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Is There a Perfect Way To Set OKRs? Insights From airfocus’ Own Journey

30 Nov 20233 mins read
Malte Scholz
Is There a Perfect Way To Set OKRs? Insights From airfocus’ Own Journey
By Malte Scholz

Have you ever felt like setting the right goals is like trying to hit a moving target?

moving target OKRs

We've been there, and let me tell you how it went.

In today's world, where every business has become a part of the tech universe, 'adapting' and 'innovating' are more than just catchy phrases. They're essential for keeping up and moving forward. At airfocus, our adventure with Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) was like trying to find a needle in a haystack, and we learned that getting it right from the start is really rare.

Our journey's been filled with twists and turns. We tried, we faltered, picked ourselves up, and had our moments of triumph, followed by moments of reflection and lessons to learn. Every success and slip-up has been super valuable. It even guided us later on when we set to develop an innovative OKR tool ourselves, born from real-life challenges and designed to help you stay on target with your goals.


Tailoring OKRs to our product management approach

Our initial steps into the world of OKRs followed the traditional quarterly approach, aligning with our broader company objectives. However, we soon realized that the quarterly OKRs were not a one-size-fits-all, and in our case, it was more restrictive than beneficial. The complexity and time demands of this process prompted us to stop and rethink our strategy.

How did we handle it? We revised our approach and switched to bi-annual OKR cycles for the product team (while other teams kept the quarterly structure), allowing us greater flexibility in defining key results. This shift was about more than just adjusting timelines; it was about aligning our goals with the unique rhythm of our own product development processes.

If you know airfocus, you know we're big advocates of modular software and flexible workflows, believing firmly in carving out your unique path over a one-size-fits-all approach. This ethos shapes every strategy we adopt, ensuring they adapt perfectly to diverse, evolving workflows.

A practical take on setting goals

Our journey with OKRs has been a masterclass in practicality over perfection. Take, for example, our product launch goals. In traditional terms, these might not fit the classic definition of a key result, but for us, they were exactly that. It was a lesson in blending aspirational goals with the realities of our business.

Let's consider the launch of a voting feature for the airfocus PM platform, for example. The OKR textbook might suggest setting a quantifiable target like 'engage 100 users with the feature.' However, in reality, pinpointing whether 100 or 1,000 is the right number can be arbitrary and lead to unnecessary complexities and debates. While practically, the real key result here was: the successful launch of the feature itself.

This approach represents a pragmatic way to kickstart the process, avoiding overcomplication. It's about setting a clear, achievable goal and then refining our approach iteratively, whether it's our third, fifth, or hundredth OKR cycle. By doing so, we balance aspirational objectives with practical execution, adapting to what truly matters for our business progress.

We've embraced a mindset where idealistic frameworks meet real-world scenarios. We understand that each business has its unique challenges, and sometimes, to move forward, you have to break some rules.

Creating the airfocus Objectives & OKRs app

The journey through our very own OKR challenges, combined with valuable insights from several months of product discovery, led us to an exciting milestone: the creation of the airfocus Objectives & OKRs app. It is more than a tool; it’s the result of real-world experiences, lessons learned, and the collective wisdom of the product management community. It's crafted to bridge a vital gap – seamlessly aligning big-picture objectives with the day-to-day grind. Our goal was to create a solution that not only fits into your product management workflow but also brings your team’s daily efforts in sync with your strategic ambitions.

Objectives and OKRs hero

Conclusion: Embracing the OKR journey

Our key takeaway from our journey with OKRs is that it's truly a path of discovery and flexibility. No one gets it perfect from the start, and that's okay. Each team must strive to find its own way with OKRs. It's about evolving, adapting, and being willing to bend the rules when necessary. Whether you're just starting out with OKRs or refining your approach, remember that it's a journey. Stay open to learning and adapting, and you'll find a way to make OKRs work for YOUR team, contributing to your company's growth and success.

The perfect way to set OKRs is the one that fits seamlessly into your unique processes and the way you approach product work.


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Malte Scholz

Malte Scholz

CEO & CPO @ airfocus
Malte Scholz is CEO, CPO, and co-founder of airfocus, the world's most flexible product management platform. His journey started as a product manager seeking a better tool, and now airfocus is trusted by more than 800 global companies, helping them build the right products and deliver greater value....more
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