The why of Viva Goals

With the general availability of Viva Goals at the start of August 2022, many people have been wondering what the benefits are. The honest answer is that the majority are to do with the OKR (Objective Key Result) framework that Viva Goals helps organisations to implement it but the tools are just part of the equation. This blog post looks into some of the challenges that OKRs along with Viva Goals look to address. Future posts will look into:

  • The what of Viva Goals - covering what OKRs are and how Viva Goals supports these across your organisation
  • The how of Viva Goals - how you can set up Viva Goals and how it can transform your organisation

The super powers of OKRs

Let's start with some questions, some of which will be relevant to individuals, some to departments and some to the whole organisation.

  • Do you start work on a Monday morning and wonder why you are doing what you do?
  • Are you trying to help change the direction of your organisation?
  • Does your organisation have a clearly set strategy that the organisation understands?
  • Do you know how aligned people are to that strategy?
  • Are team or department siloes causing repeated work and miscommunication?
  • Do you find yourself doing the same thing day in, day out?
  • Are you being challenged in your role?

The super powers of OKRs can help you understand how all these can be addressed.

  • Focus
  • Alignment
  • Tracking
  • Transparency
  • Stretch

These take into account the areas that OKRs used across an organisation can help drive value but you may target different areas at different rates as well, especially for larger organisations. The more areas that you have onboard, the more alignment and focus you will have.

Focus and alignment

Do you remember last Monday morning? Perhaps you had a long weekend with the kids, fixing up the house the way you want it or were out making shapes at a festival. Monday morning may have felt painful and so turning on your PC/Mac may have kicked off that familiar feeling. What do I have to do today? Maybe you had a list or just went to your calendar to check what was going on. But did you know why? Were you just going through the motions with no real feeling as to how these tasks play into the wider picture of your department or whole organisation.

OKRs provide a set of hierarchical objectives from the top to all employees. It allows you to align what you are doing with what you are meant to be doing and what the organisation is trying to achieve. It helps you look at new ideas you may have and to compare them to the key areas of focus to see if they link in with other's ideas.

To drive a specific focus, organisation's should look to focus on just 3-5 goals per quarter so that employees are not pulled in many different directions at the same time. This helps to make sure that things get done rather than providing different pulls from different competing goals across different areas.

I have seen this in action myself. At a previous organisation, a new head of technology joined. In his first two months, he outlined his seven areas of focus along with a set of metrics that would be used to measure each one. Sadly, my memory of most of them has long faded but I remember that one was around the virtualisation of the server estate and another about getting a more service oriented approach to IT Teams (that were far more used to just getting an email and hoping they got round to it eventually in many cases). Each area was set a target to achieve and this was tracked on a regular basis.

Many conversations were had about initiatives that were wanted to start but if they didn't align to one of the pillars then there was no traction. This brought the focus across all but also meant that people aligned what was needed to these pillars. For example, if we felt that the system we were developing could be more efficient, we could introduce the aim to reduce CPU cycles which would improve the virtualisation estate. It helped us align our own initiatives to those of the organisation and provide the focus for the value that should be achieved.


While many organisation's may have their set of values and it may be well understood, these will often not stay as a centre of focus without understanding how things are going. The power of tracking means that not only is the focus and alignment to an organisation's strategy is understood but exactly what should be achieved at any point of time to achieve the strategy.

OKRs provide this through the key result portion of the OKR, providing explicit values that can be tracked over time to determine if an objective has been met or not. This also allows tracking to see if the objective is on track to be met or not as well.

The tracking at a deeper level in the organisation also allows managers and employees to have a more regular conversation around what they are achieving. This reduces the panic of ticking off all objectives at the end of the year and helps to steer a more realistic approach to objectives throughout the year. This keeps employees engaged with their objectives and prevents them becoming a side show to their main role while they become disengaged with ongoing improvement.


Have you ever wondered what on earth another department actually does? Whether you are in operations and just think marketing fluff about sending silly social media posts or you are in marketing and wonder why sales never make anything of the leads you generate, siloes can cause big problems to a focused organisation.

OKRs are designed to be as transparent as possible so that you understand everyone else's objectives as well as your own. This means you can find out what the focus of another team is and understand why they may not be reacting so quickly to your requests. It means that you can see if other teams are also looking at the same objectives as you to help build shared objectives.

One of the most powerful things I heard at the last MVP Summit was two teams talking about having a shared OKR. It was nothing to do with Viva or Viva Goals but it demonstrated immediately to me that the common siloes that often appear at large organisation's like Microsoft were being broken down by these two teams. They were pulling in the same direction and people working with them would see that togetherness over time.


There is a future post in the making that outlines the difference between KPIs and OKRs but one key aim of OKRs is to stretch everyone - individual employees, teams, departments and the organisation as a whole. If people are achieving their OKRs completely on a regular basis then they are not stretching themselves enough. The intention should be to push themselves and challenge themselves to be able to do more.

Naturally, this should be within reason and having no-one ever able to achieve anything. The stretch should be achievable but not unrealistic or people will drift away. It should make things interesting and drive more achievement.

Learning more about the why

If these examples have whet your appetite to hear more, do check out the book Measure What Matters by John Doerr. John was fundamental to getting OKRs to drive change at Google from the very early days. There are some great examples such as the change of measuring success for YouTube from number of videos to number of minutes watched, changing behaviour across the different teams and with the users themselves.

OKRs, when implemented well, can provide such a powerful way of keeping people engaged with their achievements and their job as a whole. They can help individuals understand their Monday mornings and help organisation's drive change where needed.

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash