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May 21, 2024

One of the most challenging things for people to wrap their heads around when learning to create No-BS OKRs is the power of progress key results, otherwise known as leading indicators. But leading indicators serve as critical data that may give you objective data on which to assess your progress, and, to inform decisionmaking. Today’s guest is Elena Chopyak, a self-professed "data nerd," who I met through our mutual friend Rachel. When Rachel introduced Elena to me as an expert in leading indicators, I couldn't schedule a coffee talk fast enough. That coffee talk turned into an invitation back for this podcast episode.

Aside from Elena's wiring for data and analysis, her career history also follows the Thinkydoer pattern: a winding, multidisciplinary path included interest in working outside the U.S., and curiosity in the emergency humanitarian space, which ultimately lead her to working with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Iraq for two years. She was brought on in a monitoring and evaluation role in child protection and education, where she became responsible for instrumenting, monitoring, and reporting on important indicators to assess impact; and then moved into a role in IRC's emergency response team that was focused both on monitoring and informing decisions about natural disaster and armed conflict responses (as well as deploying, herself). 

In this episode, you’ll hear about Elena's experiences and learnings working with leading indicators in high-stakes settings, tips for creating leading indicators that are useful and actionable, and, more about her self-described "squiggly" career.

Also: the No-BS OKRs Workbook is live; we're getting ready to launch our No-BS OKRs Self-Assessment Tool; and the best way to keep track of what's happening with Thinkydoers and No-BS OKRs is to join our mailing list!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • How Elena ended up in the nonprofit space working on leading indicators.
  • What drew her to the data and analytics side of nonprofit work.
  • The purpose that leading indicators serve in resource-constrained companies.
  • Challenges of creating leading indicators that provide actionable data.
  • Two ways to determine whether or not an indicator is useful.
  • Why there is no such thing as a perfect decision, even in high-stakes settings.
  • Working back from your ‘why’ and other pro tips for creating leading indicators.
  • Reasons that intentionality and testing are so important.
  • Setbacks that ended up propelling Elena’s career forward.
  • The value of having thought partners and focusing on tangible change.
  • How continuous learning and mentorship can benefit your career.



“It’s important not to wait until something is a full-blown emergency and has made it to the news – One of our responsibilities is to be prepared – That’s why [leading indicators are] so important.” — Elena Chopyak [11:25]

“We don’t create leading indicators so that we have pretty numbers on a dashboard in any setting. We create leading indicators because we’re going to use them to inform a decision.” — @saralobkovich [15:50]

“It comes back to thinking about the why. Why are you going to collect this [data]? Who is going to look at it? Who is using it? – Who is actually going to make any actionable change based on the data you’re collecting?” — Elena Chopyak [20:33]

“If you have a squiggly career, just know there are people who appreciate that. There are people who themselves have linear careers and don’t understand you. That’s fine, but there are those people out there who will appreciate your varied background.” — Elena Chopyak [27:22]