On Scaling OKRs in a Fast-Growing Startup


Micaela Arizpe headshot
Micaela Arizpe

Chief of Staff to the COO at Personio

Episode notes

In this episode of Dreams with Deadlines, Jenny Herald welcomes Micaela Arizpe, Chief of Staff at Personio, to discuss the intricate challenges and strategies of scaling Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) in a rapidly growing startup environment.

What you will learn

  • Navigating Growth and Process Evolution: Micaela shares her experience joining Personio at a pivotal growth stage with around 700 employees. She details how existing structures and processes began to show signs of strain under rapid expansion, emphasizing the necessity for process evolution and revamping, especially in communication, alignment, and effectiveness.
  • Strategic Implementation and Evolution of OKRs: Delving into the role of OKRs, Micaela discusses their significance in maintaining focus, fostering autonomy, encouraging innovation, and ensuring transparency and alignment within a growing organization. She reveals how Personio adapted its OKR processes, including transitioning from simple tools like Google Sheets to more sophisticated systems, and how executive sponsorship played a vital role in the successful scaling of the OKR program.
  • Cultivating a Network of OKR Champions: An intriguing aspect of Personio's journey is the development of an OKR Champion network. Micaela highlights how empowering these champions as subject matter experts and strategic partners in various departments was crucial. She also discusses adapting the OKR processes to remote and hybrid environments, ensuring continuous alignment and collaboration across expanding teams.

Show notes

  • [00:00:06] Challenges of Scaling in a Fast-Growing Startup: Micaela discusses the initial challenges faced by Personio as it scaled, particularly the strain on existing structures and processes. She emphasizes the importance of evolving these elements to maintain efficiency and effectiveness.
  • [00:04:16] The Role and Evolution of OKRs. Jenny and Micaela delve into how OKRs were utilized and adapted at Personio. Micaela highlights their role in focusing efforts, fostering innovation, and ensuring transparency and alignment within the growing organization.
  • [00:08:09] Adapting OKRs for Remote Work and Collaboration. Jenny and Micaela cover the transition of OKR processes to suit remote and hybrid work environments. Micaela discusses the challenges and innovations in maintaining alignment and collaboration across geographically dispersed teams.
  • [00:13:37] Principles Behind the OKR Program. Micaela reflects on whether the underlying principles of Personio's OKR program changed with scaling. She reiterates the consistent focus on core principles like focus, ownership, stretch, innovation, alignment, and transparency.
  • [00:17:14] Strategic Priorities and Departmental OKRs. Jenny and Micaela shift to how strategic priorities feed into departmental OKRs at Personio, and the importance of aligning these with operational and financial planning.
  • [00:48:00] Quick-Fire Questions for Micaela Arizpe:
    • What is your dream with a deadline? Micaela shares her personal goal of publishing a poetry book, which she achieved by presenting it as a gift to her loved ones.
    • What advice would you give folks who are scaling their OKR program? Micaela emphasizes the importance of executive sponsorship and ensuring collective commitment and involvement in the OKR process.
    • What would you say is the most impactful lesson learned, maybe even failure, if you want to share, insight you've gained from your experience in scaling OKRs at Personio? Micaela advises focusing on training a network of OKR experts rather than creating rigid rules. She highlights the importance of decentralizing expertise to avoid becoming a bottleneck in the process.

Relevant links

About our guest:

Micaela Arizpe headshot
Micaela Arizpe

Chief of Staff to the COO

Through years of experience in Customer Success, strategy and business operations, Micaela has worked with C-level executives in B2B SaaS to define and operationalize strategies that drive customer value. In her current role she helped scale Personio’s OKR framework into a robust program suitable to their current size of 1800 employees and beyond.