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Objectives and Key Results (OKR)


What are Objectives and Key Results?


Definition of Objectives And Key Results (OKR)

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. 


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The OKR framework is a reliable method of improving individual performance and ensuring long-term goals are met.

The anatomy of Objectives and Key Results

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.

The benefits of using OKRs

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).

How to implement OKRs in a business

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

Common OKR mistakes and how to avoid them 

Organizations can make mistakes when they start using the OKR framework (or any other framework, for that matter). But the more you understand the most common mistakes, the easier it is to avoid them. 

Here are six common OKR mistakes to watch out for. 

  • Setting unachievable objectives

Ambition is a valuable asset when setting objectives — but too much of it can be problematic. Defining unachievable goals can inspire self-doubt and, worst of all, waste precious time and resources. However, setting objectives that are too easy for your team might not motivate employees enough. 

Starting small is always preferable to setting an impossible task. Monitor your team’s progress and capabilities, then tailor further objectives to their capabilities. 

  • Not setting a DRI (directly responsible individual)

Appointing a DRI or directly responsible individual is vital to reduce the risk of team members blaming one another instead of fixing mistakes. 

A DRI should monitor how a team’s work aligns with the OKRs set and determine whether they’re on the right path. For clarity, ensure everyone knows who the DRI is for each OKR and their role. 

  • Writing vaguely worded OKRs

Avoid setting vague, abstract OKRs that have no measurable goals. You need to be able to assess key results to determine whether or not your team has achieved its objectives. 

One simple way to avoid vague OKRs is to try the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals approach. This will help you set concrete objectives with clearly measurable outcomes. 

  • Not checking progress regularly

Checking progress is an essential part of the OKR framework. Otherwise, you can’t track whether your objectives are helping or hindering your team or determine if you need to make adjustments. 

Track progress for all OKRs and discuss it with your team each week. Review the results together and explore how the framework affects their work, for better or worse. 

  • Setting too many OKRs

Organizations may set too many OKRs in their eagerness to hit the ground running. However, teams can lose sight of the main priorities when they have too many goals to focus on. 

To avoid this mistake, limit the maximum objectives for each team to five each quarter, with no more than four key results for every objective. With more manageable OKRs, team members are less likely to be overwhelmed.

The best tools for managing OKRs

Organizations can choose from the following two types of tools for OKR management. 

Product management tools with built-in OKR functionality

Tools in this category, like airfocus Objectives, can help you manage OKRs efficiently and effectively. Objectives offers the following benefits:

  • You can supercharge your product strategy with built-in OKRs.

  • You can connect your OKRs, roadmaps, and product workflow to help improve team alignment.

  • You can link airfocus items like initiatives, epics, and tasks to key results. This will help you maintain daily progress toward your objectives,

  • You can automatically track your progress with regular check-ins. This can help you recognize when to adjust objectives and offer guidance. 

  • You can ensure that all team members have access to OKRs for total transparency and provide each employee with a clear insight into how their work benefits your organization.

  • Incorporate any objective management frameworks that you use to track objectives and progress into the platform. 

airfocus Objectives is simple to implement into any organization’s operations and makes using OKRs straightforward for everyone. 

OKR-only tools

Dedicated OKR tools are designed from the ground up for OKR management. However, they may not integrate with your product management workflow seamlessly. 

Here are three of the most popular dedicated OKR tools:


Lattice includes various features like progress tracking, comprehensive reporting, and customizable dashboards. Its UI is simple to use, and its employee development capabilities can empower team members. However, Lattice’s pricing and complexity may be off-putting to some.


Perdoo’s main focus is creating, monitoring, and managing OKRs. It offers real-time progress tracking, automated reporting, and customizable dashboards. However, Perdoo has a steep learning curve. 


WorkBoard includes a wide range of features for setting and monitoring OKRs efficiently. But, two common criticisms are its lack of responsiveness and users’ difficulty in accessing support.

What are Objectives and Key Results

General FAQ

How to define objectives and key results?
It’s sometimes difficult to choose which objectives to focus on. If you’re faced with multiple routes forward, you should hone in on the goals that can be achieved in the target period — this will avoid spreading your resources too thin. What’s more, you should only prioritize objectives that will genuinely drive growth and success. All key results must be measurable, so you can track progress and determine when objectives have been completed accurately. Keep goals small and manageable, which may require you to break some down into sub-goals.
Why use OKRs?
OKRs help you keep your long-term goals focused and aligned with the business’s fundamental mission. They let you monitor progress, measure performance, and engage employees by setting tangible targets.
How are OKRs implemented?
OKRs can be implemented by establishing priority objectives with managers and communicating resulting plans with the whole workforce. This may involve workshops and brainstorming sessions to bring everyone on board. Integrate a quality OKR tool to cultivate collaboration and monitor progress.
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