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Use OKRs to drive equity

2021-03-06diversity-equity-and-inclusioncompany-culturegoal-setting

Use OKRs to drive equity

This is a part of a series of posts on improving equity at your company.

Improving your company to make things more fair for under-represented minorities (and thus for everyone) requires sustained effort. It’s not going to be solved overnight, and it takes real commitment. The improvements accumulate over time, making things better and better. You’re fighting bias (which is built into how our brains work), and systemic issues that are pervasive and challenging.

What we did at New Relic was to essentially choose one thing a quarter to focus on improving. We’d take whatever we thought would improve things the most, and make an OKR out of it. We’d assign someone that work (be sure to rotate this), and they’d report on it each week just like every other OKR in the company.

Smaller things can be done faster than that, but for things that take real programs to make them happen, OKRs can ensure they get the attention they deserve.

One thing to be careful of politically: you are branded by the work you do, and people will often brand you as being whatever you’re spending time on:

  • If you’re a white male, this is a good place to use your stored up privilege. I find it useful to think of it as a bank account. You can’t use so much that you go into debt, because then you become less effective. But, for this bank account, you want to keep your balance low.
  • Whatever your background, it’s best to balance your focus, so you’re seen as both delivery focused, and process or culture focused. This is a good way to keep yourself effective and maximize the improvements you can make at your company.

At startups, the focus is usually on the company’s survival. You don’t want your efforts to be seen as competing with the survival of the company (even if the things you’re doing make the company better and more attractive to candidates). Delivery will always be the top priority of any engineering department. So having it be an OKR per quarter is a good way to make sure you’re committing to continual progress.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay