Time for the real work to begin

We’ve assessed where we are succeeding and where we need to improve.  We’ve worked out what we think success looks like in the long-run.  We’ve focused and communicated what our unique value is to our clients and community.  And we’ve laid out the culture we seek to create what we think of as the “GlobalNOC OS”, which serves as the base on which we build everything else.

But now, it’s time for us to get real and create the concrete results we need.  And so, we chose to set some goals for ourselves for this year to make sure we focus on the things we think are most important.

How we did it

Our 2019 OKRs narrow our focus on the things that matter, and ensure we accomplish the changes we need.

What are OKRs?

In this post, I’m focusing on the content of our goals more than the mechanics. But we knew we needed a way to organize our goals that would be ambitious, accountable, and simple.  We looked for a well-respected and proven mechanism for this in the tech sector.  The obvious first choice was the OKR method (Objectives and Key Results).  This is a system which has been used extensively by Intel, Google, and others. The general idea is to set a small number of objectives and define a set of known results for each.  Objectives are ambitious and strategic.  Known results have 2 main criteria.  First, they have to be specific and clear enough to be measured or evaluated.  Second, they are complete enough that doing well on them means you’ve done well on the overall objective. For anyone who who is interested, there are hundreds of resources on OKRs out there.  This site from Google is a good introduction, but the best resource I’ve found is the definitive book on the topic, Measure What Matters, by John Doerr.

Setting our Objectives

The first step here was deciding what objectives were most important.  What are the top level things we need to pull off this year?  For this, we kept it simple.  We’ve got 3 goals for the renewal program: Becoming indispensable to our clients, unlocking the full potential of our people, and becoming one of the community’s leaders in network automation.  This makes for 3 meaningful and clear objectives.

Key Results – Concrete Outcomes we need

This is the area where we spent the most care and time.  We know what we need to improve.  For instance, we know that we are seen by our clients as too slow and that we don’t communicate well enough with some of the projects we do.  We know that our expertise broadly across all our teams should improve, and we want our staff to develop new skills to help our clients and the community with new technology.

The exercise of setting concrete results ended up being a great way of focusing in on what’s really important and making a commitment across the GlobalNOC to change.  It’s also a great guide for projects.  “How do we achieve O1/KR2?” is a great way to get people thinking about projects that will matter.

Here They Are – Our 2019 Goals

After all that, below is our list of objectives.  This isn’t some kind of marketing material, it’s the unfiltered list of what we think is most critical for the year.  If you’re someone outside the GlobalNOC, some of this may be a little obscure to you.  Still, our new Rule #5 is “We’re Open” and so we’re being as open as we can with our plans.

Objective 1: Become Indispensable to our Clients

  • O1/KR1 Responsiveness: Reduce the number of dormant tickets across all areas older than 6 months to less than 15%
  • O1/KR2 Speed: Reduce % of respondents citing “slow” in client survey by 40%
  • O1/KR3 Transparency: Give each client visibility into measures for time to completion for all of their tickets, requests, and projects
  • O1/KR4 Communications: Increase % of respondents rating their visibility and awareness as very good or excellent by 40%
  • O1/KR5 Engineering Expertise: Reduce % of respondents citing “lacking in expertise” in client survey by 40%
  • O1/KR6 Feedback: Improve client satisfaction on a per project basis by 20%

Objective 2: Unlock the Full Potential of our People

  • O2/KR1 Career Advancement: Cut in half the total % people in the GlobalNOC dissatisfied with their career opportunities
  • O2/KR2 Performance Feedback: Cut in half the total % of people in the GlobalNOC dissatisfied with the quality of feedback they receive.
  • O2/KR3 Freed Time: Cut in half the total % of people in the GlobalNOC dissatisfied with their ability to pursue their own interests and expertise
  • O2/KR4 Training each Other: Perform at least 10 cross-team training events
  • O2/KR5 Engage the Community:  5 different GlobalNOCsters lead a highly visible community training exercise, presentation, or help lead a community effort

Objective 3: Become one of the Community’s Leaders in Network Automation

  • O3/KR1 Transformation: Automate 80% of all configuration changes GlobalNOC staff make to core L2/L3 devices
  • O3/KR2 Webinars: Perform 8 automation webinars, with increasing interest and attendance
  • O3/KR3 Presentations: Give 2 automation-related presentations at national conferences

What comes next?

First, we’re launching an updated client survey that we can use to set a baseline for all these measures (more on what we learned setting that up coming soon in another post)

With these goals set, we will be focused in the set of new initiatives and changes we will need to make to achieve these.  For example, if we want to reduce the number of clients who think we’ve got issues with speed, what do we need to change to get faster?  This could mean organizational changes, changes to process, hiring, etc.  In the coming weeks, this is where our efforts will move.