Success Story

Creating orientation for managers with OKR

The main IT department of a large food retailer is responsible for all internal systems for a specific section of the retail value stream. In this main department, an agile coach from wibas has helped the management team to achieve goal-oriented and low-waste management work through the use of OKR.

Existing framework conditions

The management team was formed in spring 2020 and is responsible for the work of over 400 people. The team consists of over 20 managers who lead 30 product teams. One of the key questions was how to prioritize the large number of internal and external issues that flow into such a management team from all directions and how to focus the team's work.

In the initial phase of the team, the focus and orientation was primarily dependent on the head of department and his decisions on which topics to invest how much time in. This was done both through conscious decisions and indirectly through the order of placement on the meeting agenda. This centralized control by the head of department made it difficult for the team to take responsibility and frustrated the team members. The procedure should therefore be changed.

The challenge for the management team

The team first used Scrum elements and later Kanban elements to try to prioritize the management team's topics via a backlog or input queue. Various collaborative prioritizations were tried without the desired success. The selection of topics felt arbitrary and important, non-urgent topics were very difficult to weigh up against unimportant, urgent topics.


The use of OKR brought the desired breakthrough in leadership in several iterations: providing orientation and at the same time sharing responsibility more broadly. With the help of the OKR, every member of the management team can decide whether emerging topics are relevant or not.

Prerequisites had to be created for this: 

  • The department's strategy and overarching goals had to be clear in order to set meaningful objectives. This was ensured by the head of department together with the most important commissioning departments;
  • In order to identify possible objectives, fields of action had to be identified within the strategy. The wibas Agile Coach ensured this by means of a maturity model filled in by the team, from which the fields of action were derived;
  • OKR had to be understood and accepted as a process and method. This was ensured by two of the managers who attended an OKR training course and trained their colleagues;
  • OKR had to be practiced. The team ensured this together with the wibas Agile Coach: with each OKR cycle, the method was sharpened, i.e. work with OKR was more precise and comprehensive. This meant that nobody was overwhelmed at the beginning and the individual experiences could be used to improve each quarter;
  • The transparency created had to be wanted and endured. The wibas Agile Coach ensured this with team building and confidence-building measures, coaching and practicing useful communication and conflict patterns.

Our contribution - impact and positive effects

The introduction of OKR has had the following effects in this team: 

  1. Every member of the management team knows the topics that are currently important and being pursued in the department;
  2. Each team member knows their own contribution (and that of others) to the objectives;
  3. The joint work as a management team is clearly focused on the objectives. 
  4. It is clear to each team member how much time is spent on topics to be worked on together and how much time remains for topics to be pursued individually. 
  5. This means that even a team that is too large for agile conditions can carry out joint and targeted management work. 
  6. The agenda of the department meetings follows the objectives;

The department enjoys a good reputation internally because it delivers results in the form of executable software and because the orientation and clarity of purpose emanating from the management supports the operational teams in their independent work.

Our conclusion for the next projects

OKRs are the agile answer to the question of orientation for managers, product owners and other roles in a product organization. Their success is tied to prerequisites that must be created in each individual case. In combination with other agile methods, they result in a management model for agile companies.

Do you also want to give your management teams guidance?

Contact me and let's think together. Perhaps we can help you, or perhaps a brief impulse from a short phone call will be enough.

Give me a call without obligation.

Your contact person:

Frank Eberhard

wibas GmbH

Frank Eberhard

Otto-Hesse-Str. 19B

64293 Darmstadt

+49 6151 503349-0