In this blog post I will talk about OKR which stands for Objective and Key Results. I’ll explain what OKRs are, how they work, and how you can use them to achieve your goals. It is a fantastic way to decide what to focus on. In conjunction with KPI or Key Performance Indicators which is more a way to track the performance.
What are OKRs?
OKRs are a simple way of defining what you want to accomplish (your objectives) and how you will measure your progress (your key results). OKRs can help you align your actions with your vision, communicate your priorities to others, and track your outcomes.
History of OKRs
OKR were invented by Andy Grove at Intel in the 1970s and popularized by John Doerr at Google in the 1990s. Since then, many other companies and organizations have adopted OKRs as a way of setting and managing their goals. John has also written a book about OKRS which is called “Measure What Matters”. I can really recommend it if you want to learn more about OKRs and how some organizations are using them successfully.
Objectives and key results
OKRs consist of two parts: objectives and key results. An objective is a short statement of what you want to achieve. It should be inspiring, ambitious, and meaningful. A key result is a specific metric that shows whether you have achieved your objective or not. Ideally, they should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound).
There are different levels of OKRs. You have the top OKRs that are organizational-wide and more and more layers as you move down in the organization as you come to team-level and then finally the individual-level. As you move down the layers the OKRs become more and more actionable. All OKRs should be aligned across all levels so that everyone is working towards the same vision. Also, the top-level key results become the second level objective and so on.
How to define OKRs?
To start defining OKRs, start at the top level and define the top-level OKRs for the organization and then move down to team OKRs and finally individual OKRs. There is also a good idea to refine the top OKRs as the organization sets their OKRs and you get more information about what the organization thinks is important to focus on. The first few times setting OKRs for the organization will probably be a bit complicated, but after a few times it will become much easier.
Let’s get down to an example. Let’s take a sports team. A top-level OKR for a sports team can be to win the championship. For the head coach it is the same but for the CEO, the business side of the sports team, it may be to also earn money and keep the sports team afloat.
If you go down one step from the head coach, you have the offensive coach and that team’s goal is to score a lot of goals and for the defensive coach it is to not let in so many.
Back to the business side, the PR manager and that team want to be featured in the media and for the HR manager to hire the best talent. You get the picture.
OKRs are usually set for a specific period (such as quarterly or annually) and reviewed regularly (such as weekly or monthly). The purpose of reviewing OKRs is to check whether you are on track to achieve them or not. If not, you can adjust your actions accordingly or revise your OKRs if necessary.
Flexible not fixed
OKRs are not meant to be fixed or rigid. They are meant to be flexible and adaptable depending on the changing circumstances and feedback. The point of using OKRs is not to hit every target perfectly but to learn from your successes and failures along the way.
Now, back to individual OKRs. I usually set no more than six objectives and I set my OKRs per quarter. I think six OKRs per quarter is enough that gives you two weeks per OKR but if you think your OKRs require more time you should set fewer. The fewer means you have more time to focus. Two weeks per OKR might not be enough time to move the needle.
How to define objectives and key results
I define the objectives as where I am not today, but where I want to be in three months. That could be to have an organized website with owners and goals for each page. The key results then could be to have a list of all pages, defined owners of 80% of the pages and goal for 60% of the pages. An important thing is that your key results are measurable. If you have no idea what will make you reach the objective why not have as a key result to do an experiment?
When you have a first draft of your OKRs it is great to get feedback from your manager and colleagues.
When the quarter is up it is time to evaluate your performance and to reflect. I go to each key result and rate myself on a scale from 0 to 1. 0.6 to 0.7 is satisfactory performance, 0.8 is excellent and if you reach 1 you have probably set too low goals for yourself.
Then it is time to define new OKRs for the next period. Remember, OKRs should not be too much work.
How to get started?
If you want to use OKRs for yourself or your team, here are some steps that can help you get started:
- Define your vision: What is the ultimate outcome that you want to achieve? Why does it matter? How does it align with your values?
- Set your objectives: Based on your vision, what are some specific goals that you want to accomplish? Great if you can make them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound).
- Choose your key results: For each objective, what are some indicators that will show whether you have achieved it or not? Make sure they are SMART as well.
- Write down your OKRs: Use a simple format such as “I will [objective] as measured by [key result]”.
- Share your OKRs: Communicate your OKR s with anyone who is involved or affected by them, such as your manager, your colleagues, or your stakeholders.
- Track your progress: Monitor how well you are doing on each key result regularly, such as weekly or monthly.
- Review and reflect: At the end of the period, evaluate how well you did on each objective and key result. Celebrate your wins, learn from your challenges, and identify areas for improvement.
Using OKRs can help you set and achieve your goals by providing you with a clear direction, focus, and feedback. By following these steps, you can create and use OKRs effectively and efficiently.