Objectives and Key Results, also known as OKR, is a goal-setting framework used in businesses to align individual performance with overall goals in a measurable way.
Ensuring that all team members are pulling in the same direction is no small task. To make it easier, the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework can be implemented — with the aim of securing a singular overall direction for the company and producing measurable results.
In a nutshell, deploying OKRs is an effective way to set specific — and measurable — goals for individual staff members which are specifically tailored to align with the overall strategic goals of the business.
The OKR framework is a reliable method of improving individual performance and ensuring long-term goals are met.
It’s clear that OKRs can be a powerful strategic management tool for businesses, but how does the system really work?
Well, just as every business is unique, so too is the way they’ll deploy OKRs. That said, there are some OKR fundamentals that can help you incorporate the framework into your own organization.
When it comes to understanding OKRs, everything you need to know is right there in the name. A well-defined OKR will always include these two core elements:
1. An Objective, which is a very clearly defined goal. For example, “Increase the total number of daily users for our app.”
2. One or more Key Results, which are the objective measurements of progress towards the objective. For example, “Total daily active users increased by 50% month-on-month”.
It’s easy to see why OKRs can be so useful as an objective measure of success and progress in the business. In fact, each one is kind of a package deal, because it delivers both the goal and the metric — and, with those in hand, the road ahead is suddenly much clearer.
The OKR framework can be particularly valuable as a company grows because the long-term goals and objectives can be retained without micro-management. When a business has multiple teams comprising many hundreds of individual team members, OKRs can help give direction and reinforce the overall strategy of the business.
Originally conceived by John Doerr at Intel during the 1970s, the OKR framework quickly became popular with big companies — especially in the tech world. In fact, even decades on, the OKR framework is still used to drive organizational goals by global brands like Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and Uber.
There are plenty of reasons to consider implementing OKRs in business, including:
Improved corporate direction. The ability to make subtle course corrections through the OKR framework means it’s easier than ever to implement meaningful strategic changes from the top down.
Highly motivated employees. The OKR framework gives everyone a clearly defined goal to work towards. Don’t underestimate how powerful a motivator that can be. (But, at the same time, remember that high-value incentives can work very well in combination).
100% aligned teams. Departments being siloed and isolated is a common problem, especially in tech companies. OKRs can help alleviate this issue by ensuring all team goals are aligned.
Improved accountability. Since goals are now tracked objectively on an individual level, it becomes easier to make strategic decisions about roles and responsibilities (based on more than just a hunch).
If you’ve ever tried to retrofit a new workflow of any kind into an existing organization, you’ll know it can sometimes feel like herding cats. But encouraging the adoption of a system like OKRs doesn’t need to be difficult — it just needs to be done in the right way.
And the key to a successful OKR implementation is communication.
Here’s a quick rundown of the steps you should consider taking when rolling out a new Objectives and Key Results goal-setting framework:
Begin by introducing staff to the concept of OKRs and how the framework will help them. If you have any form of incentive planned for achieving goals, now is a great time to shout about it.
Next, ensure that all department heads are familiar with the overall long-term goals of the business. This step is vital to make sure individual employee OKRs are strategically planned.
On the team level, encourage department heads to meet with individuals to actively agree on OKRs together. Bringing employees into this process, and giving them the power to decide on appropriate goals and metrics, can make them much more motivated to achieve.
For every Objective, have teams decide on a number of different Key Results across relevant metrics. Decoupling OKRs in this way can make objectives more achievable and reduce stress levels for employees who feel that certain metric goals are difficult to reach.
Finally, decide on what success will look like — for example, hitting 75% or more of the measurable goals. (It’s also a good idea to plan what to do if an employee doesn’t hit these goals).
Implemented in the right way, the OKR system can transform the way a business runs in a very real way.
If you’re still seeing some resistance to the introduction of the framework, one good tip is to introduce it on a trial basis and see how things go. Once all teams understand (and see the realization of incentives), chances are they’ll ask you to keep the initiative going.
If a fully motivated, 100% goal-aligned workforce sounds like a pipedream to you, the OKR framework might be just what you need.