKRs.
One of the great outcomes is we have completely changed the way we are going through our budgeting process for next year as an organization. I believe it is absolutely an outgrowth of the OKR work this year. In the past we found, like most companies, that budgeting was a painful exercise. I’m not going to say that it’s pain free now, but we used to do it in silos, and then we would bring those functional plans together and wonder why they didn’t fit very well or we would unfortunately surprise one another later in the year when someone had changed their budget and they didn’t have resources for something that another group really depended on.
This year, after moving to the OKR methodology, we have a united, iterative process – and we’re just better at thinking and acting with lateral alignment. It’s a fundamentally different flow. The agreements and the dependencies are being called out from the very beginning and the modeling’s done holistically across the organization. And I am convinced this is going to result in a far better product and plan that we can live with and that we can achieve than we’ve had in the past.