Strategy, Value Streams, and OKRs Explained | Minaxi Punjabi

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In this podcast episode, Minaxi Panjabi, an agile coach and expert in strategy development and OKRs, discusses the topics of strategy, value streams, and OKRs.

Minaxi is a passionate human-centric leadership practitioner who combines neuroscience and anthropology to enhance collaboration and drive value within organizations. With expertise in change implementation, governance, and product delivery, she focuses on shifting mindsets towards a value-oriented approach, empowering teams and organizations to thrive in a dynamic world.


  • Understanding the WHY behind the strategy is crucial for effective implementation.
  • Value streams provide a holistic view of the actions required to deliver value to customers and promote collaboration and awareness within an organization.
  • OKRs serve as a feedback mechanism for measuring progress toward objectives and can help identify areas for improvement.
  • Starting with small experiments can be an effective way to implement value streams and OKRs.

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(00:00) Intro

(03:16) Developing Strategy and Long-Term Goals

(05:40) Aligning Agile Practices with Strategic Goals

(09:10) Executing the Strategy

(13:37) Understanding Value Streams

(19:07) Developing Value Stream Mapping

(21:50) Benefits of Visualizing Value Streams

(24:34) Other Benefits of Value Streams

(27:36) Mistakes People Make When Mapping Value Streams

(29:01) Introduction to OKRs

(32:46) Setting Up OKRs

(36:55) Lessons Learned and Pitfalls to Avoid

(39:48) Final Advice

Transcript (Edited by Vit Lyoshin for better readability)

Vit Lyoshin (00:00.612)

Hi everyone, welcome back to the Vit Lyoshin Podcast. Today’s guest is Minaxi Panjabi. She’s an agile coach and expert in strategy development and OKRs. Welcome Minaxi, nice to have you here.


Minaxi Punjabi (00:17.971)

Good morning, Vit. Thank you so much for having me.


Vit Lyoshin (00:22.148)

Sure. So today I invited you to talk about a few things about strategy, value streams, OKRs, and things like that. So, before we jump into the discussion, if you’d like to say just a few words about your journey and how you ended up being an Agile Coach.


Minaxi Punjabi (00:48.083)

Awesome, thank you, Vit. You know, a wise person once told me, a lot of times we don’t find our profession, our profession finds us. I think that’s very much my case. I’m just, I don’t know if I’m a people person, but I’m just so intrigued by us as humans and how it is that we can be our best whether it’s at work or in our interpersonal relationships, in our family life, or with our friends. And how is it that we as a society can coexist? So anyway, that was my journey. And I discovered that agile was one way of working where all of those qualities and values are exemplified. And I found myself there. So, you know, this is how I really feel like our professions often find us.


Vit Lyoshin (01:52.74)

Okay cool, yeah it just happens like that all the time, right? You just find yourself doing something, you fall in love and continue with that.

Okay, so let’s jump into the first topic of strategies. Can you tell me a little bit about how you help organizations to develop strategy overall and long-term goals?


Minaxi Punjabi (02:23.059)

Sure. So one thing is, you know, strategy can mean different things for different people, as in, are we a Silicon Valley startup? Are we a small business? Are we talking about federal enterprises? One of the things about a strategy coach or a facilitator, it’s important that they understand that. So give them some time before you invite them to the strategy discussion. To observe you, to learn about the work, to learn about the problems. And why are we having the strategy? So I think today you might hear me say this very often, the why, the why, the why.

So likewise, like, why are we going to be talking about strategy today or in the next month? That would be even like the first thing before we even go into building, finalizing, or creating our actual strategy.

Another thing about strategy is, so this strategy, which is about today, but there’s also a thing about strategy on how it might come back and unintended consequence. And I’ll give a shout-out to an amazing podcast called Lenny’s Podcast. The recent guest on that podcast has said, they gave an excellent example about the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor. In the short term, that strategy was like, wow. But in the long term, that’s what empowered the public opinion within the United States to enter the war and the rest is history.

So strategy often, you know, we have some knowns and we go with that, but there’s also this other aspect that often gets ignored.


Vit Lyoshin (04:29.028)

So how do agile practices align with strategic goals in the organization?


Minaxi Punjabi (04:40.599)

So, agile and strategy, like one, just in the use of the English language, a strategy has to have an agility factor. Because like I said, we, what we know today, I’m sure you’ve heard this a lot about COVID. Imagine people who drew their strategic plans on Jan 30th, and then sometime in Feb, COVID shut down.

They couldn’t, that strategy was now rendered useless. They had to go back to the drawing board. So in that sense, remember that the strategy is given what we know today. But if the emerging data or the information tells us something else that our strategy is wrong, don’t be too attached to it. I know we’ve put in a lot of hard work. So that’s the first thing about agility.

The other thing is when designing strategy, co-create. Ideally, don’t have just one person, one human being sitting at the top with the highest pay grade declaring the strategy. So collaboration is about agile. And hopefully, they have a vision and a mission, or at least one of the two. So like Walmart would say, we want to be the best price for our customer, the lowest price for our customer, no matter how they shop. Have that value or that vision mission statement so that whatever you are strategizing is all towards that. So have that loud and clear. Every time, make sure you’re validating that, yes, does this take us to that outcome? And then, yeah, reflect which is again an agile value, and improve.


Vit Lyoshin (06:44.1)

Yeah, so if I can just rephrase that, if you will. So there’s collaboration there. There’s also getting back to your business, matching your business value with the customer value. And then you called for reflection, which is our retrospective self-improvement technique, right?

And then the most important about Agile, which is the first thing you mentioned, is the ability to pivot really quick or adjust really quickly. Learn something or some external thing happened, the act of God or whatever, like with the pandemic, and you had to adjust all your plans and go from office environment to remote environment and the whole thing just changed. So yeah, and I think all those things match exactly with what agile principles are. And if you build into your, not build into your strategy, but more like have a culture of that when you’re working on your strategy, have this in mind at the organization level, that would be really great to have that flexibility. I think that’s great how you put this together.

Do you have any insights on the possible execution of the strategy?


Minaxi Punjabi (08:10.995)

This is after the strategy has been built, right?

So one is that I often see there’s a lot of assumption that everybody understands it and everybody’s aware of it. Create that awareness. And when creating that awareness to at the different levels and layers of enterprise, again, depending, you know, we’re seeing startups, small business, government at every layer, make sure to create the awareness and to say the why.

Now, this is why it is different from the why that we originally started with when designing the strategy. As in, let’s say I’m a development team. And as per that strategy, we’re going to deliver more frequently. Right? We’re going to use agile practices and make sure that delivery is not once a year.

Now, as a developer, I’m like, what? This really matters to me. So how can I frame that, that we are changing this or we’ve modified the way we deliver? What is that why for you as a developer? Well, as a developer, you’ll be getting feedback in small bits and pieces. Complexity is lesser and predictability is higher. And when you have smaller pieces to work on more frequently, your problems and your constraints can get raised much more quickly. And you can get the benefit and you can derive a better leadership engagement that way. So one part of like, as that strategy comes down and has to be executed, create the awareness, create the desire.

Now, support them with any training and knowledge that this change or this way of working is going to bring. And then make sure after they’ve acquired the knowledge, they have some kind of a SME around them to keep supporting that for it to stick. Not just like, okay, you’ve got training. Now I expect you to be a SME in one day. Right. And that they have the right tools to support it.

Lastly, I will say that sometimes again gets lost is when we create a new process or new tools to support, you know, a strategy, we tend to then want people to adjust to the tool and the process. Sometimes it’s good to remember that the tools and processes are there to serve the people, not the other way around. So a little bit of empathy while executing that strategy.


Vit Lyoshin (11:08.548)

Yeah, okay, that’s great. And then you mentioned something I think is important, is that you have an overall long-term strategy with goals, right, which are huge chunks and they’re not like executable in a short period of time or at once. You have to break them down, you have to work with your product team or development team to figure out those smaller chunks and plan them out in smaller sprints, what we call sprints, right?

And that’s where the team comes in to actually execute at the sprint level or maybe a few sprints at the time, like short-term planning. And then get some learnings from there and then maybe even adjust the whole strategy, like in an earlier example you had with the pandemic.

So I think it’s also important to remember that there are two levels, if you will, of planning that long-term with huge goals. And then shorter term at the team level where like you said they have to have the knowledge, SME support, the right tools, and all these other things that the delivery team needs. Yeah, I think that’s great and those insights are really helpful.

Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about value streams now, what are the value streams in general and why do they matter?


Minaxi Punjabi (12:38.131)

You know, in a business, there are so many functionalities. There’s legal, there’s marketing, there’s cyber, there’s governance, now there’s data. And of course, technology, because today most businesses are technology businesses, right? Because we serve our clients and we’ve gone away from the manual economy.

Often, we are all so vertically deep into our space and our area. So let’s take a mortgage company, for example, right? Somebody who is processing loans, right? They have probably access to the user or probably not, right? Depending on how the business is broken up. You could have someone who’s just taking the application versus somebody who’s actually turning all the numbers and seeing whether they are creditworthy versus all the tech that’s supporting this versus the data and possibly using AI to predict, you know, how much worthy this person is.

Versus the business who’s seeing, are we going to be profitable? You know, we have like 10 loans given to people in the 300K range. We need to go and get 20 more customers in the 1 million range, right? Like you have all these different aspects of business and then you have the operations of all of this technology and people who are delivering.

And then what happens during the time of strategy or execution of budgeting? Each one in our vertical knows what’s best for our vertical. And there’s only so much money to go around. And depending on who’s the loudest or who is the most revenue building at that time gets their budget approved while the others suffer quote unquote, right?

In the value streams, you get to see end-to-end every action that is required in this business from the start to the end to deliver value to the customer. Right? Every business and every mission exists because eventually there is a customer. And having that end to end again, first discovered and then communicated across.

One, it increases collaboration. Second, it creates awareness. Third, we as humans, when we understand our interdependence, we are not really independent, even though we might wanna believe that. You know, today when I’m dependent on farming and agriculture, even though my grocery might come in a can, right? But someone grew those vegetables and put them in there. If it’s lab meat, there is somebody who, a startup created the lab meat, right? Like we are interdependent, we are a system of systems. So a lot of times, you know, in life, even like to have that light bulb go off is huge.

Of course, there are so many more benefits as an effect of that, but the biggest one is just knowing where we are in this system and who else, what the big picture and how is all interconnected, and how it matters what happens to them or what happens to me and how can we and also scaling for scaling is so important to see the whole picture. So these are numerous reasons why a value stream is important and why they matter and basically get all the actions for a product or service end-to-end and that’s how you visualize value streams.


Vit Lyoshin (17:04.164)

I see. So when you were talking, I had this thought flying through my head. Like before we used to have org charts in the organization, right? The outline of who’s doing what on the general level, what departments we have, and things like that. But what it sounds to me, a value stream is a more detailed map of the organization, like a blueprint of the organization with exactly who’s working where, what their goals are, what their techniques are, maybe how they do things, their strategies at the local department level. And it all comes together end-to-end, like you said, to make sure that they deliver that value. That’s a kind of an analogy in my head that popped up.

So what are some of the techniques or best practices on how organizations can map it out?


Minaxi Punjabi (18:08.723)

I would definitely say make it collaborative, right? You could hire someone from the outside, like a coach, and it does not have to be an internal person, but allow access to everyone for whoever’s doing the value stream mapping work. And along with that access, start with where customers really start. Like the customer maybe if you take a retail store, right? Maybe they start at the entrance of a brick-and-mortar store or they can start online.

So make sure you have right from that first step available, right? So taking a mortgage example, I put in my application, right? And if I have a real realty business then that’s where they start, they see the board or they have a need of wanting a house. So there’s many inputs that would eventually go into a value stream, like why is the need? What are the pain points? What brought them there?

But a very basic value streams map technique would be to take every action that the customer would do from start to finish, and then make sure that there are all the actions that the customer may not see or be aware of, for example, data, credit check, operations of the bank. Make sure to put those pieces as well in there and create it end-to-end.

So start with the customer’s journey and then add the other pieces that may not be visible to the customer, but they exist, right? Like legal and compliance for the customer to receive that end value. I would say that’s the approach.


Vit Lyoshin (20:09.892)

I see.


Minaxi Punjabi (20:11.795)

But keep it collaborative. Give people access to all of those business functions. Don’t put them in a room and ask them to imagine what our values stream.


Vit Lyoshin (20:22.948)

Yeah, okay. Basically, start with the customer, keep them in mind all the time and just collaborate between departments and figure out how that value travels basically, right? The service or product that you deliver. 

So what are the benefits of visualizing this? Why do people do this in general?


Minaxi Punjabi (20:51.539)

So one thing is like I mentioned, budgeting. That’s huge, especially more complex the system, right? Like in a startup, let’s say I’m a solopreneur and I decide to open a small Etsy shop, right? Totally different, my budgeting, like it’s just me. I can choose whether to invest more in my raw material, my inventory, or somewhere else or in my tech, right?

But when we’re talking of modern-day enterprises. They are so large and so complex. So one of the biggest things is this ability to view end-to-end and the interdependency and the customer’s journey and our vision is budgeting, if nothing else. But again, at the individual teams who are doing the work level, that communication and collaboration become so, you know, we are visual as animals, our preferences more visual in terms of grasping abstract concepts than reading about it or hearing about it. And so that’s one huge advantage that you can do budgeting.

And of course, you can have communication and collaboration within teams because today’s tech is so complex. Like we have outside customers, but so much of the tech is created for internal stakeholders and users, right? For data, for example, and various other operations of a business. So it’s important that we get to know each other’s work. So we can deliver value internally too. Avoid waste that way.


Vit Lyoshin (22:31.94)

Yeah, so it’s going back to those agile principles or values, right? Visualize it and collaborate with each other, make sure you understand this whole process, and how it works. And I think this idea of visualizing comes from the Kanban world, and maybe that’s how value streams can be viewed as a huge, maybe not really a Kanban board, but a huge visualization board of how your whole business operates and delivers value to users. So maybe that’s how analogy can be placed there.


Minaxi Punjabi (23:14.067)

You’re not too far off when you say Kanban because value streams are part of Lean and Kanban too comes from applying Lean. So you’re not too far off.

Value streams might show us some waste. That’s one of the other things that I didn’t go deep into about value streams. And value stream might show us bottlenecks. Those are definitely some of the benefits at the team level, right? Not at a huge large enterprise level, but when we start actually breaking down those pieces of handoff and what happens when the customer moves from here to here. Also, it gives us data about cycle time and lead time, where cycle time is the time the work was actually being done. So let’s say two days in filling the application, two days in credit check and profiling if this is credit-worthy. OK?

But between these two and two days, there were three days where the application was just sitting. So a cycle time would just be those two days and two days, four days. But lead time would be from the time the user started the application, then it was waiting, then it was looked at for creditworthiness, then it was waiting. So lead time will have all those, the entire timeline.

That is called flow and that is another advantage or insight. So flow, waste, bottlenecks, handoffs, time spent in between the pieces. These are opportunities where we will know how and what can help us expedite that value and expedite usually most of the time translates into savings and better customer satisfaction. There are some times where like a CI/CD pipeline, right? For DevOps and for frequent releases, you might need to invest more money. But again, eventually, you will get ROI on that.

So that’s how value streams, I would say, contribute to actually making educated decisions on what needs to change to improve versus, you know, again, we look only at our vertical and we only point fingers at someone else without actually understanding the whole system of systems.


Vit Lyoshin (26:33.796)

It’s basically looking for bottlenecks, looking for optimization improvements in the flow, in the process, any sort of those things. Value streams can help analyze the whole process and point out those issues and you can fix them over time. So yeah, that makes sense.

Are there any major mistakes that you see that people are making when they’re mapping value streams?


Minaxi Punjabi (27:07.252)

We are not mapping value streams often enough.


Vit Lyoshin (27:10.82)

Okay, so it’s like frequent revisions of it or not frequent but periodic maybe.


Minaxi Punjabi (27:17.843)

I just think people don’t take that on. Yeah, like enterprises do not invest in doing a value stream mapping.


Vit Lyoshin (27:25.988)

Well, that’s where you as a coach comes in, right? To help them and motivate them and point out of importance of this. Because I don’t think many people understand it really. I think this concept came from SAFe and SAFe is still relatively new. Maybe it came before SAFe. I’m not sure because  I’m not that familiar. I’m not practicing SAFe in my organization now.

I think it’s still maybe like a kind of future trend when more people will see the benefit in this and start using this more often. Like Scrum didn’t start with all companies at once, right? It started slow and small, and then people started seeing benefits in it and rolled it out. Same thing here, maybe it’s just a relatively new concept.

Okay, so let’s talk about OKRs a little bit and can you just tell me what OKRs are?


Minaxi Punjabi (28:33.011)

Yeah, so I think OKRs were popularized by Google if I’m not mistaken. Again, a very Silicon Valley concept.

Objectives and key results. So usually I think of whatever is a vision and mission, and then you have a strategy. And whatever your strategy, it is to meet some objective.

So that’s your objective. And how will you know if you’re meeting that objective is the key result.

I’d like to add two more things. One is the key result is usually a lagging indicator as in it’s like watching the rear view. It doesn’t forecast. It tells us how we did. It’s like after I take the wrong exit on the highway, then I’m like, I took the wrong exit. Okay. Let me get back on, go 500 miles, and then take that exit. Okay. So that’s one thing to know.

Another thing to know is if we are not meeting a key result, it’s not a bad thing. It only means that let’s understand, are we aiming for the right objective? Or does our strategy need tweaking? Or it’s some of our tactics that are not giving us the key result.

So on the highway, for example, if I’ve taken the wrong exit, is it because my GPS is broken? Right? Is it because I was busy chatting, my tactics? So I need to focus more on the road or I’m not even on the right highway. I was supposed to go I-95 north. I’m going I-95 south. So it’s feedback, really key results.

Often people think key results are something to obtain and achieve. Yes, obtain and achieve so that we can validate that our strategy and what we’ve decided approach for that objective is working. So sometimes it’s a good thing when it tells you that, it’s not working. It’s information to pay attention to so you can do the right thing. So that’s one difference.

I think when implementing OKRs is forgotten, almost oftentimes I have seen it interpreted as this is the key result we have to meet. Like, you know, we have promised Wall Street that we will have 20% revenue growth. So we have to meet that. Yes, we have to meet that. And if we are not meeting it, then maybe we are looking at the wrong way to achieve that. Let’s fix that. That’s what the OKRs possibly can do for you.


Vit Lyoshin (31:40.452)

So it’s not like a goal-setting system. It’s more like feedback, like you said. You already have your goals and then you’re mapping them or setting up OKRs, basically, for this is what we’re trying to achieve and this is how we’re going to achieve them and this is how we’re going to measure them. And you basically double-check on yourself periodically on how you’re doing the work time.

So what could be some of the best practices or advice from you on how to set them up? The OKRs.


Minaxi Punjabi (32:17.971)

You know, in an ideal world, because it comes from the Silicon Valley ways of working, where teams are more empowered and they take, they select their objective really. They know the company strategy. They know the company’s objective.

Like Uber, they might be like, you know, we need to start a new market. I don’t know if Uber exists in Mexico. I know it exists in India, but let’s say they don’t exist in Mexico. So let’s say Uber says, you know, at a high level, we want to advance and we want to grow and we want to expand into Mexico.

Well, then the next layer of teams who would be enabling that objective for the company will say, okay, I’m going to pull that objective and say that my legal department will be ready with whatever we need for the Mexican government to give us the green signal. I take that objective and I’m going to run with it. How would we know what is our key result in the next six months? In the next six months, we will definitely be able to get all our paperwork on a checklist done. That’s going to be our key result, for example.

Which is another aspect of goals. Goals ought to be smart. You’ve got to have them small, you have to have them measurable, they have to be testable. So like you have a checklist where you can test it against. So make sure that’s how you design your objectives. You define them clearly, like what it is, how you’re going to measure it, how you’re going to test it, et cetera.

And then another team that’s not the legal team, right? They might be, we’re going to start looking for real estate for our cloud or a cloud vendor. If they don’t need their own data center, then maybe. Or, you know, a cloud vendor who does Mexico, for example, region, or we’re going to start advertising. So drivers sign up, right? Not only customers, but we also want to already have drivers available to us and whatever our banking and finance needs are.

So what I’m trying to say is there’s an objective at the company level, but in every vertical and within those verticals, the teams ideally have the independence, the autonomy, and the self-mastery to select what from that objective is going to be their objective and key result to meet what the company and the organization objective is? Often it may or may not be done. And that’s where everything ties in together. The strategy, the customer journey, and the value stream. Why all these pieces, again, are important is because that’s the whole picture, the whole system of systems versus just identifying strategy and then cascading down objectives.


Vit Lyoshin (35:47.14)

That makes sense. It just made me think when you were talking about this, how, at the team level, they set up goals for themselves, not really goals, but the measurements, right? The indicators for the progress. And it all maps back to the overall goal for the whole organization.

So, do you have any lessons learned maybe from your work? How it turned out, and how beneficial it is? Or maybe some pitfalls to watch out for?


Minaxi Punjabi (36:33.235)

I would say, like everything else, start a small experiment. So maybe encourage the teams to set their OKRs. Let’s say they can say one feature. A lot of enterprises, especially the old-fashioned businesses, we’re not startups. We can just say, go build something new for the customer, whatever you fancy. And we have a budget for it.

So like go try 10 experiments. A lot of times, especially federal agencies, right? We have mandates, we have legislation. We can’t go and do that, but maybe start with small experiments. And I’ve seen them do successfully like cloud initiatives and other transformations where the teams are like, you know what, our current tech debt and the current code structure is just so like, it needs to be updated as in it needs to be modernized, right? Even within the, there can be some autonomy that the teams can take themselves.

I would definitely start there because autonomy is also something that works both ways. Leadership has to be able to give, like let go a little bit. So let the teams do something small. Let the leadership be comfortable with how they are self-organized. They can manage this.

Even though it creates chaos initially, eventually it’ll get smoothened out. So try those small experiments where the team can start practicing autonomy and they will tell you best how the future complexity can be resolved or solved and what other technologies are out there. So I would say that is one thing that really works, start small.


Vit Lyoshin (38:55.844)

I see. Yeah, that’s great.

Coming to the end here, I wish we could talk a little bit more, but time is, you know, valuable as well. So what do you have as a final advice for people who are trying to get into this concept of value streams and OKRs? Like any advice to them to start with it, to learn more about it? Anything you can say to motivate them to start using it.


Minaxi Punjabi (39:30.291)

I will say this one of my favorite principles is Conway’s law. It says organizations that design systems produce designs that are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.

In other words, what is our internal as an organization communication structure? Our products and services will reflect the same dysfunctions or benefits. I have seen it so many times, so many times. And again, going back to the value streams is when you see your value stream and the various backend ops and ops and ops and, you know, or compliance and governance in silos and randomly occur and exist. And you’re like, no wonder whenever we try to do something, it’s like so chaotic and so complex. So it’s not a judgment again, you know, it’s all hindsight. And anybody can come in and say, you did a bad job because it’s hindsight.

So I always give kudos to these large enterprises. It’s not easy what they do at any level, but just something to be cognizant of. One good principle might be when we bring something new, what is the one old thing that we can drop? Because every plus one is exponential. It’s not linear in complex organizations.


Vit Lyoshin (41:24.764)

Thank you very much for your feedback, knowledge, and wisdom on these topics. That’s been great. I hope we can talk more in the future. Thank you for today. Bye-bye.


Minaxi Punjabi (41:39.059)

Absolutely. It was fun. Thank you.

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