Operational model

Our purpose and culture inform the qualities of the people we need, who in turn determine the business model and operational model. The operational model describes how we put the business model into action.

Missions

It's not unusual to see the word mission used to describe a company's overarching goal – its reason for existing. However, we call that our purpose. This allows us to use the word mission in a different context – in the context of "mission accomplished” ✅

You'd never say a company's mission was accomplished – what then would it do tomorrow? Rather, a mission is an important assignment given to or taken up by a person, a cell, or a group. It's a challenging journey that may take many months or quarters. It has a start, a middle, and an end, and the objective of the mission is well articulated so that the degree of accomplishment can be determined.

Mission ops

Each group has a mission cell and an operations cell. How do we assess the success (or otherwise) of each mission?

Up until the end of the 20th Century it was quite common to rely solely on financial metrics to gauge operational performance. However, it became clear that not all mission-critical aspects can be assessed in terms of their profit contribution and, just as problematically, such metrics describe last year and last quarter and fail to indicate future performance.

These days, performance management encompasses both lagging (looking backwards) fiscal metrics and leading (looking forwards) non-fiscal metrics (ref).

We distinguish two types of performance management: mission-oriented, for which we adopt the objectives and key results (OKR) framework; and task-related, where each group selects its own task management processes.

Objectives and key results (OKRs)

OKRs help us make and keep tabs on our progress.

Developed by Intel and subsequently championed by the likes of Google and LinkedIn, the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework connects the objectives and progress at group, cell and personal levels to AKASHA’s vision and purpose.

Ideas are easy. Execution is everything.

John Doerr (ref)

Non-fiscal metrics are essential to securing operational alignment. Nevertheless, the axiom 'you get what you measure' means care is required in framing the objectives and describing the expected key results. In other words, if there might be both a 'right way' and 'wrong way' to achieve the results, the framing should be revised to preclude the 'wrong way'.

Objectives are what you want to accomplish. They are:

  • Inspiring — only visionary, bold and eloquent objectives excite people and move the organization forward

  • Difficult — aim high with stretch goals far from the status quo; should feel uncomfortable rather than comfortable or impossible

  • Explicit — clear, concise and easy to understand from a first and brief glance, even for someone unfamiliar with the context

  • Achievable — only commit on goals that can be nearly or completely accomplished in the OKR period by the assigned group, team, or individual.

Key results explain how you get the objective licked. They are:

  • Specific — target a specific area for growth or improvement with little to no room for interpretation

  • Measurable — quantify or suggest an indicator of progress to track

  • Assignable — specify who is accountable (the fewer people the better)

  • Realistic — state what results could realistically, even if difficult or aggressive, be achieved given circumstances, dependencies, and available resources

  • Time-related — if not by default at the end of the given period, specify the date or event by which each result should be achieved.

With respect to balancing the deliberate (top-down) and the emergent (bottom-up) – see Strategy – OKRs are set collaboratively, allowing for contribution from the Genesis Group, group, team, and individual. It's a collective undertaking because AKASHA’s overarching OKRs are achieved wholly and solely from those of the groups, and the group’s from the teams', and the team's from the individuals'. Doing this manually and getting everything to match up, top-down and bottom-up through all scales, is hard, so we use Asana.

It's common to set all OKRs over a default period, often a quarter or two. This is in line with the emphasis the agile methodology places on delivering what you can in a fixed duration rather than taking the time to deliver everything, and is valuable given the iterative and interconnected nature of OKRs. Longer delivery periods, say annual, don't accommodate the responsiveness we need. Shorter delivery periods, say monthly, might not allow for OKRs to be sufficiently 'meaty'.

Due to their innate stretchiness, it's typical to expect c. 70% OKR achievement.

Task management

Process is simply a series of actions taken in order to achieve a particular end. The more regular the process, the more sense there is in making sure it can be achieved consistently with greater ease. And yet such consistency appears to be at odds with adaptability – a core aim of our organizing – to the point that it would seem almost tempting to ignore the pursuit of process excellence.

However, as you may have discerned by now, the apparent contradiction dissolves with a focus on the flow rather than the stasis. In other words, we require an effective (the right things) and efficient (doing things right) process of process – a disciplined process excellence in the constant reformation of good process. Teams develop process, and process then informs structure and the application stack.

Everyday tasks sit alongside the inspiring and difficult objectives of the OKR. They are more routine. They are part and parcel of living up to the everyday expectations of your cell colleagues and fellow cells.

Minimally, tasks are described in terms of deliverables, dependencies, resources, and ownership. A team is free to do task management any way that suits them best.