Setting Goals & Objectives using OKR

OKRs are a simple and effective process to help you systematically achieve and exceed results. First introduced to Intel by John Doerr, they are used at companies like Google, Linkedin, Twitter and Zynga.

The target icon. Target symbol. Flat

Do you ever get the feeling that not everyone is working towards the same goals as you are?

If you want to grow your organization, and most importantly if you want to grow it as fast as possible, everyone needs to be on the same page.

Clear objective and goal setting helps staff understand what you expect from them. It also helps everyone work towards common objectives.

I once had my team interview every member of staff in just on business unit of clients company for a marketing project. Of everyone we interviewed 80% could not articulate what products the company sold or who those products were sold to. None of them apart from the VP knew what the objectives were.

That caused them some big problems when it came to achieving anything.

What are OKRs?

It stands for Objectives and Key Results. It’s a very simple way of cascading responsibilities through an organisation.

 

Basic rules of how OKRs work

  • New objectives and key results mutually agreed monthly
  • Weekly progress reviews in team meetings
  • Don’t have too many, 2-3 objectives and 2-3 key results per objective

Quick start guide

Here is a simple plan to help you start using OKRs. The rest of the article goes into detail around each area.

  • Start with your managers/VPs before rolling out to your staff
  • Avoid having too many objectives, it’s the most common failure point
  • Keep it simple and track on paper to start with

A blank organisation level OKR

As you can see the idea here is to start with a single goal that the whole organisation can understand and rally behind.

Objective: Objective that defines the desirable outcome. See notes below on good objectives.

Time Period: [Usually one or three months]

KR1: Something you will achieve with 70% certainty
KR2: Something you will achieve with 50% certainty
KR3: Something you will achieve with 30% certainty

Progress: The progress I’ve made so far:

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
September
October
November
GET THE FULL PRINTABLE OKR CHEATSHEET

 

A fully written OKR for one person/department

Objective: Increase visitors to the TightShip blog.

Time Period: September 1, 2015 – November 30, 2015

KR1: Identify the 5 biggest challenges that our target audience faces.
KR2: Make sure there are at least 2 links to other articles on our blog to improve SEO.
KR3: Tripple the number of subscribers from the last three months.

Progress: The progress I’ve made so far:

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
September Call customers, talk to prospects Go through all past articles and add links & create 2 new posts Add awesome resources that our readers will find useful Create 2-3 great posts
October
November

 

Weekly meeting discussion cards

These are really good to use as basis for your weekly management and team meetings. Once the meeting is finished post it on the wall. This way everyone knows what’s going on and problems/challenges are identified early.

  • Priorities this week:Grade from P1-P3 according to importance. You can have multiple P1’s.
  • Next four weeks projects: Keeps everyone aware of what is going on.
  • OKR confidence: Should all start as 5/5 at start of period, update weekly according to whether you think you will succeed
  • Health: Any relevant metrics that show team and organization health, ideally not more than 2-3

weekly meeting

Credit to Christina Wodtke for explaining this simple meeting approach in her talk (listed below).

Cascading objectives & goals

Once the organizations goals have been defined, ideally with buy in from the people who will help reach those objectives.

Each division looks at the organisations goals and agrees how they will contribute towards those goals.

OKR-white-TS_png

GET THE FULL PRINTABLE OKR CHEATSHEET

Good objectives vs. bad objectives

The key to a good goal or objective is not to define the solution in goal or objective. This allows your team plenty of scope on how they can meet the objectives.

Recently I was on a course with Gabrielle Benefield who is an expert in team management. One of the focusses of what we discussed was making goals outcome based.

Most people don’t really understand what that means.

The militaries approach ‘Commanders intent’ concept best describes a good objective/outcome that an organisation, team or individual can follow:

“The commander’s intent describes the desired end state. It is a concise expression of the purpose of the operation and must be understood two echelons below the issuing commander.”
Global Security – Commanders intent, less is better

Example of a bad objective

On the surface, these look like they are pretty sensible. The problem is by defining the solution in goal or objective you’re severely limiting the scope of possible solutions.

  • This quarter we are going to increase our customer satisfaction by helping them carry their shopping to their cars
  • We are going to release product A and product B this month to increase revenue
  • We are going to capture 1,000 email addresses on our blog using popups

It’s very possible that your staff know of other ways to increase satisfaction and also possible that rather than focussing on collecting more revenue or email addresses that if you simply focussed on delivering value to your customers or web visitors that you’ll reap the rewards.

Those goals re-written

  • A: This quarter we are going to increase our customer satisfaction
  • B: We are going to meet unmet needs of our existing customers
  • C: We are going to create A grade quality content on our blog and start building a loyal audience

Written like this the goals are much clearer and even more inspirational. Now you can add measurement to these as well.

  • A: This quarter we are going to increase our customer satisfaction
  • B: We are going to meet unmet needs of our existing customers
  • C: We are going to create A grade quality content on our blog and start building a loyal audience

 

Key results

Once you have some high level (or specific if you’re lower down in the tree) objectives you need some way to measure those goals.

These are called key results.
Very simply they are metrics to measure the success of your objectives.

Very important!

  • Have up to but no more than 3 key results per objective.
  • Goals should be stretch results with a 50:50 of whether you reach them
  • They should be mutually agreed with the team, negotiation is allowed

Examples of key results

A: This quarter we are going to increase our customer satisfaction

  • Our customer satisfaction NPS should reach 9/10
  • We will reduce the number of returns by 10%
  • We will respond to all customer requests within 60 minutes

B: We are going to meet unmet needs of our existing customers

  • We will interview 20 customers and build a profile of their biggest problems/pains
  • We will get continual feedback from customers until we find a solution to their problems
  • We will get commitment from 5 customers to buy the new product

C: We are going to create A grade quality content on our blog and start building a loyal audience

  • We should build a subscriber list of 1,000 email addresses
  • Each article will get 10 comments from readers
  • Each article must get 10 likes or shares
GET THE FULL PRINTABLE OKR CHEATSHEET

Common mistakes with OKRS

I’ve helped a few people implement OKRs and here are the common mistakes

Using OKRs for performance reviews
These should not form a basis for employee performance review. If you use them for appraisals employees are less likely to go for ambitious higher stretch goals.

OKRs mean the team doesn’t need chasing and challenging
If your team is

Unclear top level objectives/key results
OKRs really have to built from a strong foundation. If you have multiple organisational objectives or they are stated in the wrong way (see above) then you risk causing confusion and chaos.

OKR resources

Rather than make you hunt the web for more information. Here are two of the best explanation videos that we’re aware of for understanding OKRs. We’ve also included links to some great templates.

OKR expert Christina Wodtke (21 min)

“The Executioner’s Tale” Christina Wodtke-Interaction14 from Interaction Design Association on Vimeo.

High detail of how Google sets goals: OKRs (1h 21min)

Templates

What’s your experience of OKRs?

Have you tried them in your organisation? What worked and what didn’t?