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Someone wrote that “without execution, vision is just another word for hallucination.” Whether you are planning to run a marathon, take a trip around the world, or advance your career, without execution your plan is only a dream. Once you get started, you need measured objectives and tangible results to keep you on track.
So, how do you make your development plan really happen? How can we make our goals motivate us? How to translate the current lifestyle into consistent goals?
Read on and find out how we at Predica use the Objective and Key Results (OKR) methodology to help achieve our personal development objectives.
The Objective and Key Results methodology is quite simple. It is a framework focused on setting the goals (Objectives) and then choosing appropriate measures (Key results) that will confirm you are getting closer to them.
Why is this method so effective? Setting goals and breaking them down into smaller steps increases our chances of achieving them:
In the context of organizations, OKRs are an established way of planning and executing a company’s goals in specified time periods.
Personal OKRs, on the other hand, are focused on your individual development. They may or may not be related to your current job position or professional career. Learning how to play the piano is a great example of a personal development goal!
Why set personal OKRs? Without setting goals for yourself, you may have trouble noticing that you’ve accomplished something great, or you may see it as something not worth appreciating. Personal OKRs, when executed, can become a significant part of both your professional success and the overall joy of living.
If you need inspiration, here are some examples of personal development goals you can set for yourself, depending on your role.
1. Objective: Become a confident English public speaker.
2. Objective: Increase my productivity.
3. Objective: Improve my expert image on social media.
Your objectives may vary in specificity but the key results should be as detailed as possible!
Now, let’s dive into the subject and discuss how to set and execute your own OKRs step by step.
Pick an objective that appeals to you. Ideally, something more specific than “I want to develop.” Goals that are too general are less likely to motivate us to work towards them.
Think about what you really want to achieve. Perhaps you want to become a recognized Azure architect or a better leader?
An objective should be ambitious enough to make you feel slightly uncomfortable, but at the same time be within your reach. The line between ambitious and unrealistic is very thin, and an exorbitant goal may demotivate you over time, so be considerate with your choice.
Your goal is the essence of all that effort that you are about to spend. Name it. Refer to it in your aspirations, role requirements, future assignments, and feedback from your peers.
The common problem you may encounter at this stage is simply having no idea what you want to achieve or in which direction you want to go. Don’t worry, just give yourself some time to think, and maybe look for inspiration from the people surrounding you.
Do not focus solely on your “development gaps” or “areas for improvement”. Elevate your talents! Discuss your thoughts and ideas with your team leader and seek further support and guidance from those around you.
Plan the steps (key results) that lead you to your objective. This will become your to-do list.
Take small steps. Keep them precise and tangible. Pick achievements that you can easily grab and show others (Hey, look, I did it!) and check off your list.
There is no rule as to how many key results there should be, but it is best to choose between 3 and 10, each being an independent measure.
Use an app to help you to track progress. At Predica we use the Paycor.com platform to manage our OKRs. Here is my list of key results to becoming a certified Professional Scrum Master:
When defining your key results, you may also try the strategy of the American writer, Kurt Vonnegut. He would first come up with the ending of the book, and then figure out what events were necessary for the certain finale to happen.
So, you should start from your objective, and move backward to the present day, writing down what should happen in order to achieve each of the steps.
Tracking is paramount to reaching your objectives. If you are planning on running a marathon, you can just run a whole lot, or you can use GPS and a heart monitor to push yourself harder and track your distance. The former makes it hard to build confidence; the latter gives you tangible and visible metrics that build your confidence.
Be sure to review your key results regularly to track your progress, manage your pace and effort, and seek guidance for your next steps.
Here is how Paycor visualizes the progress you’ve made, based on regular check-ins:
This is the way we plan individual development at Predica. But the methodology and tools are worthless without the people for whom personal growth is a top priority. I asked a few of our colleagues to share a few tips of what made them successful:
It comes down to being deliberate about your decision to learn, allocating time for it and sticking to it. Development is always a journey. No one gets it in one shot. And you can’t learn it all. There is too much information and not enough time. Choose a topic and stay focused. Don’t get distracted. Block your calendar for training time and make the effort to learn.
I graduated as a Pharmacist and my hobby eventually led me to the IT industry. I’m a husband and a father of three, but I always find time for what interests me. I always think about how I am going to apply my new skill and knowledge. I test it. Does it work in the way that it was described? This helps me to improve my skills and become a better consultant and project partner.
Do not overengineer things. Think big, start small and be agile. Instead of detailed long-term plans (eventually you will change them anyway, so why should you bother?), define milestones, take the first step, see the result and then adjust your next move. Building on previous experience, adding new bricks to an existing structure of knowledge. Learn by doing.
To finish the rally, you need more than just a map. You need a guide sitting next to you. Support of others – my project team, my colleagues, my leader – is critical. That means, learning new technologies, soft skills, facing challenging tasks, or preparing to for a difficult exam. What helps me grow is guidance, the occasional hint shared over the desk and frequent feedback.
For me, the most essential part is strong execution. Strong execution might mean many things, but for me, it’s pretty straightforward:
Stage 1: Define a destination:
Stage 2: Understand the first step:
Stage 3: Take the first few steps:
Stage 4: Calibrate
When I first started out as a Jr Consultant 13 years ago, I made a plan to start a company that will operate on 3 different continents. Even today this sounds farfetched. It took us thousands of hours and a huge amount of grit, but the most important was that we had gone through all the stages that I listed above.
As a side note, today we operate in Africa, Asia, USA, and Europe.
If you would like to learn more about the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) methodology, take a peek at this short video where Tomek Onyszko takes you through the basics:
You can also find other examples of how to apply OKR in your personal development planning:
I hope you found it helpful! Got any insights of your own? Share them in the comments. And if you’d like to experience this methodology in practice, join us! Visit our Careers page for current opportunities.
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