Are You OK with OKRs?

Objectives and key results – you’ve probably heard of these before but are you writing them effectively? Are they just the same as KPIs?

First of all, while KPIs measure success, output, quantity, or quality of an ongoing process or activity that is already in place an OKR is for looking at a bigger goal, something new and often unknown. It is a way of helping you to achieve an ultimate goal. The two work together really well to improve current KPIs.

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One of the most significant parts of OKRs is making sure each individual employee knows what is expected of them at work, so it’s a good idea to keep all OKRs in a public space in front of everyone so that people and teams work towards the same goals and also know what their colleagues are focusing on. This can really help when thinking of employee engagement ideas as well as it is a way of making people feel included and informed, thus helping them to be engaged with the company and the work they are doing.

The most effective way to write OKRs is first of all to create a list of 3-5 high-level objectives and then under each one of these, add 3-5 key measurable results. Then you will need a progress indicator for each key outcome, so from 0-100% or 0 to 1.0 which shows its achievement.

OKRs have been used by some of the most successful companies for many years now. In 1975, a salesperson for Intel, John Doerr, attended a course within Intel taught by Andy Grove where he was introduced to the theory of OKRs and then in 1999, Doerr, who was then was working for Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers – a venture capital firm, introduced the idea of OKRs to a start-up which Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers had invested in called Google – and look at them now.

They are also known to now be used by thousands of companies from SMEs to Fortune 500 companies including Google, LinkedIn, Intel, Zynga, Sears, Oracle, and Twitter.

According to Doerr, the way he writes his formula is the following: “I will (Objective) as measured by this set of Key Results.”

Objectives are memorable qualitative descriptions of what you are trying to achieve, they should be short, inspirational and engaging and should ultimately motivate and challenge the team.

Key Results are a set of metrics that measure your progress towards your objective. As mentioned before, each Objective, you should only have a set of 3 to 5 Key Results because if you have any more than that and no one will remember them, and all Key Results have to be quantitative and measurable.

Usually, OKRs are used as part of a recurring quarterly plan. However, you can also set annual or monthly OKRs if that makes more sense to your business.

Implementing OKRs are not only effective, but they are lightweight, the actual implementation of OKRs does not consume time or resources, but they do give strong benefits for productivity, focus and company culture.

To implement Objectives and Key Results, there are many software tools available now which can not only help you to set the Objectives and track the Key Results but will enable you to keep constant track of your goals and objectives with graphs and progress indicators. Many allow you to link weekly plans to and comment on OKRs which provides more visibility on how progress is being achieved.

While different software has different features, the majority offer the basic organization and visibility offerings so that you can create visual roadmaps quickly, set strategy, manage release, prioritize features, and captures ideas in one place. They often try to make it accessible for everyone so that all the employees are engaged in the results and it makes it easy for everyone to collaborate, focus on what’s important, and get more done at work. These tools should also get rid of any painfully long email threads, cut down on long meetings, and enable you just to turn things green or tick things off when they’re done.

The most significant difference between OKRs and traditional planning methods is that OKRs are frequently set, they are commonly tracked and then re-evaluated – usually quarterly. OKRs engage each your team’s perspective, and creativity and one of the main benefits is that they create a sense of alignment in your company ensuring that everyone is going in the same direction toward the same goal.

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