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Atlassian: why we don’t like watermelons

Although its meteoric rise was well documented and it was a poster child for the new economy in the media, internally enterprise software designer Atlassian had issues with the “watermelon status” effect.

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Pic: Atlassian's offices Source: Supplied

That, according to Atlassian’s Work Futurist, Dom Price, refers to projects and initiatives that seem green from the outside but inside are red and full of roadblocks. 

"“I'll be deadly honestly, we got way more wrong at first than what we got right.” - Price

“We realised we had created a system by accident where people were trying to attain their goals but it was so punitive that we were actually stretching ourselves,” he explains.

Price says Atlassian went in search of something that would help their autonomous workforce be empowered, outperform and continually improve. Their solution? Objectives and key results (OKRs). 

“I'll be deadly honestly, we got way more wrong at first than what we got right,” he says. “The old way of doing things [was] sticky… we didn’t go through the right unlearning process… before we put in OKRs.”.

To help people unlearn and put OKRs in successfully, the company built the work into their Playbook.

“[We had to] work out our new rhythm, cadence and style with OKRs,” Price says. “For us, it was very much around the objective, around measuring outcomes and around putting the customer problem or opportunity at the center of the reason you're doing the thing.”

Price says one of the reasons many companies operate in an agile framework is because they have inherent uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity in what they are trying to achieve.

“We know the objective, we know the outcome we want to achieve but we don't always know exactly how to get there,” he says.

He says OKR frameworks teach companies to have high certainty on objectives and the things they want to achieve.

“Let's identify things we believe will enable us to measure progress and then lets constantly learn and course correct.”

Alicia Aitken is Head of Investment Management for Strategic Projects at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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