How to Manage Public Works like Google: Using OKR and a Capital Plan

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You may have heard of a management tool called OKR, which is used by many large companies across various industries – from tech to retail – for tracking objectives and results. These companies include Google, Walmart, LinkedIn, Facebook, Uber and many others.

What is OKR?

OKR stands for “Objectives and Key Results” and is an agile, metrics-driven approach to tracking progress toward an organization’s objectives. These objectives have a time span that can be defined for whatever intervals make sense: monthly, quarterly, annually or even longer term.

Venture capitalist John Doerr, one of the earliest investors in Google, brought this methodology with him after learning it from Andy Grove at Intel. What makes this simple management practice effective, according to Grove, is that you can impartially reflect on your work and confidently answer whether or not you have completed your task.

If the notion of using OKRs to track your own public works organization’s objectives is intriguing, then read on for an example of how you can track OKRs for your asset management and capital improvement plans.

Objectives encourage the use of the SMART model as a best practice.

SMART stands for:






Part 1: Setting Up the OKR

In your enterprise asset management system, create a new objective and give it an Objective ID and description. It is a good idea to use a coding convention for the IDs. For example, to better keep track of objectives by budget year you can start with the year, and optionally the quarter, followed by a classification of your choosing. It also helps to elaborate in the comment section, if provided.

For example, let’s imagine that a city parks department is creating objectives for Q4 of 2018, and one of the objectives is to continue to renovate aging parks facilities to better comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

We will use an Objective ID of 2018-Q4-OKR-ADA and we will assign three measurable tasks to help us meet this objective. Each task will follow a similar coding for the Objective ID to make them easier to find and organize:

          2018-Q4-OKR-ADA-1: Add wheelchair ramps

          2018-Q4-OKR-ADA-2: Replace non-ADA catch basin covers

          2018-Q4-OKR-ADA-3: Install accessible kiosks

Make sure to regularly save this new objective so that you can use it when you need to, like for capital planning!

Part 2: Integrating the OKR with Your Capital Plan

Now that you have created an objective with some tasks, you may want to assign it to a capital plan. Capital plans are generally used to organize and track capital projects, but how you use them is really up to you.

If you haven’t already, create a capital plan!

This is where the Objective ID from earlier comes into play – make sure to link the plan and OKR together by using the same ID!

Note: you can use a 0-1 scale (as is typical for OKRs) but you don’t have to. Technically, you can even exceed 100% for “stretch objectives” if you like, but this is not usually recommended because a main component of OKR is that you should usually be hitting about 60-70% of your targets – the idea being that if you hit 100% then your targets were too easy, and you may be missing out on opportunities to push your organization to grow. In this example, 40% of facilities already have wheelchair ramps, and the maximum target is 100% of facilities.

Set a reasonable target date – in this case, the end of 2018 Q4. Then, make sure to save your work along with its updated current values.

Part 3: Managing OKR Progress

As you make progress toward objectives you should keep track of each task through your software system, so that you can see the overall objective and objective progress.

You can also add as many objectives to a plan as you like.

That’s it – now you are managing your public works department’s objectives the way that Google does!

AssetWorks Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) was designed with public works and parks planning in mind! In fact, EAM even possesses a Capital Planning Portal, Goals Gadget and other powerful tools that can help you make the most of your processes – including developing and tracking OKRs! EAM also fully integrates with Esri GIS and AssetWorks FleetFocus fleet management software, so none of your assets are left behind.

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