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29 May 2023

How To Implement an OKR Strategy for Your Organization

Product Strategy

Adobe was facing the problem of losing focus on its core business objectives due to too many competing priorities. By implementing OKRs, Adobe was able to align its teams and focus on the most important goals. As a result, Adobe's revenue grew from $4.4 billion in 2013 to $9 billion in 2019.

Amazon was facing the problem of having a lot of operational excellence but not enough innovation. By implementing OKRs, Amazon was able to set stretch goals that were both challenging and achievable and incentivize teams to innovate. As a result, Amazon's revenue grew from $74.4 billion in 2013 to $386 billion in 2020.

Netflix was facing the problem of not having a clear understanding of its customers' needs and expectations. By implementing OKRs, Netflix was able to focus on customer insights and create products that met their needs. OKRs helped the company increase customer-centricity, measure progress, and drive innovation. As a result, Netflix's revenue grew from $4.4 billion in 2013 to $25 billion in 2020.


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OKRs are a goal-setting framework that helps product leaders set and measure progress toward objectives that are aligned with the company's vision and mission. In this article, we will explain how product leaders can use and implement OKRs to drive success in their organizations.


Questions to ask before you get started

As a product leader, there are several prerequisites that can help you implement OKRs successfully in your organization. Ask yourselves these questions first.

Do you have the leadership support to implement OKRs in your organization?

Implementing OKRs may require changes in the existing organizational culture, processes, and mindset. As a product leader, you should be prepared for potential resistance and plan for change management strategies. Anticipate challenges, address concerns, and provide support to team members to adapt to the OKR process. 

Therefore, as a product leader, ensure that you have the backing of the senior leadership, including executive sponsorship, budgetary support, and alignment with organizational priorities. This will help create a conducive environment for OKRs to thrive and ensure that they are embedded in the organization's culture. 

Does your organization have the right mindset and training to implement OKRs successfully?

OKRs are based on measurable outcomes, and a data-driven culture is essential for success. Ensure that your organization has a strong emphasis on data, metrics, and measurement. Establish mechanisms for tracking progress, collecting relevant data, and using insights to inform decision-making and drive actions.

OKRs also require collaboration and teamwork across the organization. As a product leader, foster a collaborative mindset and encourage cross-functional collaboration. Create channels for sharing ideas, feedback, and best practices. Foster a culture of transparency, trust, and accountability, where team members feel empowered to contribute and collaborate towards achieving OKRs.

Ensure that your team has the necessary resources, tools, and support to achieve their OKRs. This includes providing training, coaching, and mentoring as needed. Remove any upfront barriers or obstacles that may hinder progress toward achieving OKRs.

agile team

Does your organization have a clear strategic direction?

If you don't know where you're going, you'll end up someplace else. While OKRs are a really effective tool for inducing focus into a team, a lack of clear direction can lead to them focusing on all the wrong objectives. 

Therefore, before implementing OKRs, ensure that your organization has a clear and well-defined strategic direction, with articulated goals and priorities. This will provide a solid foundation for setting meaningful and relevant OKRs that contribute to the organization's overall success.

Implementing OKRs

Implementing cascading OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) in a product organization involves aligning OKRs at different levels of the organization to ensure that they are connected and contribute to overall organizational goals.

Where and how to start setting OKRs?

Start by defining the high-level organizational objectives that align with the overall strategic direction of the organization. These objectives should be clear, actionable, and measurable, and should reflect the desired outcomes that the organization wants to achieve. Objectives should be inspiring and motivate your team to strive for excellence. 

Let's take an example from the technology industry:

Sample Objective: Increase Market Share in the Cloud Services Market

Key Results are measurable outcomes that demonstrate progress toward achieving your objectives. They should be quantifiable and aligned with your objectives. In order for key results to be impactful, they must directly gauge a shift in the behavior of the users of your product or service. Use data and metrics to set Key Results that are meaningful and can be tracked over time.

Sample Key Results for the above Objective:

  • Key Result 1: Acquire 100 new enterprise customers for cloud services within the next quarter.

  • Key Result 2: Increase revenue from cloud services by 25% compared to the previous quarter.

  • Key Result 3: Achieve a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 9 or higher from existing cloud services customers within the next quarter.

How to cascade OKRs down the organization?

OKRs should be cascaded down from the organizational level to team (and individual if required) levels, ensuring alignment and coordination. This includes setting team-level OKRs that align with the overall organizational objectives. Ensure that there is alignment and consistency in OKRs across different teams, departments, and individuals.

For example, in the technology industry, the product, marketing, and sales teams can set their own OKRs that are aligned with the overall objective of increasing market share in the cloud services market. 

Here's an example of how the marketing team's OKRs could align with the above Objective:

Sample Marketing Objective: Drive Awareness and Demand for Cloud Services

  • Marketing Key Result 1: Increase website traffic to the cloud services page by 50% within the next quarter.

  • Marketing Key Result 2: Generate 500 qualified leads for cloud services through targeted digital marketing campaigns.

  • Marketing Key Result 3: Increase engagement on social media posts related to cloud services by 20% compared to the previous quarter.

team aligned

OKRs are most effective when they are co-created with your team. Involve your team members in the process of setting OKRs to ensure buy-in and ownership. Encourage them to contribute their insights, expertise, and feedback. This will help foster a sense of ownership and accountability among team members.

Communicating OKRs

Effective communication is crucial for the successful implementation of cascading OKRs. Clearly communicate the organizational objectives, team or department objectives, and Key Results to all relevant stakeholders. Ensure that team members understand the linkages between their OKRs and the overall organizational objectives, and how their work contributes to the broader organizational goals. This will help create awareness, understanding, and commitment to the OKR process and also enable cross-functional collaboration.

Track, Learn, and Iterate OKRs

How to track OKRs and monitor progress?

OKRs should be tracked regularly and reviewed to ensure progress toward achieving the Objectives and Key Results. Schedule frequent check-ins, such as weekly or monthly, to review progress, provide feedback, and discuss any challenges or roadblocks.

The progress of the OKRs can be measured using tools to automate data collection, progress tracking, and reporting, making it easier to monitor OKRs in real time. Automated tools eliminate subjective inputs from team members, ensuring that progress is measured as objectively as possible, based on predefined metrics and data-driven insights. This helps to maintain transparency, fairness, and accountability in the OKR process and enables data-driven decision-making for timely adjustments and optimizations.

OKRs are meant to be ambitious, and not all key results may be achieved. Avoid punishing or penalizing teams or individuals for not achieving every key result. Instead, use failures as opportunities for learning and improvement.

Recognize and celebrate the achievements of your team when they achieve their OKRs. Acknowledge their hard work, dedication, and contributions towards the organizational goals. Consider providing incentives or rewards to motivate and reinforce the importance of OKRs.


Are OKRs set in stone?

OKRs are not just about hitting targets, but also about learning and improvement. Encourage a culture of experimentation, innovation, and learning from failures. Share best practices and success stories across teams, and create forums for cross-team collaboration and knowledge sharing. Use feedback loops to gather insights and make data-driven decisions to refine OKRs and optimize performance.

If needed, adjustments can be made to align with changing business priorities. For example, in the technology industry, regular reviews can be conducted by the leadership team to track progress, identify challenges, and make data-driven decisions to keep the OKR strategy on track. Regularly review and refine your OKRs and the OKR process based on feedback and results to make it more effective and aligned with your organization's evolving needs.

What Next?

Remember that implementing OKRs is a journey and requires commitment, effort, and perseverance. It may take time to establish a culture of OKRs in your organization, so be patient and persistent. With proper planning, execution, and continuous improvement, OKRs can become a powerful tool for driving success in your organization.

By following these steps and fostering a culture of alignment, accountability, and continuous improvement, you can successfully implement cascading OKRs in your product organization, ensuring that efforts are coordinated, and outcomes are aligned with the overall strategic direction of the organization. Check out airfocus's OKR template to help you set clear OKRs with your team and draw the path to success.

Sami Rehman

Sami Rehman

Product Manager
Sami has led several products in the logistics industry, from ideation to go-to-market strategy to rollout and support. He comes from a very diverse background, having started his career as a Machine Learning researcher.He has supported pre-sales engagements in product strategy and development with clients like WeWork, Staples, Restoration Hardware, and Emaar....more
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