Thinking physics – Buoyancy & OKRs

May 05, 2022
Thinking physics – Buoyancy & OKRs

Recently, a startup founder asked me an interesting question – “Why do I feel like my people are always stressed? What is the precise role of a manager and a leader in reducing stress”?

Whilst this is a very loaded question, I chose to go back to first principles of physics to respond.


In 212 BC, Archimedes stated a principle that says “Any object, wholly or partially immersed in a fluid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object”.

Buoyancy, in simple words, is an upward thrust exerted by a fluid that opposes the weight of a fully or partially immersed object.

If Upthrust (of fluid) is more than the Weight (of the object), then the object surfaces.

If Upthrust is less than the Weight, then the object sinks.

If Upthrust is equal to the Weight, then. the object floats.

Upthrust – Growth Culture, Expectations & Performance

Expectations (by a manager or leader) are akin to the weight of an object.

Performance is a set of motions (triggered by a team member) to meet such expectations.

Vision, mission, values, people, decisions, processes and tools, collectively referred to as “growth culture”, is like a fluid that has a built-in force of upthrust.

A good culture has less upthrust and a broken culture has more upthrust.

  1. If Upthrust (of culture) is greater than the Weight (of expectations), then the Stress (felt by a team member) surfaces.
  2. If Upthrust (of culture) is lesser than the Weight (of expectations), then the Stress (felt by a team member) sinks to the bottom.
  3. If Upthrust (of culture) is equal to Weight (of expectations), then the Stress (felt by a team member) floats beneath the surface.

Some amount of stress always exists and a great culture never lets such stress float or surface.

Examples of Upthrust Imposed by the Growth Culture

More UpthrustLess Upthrust
Leadership BravadoBeing Vulnerable
PrejudicesRespect for uniqueness
Unconscious biasesCalibration
Leniency or Stringency biasPeer validation via feedback
Group thinkDiversity
Only Top down goalsAlignment – horizontal and vertical
Unreasonable clientsSaying No
Disparate toolsSingle Source for all Experiences
Excel sheetsSystem of Record
EmailsSlack or Teams
Password or OTPsSSO
DeadlinesCelebrations (win or lose)
TasksInitiatives or Key Results
Meeting NotesTranscribing
Classroom trainingSelf paced with AMA sessions

Reducing Stress at Work – Role of Managers and Leaders

Managers remove blockers & Leaders remove friction – that increase the weight imposed by the culture in meeting performance expectations thereby surfacing stress. Tips to reduce stress:

  1. Set (and record) clear expectations. Fluid and verbally expressed expectations increase stress.
  2. At the leadership level – Craft, track and achieve OKRs focussed on reducing upthrust in the culture
  3. At the managerial level – continuously remove blockers to meeting expectations.
  4. Hold frequent conversations especially around well-being and stress.

About OKR Bytes

Unconventional wisdom from practitioners’ perspective on writing, implementing and tracking OKRs, building an engaging performance culture, measuring and tracking performance, measuring and tracking culture, pulse surveys and more.

About Huminos

Huminos is a comprehensive OKR and Growth Culture software that helps your employees to achieve impactful outcomes, even if they are working remotely.

  1. Aspire for growth with OKRs and align your people
  2. Inspire your people continuously with an engaging growth culture of conversations, coaching and celebrations
  3. Measure growth & culture – continuously, reflect & calibrate your people’s performance.

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