Weekend Reads: Empowerment, OKRs and Signal vs Noise

Some weekend reads for those in the world of digital, technology, organisational transformation and beyond.

Photo Credit: Valeriia Miller: https://unsplash.com/@iyamiphotography

One the key challenges for senior leaders within business transformations is how to truly drive decision-making and accountability down to a team level, whilst also providing ongoing context and strategic direction.

This empowerment is critical to agility, adaptability, talent retention, employee engagement and also unleashing the full potential of your people to achieve more, add greater value and also feel a greater connection to each other, the organisation and therefore the system as a whole.

Marty Cagan’s book, Empowered, is the playbook for this at a team and team leader level, but as he says within this posting on the Silicon Valley Product Group blog this week:

Unfortunately it’s not as easy as saying “just back off and give the people space to do their work.”

There are very real needs that senior leaders have in order to responsibly and effectively run the company.

And in order to push decisions down to product teams, those teams need to understand the strategic context, much of which needs to come from the senior leaders.

The list of principles outlined provides a great foundation for senior leaders to engage more effectively with their teams, whilst empowering them in a way that drives the whole system to a greater level of operational effectiveness and quicker, smarter and aligned decision-making.

Executive Engagement | Silicon Valley Product GroupBy Marty Cagan and Jon Moore Nomenclature Note: “Senior Leaders” refers here to CEO, Founders, CFO, COO, CMO, CRO…svpg.com

Whilst on the subject of empowerment and alignment, the use of OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) has driven both of these within my teams and lots of organisations, from the scale of Google and Salesforce, through to small startups. Yet, these are very often seen as hierarchical in nature (trickle-down objectives) and therefore still drive some operating models to become ‘command and control’, just by another mechanism.

As outlined in this piece from Chris Butler on Agile Insider, OKRs should be seen (and used) as part of the network of the organisation, and the ‘connective tissue’ which creates and maintains alignment.

As Chris rightly states here:

OKRs are networks, not hierarchies

They don’t cascade, they integrate

OKRs should be looked at as a key enabler of the strategic goals, vision and purpose for an organisation and therefore need a framework/mechanism that treats them as such, so some great advice here on how to adjust (or start) your OKR journey here.

OKRs are networks, not hierarchiesThey don’t cascade, they integratemedium.com

Finally, one of the key elements that tie together empowerment and OKRs, is that the teams that make up your organisation are insight and data-led. This does not just mean data-driven, but ultimately that every employee and team is insight/data literate and has the tools/mindset to filter the signal from the noise.

“Only through action will employees come to believe that data can create value in new ways, that it can do so over and over and over again, and that everyone in the company can play a role,” the researchers write.

Deriving more value from signals, allows data and insight to be unleashed and shared wider within an organisation or even form more meaningful experiences for your customers.

Therefore, one of the foundational steps to a future-ready organisation is to unlock the signals, from the data/knowledge, across the organisation, in such a way that it can be reimagined, reinterpreted or used to power a level of customer/employee centricity which I am sure most leaders thought was not possible before their eyes were opened.


Unleashing the ‘art of the possible’ through ‘true’ empowerment, the smarter alignment of outcomes across the network and then sharing data to grow the whole …well, these 3 areas are just part of the puzzle of business transformation, but they are critical steps on that journey.

Thank you for your time and attention, onwards & upwards.


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