&yet builds a culture of innovation with OKRs

September 2020


Richland, WA


Computer Software





About &yet: Using creative technology to solve business problems

As a people-first growth and creative consultancy, &yet is an eclectic group of designers, developers, illustrators, writers, speakers, and strategists who solve growth and business challenges. With the mission to bring out the best in people, &yet prides itself on making everything they touch better than it was when they found it.

Choosing OKRs to help manage goals for a people-first culture

As an agency that values process and organization, executives at &yet discovered that the OKR methodology would be a great structure for their team. Not only does the OKR framework clearly communicate to everyone what the priorities are, but it also helps to keep everyone aligned and moving in the same direction, together. 

“The OKR methodology seemed like a great fit for &yet because it combined performance metrics with everyone’s written feedback,” says Sarah Avenir, CEO of &yet. “We have a culture around bringing our whole selves to every project that we work on, so having the qualitative element was the right approach to goal setting for our team.”

Seeking software to help manage OKRs and status

After settling on the OKR methodology, &yet started off by using spreadsheets to manage goals, but quickly identified the need for a software-based tool to help track strategic initiatives. They found that spreadsheets were difficult to keep up-to-date and not everyone could easily collaborate or exchange feedback. 

As a growing organization, &yet is always looking for ways to do better and to build on lessons learned in the past, both as individuals and as a team. When evaluating software tools, the team prioritized finding a US-built tool, that helped to enable transparency and collaboration across team members. Eric Zano, &yet COO, led the evaluation effort, tested out a few OKR software tools, and quickly took to Koan after realizing that the two companies shared similar values

With both startups based in the Pacific Northwest, the &yet team was excited about using another local company that valued people and strived to create a positive user experience.  Koan and &yet also aligned on the philosophy that goal management is an opportunity for learning and growth, rather than it being a tool for performance management. OKRs enable teams to work together to overcome roadblocks, and they aren't intended to be used as a tool to measure or evaluate an individual employee's value.

“With a simple and clean user interface, it’s clear that Koan prioritizes the user experience, and I could see the &yet team using and enjoying the tool,” says Avenir. “Koan resonated with everyone because it actually feels friendly and takes into account our human-ness.”

After ultimately deciding to move forward with Koan, the executive staff began to roll out the platform to the entire organization. Koan was the easy-to-use, simple tool that the &yet team needed to manage OKRs because it helped to reinforce best practices while also seamlessly fitting into the way the team already worked. 

Positive, collaborative habits lead to long-term value 

Since the adoption of Koan, the &yet leadership team now has a vehicle to regularly prioritize ways to communicate what’s important to the rest of the organization. The team has found particular value from the Slack-integrated Check-ins feature, which allows everyone to regularly update the team on what is on their minds and the top things they’re working on.

“The &yet team has a daily tradition of what we call a ‘pizza roll call’ where everyone posts in Slack what they’re working on for the day, using a pizza roll emoji. Koan’s Slack integration has made this check-in process easier and it's a great way to help us to track progress over the course of the week,” says Avenir.

After using Koan for several quarters, the value of using software to track OKRs has become even more apparent. There had been occasions where priorities needed to shift quickly. Koan made it easy for the team to adapt within the platform, while still keeping the process consistent. In addition, the ability to archive previous goals and capture retrospectives has helped the leadership team to gain a better understanding of their priorities, enabling them to make better-informed decisions for current planning.

“As we do quarterly and annual planning, it’s extremely helpful to look back and see what we’ve accomplished and then understand what we were thinking at a previous point in time. Having the historical record helps us to set the right priorities moving forward,” says Avenir. 

Staying connected as a remote team

While remote work isn’t new to the &yet team, using Koan has helped everyone to stay connected and has provided visibility into what each teammate is working on. Especially with the Weekly Reflections and Daily Check-in features, everyone has found a way to understand what is going on and to identify if there are any potential blockers that need to be addressed. 

Particularly the ability to add custom questions has provided value because it allows the leadership team to use Reflections as a hybrid approach to check in with employees on a personal level but also gives them an understanding of how each individual is feeling about the OKRs they are working towards. 

“As a remote-based company, &yet actually has an OKR about creating a healthy work environment for all employees,” says Avenir. “We’re committed to helping people experience both professional and personal growth, and want to make sure the company is meeting everyone’s needs so they can be efficient when working remotely.”

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