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5 Steps to Building Your Best Startup Strategy with OKRs in Asana

Get measurable results out of your high-performing team


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Amir Emadi

a year ago | 4 min read

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” — Peter Drucker

In the early 1950s, Peter Drucker developed a concept called Management by Objectives (MBO). It’s basically a way to develop goals, which connect a company’s bigger vision to the immediate tasks that help achieve that vision.

This management process has since evolved.

When Andy Grove founded Intel, he built on Drucker’s concept into Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). Since then, companies like Google, Amazon, and task management software company, Asana, have been using OKRs at every stage of their growth.

The tools that encompass OKRs have since evolved as well.

Since 2010, software that’s dedicated to OKR structures have been on the rise. Each has its pros and cons. But you might already use Asana or a similar task management software. So, switching over to something like Perdoo, which is specifically dedicated to OKRs, might be low priority or not conducive to the rest of your operational model.

If that’s true, then this is for you: I’ll run through OKRs and accountabilities, and how to plug it all into Asana.

1 — Identify your functional areas

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” — Peter Drucker

One of the first things you need to know is who’s doing what in your startup. I understand you wear many hats in a startup, but I’m stressing the importance of swim lanes here. You need functional areas for which individuals are responsible and held accountable.

There are free tools like the 6FC™ from Aha to Exit that help you think through an early stage startup’s organizational chart. Models vary, but this one includes the following functional areas:

  1. Strategy
  2. Operations
  3. Guerilla Marketing
  4. Finance
  5. International Business
  6. Research & Development

I had a simpler model in my last startup. One of my investors had recommended it, saying,

“The CEO reports to the board above and oversees four areas below.”

  1. Product & Tech
  2. Sales & Marketing
  3. Service Delivery
  4. Shared Services

2 — Establish your mission, objectives, and key results

In my last startup, I knew I was building to exit. The trick was ensuring I built value for customers so that my company would be valuable for acquirers. This all got tied into my mission statement:

“Sell company to [buyer], by [date], for [price].”

Your own mission will be different. It might be 100% sales oriented:

“Achieve $100k in revenue by January 2022.”

That’s fine because now you can build out objectives:

“Close 10 customers who pay $10k each by October of 2021.”

And break that down even further into key results, one of which could be:

“Build a list of 100 enterprise level prospects by March 2021.”

It’s important to know your mission. Knowing where you want to be a few years from now will help you narrow your efforts onto the activities that help you effectively achieve that mission. If your startup is later stage, then you’ll have missions for each functional area too.

Andrew Beebe has a refreshing extension to this concept in his article on OKRs, in which he explains how to create “a clear articulation of purpose and values.”

3 — Accountabilities

Now that you have your organizational chart and goals, you need to assign responsibilities to the individuals in your company. (This assumes you’re not hiring or onboarding anyone new.)

In project management, there’s a tool called a Responsibility Assignment Matrix (or a RACI Chart). RACI stands for who’s:

  • Responsible
  • Accountable
  • Consulted
  • Informed

As this article explains, each role is different:

  • Responsible is the person doing a task
  • Accountable is the person who owns the task and will report on its completion
  • Consulted is the person who helps guide that performance
  • Informed is the person who’s just kept aware of the task

I like to say Accountable and Responsible are like Batman and Robin, respectively. Robin might be sent out to stop a particular bank robbery, but ultimately Batman gets credit or blame for the protection of the entire city. And Inspector Gordon is the man kept informed, sort of like a silent board member. Gordon is usually someone who needs Batman to do something so Gordon could continue his own work.

What I mean is the person kept informed could be a teammate who’s waiting for you to complete your task in order for him to start / continue his. Asana gives you the ability to shine that bat symbol on a particular task and to shut it off when that task is done.

4 — Organizing them into Asana

Let’s recap what we gathered:

  1. Functional Areas — roles and responsibilities in the organization
  2. Mission — long term goal for the entire startup
  3. OKRs — smaller goals to achieve the mission
  4. Metrics — performance measurements to track your goals
  5. Accountabilities — who’s responsible, accountable, consulted, informed

Mapping them into Asana looks like this:

  1. Functional Areas — In brackets
  2. Mission — Project
  3. OKRs — Tasks and subtasks
  4. Metrics — Dates (and inside task lines)
  5. Accountabilities — Assignees and task followers

5 — Explanation…don’t complicate it

The above image shows a breakdown of OKRs for my research and development team to create a product feedback loop with customers in the field.

You’ll notice I added categories in the first section, under the vision. These were merely placeholders to explain what functional area each numbered objective referred to. For instance, Objective Category 1 refers to Operations, and in this context means getting our product integrated in the field to learn how customers used our technology.

This way of organizing allowed me to really break down all the heavy work into actionable steps.

Developing a strategy using OKRs, plugging them into Asana, and then maintaining a usage of Asana throughout your execution can all seem daunting. So take it one step at a time.

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