Sound Bites

IBM's First Quarter with OKRs

with Nanci Taylor, VP of Business Agility at IBM

Nanci Taylor

Nanci Taylor, VP of Business Agility at IBM: When we first started, it was a surprise to go through the process of creating those objectives and read what people thought was a good objective versus what was really a good objective. I’d read them and scratch my head. As a leader, I want everyone to succeed and want to jump in to point out what’s not working. The careful coaching from WorkBoard gave me the direction to let the teams go experiment.

We also learned that you don’t need the full 90 days to realize that you probably didn’t nail it right — you know after one or two weeks. The teams know it probably before you do, and then when they show up in a business review, they’re a little bit reserved about telling you where they are, because they know they haven’t written the best key result or objective. You can learn quickly whether you’ve done something really great, whether it’s okay, or whether you have to sharpen your pencil for the next go-round.

Another learning was that it’s vital to empower people to let go of something if it isn’t delivering. A few weeks in, I had a few conversations where I asked, “Is this the right thing for us to be spending our time and effort on; can you show me how it ties to the strategic objectives?” And there was some anxiety when people realized it didn’t tie, but all I had to say was,” Let’s pause and shift the capacity elsewhere.” — and there was a huge sense of relief. They knew it didn’t tie but weren’t sure if I knew it. Once it’s out in the open that we all know, we can repurpose our capacity and deliver something different.

Nanci Taylor

Hear the full interview: Nanci Taylor, VP of Business Agility at IBM, talks about aligning on strategic imperatives, competing to win, and better business reviews. She explores the Capacity-vs-Ambition Gap and how sharp focus on it drives smarter decisions and outcomes.

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