OKR: Objectives and Key Results with Carsten Ley – E96

Episode released on: 17. October 2022

OKR: Objectives and Key Results with Carsten Ley Customer Experience Goals with the CX Goalkeeper

The CX Goalkeeper had the great opportunity to interview Carsten Ley

LinkedIn Headline: OKR | Project | Agile & Experience Consultant | Keynote Speaker for Engagement & Getting things done


  • 00: Game Start
  • 00:29 Carsten’s Introduction
  • 01:28 Carsten’s Values
  • 01:59 OKR Definition
  • 04:27 from KPIs to OKRs
  • 11:15 Starting with OKRs
  • 14:31 ORK with an A at the end “Actions”
  • 17:49 How is it possible to steer, measure and ensure that the results get really achieved?
  • 21:08 The right culture
  • 23:25 OKR in Customer Experience
  • 27:18 The future of CX
  • 28:42 Book Recommendation
  • 29:14 Contact Details
  • 29:29 Carsten’s Golden Nugget

and much more

Guest’s Contact Details:

His book suggestion:

  • Inside Out by H. Manning and K. Bodine

Guest’s Golden Nuggets:

  • Don’t do things your people cannot take. I mean, go slow on the change management, just because there are fast topics like OKRs or AI topics for customers always measure the speed of the change management people can really digest.

Don’t do things your people cannot take. Go slow on the change mgmt, just because there are fast topics like OKRs or AI for customers always measure the speed of the change mgmt people can really digest. Carsten Ley on the CX Goalkeeper Podcast

#customerexperience #leadership #cxgoalkeeper #cxtransformation #podcast


Gregorio Uglioni 0:00
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the CX goalkeeper podcast. Your host, Gregorio Uglioni will have small discussion with experts, thought leaders, and friends on customer experience, transformation, innovation and leadership. I hope you will enjoy the next episode.

Ladies and gentleman today. It’s really a big, big pleasure. I am here with Carsten Ley. Hi, Carsten, how are you?

Carsten Ley 0:27
Hey, how are you?.

Gregorio Uglioni 0:29
Well, thank you very much. And thank you for taking time to discuss on the CX goalkeeper podcast about objectives and key results, but you are the expert in this topic. And therefore I think let’s start with the short introduction. And afterwards we go to the main topic. Carsten, could you please introduce yourself?

Carsten Ley 0:48
Yeah, and I’m from Germany. Originally. My name is Carsten Ley from South Germany. So I could also make the podcast here in German if we if we do but we do it in English, of course. I’m living since 10 years in Vietnam and Singapore and was working for different companies in project management and customer experience. And since three years, we run our own business transformation consulting companies, Asia PMO. And OKR,Asia previously, I was also in working in Mexico for Volkswagen and in Germany a long time for Deloitte Consulting.

Gregorio Uglioni 1:28
Thank you very much. And now we would like to learn a bit more really about you, Carsten and therefore, the usual questions. Question which values drive human life?

Carsten Ley 1:40
I mean, keep it short, keep it simple and keep it as direct as possible. Yeah. And I think that’s also how clients engage us for consulting. We are not, that’s why we don’t do really coaching because coaching is a little bit where you have to be more sensitive. I suppose we are. That’s why we are on the consulting side.

Gregorio Uglioni 1:59
Why don’t I and also, these questions are really short but extremely clear. And therefore let’s deep dive in our main topic. That’s OKR. And perhaps could you start with the definition? What are OKR?

Carsten Ley 2:15
Yeah, okay, it stands for objective and key results. And actually, we call it OKR A objective key results and action. I don’t know, maybe some of you also know that OKRA is a vegetable. So we call it the vegetable methodology, and it’s more from us. So there are three parts you set an objective is where you want to go, you set a key result how to measure it, and you do a lot of actions how to achieve that, right? So and they are the difference two KPIs is, is the objective because the key result, the measurable part is actually the same, like a KPI. Yeah, the big difference is that above this KR KPI, you send an inspirational objective in you lightning, people know in which direction you go, and why they should do something. So you’re not telling just somebody get 100,000 in sales, you also tell them why they should get 100,000 in sales, and for what you are using that if they achieve that. So it’s a little bit of more inspirational method. And the setup is also that you probably come up with the objectives, but you would ask your managers and later your team, so it’s more team based methodology to come up with key results and actions, right, and it’s not so top down so things can be discussed. That’s why we do it also in a workshop corrector. It’s not a one to one setup, like often they do in KPIs. So it’s a little bit of more inclusive, agile methodology and team based methodology, where you also have to stay the purpose of the numbers you want to achieve. And then you ideally, and that’s the a part, the action part, give people the freedom without micromanaging or giving the teams the freedom without micromanaging to achieve the key results and objectives. And what you do and the methodologies you weak you measure on a weekly or bi weekly basis. And of course, if people perform well, you will not micromanage. If they don’t perform well, you will ask them in so called stand ups, what works, what doesn’t work? Right. That’s a little bit what OKRs is about.

Gregorio Uglioni 4:27
Thank you very much. I think you gave a great introduction. And we have now quite a lot of topics to discuss or to understand better, and therefore I really like and enjoy this discussion. I know from our side of of the word Europe, that we are still quite a lot steered by KPIs and now you’re speaking about objectives and key results. Is there a way to move away from KPIs going in direction OKRs and I know this will be complete training. We have last few minutes, but perhaps So you can explain us the advantages and how to move there.

Carsten Ley 5:04
I made it for us, honestly, because we have clients in Europe and also in the US, but mainly in Asia. It’s not so location bound, it’s more industry bound, right? I mean, the more traditional the industry, the more they use KPIs, the more like new or agile or startup way the industry as the more they use OKRs. Right. So we see also a lot of companies in Europe now using OKRs. But why why why were there still a lot of KPIs around first, there is not really a push to say you need to do OKRs. I mean, it’s an agile methodology. And not every company is agile. Yeah. And if you if you know about waterfall project management, I mean, even sometimes in customer experience, I was running pMOS for customer experience in banks, often, the projects are very waterfall, right? I mean, you you implement something, and then you get a result, and there’s a plan for it. So why do you need OKRs? for that? No need? Right? So I would I would be very careful. Of course, I like OKRs a lot. But we also have clients who come to us who are very top down structure to our very bland structure, and who can forecast six to 12 months, right? So I always ask him, Why do you need au pairs? Mine? They come to us. They’re like, Oh, it’s OK. Ours, we want to try it. And we make a pilot with them. But the pilot we make with them is very result open. I might tell them, Okay, let’s try. Okay, ours. But we have now one big electronic clients, Japanese client? Yeah. They asked me why in the weekly team meetings based on OKRs. Their teams are not interacting, right, which is maybe one thing you should achieve, because OKR is for alignment, right? I mean, one of the main thing, why you want to discuss key result and objectives and the achievement in teams just because you want to ally. Now after four to six weeks working with them, I realized they all work very siloed every team member works almost alone. So I’m questioning them now after six to eight weeks, that’s really Okay, our work for you? Or shall we just stay in what you had before with KPIs? Because why would you force people to align and to discuss if they have nothing to align and discuss Right? Or if the culture is not really there yet? And then you also have to ask, and you know, change management very well? Do you really want to force people into change management? When things are going well, just to say, Oh, we ran OKR? Or you say no, it’s running? Well, everybody likes KPIs, and, and so on, right? Why? Why would you force it on people? Why would you tell people all you have to now discuss more, and I asked the client were to really the alignments happen? They say, Oh, the alignments happen in one to one meetings, when I said, How can I force now somebody’s not doing one to one meetings anymore? And to bring up everything in the group meeting if they don’t want it? Right. So I think we have to really understand what what works for companies OKRs, or KPIs. The other thing is what is a little bit of misunderstanding about OKRs, and KPIs, they are not mutually exclusive, we can run them together. So in a company, for example, in more agile or changing environments, like like, software development, or like product development, or even customer experience, let’s say we do Agile, we do a lot of iterations we try. We have two, three months, we try and then we check the results and Okay, ours works for that. And then you have maybe a factory floor, I would not bring OKRs to the factory floor. Yeah. Because, okay, ours also need a certain kind of commitment and a certain kind of engagement of the people. When I was in my last job before consulting, I was vice president of customer experience and customer service at Lazada. It’s Alibaba bought ecommerce, which was started by Rocket Internet, which some of you probably know, in the the region there.

And I was at the same time and charge for customer experience and customer service. And if you know both areas, you know that they are very, very different. Customer Experience is more like an agile, high qualified, project driven environment. And customer service is like a hotline factory. Even with we had 70 80% outsource we have very hard KPIs, right. I mean, KPIs on calling on, on on satisfaction and so on. Right and When you look at these two jobs, and the people who were there in customer service, this was a trap for people who wanted to work, but not really being engaged, they campaigned hours and then get home, a lot of them have families. And that’s okay. You have a lot of people who work like that. And you have to accept that. But I’m not sitting with my ces agents to gather every week and make a daily stand up or weekly stand up and ask them for improvements. Because they also say, I get so little paid here, it’s not my job to think about improvements, like a manager, right? I mean, you can do it voluntarily, but not for us. Now in the CX team, of course, this was very OKRs driven, where I wanted ideas from my researchers and from my managers and say, Hey, we have done this three months that what should we do the next three months? So even inside a company, you can decide which ones are more OKRs, which is a more KPI. It’s, it’s similar along, where do you use agile management? And where do you use project management? So traditional waterfall project management, it’s a very similar thought or which part is purely operational. Yeah, and which part is really innovative. And OKRs is a little bit more for the innovative part.

Gregorio Uglioni 11:17
It’s make it even more interesting, because you’re saying it’s for more than enough innovative initiatives. And it’s inspirational. Perhaps, could you make an example a tangible example that people can can really understand how to set up an OKR. How would you start How would you define that?

Carsten Ley 11:38
Yeah, I mean, the smart way how to set up OKRs is I mean, you always have to start somewhere with a strategy like Northstar mission vision strategy, right. And that’s also part we do a lot because a lot of power out is, especially startups come to us and say we want OKRs. And they even don’t have a strategy. Yeah. So they don’t know what they are doing the next two, three years. But how can you have one year or three months goals if you don’t have a little bit of vision and a longer thing? So we do the strategy with them first, right? And then for example, one of our clients happy fresh in Indonesia, it’s E grocery. I don’t know they are there are some also big E groceries in Europe, right. And they made it in a very smart way. Instead of what a lot of companies doing wrongly, they set the objectives app by sales, objective marketing objective operation objective, which kills the cross functionality and the alignment and working together and OKRs. This client set it up by value streams, right? One value stream was of course customer experience. Another value stream was they wanted to have physical happy, fresh supermarkets like Amazon goes to brick and mortar, they also went to go to brick and mortar, right. And then when he had done they had as an overall objective, like a value stream or yearly objective. In the value streams, we broke it down to quarterly. Yeah. So for example, happy fresh supermarket. I mean, first, you have to do subcontracting and basic research and whatever I mean, one quarter or maybe two quarters, preparation steps. And then when you have these objectives in the prep and save preparation steps, you break down the key results, two different teams. That means all the different teams work against this one objective. Yeah, and in the OPR tool, what they use, you can see who has to achieve what by when that the whole thing works together. So that was a very smart approach. Right? So what we also fully recommend not to set up Okay, our departmental structure, because agile doesn’t go anything by you know, when you do a squat or Spotify model or what you probably know you’re not working in strict departmental structure anymore. It’s possible I see a lot of OKRs which are set up like that, but it kills the idea. So if you do if you map out the value streams, so customer experience is another one right? So who works for customer experience, sales marketing, customer experience team, the front end drivers, and then you can say I take even the KPIs and call them K RS because as a consultant I don’t care for me K RS and KPIs. Maybe other consultants will tell you the same. But for me, K RS and KPIs are so similar. I mix them below the objectives as long as it is what clear what you measure, and as long as clear against which objective it goes. Right? That’s it.

Gregorio Uglioni 14:31
Super interesting, because in this case, you’re trying to eliminate the silos mentality, and all the issues that you have customer contacting the marketing department getting a different handling, than contacting the customer service, and all these different issues. It’s really, really interesting. And you mentioned something that that it’s also relevant. You said OKR A with actions. Could you please elaborate also a bit a bit on this “A”?

Carsten Ley 15:00
Yeah, I mean for us, okay, our KPIs are first planning tools, right. But blending, as we all know, doesn’t lead you to anything. Right. And, and I know that a little bit for from, from where I come from from Germany, Germany is very good on planning, but sometimes not so good and execution. In Asia, people maybe don’t blend so thoroughly, right. But they execute unbelievably fast. And then they just improve, right? It’s a completely different mindset here are where we live, right? So, for us, the OKRs is planning at the beginning of the quarter, but then you should, you should set them up very quickly. So we are also not a big fan to come up with a lot of clients, ask them, How can I get the perfect OKRs I say, it doesn’t matter if you have the perfect objectives and key results, it’s matter how you work against them. So what matters are your actions activity projects below. And then we measure the result of these activities or projects, right. And that’s also a mentality thing, because a lot of companies have Action Task Management, I mean, you know, towards like, monday.com, or asana and stuff like that. And people, and I was working for a bank in Germany, you know, I mean, you have like 20 tasks on your desk, and Friday 4pm, you go home, because you finished your tests, but you don’t have in your mindset, if you achieve the result, because it’s not your responsibility as an employee, your responsibility is to tick off this 20 tests. And that’s wrong in an OPR methodology in a more mature environment, we want everybody down to the employee responsible for results achievements. That’s why we have a connection between the overall objective, the key result, how we measure it, and the actual. So if you tell me, I’m in charge of marketing, and I did my 50, Facebook posts this this week, I will not tell you why Oh, please go home. You because You have done your 50. Facebook, have I asked you what is the result we wanted out of it? How many engagement how many likes how many qualified leads, and if you tell me Friday 1pm, you are way behind VBA be on this key results, then maybe you don’t go home Friday 1pm. Or you should not as a good employee, you should say, Okay, I did my task, but I didn’t achieve my result. And this is what we want to change. Now you also understand that with a certain kind of off like, very repetitive task, it’s not possible. That’s why we have KPIs because people are task oriented. But in a more qualified environment, or in an in an agile environment, you want people be responsible for results on all level.

Gregorio Uglioni 17:49
You did a great example that perhaps helped us also to understand that you mentioned this 20 Facebook post, and and based on Friday, you check that the tasks are done, but the results are not achieved. How is it possible to steer, measure and ensure that then the results get to get gets really achieved?

Carsten Ley 18:14
I mean, what what do we do in a three months normally, okay, three months, but you can do up to six months for not so agile a little bit slower result companies, right or more traditional companies. You have to agree at the beginning of the quarter, what is the metric or even like a KPI you measure against right? So if somebody asks tells me I can do 100 or 50 Facebook posts a week, then I would ask, What can we achieve with that, and then you give me an estimation, and a lot of staff fields, were also managers feels very uncomfortable with that. Because it’s very easy to say what you can get off your desk, but it’s sometimes very difficult to say what you can achieve with that. That’s why okay, I should also not be at the beginning when you introduce it. Bonus or performance because that hinders the Okay, I think so you want people to be bold, and say make a guess what you can achieve monthly or in the three months with real work, right? Make a guess. And if you don’t achieve it, and you have a good explanation for that it will not affect your performance. So be bold on that. Right. And, and that’s what we what we want to do, right? But what is very important is that what do you want? Do you agree at the beginning of the quarter should stay? So you cannot come after one month and say oh, suddenly I want more. So for me OKR is not only what a lot of people understand that some crazy startup founders, like Elon Musk say every year by companies goes to the moon or close to the Mars even they haven’t gotten to the moon yet. And I’m not sure if that’s still very, very motivating, right? I mean, if you tell every year we go to MRI scan every year you don’t go to the Mars, I mean, it’s a, it’s a what we call a very, very stretch target, right? It gets a little bit tiring. Or in companies, you know, they always say we want to be number one and you are in the top 20. Like, what do you say number one, it’s Give, give me something I can achieve, right? Or I can come close. And then I go to the next step. Don’t make it always so topspot. So what we want is that this is an agreement where we say, okay, you as a team, or ideally, as a team, or, as manager, you said, you can achieve that. Now we look week by week, you do your work, and we measure week by week, if you get closer to that, and then it’s a little bit of linear game. I mean, you can imagine if you have a three months, okay are after one month, you should be in around 30 33%. If it’s linear, sometimes you work a lot, and then it pops out. But in a linear game, if we do this weekly, okay, our reviews with our client. And after one month, I have a lot which stands still and 0%, then you would ask what’s happening there, right?

Gregorio Uglioni 21:07
Thank you very much. What you’re saying is it helps to create value continuously. And to drag that over, over over time. And basically, you mentioned several times on one side startups that you’re helping, but also, let’s say bigger companies, or established companies that are using them. And you mention one words that I think stand out, it’s also mentality, and in which type of culsture Is it possible, really, to leverage and exploit the power of OKR?

Carsten Ley 21:43
Yeah, I mean, you need a culture where you want, where you first want feedback from your people, right? I mean, even if, as a management or as a top leader, you sit there and you tell me your objectives for this year, and then I break them down with your team, I still want that the team can challenge you and say, Hey, this objective doesn’t make much sense. You know, in a lot of KPI or in banking environments, you even don’t know the top leader, you just get it trickled down. And you cannot say so we want a little bit, also a feedback culture, right. And the other thing is also, that it’s like, that’s like a deal between the teams and the leaders, right? I mean, if they agree on certain numbers on uncertain achievement, the team does the best to achieve that. But the leaders don’t come after one or two months and make the number higher, which I see in a lot of startups, right. I mean, they go, they don’t, so it should be a mutual deal. Right. The other thing, also very important on team level is, if, for example, after one month, we don’t see any achievements, we would challenge the team to change their actions or to change their activities. So you need a very high flexibility. I mean, in this in this electronic client, where I have at the moment, I asked for a change. And they said, Yeah, they need now to three weeks to discuss if we make the change or not. And I’m like, you know, that’s even big companies can be a little bit more startup like that. You say, Okay, we realize we went in the wrong direction. Let’s stop it. Let’s do something completely else. And, yeah, and a lot of companies cannot do that yet.

Gregorio Uglioni 23:26
Thank you, but I think this is in the direction we should go and adding on your target and clear vision of what we want and out to achieve that, now that we are coming to an end of this main topic OKR and actions, perhaps Ow, is it possible to leverage OKR oats in customer experience? And I’m really thinking about, we discussed really a lot about customer experience, but their results was in this surveys, customer satisfaction and so on, are not represented representing really everything that we are discussing, because it’s a lot of discussion, and less really doing what what’s your view on it?

Carsten Ley 24:05
Yeah, I mean, it’s very funny because we, we already did customer experience consulting and project financial management consulting when we started with OKRs. And then we realized, I mean, Project agile management is it’s helpful for the actions because we need to achieve it. Like strategy consulting is very important to know where you create the OKRs come from. And then we realize that normally we say in OKRs, you have up to five objectives, right? Maximum five objectives because you want to focus in a quarter on each level maximum five. Now, if you look at company level, there’s always a profit of objective. There’s often a productivity objective, right? That you want to make something faster or process better or whatever, right. And then, and then we see customer experience and employee experience objectives. Why? Because the question is always, what are you doing the next three months? What are you achieving the next three months. So if you are a customer experience focused company like happy fresh in Indonesia, of course, they have to do something the next three months, which gifts achievements, so the customer. So one objective is around customer experience. And then of course, now even more pushed in times of COVID. And all the crisis that people are leaving, you have as a fourth or fifth objective, the employee experience objective, right? Where you say, what do I do actively for my people the next three months, right. And this is where we have normally CX and E X objectives inside. And then we also do key results below. So CX, as we already say, maybe you have a customer experience department who takes some of the key results, but will also delegate them right to sales, to marketing to development. I mean, it’s the whole end to end customer experience. And in employee experience, I’m very worried that not HR takes all the key results that also other teams take key results, right and are responsible to lift the employee experience. Right. So that’s, that’s where it comes together. And what is very funny, when we come up with this question, sometimes when we go to the OKRs, and say, Where is your customer experience? One, right? It’s your employee experience? Well, sometimes you get a very honest answers, especially from startup founders, we are not doing anything for customer or employees the next three months, which is not bad, but it’s just very honest. So the team knows that the next three months are mainly internal or sales focus, especially in a crisis situation, right? I mean, maybe you really, almost go bankrupt, right? Then you say, Okay, we really the only thing is sales and productivity. And that’s it. But naturally, in a long run, there should always be a customer experience objective, especially when a company tells you in their culture and blah, blah, blah, mission, we are customer centric, and you know that they tell you they are customer centric, and then you see nothing and do gas, and you’re like,

Gregorio Uglioni 27:18
yeah, thank you, you brought a lot of clarity around. Okay, OKR. And now we are coming to the last question that I have in on this main topic. Let’s close our eyes and think we are in 10 years from now, what we are discussing about in customer experience.

Carsten Ley 27:37
10 years is difficult for me, because in Asia, we are a little bit fast on that, right. What we see in customer experience, maybe the next two, three years is a lot of technology intake, which we already see. I’m still not sure if the customer wants to all that, right. I mean, maybe you’re right, it takes up to 10 years. So technology will take or AI chatbots automated answering a lot of self service, which I mean, I’m 47 If you give me technology with self service, I still think it’s a bad service. Not I’m happy about a self service. But young people are probably more happy about that. So I think the next 10 years, there will be a very high technology push. And the main problem is not the technology, the problem is that people will adapt to that. And they you have to be very sensitive to go in the right pace. Maybe technologies may be faster, that people will keep up with the technology.

Gregorio Uglioni 28:42
Thank you very much. And now we are coming to the last three minutes of our game of this episodes. And there are three questions for you. The first one, is there a book that you would like to suggest to the audience that asked you during your career or during your life?

Carsten Ley 28:59
Yeah, what what helped me a lot lately because I was also doing the cxpa exam. I was very practical with a lot of give a lot of examples was the book inside out Yeah, it’s a customer experience book. Very, very helpful.

Gregorio Uglioni 29:14
Thank you very much. And if somebody would like to contact you, and I’m quite sure people will contact you because it’s really interesting what you’re explaining.

Carsten Ley 29:23
Yeah, it’s LinkedIn, Carsten Ley, or Carsten at Asia pmo.com.

Gregorio Uglioni 29:29
Thank you very much. I will put all this information in the contact details in the show notes. And the last question is Carsten’s golden nugget. It’s something that we discussed or something new that you would like to leave to the audience.

Carsten Ley 29:43
I think the same what I said in OKRs and in in the technology for customer experience, don’t do things your people cannot take. I mean, go slow on the change management, just because there are past topics like OKRs or or AI topics for customers always measure the speed of the change management people can really digest. Yeah.

Gregorio Uglioni 30:11
Thank you very much, Carsten, it was really a great pleasure to have you on the six goalkeeper podcast. I say thank you to you. Please stay with me. And to the audience. Thank you very much. It was again a great pleasure. And if you have any feedback, feel free to contact me or contact Carlton directly. Happy to share epic discuss, and happy to deep dive in some topics. Thank you very much. Have a nice day. Bye bye.

Carsten Ley 30:36
Thank you.

Gregorio Uglioni 30:38
If you enjoyed this episode, please share the Word of Mouth subscribe it, share it until the next episode. Please don’t forget we are not in a b2b or b2c business. We are in a human to human environment. Thank you

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