Goal setting

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Operating Cadence

PostHog works on a rolling 12 month outlook, referred to as medium-to-long term, for making tangible decisions that will affect what people are working on. This 12 month outlook is always being evaluated by the exec team who will always be assessing the challenges that the rest of the team will be accountable for solving. The aim here is that the exec team can set the direction and the wider team are able to autonomously solve the challenge of how to get there.

The decisions made by the exec team on this 12 month direction usually have an immediate impact on:-

-Product decisions -What product do we build next -Team decisions -Who do we hire next -Any structural changes (these are less often than hiring) -Internal moves within teams Commercial strategy -How do we make money -How do we spend money differently from how we are currently

There is no set time as to when the exec team can make these decisions. One of PostHog’s biggest strengths is our agility and being overly prescriptive as to when changes can be made to the medium-to-long term direction is punitive. The exec team always aims to avoid changes to this direction, mainly as it’s likely a sign it’s made a wrong move, however they won’t wait until the end of a quarter, month or week to do this. However, given the nature of planning and the need for deeper consideration, the majority of decisions usually come as part of a quarterly planning session.

How it works

  1. James runs this process every three months.
  2. ~3 weeks before the end of each quarter, the Exec team meet to come up with initial ideas for objectives for each small team.
  3. ~2 weeks before the end of the quarter, Kendal schedules planning meetings with each small team to go through these - these will be run by the Team Lead and include the relevant Exec team member, following the template below. Each small team can change or propose alternate objectives, goals, and/or key results (we are not prescriptive about the exact terms used here - use these as a starting point).
  4. The outcome of these meetings should be a PR to the relevant small team page. The Team Lead is responsible for creating this and sharing in the next All Hands doc for everyone in the team to have a chance to see.
  5. PRs get merged before the next quarter starts.

Planning template

- Strengths
- Weaknesses
- Opportunities
- Threats
## Previous quarter reflection
[Paste in previous quarter objectives from the team page]
For each objective, collectively write up a reflection
**Overall reflections**
- For each team member, write down some reflections
## Current quarter objectives
[This is an example - feel free to adapt as you need]
Objective 1: PostHog in the EU
Motivation: Unblock 1,000s of customers [link to data] who need to keep data in the EU but are not capable of self hosting.
Key results:
- 100 customers using EU cloud
- 99% uptime
- Time spent maintaining < 1 hour/week
- Uses the same helm chart as US cloud

Why we do this

  • Sense of winning / losing - this bonds teams, increases urgency and creates satisfaction when we achieve things
  • Clarifies our direction

Good goal setting

  • As few Objectives as possible
  • Motivation - explains why the objective is set
  • Key Results that show if we're en route to achieving an Objective
  • Objectives are simple - it's really clear if you are/aren't hitting them
  • Objectives are ambitious - they move the needle for PostHog
  • Hitting an overarching Objective is more important than hitting specific Key Results
  • Key Results show we're on track to hitting the Objectives - it should be simple to know if we hit them
  • Key Results are leading indicators and can be achieved quickly
  • Key Results should be specific and measurable if possible
  • Ideally each Key Result has an owner against it - even if multiple people work on it
  • Setting anti-goals can be helpful to clarify what you are not working on

Bear the following in mind:

  • You don't have to use metrics if they don't help you
  • Don't fall into an existential crisis every time we do this exercise - while Objectives and Key Results are important, they're easy to change, so iterate if you need to
  • All Key Results are bad - they have many compromises, are fallible, easy to game, or may be affected by external factors, so use the least bad Key Results
  • Use counter metrics where needed (X happens, but Y shouldn't happen)
  • Don't have a lot of Key Results if you can't capture everything in one - just pick the most important one or two
  • Don't set arbitrary Key Results that a team cannot achieve
  • Don't set a Key Result that is mainly noise or a vanity metric, and try to avoid boolean (yes/no) Key Results
  • Consistently hitting ambitious Objectives over the long term is an important factor in the pay review process, but if you miss extremely tough Objectives but still achieve great things en route, that's great
  • Objectives and Key Results can be changed mid-quarter - if a more impactful goal becomes obvious to you, suggest it as a PR


What if I don't have time to do work towards my OKRs because of X (X = customer support / urgent board reporting / something else)?

Picking up the occasional thing that isn't technically going to help your goal is ok. This is because we're small and may not set 100% perfect goals. As ever, prioritize as you see fit.

If my team repeatedly miss objectives, what happens?

Objectives should be ambitious but achievable - you should be able to hit them by challenging yourself, but not to the point of burnout.

If your team is consistently missing objectives, they are too hard or possibly the wrong objectives.


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