Mapping out your enterprise agility route to success often requires you to work backward – what’s your desired outcome? After you understand what you’re trying to accomplish, you can determine the steps to get you there.

Atlassian expert, Diana Amador, takes us on a journey through Greek mythology in our recent webinar to demonstrate this principle. In Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey, Odysseus led the Greek army in conquering the city of Troy. He and his men set sail back to Ithaca after the Trojan War ended.


At an average speed of five to six knots, covering 130 nautical miles per day, it should have taken less than a week to sail 565 nautical miles to return home. So, why did it take Odysseus ten years?

Focusing on outcomes instead of outputs

While Odysseus knew he wanted to get from Troy to Ithaca, there were different approaches to planning the trip he could have taken. Of course, we aren’t second-guessing Homer’s tales of Poseidon’s wrath, sirens, and sea monsters. We’re simply using this journey as an example of the difference between output-based and outcome-based planning and show how it still applies today.

Taking travel as an example, people can focus on outputs that are easily measured (fewest miles) and fail to take into account obstacles to the outcome they really want (arriving quickly and safely). In Odysseus’s case, the two approaches might have been:

  • Output-based: Take the shortest route and sail 565 nautical miles from point A (Troy) to point B (Ithaca).
  • Outcome-based: Safely return to Ithaca from Troy as quickly as possible, measured by the daily nautical miles covered, the dangers avoided, and the number of men returning with him.

Today’s outcome-based travel planning typically includes a GPS or another tech solution. Directions can show us the shortest route from point A to point B, but what about other factors like avoiding construction, accidents, and tolls? We can get real-time data and updates to make our decisions, altering our route if conditions change. 

Aligning teams with corporate goals using OKRs

Just like Odysseus, CEOs know where they want the enterprise to go. Goals set today may need to be adapted quickly as more information is gathered, and internal and external factors change. The enterprise agility approach allows CEOs to set high-level goals, while empowering individual teams throughout the enterprise to choose their course along the way, working in program increments (PIs). This makes the organization more responsive and helps employees feel connected and part of the solution, rather than simply cogs in a machine. 

By using objectives and key results (OKRs), teams create alignment and engagement around measurable enterprise goals. Enterprise agility tools like Jira Align provides teams throughout the organization with visibility and a single source of truth that keeps everyone working together towards a common goal.

Program and portfolio managers can develop OKRs by asking themselves the following types of questions:

  • Does this initiative align with the overall vision and mission of the company? 
  • How do our customers benefit from this?
  • Is this a high-priority use of resources, including people and funding?
  • Are assumptions made about this initiative still correct or do we need to change direction?
  • Are the OKRs focused on outcomes instead of outputs?

Your enterprise may have to take detours along the way as changes beyond your control occur, such as new regulations or supply chain shortages. As these obstacles appear, you can make pivot or persevere decisions to current work during PI planning sessions or whenever necessary.

What’s the difference between OKRs, MBOs, and KPIs? 
  • Objectives and key results (OKRs) are a collaborative process, where teams within the organization take high-level objectives and refine them for their specific areas, focusing on the key results they want to achieve.
  • Management by objectives (MBOs), first popularized by Peter Drucker, is a top-down approach with management reviewing the organization’s goals and setting employees’ objectives.
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are business metrics that reflect performance against goals and identify problems and areas for improvement. 

Some enterprises use both OKRs and KPIs because they provide additional valuable insights. 

Identifying the metrics that lead to desired outcomes 

Can OKRs accelerate your scaled agile transformation?

Since you’ll probably be making adjustments along your journey, you need to have the right metrics in place to measure success. Metrics that only look at outputs need to be expanded so outcomes are also being measured.

WIP and OKR table

Outputs are easier to measure, like the number of features or products delivered. Outcome management and measurement requires a different lens. While you may be able to deliver five new features, should you? You may find only one of those features is important after talking to customers and using different metrics.

Using Jira Align OKR tooling to connect work to strategy and track progress toward key results

Enterprise agility requires visibility to ensure strategic goals are created, implementation plans are executed, and results are measured. Connecting goals to strategy is more than just a whiteboard exercise. Having the right technology tools in place for visualizing goals, connections, investments, processes, and teams through a customer-focused lens is necessary. 

With teams working remotely or from offices around the world, Jira Align is the perfect tool for setting strategic objectives, aligning work, and prioritizing initiatives to connect strategy and execution. Information is shared and available in different viewing formats, ensuring all teams are working toward achieving their individual OKRs as well as overall corporate goals. 

Jira and Jira Align work together to give you the data you need

Your teams are all on the same journey, so they need the same maps. If you are familiar with Kanban boards in Jira Software, you know how useful they are in providing a high-level overview of current and backlog projects, while also allowing you to drill down to the card level to see the progress or blockages of individual tasks.

Jira Align takes this to the next level, by incorporating your enterprise’s vision, mission and goals into the process. Teams stay connected online working from a single source of truth. They can see OKRs at all levels and where their work helps the organization achieve its goals and arrive safely at its destination. Hopefully in less than ten years. 

Learn more

To learn more about OKRs using Odysseus’ story, check out our webinar, Gain control: Creating OKRs that drive desired outcomes.

What Odysseus can teach us about OKRs