Overcoming the Challenges of Hypergrowth

The world demands change from organisations that expect to succeed. In the face of a pandemic and accelerating change, Chargebee answered this challenge by leveraging OKRs to further their transformation. We spoke to Chargebee’s Director of Operations – Lavanya Gopinath, about the decision to start the OKR journey and Chargebee’s experience to date.

About Chargebee

Chargebee is a leading SaaS billing and revenue management provider. Founded in Chennai on the southeastern coast of India in 2011, Chargebee is on a fast-track trajectory powering some of the fastest-growing SaaS and subscription-based businesses in the world. In April 2021, Chargebee was valued at $1.4 billion with more than 3,000 customers across the US, Europe, and the rest of the world. Now headquartered in San Francisco at 700 people strong, Chargebee benefits from the growing digital transformation of businesses moving to a SaaS model (accelerated by the pandemic) and sees aggressive rapid growth opportunities over the next five years.


Chargebee is a growing organisation — since late 2019, we have seen a pattern of rapid growth combined with increased demands for the organization and our products. We had good goal-setting mechanisms across the business, but not everyone was aware of them. Different teams worked in isolation. We need goals that are more visible across the entire organisation and to find a mechanism to drive greater collaboration.


Why choose OKRs over other management tools or frameworks?

We were aware of OKRs, but we did not have the right structures to embrace and implement them. Some of us were ready, but it felt that the organisation was not. As a result, our change management process started cautiously. We wanted to build the habit and culture of collaboration. Around 2019, when we had a smaller staff of 300, this was achieved through simple spreadsheets. Among leadership, we had conversations about OKRs and the need for adopting a more disciplined framework to manage the business. We looked at other frameworks but liked the rigorous and process-driven approach of OKRs. The team identified four Objectives and the respective Key Results (KRs) to help achieve these. We kept it simple and evaluated as we moved along.

How did your OKR journey with AuxinOKR begin?

As leaders, we needed coaching to guide us in the internal roll-out and execution. We searched for coaches, reviewing the AuxinOKR website and proposition — it looked attractive and suited our needs.


To start, we had a presentation and chat between the leadership team and Auxin. The coaches – Peter Kerr and Mark Richard – ensured the entire executive team understood OKRs as a way of thinking and a path to establishing a new culture. OKRs are not just a list of things to do. We liked what they were saying and recognised this as an optimal partnership.


In the following months, AuxinOKR hosted leadership workshops, teaching us to adjust our Objectives. They challenged our list of priorities because almost everybody’s list was too big. We prioritised and focused on big themes thanks to AuxinOKR’s help. By the end of 2020 we had built a good understanding of OKRs. The initial work focused on the executive team and business unit heads — we clarified the differences between Objectives and KRs versus KPIs.


By 2021, we set much better goals. Our people are a big advantage of Chargebee. The workforce is young and highly adaptable. There is willingness to learn and openness to try new things. We encountered initial resistance among our product engineering teams when trying to figure out roadmap exercises: they saw OKRs as one more thing for them to do. They were skeptical to start, asking questions about the purpose and value. They created a list of priorities that we challenged them on. We didn’t push too hard, encouraging them to engage — slowly, they bought into OKRs and the framework.


What has been the biggest obstacle you have overcome?

Teaching the whole concept and purpose of OKRs was our first obstacle. Our enduring challenge is getting people to think of the important things – the “big rocks.” But the challenge goes beyond identifying the big rocks with finding ways to communicate them and the outcomes.

“A new way of thinking, OKRs have helped us establish a new culture

Lavanya Gopinath, Director of Operations, Chargebee Tweet
How important is communication within a successful OKR roll-out?

Good, consistent communication has been critical from the outset, from initial conversations and workshops with the leadership team to consistent feedback from AuxinOKR’s coaches. Internal communications are carefully managed. We realised that executives transparently talking about OKRs is a way to broaden understanding and drive priorities across teams.

Can you identify 3 key positive outcomes and areas of change since embracing OKRs?
  1. Clarity and consistency
    Relative to the company goals, our people are clear about where they can contribute to helping achieve company objectives.
  2. Transparency
    Company vision and key goals are communicated and accessible to everyone.
  3. Creating focus in a disciplined framework
    Focus puts positive constraints on our operations, encouraging us to work in certain ways towards common objectives.

Additionally, regular meetings and conversations help us consistently hit targets. We wrote several scripts, keeping the vocabulary visible, constant and consistent, regularly mentioning OKRs. Our communication is all about building the habit of change — OKRs provide the framework and language to achieve this.

Photo credit: Chargebee

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