OKRs (Objective and Key Results)

OKRs Illustration

OKRs are a simple way to create structure for companies, teams, and individuals. The secret sauce when it comes to OKRs is to make them very ambitious. That way OKRs enable individuals and teams to focus on the bigger picture and to achieve more than they thought they would.

OKRs encourage a result and value oriented culture by focusing on the main priorities. It also increases the autonomy level and boosts self-organization. What are the difference between KPIs and OKRs? KPIs are defined by a manager, OKRs are self-chosen and self-driven.

OKRs are a mix of the PDCA cycle, stretch goals, SMART goals, the Lean Startup method and Management by Objectives. Basically, it’s all of them wrapped up in one agile management practice.

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Let’s look into the single parts of the OKRs.

The Objective

  • The What (Where do I want to go?)
  • Purpose-driven
  • Qualitative goal
  • Is ambitious
  • Feels a tad uncomfortable
  • Not measurable, gives freedom to act

The Key Results

  • The How (How will I pace myself to see if I’m getting there?)
  • Clearly make the objective achievable
  • Are quantifiable
  • SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound
  • Lead to objective grading

No metric is perfect, and it’s best to look at each problem from multiple angles.

Each objective consists of three to four measurable key results whereby each key result has a progress indicator or a score of 0-100%.

How to apply OKRs?

Organizations can do OKRs on an annual basis and a quarterly basis. The annual OKR is a big, umbrella idea for the year and it’s not set in stone, it can evolve as the year goes on. The quarterly OKRs do not change. You can have OKRs at a company level, at a team level, at a managerial level and at a personal level. They all work together to keep the company on track. They challenge the organization on all levels. OKRs are not used by management to determine promotions or salaries.

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Evaluation OKRs

O: Successfully implement the weekly newsletter61%
KR1: Finalize the content strategy, key messages and topic structure for next 6 months75%
KR2: Grow subscriber base at least 5% per week, getting to 50.000 readers21.0000
KR3: Increase the CTR% to above industry average 3.5%2%

When grading the completion of OKRs the ambitious part steps in. If someone consistently achieves all objectives the set OKRs weren’t challenging enough. The goal of using the OKR practice is to learn what to do better next time which can only be achieved by not fulfilling the objective. (Read on about Success and Failure)

Tips on OKRs

When it comes to your objectives always think “from the outside in”. This means a stakeholder must find what you are trying to achieve valuable.

Feel free to change objectives and metrics whenever it makes sense. Your goal is to learn and improve, not to become a slave to your metrics.

Make sure that objectives and measurements are transparent and available to everyone else in the organization. Read more about the 12 Rules for Metrics

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