What are OKRs?

OKRs are Objectives and Key Results.  They are a simple but effective way of setting goals and objectives for individuals, teams or whole organizations.  They are structured in bite-size chunks; this helps to make them achievable and easy to measure.

History of OKR

Today, OKRs are used by some of the world’s top companies, but their history can be traced right back to a book published in 1954, The Practice of Management.  The book’s author, Peter Drucker, set out the principal that businesses should be driven by objectives in a methodology he referred to as Management by Objectives (MBO).

In 1968, at Intel, Andy Grove paired management objectives with what he called key results, or the bite-sized targets that each employee should aim towards.  OKR was born.

From 1975, John Doerr worked with Andy Grove at Intel and learned about OKR theory.

Now at Google, in 1999, John Doerr introduced OKRs to the company, helping them scale to today’s tech giant.

Who is using OKR?

What should OKRs look like?

Firstly, an OKR should be ambitious.  They are aspirational goals to aim for that keep people focused on the job in hand with their eyes on the objective.  OKRs should be simple and fluid, they need to be able to adapt with the changing dynamics of a business.  Most of all an OKR should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and with a Timebox.  A good OKR will always remain focused on the desired outcome.

What should OKRs NOT look like?

OKRs should not look like a task list. They should not be the executive’s personal goals and should not be used as a performance review.  OKRs don’t aim for incremental improvement and they’re not focused on outputs.

OKRs vs KPIs & Balanced Scorecard

The three methodologies have much in common; but there are key differences to be aware of.  We’ve already seen what an OKR should and shouldn’t look like, but what about the others?  KPIs focus on numbers, outputs, metrics; they are stats-based measurements.  The BSC, on the other hand, focuses on hitting targets for the long-term.  OKRs are great at allowing businesses and teams to reach goals beyond what they ever thought was possible before.

OKR alignment with Mission, Vision, Strategy and Benefits

For an OKR to be effective, it needs to be aligned properly with a business’s overall vision.  But where does the OKR fit in this?

Vision – Where does the company want to be in 3 – 5 years?

Mission – What does the company need to achieve in the next 1 – 2 years?

Strategy – What is the business plan to get there?  What steps do you need to take?

Benefits – What’s the outcome or business value to be derived?  What’s the end goal and how does it add value to you?  What are the specific milestones and goals along the way?

Aspirational vs Committed OKRs

OKR – What are the moonshot (aspirational) and rooftop (committed) goals to get there?  A moonshot is where you really look to push the boundaries, achieve something never done before!  Aim high with your moonshot; the clue is in the name!  A rooftop goal is much more straightforward to achieve, it should be the expectation that you successfully make the goal 100% of the time and your people should be clear on how to get there.

What are the benefits of using OKR?

OKRs have lots of benefits to offer the aspiring business.  Let’s have a look at 6 of the main ones:

  • Alignment. The huge benefit of using OKRs is their ability to connect a team or individual’s goals to that of the organization they serve.   A team can set its own OKRs to achieve goals that help reach the company vision; an individual can set OKRs to reach the objectives of their team.  OKRs keep everyone focused and pulling in the same direction.
  • Flexibility. Because OKRs are set and reviewed in the short term, they offer great flexibility as they can be changed frequently according to current organizational issues.  Nobody is tied to a long-term, hard to adapt strategy.
  • Focus. By using a small number of specific OKRs, we suggest between 3 – 5 per team, it’s easier to keep focused on the overall goal.  Other methodologies can present a more complex and harder to follow set of targets.
  • Transparency. By making OKRs visible across organizational sectors, all stakeholders can see how they fit into the broader picture. This can help reduce duplication and create a more streamlined process.
  • Accountability & Engagement. OKRs are encouraged to be authored by teams and employees.  It is their collaboration and ownership that will align individual and team goals to corporate goals to take the company to new heights.   

How to write a proper OKR

Start with the objective; what do you aim to achieve?  Remember, make it ambitious and simple.

An OKR has an easy-to-follow formula: verb + what are you going to do + in order to / so that [outcome].  For example:

How do I manage OKRs effectively?

Good OKR management follows a simple pattern:

  • Beginning of quarter – alignment planning
  • Weekly or bi-weekly cadence
  • Quarter-ending retrospective
  • End of month pivot
  • Use Target Align OKR software

Target Align Software

At Target Align, we have developed the industry-leading software package to help you plan and manage your OKRs.  With the knowledge we can provide with our training, the software will help take your business to higher heights faster than you imagined possible.

Let’s take a look at some of the features:

Scorecard View – Target Align’s scorecard view and global view helps organizational leaders understand where they are in their strategic execution and make key decisions.  Are we on course?  Or is it time to pivot?  Categorize your OKRs into groups, such as “increase revenue” or “expand marketing share.” View OKR progress in real-time.

Global View – A powerful bird’s-eye, visual representation of your OKRs that shows how they all link together.

Taskboard – The Taskboard allows users to quickly and easily communicate with peers based on OKR priorities.

Employee Rewards – The Employee Reward System allows for users to be awarded with a star and points-based system to encourage peer-to-peer collaboration and engagement.

Vision Mission Strategy Benefits (VMSB) – Target Align is the only provider of this unique and powerful feature.  VMSB allows employees to set more specific milestones, narrowing down the OKR into a tightly targeted, highly effective tool.

At present, Target Align is offering a free demo version of this pioneering software so you can see first-hand the benefits it will bring to your organization.  Click here for your free demo copy.