Using OKR in public sector organizations

Recommended reading: OKR vs. KPI: How they compare and work together


Henrik-Jan: Hi everyone and welcome to another episode of Goal Diggers — the podcast for OKRs, KPIs, strategy, and growth. I’m Henrik, founder, and CEO of Perdoo, the tool for strategy and growth management for fast-growing organizations. I’ll be the host of today’s episode. And with me today is Wilma van Leeuwen. Wilma, please tell us a bit about yourself.

Wilma: Yeah, my background is in business administration in tech organizations. And I started my working career at the fire department in the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. And there I was responsible for all IT systems, the maintenance, but also the development of systems, including the control room we had.

And after several years of working for the fire brigade, I started working in a municipality in the Netherlands where we had a focus on change management. And since 2009, I’ve worked as a freelance manager, mostly working on assignments in organizational development in municipalities.

And it’s there that I learned the importance of really setting goals, reaching goals in public organizations, and it can be really hard sometimes to do that.

Henrik-Jan: And when you’re talking about goals; that then also includes the OKR methodology?

Wilma: Yeah. Well, I only started about two years ago, discovering the OKR method.

Henrik-Jan: And before working with OKRs were goals already an important part of how the municipality of Amsterdam was being run?

Wilma: Yes, it was. But as it was organized very decentralized, there were many departments that had their own goals and those were not always really compatible with each other.

And in 2015, we started centralizing the IT departments. And, after that, we were separated from our business partners as we call it. And they had their own goals, which was difficult to find alignment.

Henrik-Jan: And how were you introduced to the OKR framework and what made the Gemeente Amsterdam, the municipality of Amsterdam, adopt OKR?.

Wilma: Well, we noticed that we were not able to achieve any results in our area of work, which is a public space of Amsterdam. And my manager had been searching for a method or for a way to discover how to reach these goals. Like for instance, using strategic planning, information systems, or, well, all those kinds of things. But they didn’t work because our businesses were not interested.

They were interested in short-term results and they thought we just should deliver. So one day he had read the book Measure What Matters and he discussed it with me and he thought, well, maybe it’s a good idea to try this. And, well, it was just before Christmas. And so we did, and we started in January.

Henrik-Jan: And how has it been going so far?

Wilma: Well..

Henrik-Jan: You started in January of what year? Of …

Wilma: 2019

Henrik-Jan: 2019. So that’s already more than two years ago.

Wilma: Yeah. Well, it was December 2019. So you could say January 2020. So two years now. We started out really small or just working with two teams who started working on OKRs.

After the first quarter, we tried to scale up to 10 of our teams, which is a department of about 250 people. And after the first year, there was also a second department — a new department that started working on OKR. It’s the data department. So we were about 500 people working on the OKR method. And the first year was really hard to get people to understand what are goals and what are results, because we are very process oriented in the municipality.

And, the second year, went a little bit better because we started introducing, well, working together with our business partners to define goals and results, which was working a lot better. I think. And for the second department, it was much easier to find their goals because they were a new organization and they had only changed to deal with.

So they had goals to change and to really establish their department in a good way. And now we’re going to scale up to about 1200 people in all of the IT departments of Amsterdam.


Comments are closed