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- Operating System -

Strategic Initiatives (SIs)

The ultimate driver of #radicalexecution.

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Strategic Initiatives are what you execute to move the needle.

There's a lot of information on OKRs online, much of which is either really confusing, poorly written, or just plain misleading. Our aim is to clarify this. By far the most critical component of an Operating System with OKRs is the part which isn't even included in the acronym, the Strategic Initiatives! 

Why are Strategic Initiatives not in the acronym? Well, there are a lot of reasons. First of all, the methodology of OKRs originated literally half a century ago because things like.... email... weren't invented yet! So there wasn't a way to track everything that was happening. Instead, a single OKR got printed on a single piece of paper and pinned to the cubicle. Times have changed! We can go on about this, but for a later date.

Let's break things down using the ever-popular "what, how, why" framework :)

What are Strategic Initiatives?

The difficult part about defining corporate terminology is it doesn't exactly map perfectly like a periodic table. Regardless, we'll attempt to provide our best practices about what Strategic Initiatives are and are not.

Strategic Initiatives are... strategic! They align with the company OKRs and are designed to move the needle. They are not tasks. They are not individual activities. They are big, collaborative efforts worthy of cross-functional visibility. If you can complete the "initiative" in a few hours or a few days, it's not a Strategic Initiative. If you can do this by yourself and nobody else would care, it's not a Strategic Initiative. If you don't think your leadership team or management would care, it's not a Strategic Initiative.

How to create and execute Strategic Initiatives?

Prioritization is the holy grail of... well... everything? So prioritize, prioritize, and then prioritize some more. Right now, we categorize Strategic Initiatives into three buckets - exploration, experimentation, and execution. 


Exploration SI's (we'll start using SI's from here out because it's easier to type...) are all about research, fact-finding, and learning more about the item. If you have a hypothesis, chances are your confidence is low if you don't have experience, preparation, or data to back it up. By exploring and learning, you can easily create more confidence, and if it appears likely the SI will actually have a positive impact and your Key Result, then go for it!

Experimentation SIs are when you've done some homework, but still, need to validate. Perhaps you need to talk to customers, employees, partners, or other stakeholders. Your confidence is in the middle of the road, but not high enough to fully commit to a big thing. By highlighting your SI as experimentation, it shows that failure is OKAY. This is critical. When you create an environment that isn't afraid to fail, they are willing to try anything. The key though, is you have the right people who embody this mindset.

Execution SIs are for highly confident actions. Things you have seen be successful in prior roles. Items that have undergone a fair amount of pressure testing and are ready for more resources. Ideally, all SIs are execution oriented.

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Why are Strategic Initiatives important?

Strategic initiatives are critical because they enable their resources to get creative toward achieving bigger business goals. So often the "boots on the ground" have the best sense of what the business or customers need because they are the ones speaking to them daily. By defining SIs, it helps to ensure that everyone in the organization understands what the various teams are working on, and how it aligns towards a common purpose. This approach, when done correctly, can increase motivation and engagement among employees.

One of the most overlooked aspects of Strategic Initiatives is adaptability. By being able to quickly change with market conditions, customer needs, and technological advances, Strategic Initiatives are highly valuable. They don't need to be locked in, but rather, can be exchanged if a bigger, better, and more opportunistic priority emerges. This can help organizations maintain their market position or even gain a competitive advantage.

Here are five criteria for a good Strategic Initiative:

  • Actionable
  • Progressive
  • Tangible
  • Visible
  • Strategic!

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What are the differences between Key Results and Strategic Initiatives?

Considering there's a ton of conflicting information out there on OKRs, we've rewritten the rulebook/playbook and our best practices to provide clarity.

Here's how we view things.

Key Results are measurable outcomes you can influence. Strategic Initiatives (SIs) are the prioritized effort you can control.

It's that simple.

Key Results quantify the Objective with a combination of volume, health, and quality metrics. 

Strategic Initiatives are the effort you put in to drive the Key Results.

The Strategic Initiatives are the gas in the tank (or the charge in the battery) that causes motion and movement. Without this, you're just looking at a gauge on a dashboard and hoping it will improve. 

If your OKR program is fading, take a look at your Strategic Initiatives and see where you can make adjustments.


What's the Difference Between Strategic Initiatives and Projects?

So often the labels are subjective and nuanced based on your internal place of work, but at the end of the day, Strategic Initiatives are about executing. You can call it initiatives, projects, epics, or really big rocks, but they are primarily three things. 

1. Actionable - You can drive it towards completion, or stop doing it.

2. Controllable - All you can control is your effort. If you can't control it.

3. Visible - Worthy of internal visibility.

Initiatives are about taking effort. They are the drivers of your Key Results. Not all Initiatives are going to be homeruns either. It's okay to fail, but it's not okay to not try. Start small and build confidence. If you have high confidence, it better deliver the results.

Creating Strategic Initiatives in Krezzo

In Krezzo, creating Strategic Initiatives is easy. Simply find the Key Results you want to align to, and create a new item. You'll have the option to track progress multiple ways, and be able to align to multiple Key Results to better understand the impact across various metrics. You can also auto-generate Strategic Initiatives based on the Key Result they are aligned to. This helps with creativity and thinking outside the box, but ultimately you are the functional expert, so you got this!


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