How to align Initiatives, OKRs, and Jira
In the world of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) you’ll often hear about ‘Initiatives’.
Initiatives are small-scale ‘tests’ or chunks of work that allow you to check the feasibility or potential value of a product, service, process or new way of working. Each team should set their own Initiatives, which are linked to Objectives and Key Results, on a regular basis (for example, every quarter).
The great thing about Initiatives is that they don’t have to work.
You heard right. In true agile fashion, no idea is a bad idea, you simply need to test it, fail fast if it’s not feasible or valuable and try something else. Or, even better, test it, prove it works and then implement it to help drive forward towards your company goals.
Are Initiatives the same as your day-to-day tasks?
Yes and no.
Initiatives do usually relate to the day-to-day activities you undertake as a team, but with one fundamental difference. They always relate to a company objective. In a company where OKRs are inherent, you’ll very rarely find a team accepting requests and working on projects that don’t align to the overarching company objectives.
So, the day-to-day activities they’re working on are usually their OKRs Initiatives. The team will sit down regularly to discuss their progress, share the results of any tests and check that their OKRs software is up to date. This way, anyone else in the business can login to their OKRs platform to get an accurate real-time picture of what that team is working on, and whether their Initiatives are having an impact.
Kicking off your OKRs journey
Most progressive teams use some sort of online project management tool to keep track of their work in progress. For example, Jira is widely used by agile teams to set and manage their day-to-day activities alongside daily stand-up meetings, regular status updates and product demos.
If your team uses Jira but you don’t align your issues and stories to OKRs, it’s not too late to start!
First, you’ll need an understanding of OKRs and how to implement them (we can help you with this). It’s critical that you have visibility of your company objectives before you begin. If you’re a CEO or senior leader, you’ll need to share your company objectives across the business if you’re serious about implementing your OKRs with success.
Once all teams are clear on the company objectives, it’s important that they are given autonomy to set their own Initiatives. This is important because it motivates teams to think outside the box and find creative solutions to solving common problems. It also means that each team can apply its unique set of skills and experience to testing the Initiatives that they believe will have an impact.
Finally, it’s critical that teams are encouraged to share their plans and thinking with other teams. This kind of cross-functional collaboration breeds creativity, productivity and efficacy!
Integrating Jira into your OKRs software
Once you understand the principles of OKRs, you’ll then want to align your activities in Jira with your new OKRs. The goal is that every issue in Jira can be attributed to one of the company’s goals.
For example, if one of your Jira stories focuses on an aspect of improving your ecommerce experience for customers, this might pertain to a company OKR about profitability or customer retention. In this way, you can align the story to the relevant Key Result there.
The integration of Jira into your OKR software is actually the easy bit! We’ve created an API that allows for seamless integration with Jira. So, every time you complete a story or issue in Jira, the relevant Initiatives in Just3Things will update their status automatically too. No more double keying of every update. All your stakeholders can see how things are going, and get notified about it too!
Why is this useful?
It’s so easy as a team to get sucked in to accepting multiple requests and ad hoc projects because they’re deemed ‘important’ or requested by a senior stakeholder. But until now, perhaps you’ve never had the tools to be able to push back on these requests? If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.
It’s notoriously tricky to prioritise ad hoc requests against your existing backlog of work. That’s where integrating Jira into your OKRs software can help. Whenever a request comes in, you’ll be able to map it against your current OKRs in progress and ask:
- Does it align to one of the core company objectives?
- Will it have a bigger impact than any of the existing initiatives we’re working on?
- What needs to stop to facilitate this new piece of work and what’s the impact?
- Who should own this request and who will be responsible for seeing it through?
If the ad hoc request aligns to your company objectives and is likely to have a bigger impact on trying to achieve them than any Initiatives you’re working on currently, it’s worth considering. If, however, it doesn’t do either of those things, it’ll be a whole lot easier to refuse.
Plus, as everyone in the company can get instant visibility of your Initiatives in progress (by logging in to their OKRs tool) they should be able to work through the process above themselves. This means they can come to a conclusion on their own, without needing to disrupt your workflow.
In this way, you can be confident that if someone comes to you with an urgent, ad hoc request, they’ll already have visibility of what you’re working on. So you can assume their request is going to be worth your time.
Mindset over matter
Is it really this simple to align your team Initiatives with Jira? From a technology perspective, it is. The bigger challenge is actually around the mindset change needed to implement OKRs with success.
We’ve seen many companies try and fail to adopt an OKRs framework because they didn’t fully understand how to use it, or they were reluctant to change, or weren’t committed to following the process. Similarly, very hierarchical organisations often struggle to relinquish their dictatorial approach in favour of more collaborative ways of working. But for OKRs to succeed, each team needs to be autonomous and accountable for its own Initiatives.
So let’s recap on what needs to happen if you’re keen to align your team Initiatives with Jira.
- Share Objectives across the company
- Provide a collaborative environment where teams aren’t afraid to try and potentially fail fast
- Map each story in Jira to the related Key Result it should be driving
- Any that don’t fit with a company OKR need to be prioritised or stopped
- Any time a story is updated on Jira, it’ll automatically update the status in your OKRs tool
- Everyone across the business will have visibility of each team’s Initiatives and progress
- Alignment, collaboration, transparency and a better chance of success will follow
- You’ve unleashed a secret weapon against low value ‘urgent’ ad hoc requests
Like the sound of this?
Get in touch to arrange a free demo of our OKRs software. It’s completely no obligation. We’ll answer any questions you have and provide training on how to get the most from our market-leading software.
Let us know if you’d like to find out more about integrating Jira with your existing OKRs software.