OKRs - Objectives & Key Results

Learn the basics of OKRs and how you can use this goal-setting framework.

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) is a relatively new concept for managing team goals and improving productivity. I’ve created this guide to serve as a primer for getting your organization onboard with the idea. We’ll discuss the benefits, drawbacks, and how you might be able to implement this goal-setting framework inside your organization.

A quick note before you continue further - OKRs require organizational buy-in. If you're a CEO/founder, take the time to build internal capital to implement these correctly. It's not something that you simply jump into. It's going to take time to properly communicate with the rest of the organization.

What are OKRs?

OKRs is a framework to help organizations set and communicate goals, while outlining concrete steps needed to achieve them. They attempt to connect personal, team, and company goals in a cohesive manner. As the name suggests, OKRs consist of objectives and key results. Let's break down what that means...

1.) Objectives

Objectives are the higher-level goals that you'd like to accomplish within a set period of time (week/month/quarter). They are supposed to be ambitious and quite frankly, a little scary.

A well-defined objective has a few key ingredients:

  • Time-boxed - If an objective has no end-date, it's not an objective. It depends on your cadence, but you can set objectives once per week, month, or quarter, but we don't recommend anything longer (especially in a fast-moving company).
  • Aspirational - If you're tasking employees with setting objectives, they need to be something your employees aspire to do. Otherwise it will be tough to convince them to do it.
  • Dependency-free - If you're a team setting objectives, you need to be able to complete them without relying on external forces. For example, if you want to launch a feature next week, but it requires 90% engineering resources, you may want to rethink your choice. Likewise, if you're setting individual objectives, make sure it's something you can do by yourself without requiring a lot of team involvement.

2.) Key Results

Key results are actionable and measurable. They are the building blocks you need to achieve the objective. If you don't complete the key results, you can't satisfy the objective.

This part may not come easy for some employees, but key results are meant to be tough. It's very likely that you will not complete all the tasks you set out to do. If you get somewhere in the 70% range, you're actually doing them correctly. With that being said, they should be feasible...not impossible.

Key results should have a number attached to them. For example, customer service could have a key result of "NPS score of 50" for the month.

Example OKR

Sally is a coffee-shop owner who is looking to grow and expand her business in the next quarter. Here are her OKRs below:

Open a new location

Key Results:

  • File paperwork at city hall before April 31st.
  • Hire a store manager two months before opening.
  • Create a new employee training program two weeks before hiring

Why should your company use OKRs?

One of the toughest challenges an organization faces is around aligning human capital towards a few high-level goals, while making them actionable. It's easy to focus on either short term initiatives, or long term strategy. OKRs seeks to blend them together and codify them throughout the organization.

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