Communication, OKRs, and Governance
What countries can learn from companies?
Like everyone, I complain about Covid restrictions. But more than the restrictions themselves, the poor communication of our leaders is disturbing.
For instance, when French President Emmanuel Macron announced a curfew from 9pm to 6am on Oct 14th he didn’t explain why. Why France would do a curfew from 9pm, Italy from 6pm (except on Sundays!), Spain from 11pm, and Belgium from 10pm? Leaders must have their reasons, but as they don’t explain them, we don’t understand their decisions, which seem arbitrary, or even stupid.
A few days after Macron announced a 9pm curfew there were rumors of a 5pm or 7pm curfew. 6 days later, on October 20th, Macron gave an interview to reassure citizens: they didn’t have to fear a new national lockdown, it wouldn’t happen again.
Today, 8 days later, Macron announced a national lockdown.
The uncertainty and the constant changes are depressing. The lack of alignment is also said to be the cause, inside the government, of the disaster of the crisis.
In companies, OKR is the miracle solution to this problem of communication and alignment. Objectives and key results (OKR) is a goal-setting framework for defining and tracking goals and their outcomes. They became famous at Google, as a “management methodology that helps to ensure that the company focuses efforts on the same important issues throughout the organization”. They’re now used by most startups.
In OKR, you have a couple of ambitious goals, set for a given time period (one month, quarter, year…). Their success is measured by a set of metrics, the “key results”. Imagine you’re the coach of a soccer team, your OKRs might be (source):
Objective: Win the World Cup.
KR1: Average scored goals rate of 2.0 throughout the tournament.
KR2: Average conceded goals rate of 0.5 throughout the tournament.
KR3: Ball possession rate of 75%.
It seems simple. But it works. The whole company knows the overall goal and is aligned behind it. Clear key results measure whether this goal is reached or not. You can also cascade the Corporate OKRs down through the company, to department heads, managers, and individual employees who take ownership of specific key results from those above them in the organization.
OKR provides alignment, focus, and accountability. What lacks in most governmental Covid messages. Here is a hypothetical example of Covid OKRs for a government:
Objective: Crush Covid by the end of 2020
KR1: Fewer than 5,000 new cases per day
KR2: Fewer than 5% share of positive tests
KR3: Fewer than 50 deaths per day
If a whole city, region or nation understands these OKRs and is aligned behind them then I think it would be easier to accept restrictions. If your goal is to have fewer than 5,000 new cases per day and the number of cases per day keeps increasing then as a citizen you know something has to be done. If leaders want new restrictions they must explain how they will positively impact the key results. You then follow these key results every day and quickly react if things don’t improve. OKR forces you to be more transparent and clearer in your communication because you precisely measure your performance against simple key results. It’s clear whether you’re succeeding or failing. Could OKRs work for governments? Some say yes, others think it’s a big mistake. We have nothing to lose and should give it a try!
What do you think? Reply to this email to answer privately!