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How To Write Effective OKRs

April 28, 2022
6 min read
How To Write Effective OKRs
Master the art of setting and achieving goals with our expert guide on how to write effective OKRs. Learn to align, measure, and drive success in your organization.

The OKR methodology is one that has been used by some of the best leaders in business today. For example, the founders of Google used the process when setting up their business, which helped them become as successful as they are today. What are they, and how can you write effective OKRs with your team?

What Are OKRs?

Firstly, what is an OKR? The term stands for Objectives and Key Results. The methodology was put together by Andy Grove in the 1970’s, and he initially called them ‘iMBOs’. Later on, John Doerr, the author of Measure What Matters, formalised the term ‘OKR’ and introduced it to many business leaders, including the founders of Google.

Why Use OKRs?

So why should you use OKRs? When you use the process as designed, you’ll see that it helps you create goals collaboratively with your team. When you can do that, you’ll be able to have measurable results that inform you on the next steps to take. These lead to success when used correctly, so you can create a framework that your whole company can use.

Creating Your Objectives

When getting to work on your own OKRs, the first thing you want to work on is your objectives. These are what you want your team to accomplish. How are you going to write the best and most effective objectives for your team?

Make them inspiring: When thinking about setting an objective, think about the emotions they inspire within your team. You want them to see it and feel as though they want to be a part of it, and that they want to help get it done.

Keep it to three: Creating objectives is something you’ll do regularly, perhaps every quarter or month. As such, you don’t want to bog the team down with too many objectives. As such, three or less is best. They can focus on them and make them the priority.

Make them actionable: Any objective you create needs to be achievable by your team. It’s always good to have high standards, but you need to use objectives that they can actually do, within the time limit. For example, you may want to ‘Move from a monthly release to a continuous release process.’ That’s something that the team can do.

Be ambitious: On the flip side, you do want to be ambitious when you’re setting objectives. These are how you’ll grow your company and get success. As such, don’t be afraid to be ambitious when you’re setting them. What do you want to be able to achieve?

Creating Your Key Results

Once you have your objectives in place, you’ll want to start planning your key results. “Key results are how you’ll measure the success of your objectives,” says Alison Timpson, a project manager at Best Essay Writing Services. “They need to give you a very definable metric that you can measure yourself against, so you can see if you succeeded.”

There are several ways that you’ll want to put these key results together:

Keep it to five or less: Like your objectives, you want to keep it to five or less so your team won’t be bogged down. Put a lid on it for now, and you’ll be able to focus on the results that matter most.

Make it black and white: When creating a key result, the answer needs to be definitive. It doesn’t have to be ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but the answer to it must be measurable. For example, a key result can be ‘Gain 6 new customers before the end of the quarter.’ At the end of the time period, you can easily see if you managed this or not. Other examples include:

  • Improve Net Promoter Score from 7.0 to 8.5 by the end of the quarter.
  • Decrease time to respond to customers’ requests from 12 hours to 4 hours in April.
  • Reduce monthly spending on software from $5k to $2k by the end of the year.

Make outcome focused: A common mistake made with key results is that they’re simply made to be more tasks that your team has to achieve. The problem is that it isn’t going to tell you anything. You need to be able to see the best outcome from your objectives. With the above example, you should be able to see the 6 new customers, thanks to the objectives you put into place.

Collaborative OKR Writing

The most important thing when creating OKRs is that you’re making them in collaboration with your team. Together, you can create OKRs that work for you, and ensure that you get the best results. Here’s how you can get that done.

Work out why your goals are important: Sit down with your team and ask them what the most important things that they need to accomplish are. What do they need to do, and why are they so important? When you keep having this conversation, the team can work out why their objectives are important to them, and so they can contribute more meaningfully.

Create drafts: You don’t have to go with the first objectives you think of. Create some draft objectives and go to your team and ask for their feedback. Ask about any variations that could improve the objective? Would a different objective work better?

Try brainstorming key results: Use team brainstorming for key results, as it’s a good way to help each member take ownership of them. When you do this, you’ll be able to get better key results that will push the team forward.

Don’t be afraid to take risks: In setting OKRs, show your team that you’re not afraid of taking risks. Empower the team as a whole to set goals that they can be proud of, and that will get them noticed. When they can do that, they’ll be more motivated to make it happen.

Make it ok for problems to happen: As hard as the team works, sometimes you won’t be able to hit all of your objectives. As such, you’ll want your team not to worry about delivering bad news. Tell them to let you know as soon as there’s an issue, so you can work on it together.

With these tips, you can start setting OKRs and making your business more successful as a whole. Put the time into creating them, and you’ll start to see a real difference.

About the Author

Madeline Miller is a business management writer, helping company owners start and manage their businesses to find success.

See the most answers to the most frequently asked questions. You can find even more information in the knowledge base.
Knowledge base

OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. It was originally put together by Andy Grove in the 1970s, initially referred to as 'iMBOs'. John Doerr later formalized the term "OKR" and introduced it to a wider audience, including business leaders like the founders of Google.

Companies should use OKRs because they foster collaborative goal setting within teams, leading to measurable and actionable results. This process, when utilized properly, creates a framework that drives success across the entire organization.

To write effective objectives, ensure they are inspiring, limited to three to avoid overwhelming the team, actionable within your team's capabilities, and ambitious to encourage growth and success.

Key results are metrics used to measure the success of your objectives. They should be limited to five or less, clearly defined in a black-and-white manner for easy measurability, and focused on outcomes to illustrate the tangible benefits of achieving your objectives.

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