How to Run an Agile Marketing OKR Standup

Any agile marketer worth their salt knows about the power of a Daily Standup.

But far fewer of us are applying that know-how to an OKR Standup. Fortunately the translation is simple, and the power is immense. 

If daily standups are touch points to ensure the team’s task management is on track, then OKR standups are checkpoints for the team’s strategic objectives.

Both of these checkpoints are important for the team, but it’s the strategic checkpoint that truly ensures the team is driving towards common goals as a unit. 

We might be executing well day-to-day, but if that work isn't aligned to a bigger goal, it's just motion without purpose. 

To be successful with marketing OKRs you need to continuously work on them, discuss them, check on their progress, and plan what ideas your team could execute.

The best way to do all that is to have a weekly marketing team OKR standup.

To help you prepare to incorporate this vital, strategic practice into your team’s work process, we’re sharing the best practices that make this meeting most impactful. 

What is an OKR Standup?

An OKR standup is a quick 15-20 minute meeting during which you and your team reflect on the progress against team OKRs and adjust priorities as needed. It's a critical part of implementing the Objectives and Key Results methodology.

To be able to cover all that ground in a brief standup format, it is important to have a structured way to run your standup and OKR discussions so that it fits within the allotted timebox.

Note: this doesn't replace your daily standup! It should, in fact, complement it.

In your daily standup, you talk about daily work and resolve any impediments you're facing in the next couple of days.

In your OKR standup, you talk about how you're tracking against your long term Objectives and Key Results. Progress and impediments are likely to span a much longer time horizon than those you cover in a daily meeting. 

Achieving Alignment With OKR Standups

The key purpose of the OKR standup is to keep your eyes on the progress the team is making against their key goals. 

The marketing team makes sure that progress is happening by looking at completed plans, the results of these plans, and the lessons learned when moving forward.

This turns your marketing efforts towards achieving Objectives and Key Results into a weekly flow.

Weekly team OKR standups are crucial for a successful OKR cycle. Even if it seems obvious that goals won’t be achieved when there’s no one taking action, weekly OKR standups are still incredibly important to keep everyone focused and accountable.

Daily standups ensure work is getting done. OKR standups make sure that work is having the impact we expect and helping us meet our quarterly goals. 

Ultimately, neither agility nor OKRs will work without  alignment, transparency, and frequent progress checks.

Running an Effective OKR Standup

Before going into the meeting itself, take time to revisit the roadmap of Team Objectives, wherever those are documented, and update any progress made on Key Results. This is also the ideal time to note any additional insights such as:

  • Are you satisfied with the outcomes of your OKRs? 
  • What were your biggest priority plans from the previous week? 
  • Do you know how to progress from here? 
  • Are there any problems that you noticed and want to bring up? 
  • Do you have any suggestions you want to share with the team?

It’s good to take written notes or leave comments under the specific OKR so you can see what’s been happening over time. Because a key result’s progress can fluctuate, it’s also a good idea to document where progress stalls and not just which KRs advance.

If you have any important ideas or questions about your team’s OKRs, it can be beneficial to write them down in the comments as well so everyone can familiarize themselves with your concerns.

AgileSherpas OKR board in
Part of the AgileSherpas OKR board in

Visualizing Your OKR Standup

Using visualization as a tool during your OKR standup helps to organize the meeting, as well as to communicate progress or objectives at risk to the marketing team and external stakeholders.

Below are a few ways to visualize your OKR standup.

Remember, there's no right or wrong here. Find the best way to communicate progress for your team and run with it.

Confidence Level

Using Confidence Level for each Key Result, the marketing team answers the question:

“Do we feel confident that we will accomplish the Key Result before the end of this quarter?”

Confidence level

Each Key Result gets its own tracking box, and each time you run the OKR standup the team picks a smiley face as a status update.

This approach also gives an historical perspective to your confidence level so you can track it over time.

Confidence level visualized in the form of smiley faces.

When a green smiley turns into an orange or red smiley, pause the standup and discuss using the following talking points:

  • Who on the team could help out? 
  • Do you need to alert stakeholders? 
  • What needs to change for the confidence level to go up?

When someone announces they are “Done” with a Key Result, take time to acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishment! 

Bonus points: For each Key Result, the team doesn’t only answer how confident they feel, but also guesstimates how much work they have completed so far as a percentage.

Forecast Poker Planning

If the marketing team is working on something that they can’t ship or deliver until a specific set of deliverables have been completed, then you can ask the members of the team to individually guess:

“How many more weeks/sprints do we need to achieve X?”

Team members will respond by writing their best guess on a post-it (or putting it in the Zoom chat box if virtual). If the estimated range doesn’t decrease with one week at each upcoming weekly OKR standup, that’s your opportunity to talk about possible actions or mitigations.

Forecast Poker Planning

Deadline Confidence

Sometimes your marketing team needs to cope with a fixed deadline. Perhaps you have a limited window of opportunity, or maybe you need to fulfill an urgent request by a specific date. In that case, you can ask the team:

“How confident are we that we will accomplish X before date Y?”

This vote could be done on camera (if on Zoom) with a fist of five. One finger represents feeling super pessimistic, and five fingers super optimistic. Three fingers could mean nervous. 

Voting with fingers - one represents no confidence, while five represents super confidence.

If the confidence doesn’t increase week over week, talk about what needs to be done to increase confidence.

Track voting week over week in a table like the one proposed below, in which the deadline is marked with a Kaboom emoji: 

Visualization of confidence level week by week.

Release Guesstimation

If your marketing team ships continuously but still has the need to communicate progress and expectations to stakeholders and customers, use this Release Guesstimation technique to track the team's confidence level.

In order to visualize forecasts, add two lines into your Backlog, one green, the other red.

Each Sprint Review, the team asks two questions:

“How much of the backlog are we super confident to have delivered within the next X sprints?”

“How much more is it possible that we might deliver, within the next X sprints?”

A green line is drawn to visualize how far down the backlog you feel confident you will actually complete within the upcoming period. The red line is drawn to visualize the optimistic scope.

Drawing lines across the backlog to visualize confidence of processing items to a specific point.

If your team estimates their User Stories with Story Points and keeps a historic log of their Velocity, this can be used as input to the team’s guesstimation exercise.

To tailor to the team's context, the timeframe of “X sprints” in the line of questioning can be replaced with “next two months,” or something else that feels appropriate for the team.

After the OKR Standup

Don’t run the Agile marketing OKR standup just for the sake of having a meeting. Define the outcome you're hoping to achieve from this meeting to drive home its value.

To make the most of the time you spend in OKR meetings, document what was discussed at each one.

Choose how you want to share and track the lessons learned and any new ideas that came up. You can, for example, add lessons learned or new ideas to the OKR comments if you're working in a digital OKR board, or share them as a message on the comment thread.

New priorities set for the next work cycle can be assigned to team members and added to their plans. This way, these plans aren't forgotten and everybody can keep track of the situation.

During your next meeting, you should briefly go over this set of priorities. Make sure to discuss progress and the effect the completed plans had on your Objectives.

Happy OKR’ing!

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