We’re a progressive company. UpWind Solutions is at the forefront of renewable energy, delivering products that extend the asset life, reduce expenses and increase the annual energy production of wind turbines. Safety, quality and innovation are among our core company values and maintaining industry leadership was a key driver in the decision by our CEO, Peter Wells, to adopt objectives-key results (OKRs) and BetterWorks.
Peter wanted all of his direct reports (and then our reports and so on) to be able to continuously set, manage, track and measure operational goals to empower our teams and increase accountability. That included our engineering team. But first we had to make some strategic decisions about what should and shouldn’t be in the new enterprise goals platform.
Like most engineering teams, we are already using a robust project management solution, Teamwork, and a code management tool, GitHub, as well as a sophisticated work process. Thus in order to set the stage for BetterWorks and ensure adoption we made the decision to not duplicate data from other systems into BetterWorks—so here’s what we did:
- We decided all goals in BetterWorks would align to accomplish our company goals, providing impact to revenue, growth and flawless execution.
- We decided all New Product Development (NPD) initiatives would exist as BetterWorks goals, contributing where appropriate.
- We decided all goals in BetterWorks would be required to have sufficient resolution to show progress, but not detailed to-do lists.
These three decisions would prevent BetterWorks from becoming another engineering task management tool and instead add value to our engineers’ careers at UpWind.
Mapping our process
Every NPD initiative is a five-stage process that includes many deliverables and tollgates. Instead of keying in all of the tasks associated with every project, we created subgoals with milestones in BetterWorks that represent each of the primary deliverables throughout the process.
Now within BetterWorks, we can instantly see what contributes to the goals and whether we are on track or not to meet milestones. If we’re on track, that’s an indication that we’re successfully completing the NPD stages. For example, one primary goal for me might have a few contributing subgoals assigned to members of the engineering team or other departments.
In contrast, my direct reports and their team members might have 20-30 additional deliverables with even more tasks in Teamwork. Because not everyone uses Teamwork, it’s hard for those outside of engineering to know how NPD projects are tracking on a regular basis. BetterWorks is an easy way for anyone across the company to get a comprehensive view of all of the NPD projects and how they map to higher-level corporate goals—the ones outlined by our CEO.
We use the BetterWorks dashboard to inform strategic conversations. For example, if a project is red, we can go back to Teamwork to see what has happened with specific engineering tasks. Maybe a resource is overextended, which is something we can easily fix to get the goal back on track. BetterWorks gives us a team-level picture of how we are working toward key operational goals.
Teamwork doesn’t provide a way for us to view how all of our NPD projects roll up. We can only see that in BetterWorks. That makes people want to use both solutions, which contributes to deeper adoption.
Each solution has a specific purpose. Teamwork is for tracking daily engineering tasks. BetterWorks is for complete visibility into the engineering goals driving the operational success and alignment of the business.
Because we follow a quarterly OKRs process, we’ve had to learn how to make that work with our NPD process, as well. We include “intended to finish dates” in subgoals and clone goals with built out structures so we can easily archive previous quarters. By only reflecting the current quarter in BetterWorks, we have very clear visibility. Archiving also forces us into a hard moment of truth every quarter where we need to decide if the strategy is still aligned or adapt accordingly. We also include new service offerings as NPD initiatives in BetterWorks.
Seeing the benefits
As an engineering team, we’ve experienced a number of benefits using BetterWorks with our existing solutions:
- Our engineering team is more empowered because everyone can see how we are doing as a team against company goals.
- We can easily view the cross-functional contributions required for success, so we dialog more across functions.
- Greater visibility into recent activity also makes us better collaborators. We receive daily recommendations to cheer or nudge others in support of their efforts. That’s another example of greater collaboration company wide.
- Best of all, other disciplines including sales and marketing now have appropriate visibility into engineering projects.
This last benefit is particularly significant because to many employees, engineering is a “black box” of activity. We have systems that others don’t use (e.g., Teamwork and GitHub) so there has never been awareness of projects in our processes. With BetterWorks, we still don’t have to expose all of our tasks related to code, dependencies, testing, quality assurance and the like, but we can easily publish milestones that tell others whether we are on track so they can begin to get excited or start worrying about our progress.
BetterWorks is ideal for engineering teams because it helps build trust, visibility and accountability across the organization. Everyone knows what goals matter most to the business and how close we are to achieving them.
If you have questions about how your engineering team could use BetterWorks, leave a comment and I’ll try to answer them.
[This was originally posted on the BetterWorks blog]