Bringing Design Closer with Gerry Scullion

"Designing Success: Jeff Gothelf on UX, Lean Principles, and OKR Pitfalls"

John Carter
December 5, 2023
48
 MIN
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"Designing Success: Jeff Gothelf on UX, Lean Principles, and OKR Pitfalls"

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NEWS: We have just launched our new community ‘CIRCLE’ - A Private Community for Ethically Conscious Designers and Changemakers / https://www.thisishcd.com/landing/circle-a-community-for-ethically-conscious-designers-changemakers

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We meet keynote speaker, trainer and coach Jeff Gothelf, and speak about how Jeff helps build collaborative cultures and adopt modern ways of working in organisations.

Jeff tells us about his background in design, particularly the intersection of design and agile methodologies. He shares his experience in creating and popularising Lean UX, a process outlined in his book with Josh Seiden. The conversation delves into the challenges of selling and explaining user experience to businesses that didn't initially understand its value.

Jeff emphasizes the importance of translating design work into language that business leaders care about, focusing on the impact on solving business problems. The discussion also touches on the evolution of user experience in tech and software businesses during a pivotal time.

Jeff addresses the challenges in implementing Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) within organisations. He highlights the need for a qualitative approach to objectives and the importance of key results being metrics that measure human behaviour.

The conversation provides insights into the foundations of UX and the current hurdles in fostering a deep understanding of OKRs within organisations.

An interesting one to record and an interesting listen for sure. Enjoy!

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/gothelf

Episode Transcript

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[00:03:06] Gerry: Jeff, we can kick it off, because I know you're a busy man, and you're flying all around the world, doing important stuff, uh, meeting Cillian Murphy and having beers with your friends for 50th birthdays.

We'll start off, maybe, for people who don't know who you are, maybe tell us a little bit about yourself, where you're from and what you do, Jeff.

[00:03:28] Jeff Gothelf: Absolutely. Um, so my name is Jeff Gotthelf and I, these days, at least I work as a keynote speaker and as a trainer and as a coach for large and medium sized organizations. Helping them build more collaborative cultures, teaching them product management, teaching them lean UX, teaching them OKRs and working with the leadership teams to help them build the kind of organizations and cultures and processes that support these modern ways of working. So I do that at kind of the leadership level and the team level. Um, my background is design. I used to be an information architect. I started as a web designer in the late nineties, just kind of doing markup and graphic design, moved into information architecture, UX design, uh, interaction design, eventually started leading teams.

And then what was interesting was when I started leading teams about 10 years into my career, I was forced to reconcile design and agile. And that was a really interesting question in 2008, because in 2008, there wasn't a whole lot of positive. Anything about design and agile. And so, but, but I had to solve it because I had a team and I had it, I had an organization that was moving into kind of more agile ways of working and I had to figure it out.

And so we were lucky enough to be able to run experiments. I wrote about those experiments and where we netted out was a process called that we called. Lean UX, and that's turned into my first book with Josh Seiden, and then that book really changed my life because it did well, it continues to do well, and people really want to know how to practically apply.

The, what I thought were practical ideas in the book. And so I spent a lot of my time teaching the ideas from that book to various teams and organizations. And so that's kind of my background. I've written a few books since then. Um, and these days I work as a solo, uh, solopreneur, very popular, uh, word

[00:05:40] Gerry: term now? Mmh. 

[00:05:42] Jeff Gothelf: Um, I did start a design, uh, a product studio for a few years again with Josh Seiden and gift constable. And after four years, we ended up selling it. And then I've been on my own for the last eight years or so.

[00:05:55] Gerry: Yeah, very good. It's a great background. Like with the lean UX stuff around that time, user experience and UX was still kind of finding its feet.

[00:06:07] Jeff Gothelf: Yeah.

[00:06:07] Gerry: It's kind of finding itself in places that we didn't think it was going to find ourselves in, you know, tech businesses, software businesses. It was an obvious home for it.

How did you find the hidden value to sell and explain user experience to the businesses that didn't get it then, and what can we learn from that about carrying it forward for OKRs, because we're at that point now.

[00:06:34] Jeff Gothelf: Yeah, you know, it's interesting. I lived on the West Coast briefly, um, 2006, 2007, West Coast of the United States, 2006, 2007. And when I moved back in 2007, I got a job at an agency. Um, and I asked the woman who ran that agency, I said, tell me about how you value UX and UX design, because I have a couple of job offers and you know, if I'm going to choose to work for you, I need to know that you understand and value what I bring to the table.

And I got this very beautifully written paragraph about. The importance of UX to the practice and to the clients and to the work that we do. And it sold me. And I took the gig and I spent a year there suffering, creating, you know, a hundred page wireframe decks and design requirements documents that never really saw the light of day.

And when I left after a year of frustration and got my next job. I, I went to my boss, who was not the woman who wrote that letter, I went to my boss and I said, listen, a year ago I came here, I'm quitting a year ago. I came here. One of the main reasons I came here was this letter, I printed it out and I kind of held it up for her.

I said this letter, uh, from the boss. And she said, yeah, I wrote that for her. No, no, that's what she said. And I said, that makes perfect sense to me now. I understand. That was mean and you tricked me and you shouldn't have done that to me. And, and so I learned a lot, I think during that time, both sort of how to, how to discover whether or not an organization values design, but then also how to sell it to clients and other organizations.

And I think what I really liked was that in subsequent work, the conversations that I led that were designed. To increase awareness and appreciation for the design work that we were doing always focused on the business problems that we were solving and the impact that good design work was going to have on the business.

The reality, I went to work for a high growth startup after that agency. And the reality is that as much as he also pretended to care about it, the founder slash CEO, he loved spreadsheets. You know, and my work didn't show up in spreadsheets, not on a daily basis anyway. And so when we sat down to have meaningful conversations about the design work that we were doing, it was always positioned, anchored in and using the language of business, right? And I think to me, that was a clear, uh, a clear win over the years that I've translated over and over and over again is to really trans translate is what it is. You're translating the work that you're doing into a language that your audience cares about, and that makes a tremendous difference.

[00:09:41] Gerry: Yeah, around that time, there was, um, a lot of people writing popular blogs about user experience, certain podcasts were starting up, um, but what was really happening at that time, I believe, was like the foundational understanding of the value of what this is. Could bring to businesses new opportunities, alignment of, uh, the customer, the person using the product or services needs and how we can actually go about meeting those, those needs and expectations with okay, ours, and we're having a bit of a private joke here because in Ireland, we say.

Or for the letter R. So I'm going to be over enunciating R for the rest of this because I don't want to give Jeff any kind of mileage. But in okay, R's, um, what do you see as being the main blockers? Um, and what, what are the kind of bits holding it back in terms of it getting foundational understanding within organizations?

[00:10:43] Jeff Gothelf: So John Doerr wrote a book, John Doerr, the venture capitalist, um, who's now trying to fight climate change. Thank you, John Doerr. Um, he wrote a book called measure what matters and every CEO and leader in the world seems to have a copy of that book. Well, I don't know if they've read it or not, but they understand that it's a book about OKRs. That is a service that John Doerr did us, he introduced the concept to the, to the people who have influence over the organizations where we work. He also did us a disservice is that in that he was. Not adamant about the specifics of what should be included in an objective statement and what be included in a key results statement.

And so the takeaway for most of these organizations is we're going to rebrand our goals as OKRs and everything will continue as it was before. That's not how I see it working. And I think that that was a disservice that was done. And so that the main blocker is coming into organizations who essentially believe that they've rebranded their existing goal setting framework as OKRs and not a whole lot has to change.

And I come in and I say, actually, this is a fundamentally different way of setting goals. And they say, well, why is it different? I said, well, because your objective has to be a qualitative statement. Right. Your objective can't be, um, you know, sell more stuff or, or, or gain more customers or build the dashboard or the mobile app or whatever it is, right?

Your objective is a qualitative. Uh, strategic a lot strategically aligning statement for the team about what you're trying to do as a team. We're trying to build the easiest way to buy furniture online in Europe, right? We're trying to, uh, create the most user friendly, uh, mortgage application in the financial services sector, whatever it is, like we're going to align the team.

This is the motivation. This is why we get out of bed every morning, right? Dashboard. That doesn't get me out of bed in the morning, making it really easy for people to apply for a mortgage, right? Or maybe we can even make it easy for low income people to apply for a mortgage. Wow. I'll get out of bed for that.

So that's number one, right? So that's one blocker is getting folks to think qualitatively about why they're doing something. Most folks are like, my boss said dashboard. So dashboard, you know, um, and then the key results is where this gets interesting, different. And very tricky. The fundamental difference that makes OKRs powerful is the qualitative side of the, of the objective.

And then the key results being metrics that are measures of human behavior. And that's the key difference, right? So, so we're setting goals that said, we want to make it, we want to make the most, the E, the, the, the simplest way. For low income people to apply for a mortgage. Terrific. How will we know we have done that?

Well, we want to see a 75 percent increase in the number of low income folks applying for a mortgage. We want to see half of those folks completing that process successfully. And we'd like to see, you know, 15 percent at least, uh, increase in the approval rates, something along those lines.

[00:14:19] Gerry: Yeah, tangible.

[00:14:22] Jeff Gothelf: But what you'll notice I didn't talk about there at all was what we are building.

The only thing I talked about in the objective and the key results was the qualitative goal And the changes in human behavior that will tell us that we've achieved the qualitative goal. And that's, it's a simple, it's a simple idea, right? I just explained it to you. Like that's it. That's OKR.

[00:14:45] Gerry: it's the, it's really the collective, um, collaboration of pieces within the ecosystem to get that outcome. So it's agnostic to digital or agnostic to, that's that's the key piece.

[00:14:57] Jeff Gothelf: Yeah. It has nothing to do with digital product development, in fact, right? And that's a beautiful thing. It's like, it's a 40 year old idea. And I mean, Andy Grove at Intel came up with it, but it's, it's not unique to tech, but fundamentally, so, but it's a goal setting framework for teams. And so usually the goal that's set for teams is build the dashboard, build the mobile app, launch the campaign, you know, uh, deploy the new policy, whatever it is, right?

Build the website. What we're saying here now is I need you to get more low income people applying for a mortgage through our website. Okay. And I didn't tell you how to do it.

[00:15:37] Gerry: exactly. And that's the piece. You didn't tell them. You weren't specific. You lean on your employees to become springboards and give them the opportunities to solve the problem.

[00:15:48] Jeff Gothelf: I mean, dare we trust them to do their jobs? You know, let's, let's not get crazy here, Gerry.

[00:15:55] Gerry: But that's the bit, honestly, like that, you know, a hundred times more about OKRs than I do. And I don't really train it enough because I feel like, okay, there's probably people who are more kind of qualified to talk about OKRs. But that as its fundamental piece is what I really, um, you know, align with. It, that it doesn't be specific enough and relies on the intelligence of the collective to really empower that whole kind of meeting of the needs.

So, When you're thinking like this, um, and you go into an organization, who typically do you see is creating the OKRs? And who should be creating the OKRs? 

OKRs. Now I'm starting to sound like a pirate. Um, the OKRs. 

[00:16:46] Jeff Gothelf: Yeah. um, the common pattern with the clients that I work with is the OKRs are driven top down, so the leadership team will set strategic OKRs and then they'll say, okay, business unit A, these are your OKRs, business unit B, these are yours, C, these are yours. And then the leaders of those organizations will then deploy OKRs down to the various teams.

That's the way that we typically see it. Um, a much more effective way. To do it is top down and bottom up. So top down is right to an extent. We need a strategic focus for the organization.

[00:17:23] Gerry: Ownership.

[00:17:24] Jeff Gothelf: And then, and then we need measures of that strategic direction. And those essentially become an organizational level OKR.

But then the leaders of that organization need to ask the people who are doing the work. Okay. How can what you're working on. Support the overall vision of the organization and what would be the goals that you would work towards that you believe are leading indicators. SES for the organizational OKRs.

And what that does, it does a couple of things. Number one is it allows each team to set its own goals. And a team that signs itself up for goals that it came up with on its own is far more motivated to hit those goals than if they were given to them. That's number one. Number two is those teams can provide those goals within, and they should, Within a, the sphere of influence that they have.

And so what I mean by that is all too often an anti pattern that we see is the goal is revenue. All of you on the hook for all of you on the hook for revenue. And it's like, okay, but I'm on the authentication team. Right. Like my job is to get people into the product successfully. Like I understand that three, four, five, six steps downstream that impacts revenue, I work on authentication. If we give the teams autonomy over setting their own goals, they can say, okay, great, look, our job, right. Is to build these, the smoothest authentication process in the. You know, B2C financial services world, whatever it is, right? And how do we know it was a 90 percent decrease in the number of people calling customer service about authentication.

There is a 50 percent increase in the number of folks authenticating successfully in a first try and whatever, some other third measure, maybe two are enough in that particular case. What we've done here is we've given the team the autonomy to set their own goals in a world that they can control. Right.

But that they can also tell a compelling story about how it connects to the organizational goals. If people authenticate successfully, then they get to the product page. Much more quickly. They add to card and then they shop and they buy, we make money, but I don't control any of that stuff

[00:19:43] Gerry: Yeah, it's 

[00:19:43] Jeff Gothelf: after.

[00:19:43] Gerry: of it.

[00:19:45] Jeff Gothelf: And so that's, and so then we meet in the middle, right?

Top down, bottom up and, and, and the leaders have to approve it. So yeah, that makes sense. That's compelling. I think that's a leading indicator. Let's do that, but that's a far better way of doing it than just being told what your goals are.

[00:20:00] Gerry: Yeah. In, um, Greenfields, Blue Sky, whatever you want to say, um, approaches for organizations just implementing OKRs for the first time. I get it. Okay. The bit that I sometimes struggle with, and maybe you can help me with this one, is when the OKRs shift. So things are already in the backlog that are aligned to the previously set OKRs and now they're all of a sudden they've inherited OKRs that haven't been hit and there's things in the backlog that still need to get done.

How do you get around that? Um, where you've got suddenly legacy OKRs hanging in the backlog of, uh, development and design teams.

[00:20:41] Jeff Gothelf: There cannot be a point, let me rephrase, there shouldn't be a point in time where an OKR has languished for longer than A quarter, I'm going to say sort of as a, as a common and generic cycle time.

[00:21:04] Gerry: Hmm.

[00:21:06] Jeff Gothelf: There shouldn't be a situation where an OKR has languished for more than a quarter without somebody saying, does this still make sense?

Are we still working towards this? How do we reconcile this with new information that we have now collected?

[00:21:22] Gerry: Yeah,

[00:21:23] Jeff Gothelf: Right.

[00:21:24] Gerry: if that's still up, 

[00:21:25] Jeff Gothelf: to

[00:21:25] Gerry: that's still happening, then it's more of a scrum master, isn't it? It's more of a 

[00:21:28] Jeff Gothelf: leader, whoever writes, but whoever recognizes that this thing exists and it's just kind of hanging out there and we've got all these other goals that are not coming up.

We've got to decide because we can't do it all. Maybe there's a relationship between those two things that makes sense. We should figure that out and maybe there isn't, and maybe we say goodbye to the old metric or to one of the new ones, whatever, but we've got, we've got to have that conversation to reconcile it.

[00:21:55] Gerry: You seem like a really smart guy, Jeff. Okay. Right. You're either one of two things. You're either correct or you're not, but you're doing something really right 

here. I want to ask you a question. We're going to light some three fictional Chinese lanterns of problems of OKRs that you can see. We're going to let them go here.

Okay. If you think of, think of things like this, what are the most common problems from an organizational perspective or an implementation of OKRs? Um, into an organization. What's the first lantern that we're going to light for Jeff to let go of and release it and feel the energy release from your body when we do it?

[00:22:32] Jeff Gothelf: The toughest part is managing to outcomes. It's managing to human behavior because all of us, look, even, even me, right? I've been, I've been working and teaching this stuff for 15 years. Um, we love to think in features. We love to think in output. Right. I'm going to build this amazing website. I'm going to, I'm going to write this article, right?

I'm going to, I'm going to write a book.

[00:22:53] Gerry: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:22:58] Jeff Gothelf: And, and we love to think that way and then measure success in the, in the deployment of the thing. We shipped the vacation policy. I wrote the book, you know, we, we built the, the website, whatever it is.

Um, Organizations struggle to manage to outcomes because it's not binary, right? Making a thing, managing the output is binary, right? Did you make the thing? Yeah, here it is. Terrific. It's tangible. You did your job. I can measure that. And if I can measure it, I can manage it and reward it. Did you increase retention by 50%?

Well, we increased retention by 27%. Here's what we learned. Here's what we would do if, if you let us continue working towards this, but it's a much more difficult conversation. Did the team succeed? Did it fail? Um, what do I punish them? Do I reward them? Do I, you know, fire them? Like all of these, it becomes really difficult. And so reorienting an organization around managing the outcomes. Changes in human behavior to be super clear about what I mean when I say is really, really difficult. That's the biggest lantern that we are going to release.

[00:24:16] Gerry: the first one. 

All right. What's the second one?

[00:24:20] Jeff Gothelf: The second one is if you can get the organization to agree to writing good OKR statements, good by my definition of good, to be super clear where the key results are measures of human behavior, right?

And there's no features in the objective or in the key results. Then the next step becomes Well now what and this is where organizations kind of hit the next hurdle. They they they don't know how to choose They don't know what to work on. They don't know how to decide if it's a good thing to work on or, or bad.

And, and this is really where design and research begin to shine because this is where product discovery thrives, right? And this is why I love OKRs because I, I believe OKRs done well create the explicit need for design and research to take place because is an infinite number of options for every team to achieve their objective and key result goals.

Literally, an infinite combination of code, copy, design, value proposition, business model, pricing model, go to market strategy, all that stuff, right? Literally an infinite, which combination is best?

[00:25:37] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:25:39] Jeff Gothelf: You know, and we, no matter how much somebody gets paid in your organization, they don't know. And you don't know.

You have good guesses. They have good guesses. And so we need to do design work. We need to do research work. We need to do product discovery and organizations don't know how to do that or don't allow that work to take place. And that's, that's a really big next challenge, right? So we got, we got the goals in place.

But now the teams are like, you always tell me what to make. I don't know what to make

[00:26:11] Gerry: It's just coming out of, out of the abyss. What's your thoughts then with, say the likes of triple track Agile, um,

[00:26:19] Jeff Gothelf: triple track. What's the third? I know two, I know dual track. What's the third track. I got delivery discovery. What's the third.

[00:26:25] Gerry: triple track is more around the discovery of, you know, implementation of research, you're just essentially giving yourself another track for that experimentation to occur.

[00:26:37] Jeff Gothelf: Yeah.

[00:26:37] Gerry: experience with that? We can 

[00:26:38] Jeff Gothelf: we call it dual track agile,

[00:26:41] Gerry: yeah, 

[00:26:41] Jeff Gothelf: Because the, the, well, the, the two tracks are, uh, and I think Marty Kagan coined this term, but the, the, the two tracks are delivery and discovery.

[00:26:50] Gerry: okay,

[00:26:51] Jeff Gothelf: Right. And so all like delivery, like I think design operates in both spaces, because if we're going to work, we have to design the actual work for going to do discovery work, or we're going to do some research, some experimentation, some design work.

[00:27:04] Gerry: then that goes into the backlog.

[00:27:06] Jeff Gothelf: Yeah. Um, so, uh, you know, dual track agile as a concept is sound. And this is kind of where a third sort of. Lantern of pain can be floated away. Is that,

[00:27:23] Gerry: I love the fact you're still going with it.

[00:27:25] Jeff Gothelf: uh, you know,

[00:27:25] Gerry: I've let it 

[00:27:26] Jeff Gothelf: listen, I'm, we promised people three, I've only done two, I'm not, I'm not going to be the guy who lets the audience down.

[00:27:32] Gerry: arc. Yeah. This is the 

[00:27:33] Jeff Gothelf: going to land this plane, Gerry and it'd be awesome.

It's going to be awesome. Um, is that, uh, most organizations will divide that work into two teams. So you've got a delivery team who's making stuff and you've got a discovery team that's researching. Stuff and that is a massive anti pattern because as soon as you have that you've got handoffs as soon as you've got handoffs.

You've got editorializing because that's what humans do when we tell stories and biases and you break the shared understanding and the flow and the efficiency of a dual track process a lean UX process of Whatever you want to call it right customer product discovery. And and so that's a really big pain point there As well, is that we want one, it's two types of work, but it's one team doing both, both types of work.

[00:28:28] Gerry: I'm just taking note of something there. Um, so the triple track is, I'm going to take that bit out of the episode, I think, because it's just, I'm pretty sure that someone else has spoken to me about

[00:28:38] Jeff Gothelf: I don't know what the third track would be.

[00:28:40] Gerry: Yeah. Uh, I, well, maybe I'm mispronouncing, maybe it's dual track that I was, I don't get into this stuff, I get into the Agile, I'm just like, okay, cool, just give me, give me the training program.

Um, so when you're talking about measuring the OKRs, Jeff, right, the, the bit that I've noticed when I'm training businesses, they, it comes to the crunch time, where there's like, they're, they're going to evaluate, is there a metric, are we hitting this metric? 

How do you advise teams to be able to continuously measure, um, over time?

Like, is there an opportunity there to improve that process?

[00:29:23] Jeff Gothelf: So there are at least Two sides to every conversation when it comes to measuring is quantitative and there's qualitative. When it comes to quantitative, we want to use the tools that we have at our disposal to measure what people are currently doing and what they're doing after we start to build some of these experiments and launch some of these new ideas.

If you're working in a digital space, it means instrumenting your products and services with analytics tools so that you can go back and measure what people are doing in that conversation.

[00:29:56] Gerry: Can I whisper something in this, this bit here around NPS?

[00:30:01] Jeff Gothelf: Let's talk about that in a second. Let's, let's, let's, let's talk about NPS in just a second. Um, I think if you're working in a, in a physical space, like you're building a service, right? You're building a, you know, kind of a way finding system. For an airport, I think that's going to require you probably going to the airport and observing and literally counting people and seeing how many people get lost and ask for directions or miss a gate or whatever it is, those types of things, right?

The other side of the conversation is qualitative. You have to talk to people. Regularly consistently to understand why they're behaving in the ways that you're measuring, right? Why did you choose the left hallway instead of the right hallway? Oh because the arrow was pointing that way. Okay, great I understand now.

Um, why did you click the red button over the blue button? right? Well, I didn't even see the blue button because it's on a blue background, whatever it is, right? So you want to ask people, I didn't understand what the text on the button meant. And so you want to get the quantitative and the qualitative to understand what's happening.

But both of these are the two sides of the same story. You need both to decide how to move forward. And you need that information continuously. This is something that every cycle, whether it's a sprint or whether it's, it's, it's whatever the cycle time is that you're using. This happens every time.

[00:31:18] Gerry: So it's not a case of leaving it for 12 weeks later when the next quarter comes up and saying A result, B result,

[00:31:26] Jeff Gothelf: Ideally, no.

[00:31:27] Gerry: I love that because it encourages organizations to do the research

[00:31:30] Jeff Gothelf: have to learn continuously. I mean, look, there will be contexts where you can't get the data back immediately, right? It's going to take a week or two or three to really get anything meaningful back. You're not waiting for statistical significance, but you're looking for something meaningful. Um, and that's okay, right?

But generally, continuously, we want to be learning.

[00:31:52] Gerry: So I mentioned the, um, I was going to say the dreaded three letters, but I'm kind of, I don't know whether to weave this into this episode, folks, but I'll, I'll go, I'll go there. It's a, it's a potential bomb, but NPS. So when it comes to this, um, when you're measuring it, still the most common. Three letters that I hear at this stage is the NPS score goes up.

Um, what's your take on this? Um,

[00:32:21] Jeff Gothelf: I wrote a blog post a couple of years back called NPS is a waste of time. No,

[00:32:26] Gerry: I think I remember this is the, we usually say KFC. Is this the KFC?

[00:32:30] Jeff Gothelf: no, no, no, no,

[00:32:31] Gerry: Might have been Jared Spool or something

[00:32:33] Jeff Gothelf: Yeah. But it was around the time that Jared was also railing against, uh, NPS. I mean, look, even the guy who made NPS, who invented it is now like, well, it's not that great. Here's the problem. Look, here's the net net promoter score. Asks people to rate how likely they are to recommend something to, to recommend an experience to a friend on a scale of one to 10,

[00:33:00] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:33:00] Jeff Gothelf: right?

And so let's talk about a couple, a couple of the problems with that. I'll talk about some of the more minor ones and then the biggest one, right? The, the minor one is, um, how lucky are you to recommend Gerry's podcast to a friend?

[00:33:14] Gerry: And very, very, very, very much so. 

[00:33:16] Jeff Gothelf: right. Six.

[00:33:19] Gerry: Screw you, Jeff. 

[00:33:20] Jeff Gothelf: No, no. But like, is that bad? Why is six bad? Like, does that mean that, like, if ten people ask me,

[00:33:26] Gerry: nines and 

[00:33:26] Jeff Gothelf: six times out of

[00:33:27] Gerry: podcast. 

[00:33:28] Jeff Gothelf: No, but like, if ten

[00:33:29] Gerry: isn't going out. This episode is going straight in the 

can. 

[00:33:34] Jeff Gothelf: Twelve. out of 10. There you go. Um, but my point is it's, it's all meaningless. Like a six or a seven, like what does that even mean? Right? Like, uh, you know, a, the other challenge with NPS, and this is by far the biggest problem with NPS is that it asks people to predict future behavior.

[00:33:53] Gerry: Yeah. Exactly.

[00:33:55] Jeff Gothelf: How likely are you to recommend this to a friend? 12 out of 10, right? Have you ever recommended it to a friend? Nope.

[00:34:03] Gerry: No.

[00:34:04] Jeff Gothelf: Right. This is why Netflix isn't Netflix. Doesn't ask, are you, how likely are you to recommend Netflix to a friend? They ask. When you sign up, they say, did someone recommend Netflix to you?

[00:34:14] Gerry: Yeah. 

[00:34:14] Jeff Gothelf: And so, and so that is, that's a thing that actually happened in the future. We never make mistakes. We always do the right thing. We always do the best thing. And we never disappoint the person who's asking us the question about what we're going to do in the future. Right? My, my business partner, Josh.

When he talks about this, he always uses the example, particularly when we're teaching, and if we're on the road, he'll use it as an example of breakfast. Uh, you know, Jeff, what are you going to have for breakfast tomorrow? Oh, well, I like to have a healthy breakfast. I like to have like half a grapefruit, black coffee, and maybe like, you know, a piece of toast.

Like that's it. Great. Jeff, what did you have for breakfast this morning? Right. Well, I was at the hotel and they had the most amazing buffet and I had bacon and eggs and potatoes and you know, you know, uh, pudding and hot chocolate and waffles and all that stuff. Right. We always want to talk to people about what they have done recently, rather than what, because, because again, I don't want to, I don't necessarily want to admit to you that I'm going to eat that in the future.

So I'm going to tell you something that makes me feel good about myself. I'm going to eat a healthy breakfast tomorrow.

[00:35:24] Gerry: Yeah,

[00:35:25] Jeff Gothelf: That's, that's the flaw with NPS. And so I want to say one more thing about NPS, um, because there's no getting rid of it, right? It's, it's on every executive dashboard, right? And so when that comes up, if you're working towards.

Okay. Ours. And some boss somewhere says, what about NPS? You can say, okay, boss, let's, let's keep NPS as a, as a kind of a corporate barometer. And then ask them this question, what behavior do satisfied people do in our product or service? What behavior do dissatisfied people exhibit in our product or service?

And then let's work on optimizing those things.

[00:36:07] Gerry: Yeah, there's a couple of episodes in the back catalog just on NPS folks where we, um, I think I might have used the bullshit word a couple of times, but, um, they're still up there if you're on premium, but I have a couple of more questions, Jeff, because I know, um, we're going to try and wrap it up on time in terms of scaling OKRs in organizations.

I know the new book that you're working on with Jeff, um, give us the title again.

[00:36:35] Jeff Gothelf: It's called who does what by how much?

[00:36:37] Gerry: Okay, so what I really liked about the prelude when we were chatting about this is it's for everyone. Okay, so it's everybody is involved in the delivery of a service or product within that ecosystem. How do you envisage? It's going to work with the new book coming out, like, you know, are we hoping for organizations to buy 5, 000 copies and give them to all 5, 000 employees?

Yes, we will. That would be really nice. And, uh, if you want to find out more, you can go to jeffgothelf.com and do an order. Only joking. But if, if you have an organization like that, there's obviously an educational piece around defining what an OKR is and the training aspect of it. And really educating the organization about everybody's involvement and how it all correlates.

Um, a book is one part of that. What other things do organizations need to do to really successfully implement it, do you think?

[00:37:38] Jeff Gothelf: Yeah, so the book is designed to be that book, right? So that, that the organization buys for everybody in the company, ideally, look on top of that, you're going to need coaching, right? Some level of training and coaching, some, somebody to come in and say, I know you've read the book. Let's talk about it in your context, corporate, you know, corporate lawyer, right?

Let's talk about it in your context. I did, I did this, I did this exercise, uh, a few months ago with a shoe company, right? And, and while they certainly have digital people and they've got marketing people, they've got shoe designers. And, and as, as, As clearly as I can, I can teach and explain this in, in, in the generic sense, the shoe designer came to me and said, how does this make sense in my world?

[00:38:22] Gerry: Yeah. 

[00:38:23] Jeff Gothelf: Right. And so you've got to walk people through, you've got to do some coaching, some training that's contextual to the specific folks where this is particularly foreign or new. And that really helps to bring this home. I think in larger organizations. And what I've seen across larger organizations is that they build transformation teams to support this.

And those transformation teams serve as the in house coaches, the in house advocates, as well as the folks who bring in external support to help kind of disseminate the ideas broadly. But you need a consistent, um, conversation and then you need people that the staff can go to and ask questions comfortably.

[00:39:06] Gerry: Okay. And is that a service that Jeff and Josh offer

[00:39:11] Jeff Gothelf: Coincidentally, yes, that is a service that we offer.

[00:39:14] Gerry: was waiting for you to finish the paragraph. Um, but in terms of that shoe designer, me, give me an example of how you distilled down their input.

[00:39:26] Jeff Gothelf: Yes. So the shoe designer makes shoe designs, but those, and so the question that becomes and this is the question that we ask anybody who consumes the shoe design, right? So the shoe design is consumed by the go to market people, the merchandisers, the, um, the people who have to procure materials.

[00:39:47] Gerry: Okay. Yeah,

[00:39:47] Jeff Gothelf: of the shoe, let's just talk about those three.

Well, there are probably some others, but at least those three folks, the way that the shoe designer has traditionally delivered those designs may not be the most effective way to make those people successful. So those three people are his customers, right? He has to think of them as his customers and he needs to make them successful.

So what is it that the merchandiser needs from the shoe design deliverable? To make their life easier. What about the procurement person? Who's buying, you know, leather and rubber and, and laces. Right. That to me is, is a, is a concept that most folks think about. They don't think about their work that way.

And that's, that's the fundamentally different conversation.

[00:40:38] Gerry: I love the fact because organizations inherently, by default, are complex. 

So there's so many, they're a complex ecosystem. And what we're seeing here, folks, is OKRs is helping disseminate that and make it into a complicated scenario that can be broken down into executionable parts. And that's why, if you look at frameworks like Kinevan and stuff, that this is really, it's a powerful framework, I guess, to, To get to that, to get to that point on one last question is where do you see the future?

Um, because like looking back at lean UX 2008 2009 UX got adopted. It's going on through a rebrand for the last couple of years. It's product design. It's whatever. But when you look at okay, ours, It would be great if organizations got to that point where it was widely adopted and um, we were talking about OKRs as part of the design toolkit maybe.

[00:41:36] Jeff Gothelf: Sure.

[00:41:36] Gerry: What do you see the future of OKRs and 

how does it weave within the world for changemakers?

[00:41:43] Jeff Gothelf: I think it's inevitable that this becomes just the way that we work. And here's why, um, we build companies and, and organizations on top of technology. It's how we keep the business running. It's how we scale the business. It's how we optimize it. It's how we react to changes in the world. The technology that supports our businesses and our organizations isn't static.

It's, it's dynamic. It's continuous. And. The better we get at deploying this technology, the faster it becomes, the easier it becomes. And so the, the old measures of success of making a thing and shipping it, they don't make sense anymore. When you can ship something every day, right. Or if even every hour, or if you can make a change on a weekly basis, um, those that, that measure of success doesn't mean anything anymore on top of that.

Our customers, our users, the people who, who we serve, their expectations are changing daily, weekly, monthly, based on all of the new products that they're consuming. And if we're not able to react those changes in, in consumer behavior and consumption patterns, then we fall behind and we fail. And so I suspect that at some point.

The, the, look, we're, we're fighting a hundred years of manufacturing history and, you know, MBAs and, and business school, um, right now. So there's, there's an immense sort of historical inertia that is making this difficult, but that's good. That's going to fall behind as, as kind of technology continues to, to kind of rule the world here.

Um, and so I, I can easily see a point in time in the next, I'm gonna say decade, let's Optimistic, conservative, yet optimistic, where this is just the way that we set goals and we stop mentioning these things by name, I hope.

[00:43:44] Gerry: So, 2008, 2009, Jeff was probably just about aware of OKRs at that point, is that fair to say?

[00:43:52] Jeff Gothelf: the outcomes. I don't think we were calling them OKRs just yet, but yeah.

[00:43:56] Gerry: So, your book is one that's coming out now with Jeff and Josh, which is a neat sense of a TV show, isn't it? Um, but what other people are you following who are pushing the craft of OKR?

[00:44:10] Jeff Gothelf: I mean, Christina Wittke is, has been at the forefront of this for years. You know, she, she's been our inspiration and she's, she's a smart voice on this topic. Her book, Radical Focus, I think it is in second edition now. Really foundational, I think, for a lot of folks about, about this concept. Uh, that goes a long way.

Um, you know, I think people out there like Jeff Patton who are teaching what he calls passionate product ownership to more agile minded folks are a great, uh, a great force for good. And then I would add that, that folks like Teresa Torres who, you know, build communities and teach them how to do product discovery enable us.

To use OKRs more effectively because the more people that know how to do product discovery, the more likely we are to get these goals to stick.

[00:44:58] Gerry: Yeah. One last point. Um, I remember a number of years ago, um, you were talking about Ikigai and your purpose and stuff. And we recently had Hector Garcia on the podcast, uh, who authored The Journey to Ikigai. Where do you see your own self and your own purpose going in the next five to 10 years?

[00:45:18] Jeff Gothelf: I, that's a good question. Thank you. I, um, I would like my goal, I think in all of this is to hold, I think if I can make. If I can help folks make their customers more successful, that's a win for me. While at the same time, helping those same folks do better work, be happier at work as part of that, that's the dual purpose here for me, right?

So if we're looking sort of that, what motivates me the most, it's both of those things, right? Let's help make your folks successful. And in the process of doing that. Let's make you happy at work and able to do what you've been hired to do.

[00:46:01] Gerry: Yeah. And what about you, like, in terms of Jeff behind all of this stuff? What's, what's the sense of purpose that you get from writing these books?

[00:46:11] Jeff Gothelf: Well, it turns out, and I, if you would ask me this 15 years ago, I'd be shocked at my answer 15 years later. I really like teaching. Um, I I've really fallen in love with, with teaching. I've discovered a passion for it. It turns out I'm pretty good at it. Um, which I, again, like I had no idea, like that I even had any.

any predilection for this. And to me, I genuinely like when you can get this concept across to someone and their face lights up and you're like, Oh yes, I get it. Uh, that makes me happy.

[00:46:41] Gerry: So you think this is your ikigai? You know, you found, as they say in Japan, like, This is, this is, you've found this sense of purpose in your 

[00:46:51] Jeff Gothelf: like teaching and I'd like to continue teaching this stuff. Um, for as long as it makes sense, it

[00:46:57] Gerry: It comes across, Jeff, like, it's not something like, sometimes you've had people on the podcast where I feel like they're, they're regurgitating stuff and they just kind of go like, this, this is like, you can see when you're talking about it, you're like, this is, gets you up out of bed in the morning.

[00:47:13] Jeff Gothelf: does, it makes sense to me. So if I can make it make sense for other folks, that's a win for me.

[00:47:19] Gerry: Look, Jeff, I end every episode on this society by thanking the guests for, you know, being put on the spot, showing their vulnerability and giving me their time and energy. Thank you so much for, for giving me your time and energy today. It's been really good chatting with you. I'll put a link to all of this stuff, um, into the show notes, the book.

Um, is there a place where people can go and pre order it? Cause it's out November the 15th.

[00:47:39] Jeff Gothelf: Yeah, it will be on Amazon. It's not on there yet, but you can once it's live on Amazon, we'll post it everywhere and then you can preorder. Yeah.

[00:47:46] Gerry: Yeah, if you go on to Jeff Gothelf, I'm sure there's a place you can sign up to the newsletter and

[00:47:49] Jeff Gothelf: Yeah. Exactly. Okay. Our book. com. That's a great place to go.

[00:47:54] Gerry: Well, look, Jeff, thanks so much. Stay safe.

[00:47:56] Jeff Gothelf: My pleasure, Gerry. Thank you so much for having me.

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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