On an OKR-based Digital Transformation


Michael Goitein headshot
Michael Goitein

Enterprise Agile and OKRs Coach at KeyBank

Episode notes

If taking any legacy organization into a new era of enterprise agility poses challenges, then doing so for a 200-year-old bank is a special mountain to climb.

Host Jenny Herald’s guest on this episode of Dreams with Deadlines is Michael Goitein, an agility expert who has been coaching KeyBank – the 20th largest in the U.S. – through an exciting digital transformation and using an OKR-based methodology to help get the job done.

What you will learn

  • A variety of initiatives that Mike and his team have introduced and the how they’ve brought stakeholders along for the ride.
  • The difference between Outcomes and Outputs, as well as creative strategic visioning versus analytical, project-based planning.
  • Key ingredients to highlight in the pursuit of cross-functional buy-in.
  • Two major indicators for successful OKR adoption.
  • The power of an aspirational mindset shift from “committed” to “stretch” goals.
  • Why discovery, time, transparency, and collaboration will advance your OKR framework every time – no matter how complex or tradition-bound the enterprise.

Show notes

  • [02:34] Mike walks us through his career trajectory, from digital publishing to e-commerce, mobile computing to a longer-term shift into IT consulting and coaching.
  • [03:54] A look at KeyBank’s decision to acquire Hello Wallet, an app to support customer loyalty, financial health, and smarter decision-making.
    • The young team brought fresh energy.
    • The integration has served as a model for other fintech acquisitions.
  • [05:41] About 200-year-old KeyBank – the 20th largest in the U.S. with assets of about $180 billion – and the role that Mike’s team plays in moving the institution from analog to digital, from on-prem to cloud and all the mindsets that go along with change.
  • [06:52] Mike highlights initiatives and strategy development at KeyBank:
    • Infrastructure improvements to create the runway for innovation
    • Fintech acquisitions
    • Hack-a-thons to test resiliency
  • [08:29] Outcome versus Outputs:
    • Outcomes are strategy-focused, enabling a different future and new capabilities.
    • Outputs are more analytical and project-based.
  • [09:32] About OKRs and cross-functional development, reaching across silos to enable restructuring and transformational initiatives through outcome-oriented teams.
  • [13:39] Mike explains why initiatives like his at KeyBank succeed by offering recurring value, embracing system shifts, and integrating clearly defined OKRs from the outset – then staying grounded and aligned with the original vision.
  • [17:23] How an Agile Transformation initiative launched discussions within KeyBank – including its coaching team and a global consultant, resulting in an OKR framework.
  • [18:06] Challenges that arose out of KeyBank’s transition to a new OKR orientation:
    • Not simply substituting OKR measures for a previous KPI approach. They are different animals.
    • Shifting away old systems and the Project Management Orientation that is especially common among legacy companies.
  • [19:42] “Stretch” versus “Committed” Goals: Part of Mike’s mandate is to help KeyBank stretch beyond setting easily achievable goals – a comfort zone for established organizations – to become more nimble, swing for the stands and accept that failure is part of the process.
  • [21:38] How Mike evangelizes for sufficient time for implementation and a leadership orientation towards aspirational goals. Cross-functional, structural change takes patience and persistence.
  • [24:03] Two Major Factors for OKR Adoption Success:
    • Creative, strategy-led focus (rather than an analytical, planning approach).
    • A substantial discovery process built on teams digging deep and creating a collective vision for how to work cross-functionally over the long haul.
  • [24:58] What “discovery” looks like at KeyBank, which includes working collaboratively with both the business and technology sides of the house and using an outcome- and value-based framework.
  • [26:41] Velocity and efficiency are great, but effectiveness is the goal. Using continuous discovery – with small, nimble assays – accelerates desired measurable outcomes.
  • [28:54] What happens to all those measures? Do teams throw them out? Story points and velocity can be helpful, but outcomes-based, empowered collaboration and creativity are king.
  • [31:29] Are OKRs just a burden? Not when teams work together to strengthen and evolve existing processes that aren’t stymied by planning and task-based systems. Solid leadership, transparency, communication, and coaching enable success!
  • [35:27] Quick Fire Questions for Mike:
    • What’s your Dream With a Deadline? 
      • Step by step, over the coming year or two, Mike would like to see KeyBank leadership and teams working collaboratively across the enterprise. Each chapter of that journey may be a chapter for a book!
    • What do you appreciate about your team? 
      • They are caring, thoughtful, and extremely committed to agile coaching with a range and depth of skills to offer.
    • What execution challenge has KeyBank faced? 
      • As a legacy organization, it has been a process for the CEO and leadership team to execute over time on digital transformation and migrate to a more nimble mode of operations.
    • What nuggets of advice do you have for a business just starting out with OKRs?
      • Linking client-centricity with creative strategy is critical – and then hiring good people and putting in place a program that's effective in setting goals and effectively delivering against them. 
    • What’s top of mind for you these days at KeyBank?
      • Continuing to do the hard work to make transformational breakthroughs and move together as a team to best serve our customers every day.

Relevant links

About our guest:

Michael Goitein headshot
Michael Goitein

Enterprise Agile and OKRs Coach

Michael Goitein, enterprise agile and OKRs coach at KeyBank, is a global technology leader, innovator, author and certified Agile transformer who strategically directs and delivers multi-million-dollar, enterprise-level digital, mobile, big data, and high-tech solutions for Fortune 200 clients. He leads local and globally-distributed teams coaching, innovating, executing, and delivering end-to-end mobile and digital projects.

Additional resources