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Monitoring remote teams

Bryan Zapata, CEO of Cidenet, speaks to us about the monitoring of remote teams through management by objectives and continuous conversations.

Cidenet has been recognized since its inception for growing constantly and responsibly; we have been always taking care of the principles of our company: To be close and transparent to our employees and clients, and to be clear with our vision.

Any company with a fast-growing like ours has faced the challenge to preserve its culture and to look for ways to measure the accomplishment of the goals and the professional growth of its employees, in our particular case, 5 years ago we counted on a team of 3 folks and now we count on a team of more than 50 folks. Because of that, we decided 18 months ago to look for a methodology that allows us to challenge our company to the accomplishment of the corporate goals, but where every one of our employees participates actively in the definition and the rating of those goals. Finally, we found OKRs and CFRs.

What are OKRs and CFRs about?

Companies are using to models of work where the CEOs and board members of the companies define long term goals, usually every year, and the folks have to look for a way to accomplish these goals without being aligned with them and worse of that, without the conviction to work for meet them. Also, the performance evaluation of the employees is based on an annual review, where the leaders of the companies sit with each of their employees to evaluate their performance subjectively based on the latest memories of the behavior of the employees. On this kind of review, the employees are just waiting for their annual increase. For changing this traditional method, the methodology of work based on OKR (Objectives and Key Results) and CFR (Conversations, Feedback, and Recognition) let every employee of the company to define its own goals aligned to the company’s goals, and to have worth constant conversations between every member of the team.

The core values of the OKRs in our experience are:

  1. Alignment with corporate goals.
  2. Focus on what matters.
  3. Measurables.

Every OKR is composed of an objective and its key results, and the key results are the way to measure the accomplishment of the objective. An example of an OKR is below:

OKR: Raise to “Exceptional” the rating of the software services we offer in our customer’s opinion.

KR1: Get 9 over 10 in the net promoter score.
KR2:  100% of the software products we deliver working in real environments.
KR3: Decrease the time for fixing bugs to 1 hour per month per employee.
KR4: The average time for attending any customer request must be less than 1 day (8 working hours).

The example above shows a clear goal looking for improving the perception of the customers over the software services offered by the company, and the rating of this goal is based on measurable key results, using tools like satisfaction surveys and metrics of the management for requirements and bugs. Furthermore, a corporate goal like this encourages teams like sales or operation to design goals aligned to it.

On the other hand, CFRs invites the company to have continuous conversations based on:

Bidirectional worth conversations, sincerity is the key to having this kind of conversations.
Early feedback, giving the opportunity to every people inside the company to improve their behaviors and results.
Constantly recognition of a good job, reminding us of the importance of showing the good things of the work to our partners.

The implementation of OKRs and CFRs lets the companies have open conversations inside everybody in the companies and help the folks to have evaluations not only based on numbers but based on behaviors.

How has been the process in Cidenet?

Theory can with everything, and reading very good books like “Measure what matters” by John Doerr who is considered the father of the OKRs, make us think the implementation of this methodology will be easy and the emotion can take us to think this methodology is the solution to everything related to performance evaluations and continuous monitoring (It happened to me); however, the intention is to tell how it has been this process inside our company. First the positive things:

  • We figured out the way to tell everybody inside the company the corporate goals and most importantly, we got all the company to be aligned with those goals.
  • The company speaks naturally about OKRs and CFRs (After 18 months) and know this is our system to define goals and to have continuous conversations with everybody inside the company; this meets our principle of being close and transparent.
  • Every day we count on recognition between our employees, it happens, in a natural way, and we use a digital tool like 15Five for this.
  • Being a technology-based company helped us a lot, we use digital platforms like 15Five to implement the methodology.
  • We created a culture that talks about quarterly reviews based on worth conversations, feedback, and recognition; different to what we did 2 years ago when we made annual reviews based on the concept of every leader of the company without, giving the employees the opportunity, to be sincere and to express what they think.
  • Our leaders inside the company have improved their soft skills for managing their teams; understanding the importance to show the employees the “why” for every action the do.
  • We know the state of mind of the organization and we can take early actions when it’s necessary.

Now, the opportunities for improvement over the process are below:

  • The leaders of the company must be the first ones in understanding the methodology and the first allies to insert the methodology inside the company. We took 1 year understanding this and it was pretty hard to align all the company with the corporate goals.
  • In the beginning, the definition of the OKRs has seen like an “extra-task” and the employees defined their goals just to meet a requirement. We are still working with the leaders, show them the best way to define goals, indeed, looking for a correct wording. The idea is to teach every employee inside the company to define good OKRs.
  • We re-define constantly the guiding questions for the CFR. This is pretty important for us because in our case we count on more than 80% of the company with the engineering profession, it’s important to give them tools for improving their soft skills to generate empathy with the folks.
  • We decided to change the period to define and meet the OKRs. Theory suggests doing it every quarter but we found this is a short time and we decided to define OKRs every 4 months. With that strategy, we count on coverage over 80% of the employees with OKRs defined for the period.

After all this path, I would like to give a list of recommendations based on our experience for every company that wants to use OKRs and CFR for creating a different culture for continuous improvement based on goals:

  1. Implementing this methodology requires decided support from the CEOs of the companies. This is going to work just if the vision of the CEOs is to work with a focus on the accomplishment of goals and constantly re-invention. You will find allies but also barriers and detractors; the only way to remove them is by having the support of the top managers.
  2. The first ones who should understand and profess the methodology should be the recognized leaders inside the companies. We literally should ride them to the “OKRs and CFRs” bus.
  3. It’s pretty important to have a software for supporting the methodology; a software with features for defining the OKRs with their KRs, to register the continuous conversation and make continuous recognition between employees. We use 15Five as our platform and we chose them over other software like Weekdone.
  4. We suggest making changes over the methodology according to your company’s needs. In our case, we made changes in the CFRs and OKRs cycles, and the quantity of OKRs defined every cycle.

Finally, I want to say that this methodology becomes more necessary on the time we’re living now because of the “COVID-19”, in our case, being close and transparent with all the employees is possible thanks to this OKRs and CFRs methodology. I can say we count on more than 50 employees working remotely, every one of them knows its responsibilities inside the company because we’re telling them every day the goals we’re working on. Although the methodology was not invented to manage remote teams, I can say it has helped a lot for maintaining our company culture despite the physical distance and to wake up every day looking for meeting the corporate goals that help us to transcend as a company in this time of organizational reinvention.

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