Setting Goals: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)

This is part 4 of our series on Setting Goals, previous segments are available in our archives.

Once you’ve set good goals, the real work begins. How do those goals influence the actions and tasks your team works on to achieve those goals? A simple way to proceed would be to ask everyone on your team to do whatever they can to achieve a goal. However, how will you measure everyone’s contribution toward the goal?

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is a framework developed at Intel which makes it easy to break down company goals into individual goals and measure results. OKRs are goals broken into two parts:

Objective: This is the goal you want to obtain.

Key Results: This is how you know if the objective was obtained, usually a metric.

Hey, that looks a lot like how we framed our SMART Goals! Luckily, most goal setting frameworks follow common conventions and keep things simple.

An important part of using OKRs is that everyone’s OKRs are public for the rest of the team to view. So, once a larger company or team goal is broken down into individual OKRs, everyone on your team can see how everyone else’s goals will impact achievement of that goal. More importantly, everyone can see whether everyone else’s Key Results are achieved, which means everyone is accountable to everyone else. That peer review provides more motivation to achieve your goals across your team.

Most organizations will assign multiple OKRs per person, with an expectation that everyone achieve a certain percent of their OKRs. This can get tricky if employees work on more than one team towards more than one goal since they may achieve their OKR towards one goal and not another, or worse they may only pursue the easy OKRs and avoid the harder ones. This is why it’s important to have leadership help set individual OKRs and review performance so incentives are clear.

You can also think about OKRs at the team and organization level, not just at the individual level. Hence, you might have company wide goals that are broken down into organization OKRs which in turn are broken down into team OKRs which in turn are broken down into individual OKRs. Doing so makes it easy to trace back an individual’s OKRs to the company goal, but does increase the effort required to track all of those OKRs!

 

Quote of the Day: Leadership is working with goals and vision; management is working with objectives.” – Russel Honore