Getting people to do stuff without coercing them is a necessary but complex artform in a work environment that aims to minimise hierarchy and maximise human potential.

At Outlandish we don’t have performance monitoring as such but we have a peer to peer system based on Objective, Key Results (OKRs) which (we understand) have been shown to be more effective than normal top-down performance monitoring.

Every four months each person has an OKR session with one or two other Outlanders who’ve been trained* in helping people develop OKRs.

The session lasts about an hour and a half and the output is that each employee has:

  • a mission/vision for Outlandish (e.g. what they want it to be/become)
  • objectives (usually three) which they want to achieve and which would be a clear step towards achieving their mission/goal
  • key results (usually three per objective) which are clearly measurable indicators which feed into each objective

The output looks something like this:




The key twists on performance management are that you’ll never be called up on having failed. OKRs are a service provided by the co-op to help people achieve their own goals. They’re not externally set targets and there’s an explicit understanding that if you achieve all your OKRs you weren’t aiming high enough. In my own (above) I’ve only achieved about 30-40% and I’ve just noticed the quarter has expired so I need to get some of the other members to help me come up with some for the next quarter.

The science apparently suggests that people respond much better to this positive, self-directed approach than they do to traditional ‘top down’ management. I personally can’t stand being managed in the coercive sense, but I’ve found OKRs very useful for helping focus my priorities. It’s also been useful for helping me work out what I want to do. For example, Outlandish really needs a new senior developer and it’s a significant businss risk, so I made hiring one of my objectives. It turns out that I don’t really want to go to developer meetups and chat about Javascript and a bunch of other people (the developers) would actually quite like to do that with the right incentives. I totally failed the objective but at least I know more about how I want to make myself useful now. Other key results (such as selling a new project) are ones that I quite enjoy and am best suited to but haven’t done so I’ll probably re-prioritise them at my next OKR session.

An addition that we’re about to implement is to create personal development plans (PDPs) at the same time – e.g. if OKRs are ‘what can you do for your co-op?’ then PDPs are ‘what can your co-op do for you?’.

We also have a few other tools including a competency matrix which is used for slightly more traditional (but still peer-to-peer) benchmarking and (once when we were feeling brave) setting pay.

Always happy to discuss this sort of thing, share or materials and experience, etc.

* Training – we operate a see one, do one, teach one model – if it’s good enough for heart surgeons it’s good enough for us.