ArticleApril 1, 2022 · 4 min read time
Sari Hildén started at Posti’s ICT in 2019 and was tasked with bringing agile practices to Posti. For three years, ICT and Posti’s businesses implemented agile ways of working at the team level, product level, and portfolio management. However, the organisation became genuinely agile when Posti adopted OKRs at the end of 2021. We interviewed Hildén about Posti’s journey to becoming agile and how the introduction of OKRs tied the work of three years together in a gratifying way. Now Posti has a mechanism that allows making changes successfully and quickly.
OKRs, Objectives and Key Results, is a way of implementing needed changes when market demands change. In practice, a company defines a few critical Objectives for a chosen time frame, such as the often used quarter. These objectives describe what a desirable outcome would look like taking into account the current resources. Each Objective then has a small set of measurable Key Results that show if the goal has been reached.
Before the cooperation, the strategy was clear to management but was not necessarily visible at the team level
Posti had been working on implementing agile for some time. There was a need to speed up product development and respond to changing customer needs faster. However, agile ways of working had not been fully implemented throughout the organisation and there were varied methods and processes present. Some teams had agile practices in place, but there was no unified guidance on working together harmoniously. In addition to transforming the team and product levels into agile, lean portfolio management was also crucial to create visibility and understanding why the selected things are done.
It could be challenging for teams to see why certain things are being done and others are not.
- Sari Hildén, Posti
The old way of working allowed teams to decide on the priorities of the work, but due to lack of visibility, it did not necessarily serve Posti’s overall strategy. It was a slow process to communicate the strategy throughout the organisation. There was no common platform to find out what was expected and why. Furthermore, there was no place for teams to show the progress of their work.
Agile practices were introduced to the organisation at the team level, product level, and portfolio management. This would allow a unified way of working to permeate the entire organisation, bringing the strategic focus areas to the core of daily work.
However, lean portfolio management was not fully implemented until Posti decided to start using OKRs in late 2021. Different materials and preparations had been made to support the implementation of agile ways of working, but they had not been systematically used at the organisational level After the top management mandated using the OKRs, everyone involved became committed to the new method. All business units and support functions implemented OKRs at the beginning of 2022. This proved to be a critical key in bringing Posti’s strategy into the day-to-day tasks.
OKRs implemented efficiently through Big Room Planning
Posti’s ICT had used Big Room Planning and regular demos of the work since February 2021. As the process had become familiar during the year, it was a great way to implement OKRs efficiently.
At the beginning of the Big Room Planning, representatives of each business share the focus of the upcoming quarter. From this, Objectives for the coming three months are formed. Then, teams together plan the Key Results tied to the Objectives. The Key Results define daily work that allows reaching the set Objectives. Lastly, Posti uses a set of Leading Indicators that show that the Objectives are being met. And if not, there is information available on what modifications need to be made.
Jointly decided Key Results form the backlog for the teams. The backlog is visible for the entire organisation through collaborative tools, Jira and Nektion.
OKRs brought the ability to make changes as quickly as needed
Lean Portfolio Management and shared practices have made Posti’s strategic direction visible to everyone. The strategy has been implemented at the team level. When the objectives are tied to the strategy, the teams know what strategic theme they are advancing daily.
Visibility has also increased enormously from team level to management. Monthly demos on the progress of the work concretely show how agreed tasks proceed. In the demos, teams present the work that show the achievement of specific Key Results. This gives management confidence that the chosen tasks are progressing on schedule.
Moreover, the change has clarified how everyone’s work affects the whole. Visibility, in turn, forces one to stay on schedule, which results in increased commitment to work. Posti measures employee engagement, and already during the first quarter ICT reached the target with an increase of two percent from 73% to 75 %. However, there is one thing that Sari Hildén finds the most rewarding: now Posti has a process in place through which information can be shared quickly across the organisation when a strategic focus area changes for one reason or another.
OKR acts as a mechanism for making changes even with a fast cycle. If the direction needs to be changed, it is possible to be done quickly.
- Sari Hildén, Posti