OKRs – A Better Way to Achieve Your Goals

Looking for a better way to set and achieve goals?

Try using OKRs: Objectives and Key Results.

OKRs put legs on mission, vision and strategy. And they help bridge the gap to relevant action plans and initiatives that get executed. Using OKRs is a great way to help ensure people at all levels of the organization have measurable and aligned objectives.

Building and improving upon other goal-setting approaches like Management by Objectives and SMART goals, John Doerr developed the OKR approach while at Intel. He taught Google the approach decades ago, and now organizations of all sizes are using this approach successfully and seeing improved results.

Here’s an example…

Objective: verb describing what you want to achieve.

  • Improve employee engagement by 15% by end of Q1.

Key Results: 3-5 ways you will measure progress.

  1. Communicate department engagement action plan by end of Month 1.
  2. 95% participation in Be a Great Leader 90-hour virtual session in Month 1.
  3. Each leader has 1-1 with direct reports at least every 2 weeks starting Month 2.
  4. Each leader has one career discussion with each direct report in Month 2 or 3.
  5. Adjust quarterly engagement survey by end of Q1 to include item measuring employees’ satisfaction with career discussions.

Set audacious OKRs

“If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success.” – James Cameron

Start by identifying a stretch objective that is idealistic – not realistic. Set the objective one step short of impossible. It’s ok to have a mix of aspirational and operational OKRs.

Each person should have 2-5 objectives. Each objective should have no more than 3-5 key results. These objectives do not have to encompass everything in the person’s job description. OKRs should represent the key items that will move the organization forward in view of organization’s high-level strategic direction and OKRs.

Monitor progress early and often

Transparent and frequent check-ins (e.g., weekly or monthly) are essential. Assessing each Key Result using a color-coded traffic light approach is a simple, clear and effective approach.

  • Green = 70%+ on target for achieving – continue.
  • Yellow = 30-70% – develop a recovery plan.
  • Red = 0-30% – recover or replace.

Too much green means people aren’t stretching. Too much red means people either aren’t performing or the results were too unrealistic.

Other tips and watch-outs

  • Beware tying compensation to OKRs. Don’t incent people to understate their OKRs just to make sure they receive their bonuses.
  • Include key results that address both quantity (e.g., 2 new software releases by Q1) and quality (e.g., no more than 2 bugs per release.)
  • Most organizations set OKRs quarterly. Start-ups may choose to set shorter time-frames.

Finally, remember that OKRs (and other goal-setting approaches) work best with a balance of structure, discipline and flexibility. Remember this approach is intended to serve you and the organization – not vice versa.

Additional resources:

Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults. As a leadership consultant and executive coach, he helps leaders and teams achieve extraordinary relationships and results. You can reach him at jbaker@people-results.com or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.

Joe Baker