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How to Drive Customer-Centric Product Development with OKRs (Insights from Jeff Gothelf)

13 Mar 20243 mins read
Nouran El-Behairy
How to Drive Customer-Centric Product Development with OKRs (Insights from Jeff Gothelf)
By Nouran El-Behairy

This is the era of the customer organizations that are constantly seeking methods to align their teams, enhance focus, and drive customer-centric decision-making. One powerful framework that has gained significant traction is Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). In this article we will explore tips given by the OKR expert Jeff Gothelf in his webinar with airfocus, where we explored how OKRs can be effectively utilized to set clear goals and improve product success metrics.

OKR alternatives

Understanding OKRs

OKRs consist of two components: Objectives and Key Results. Objectives are qualitative, aspirational goals that are designed to be inspirational and action-oriented.

They should clearly articulate the value and be time-bound. Key Results, on the other hand, are quantifiable outcomes that measure progress towards the objective. They should ideally be ratios or rates, aggressive yet achievable, and verifiable with evidence.

The importance of outcomes over outputs

A common pitfall in product development is managing to outputs—focusing on the production of features or tasks. However, OKRs shift the focus to outcomes, which are measurable changes in human behavior that drive business results.

By concentrating on outcomes, teams are encouraged to engage in discovery work to determine which solutions are most likely to succeed.

Crafting effective OKRs

When setting OKRs, it's crucial to start with a problem statement and turn it into a positive, actionable objective. For example, "Build an engaging continuing education product for the entirety of a lawyer's career by the end of the year." The key results should then define the specific behavioral changes you expect to see, such as "Each user will take at least three courses every year."

The role of discovery in achieving OKRs

Discovery work is integral to the success of OKRs. It involves research, design, experimentation, and learning to validate the assumptions behind your hypotheses.

Activities like voice of customer sessions, pilot projects, and observing user interactions are all part of this process. The goal is to learn what the customer truly needs and how to deliver value while meeting compliance and regulatory requirements.

Dealing with non-achievement of Key Results

It's unrealistic to expect to hit 100% of your key results every time. Aiming for 70-80% achievement is more reasonable and indicative of well-set goals.

If a team consistently falls short, it's essential to investigate the reasons behind the shortfall and the learnings derived from the efforts. This analysis can lead to adjusting goals or strategies to better align with what's achievable and valuable for the customer.

Checkout this checklist that can help you understand when it's time to pivot on your OKRs.

Encouraging a customer-centric culture

OKRs can foster a customer-centric culture by demanding that teams stay close to the customer through continuous discovery and empathy-building activities. This approach not only aligns the organization towards a common goal but also enhances its agility to respond to new developments and customer needs.


Implementing OKRs is not without its challenges, but when done correctly, they can be a powerful tool for aligning teams, setting clear goals, and driving customer-centric product development. By focusing on outcomes rather than outputs and engaging in discovery work, organizations can create products and services that truly meet the needs of their customers and drive business success.

For those interested in diving deeper into the world of OKRs and customer-centric product development, below are some resources, including books and courses that offer comprehensive guidance and practical insights.

Remember, the key to successful OKRs is not just in setting them but in the continuous learning and adaptation they encourage within your teams.

Watch the full recording of the webinar with Jeff Gothelf here.

Additional resources


Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs - John Doerr

Radical Focus: Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objectives and Key Results (Empowered Teams) - Christina Wodtke

OKRs for All: Making Objectives and Key Results Work for your Entire Organization - Vetri Vellore

Comprehensive guides

The Ultimate Guide to Product OKRs -airfocus

How we’re rethinking our approach to OKRs and goal-setting - Think with Google

Downloadable content from airfocus

OKRs for High-Performing Product Teams: A Practical Guide

Effective OKR Management: A Checklist for Course Correction

How To Set Effective OKRs for Product Success

Helpful articles

How to Write Effective OKRs in 5 Steps (+7 Mistakes to Avoid) - Kent McDonald

2024 Enterprise OKRs: A Strategic Guide for Effective Planning - Vishal Chaudhary

How to Align OKRs with Product Strategy and Business Objectives - Adam Thomas


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Nouran El-Behairy

Nouran El-Behairy

Senior Content Manager @ airfocus
Nouran is a passionate content manager with extensive experience in different writing forms, and an insatiable curiosity for all that is product. At airfocus she is the Senior Content Manager and part of the marketing team....more
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