The Ultimate  Guide To

Objectives and Key Results - OKRs

What is OKR?

OKR is an acronym that stands for Objective and Key Results. It’s a collaborative and agile goal setting framework invented at Intel and made famous by Google over 20 years ago.

What’s great about OKR is that it is an open source goal setting framework that has been created and refined over time, with everyone testing and refining what does or doesn’t work. It’s now mature and OKR best-practice is well understood and accessible. Let’s get started.

OKR Objectives Key Results - What is OKR?

OKR Are Simple, Flexible, Lightweight & Agile

OKR are designed to be a simple, flexible, lightweight and agile way of setting goals. Their simple structure makes OKR accessible to everyone. This is key because they are designed to be inclusive, with a bottom-up, top-down and side-to-side, approach to setting goals. Which is very different to the old-school top-down approaches. 

With OKR you are embedding systems, processes and technology that ensure that your strategy, goals and productivity are continually aligning with opportunity and value capture.

It was noted by McKinsey that “At Google, all OKRs, starting with the CEO’s, are visible to all other employees. At LinkedIn, the CEO’s executive team reviews OKRs weekly. This kind of transparency also has several benefits: surfacing interdependencies among teams and units, creating urgency and “mindshare,” and reinforcing the nonhierarchical culture and mind-set that characterize truly agile organizations.”

To use OKR, the good news is that you only really need to understand three goal entities: Objectives, Key Results, and Initiatives, plus the idea of cadence e.g. annual and quarterly OKRs with frequent check-ins and meetings – usually weekly.

Make Goal Clarity Your Advantage

Only 15% know the most important goals

Research by FranklinCovey suggests that only 15% of employees actually know their organization’s most important goals —either there are no goals or they have too many goals.

The critical path to goal achievement is unknown

It’s common to not know which critical activities provide the greatest leverage on goal achievement.

Progress is not being discussed in over 90% of cases

Less than 10% of employees meet their manager to discuss goal progress at least monthly.

OKR Clarify What Is Most Important
They Are Not A Window On Everything That's Being Done

OKRs are not meant to be used to describe all of your metrics, goals, BAU activities, projects and Initiatives. OKRs are how you make what matters most a goal that everyone commits to.

As you will see from the graphic, OKRs are complementary to Strategy and KPI Tracking. In fact, it’s common for KPIs that are priorities for improvement to become Key Results, and Initiatives that are planned to become Projects.

OKR is a top-down, bottom-up and horizontally aligned way of setting goals.  The framework gives employees more freedom to create their own goals, and have an input into other teams and colleagues goals, which creates the alignment, improves transparency and collaboration. This is why the most important aspect of OKR planning to get right is the ‘planning meeting’ whereby priorities, Objectives, measurement (Key Results) and execution (Initiatives) are shared,  discussed and agreed.

Its advantages over other goal setting frameworks being its ability to set highly aligned goals with measurable outcomes within shorter planning cycles, which improves goal clarity, agility, business and team performance.

Do not use OKRs if you want to micromanage and control employees. It’s a framework for those that want to share strategies and priorities, guiding and inspiring teams and employees towards the outcomes you want. OKRs require you to trust and empower your people to work out how to deliver the results you want. Are you ready to trust your teams to deliver your strategy?

OKRs are complementary to Strategy and KPI Tracking

What is also important from an employees perspective is that the OKR is not the only reference point used to define an individuals contribution or achievements. Employees, as you can see from the diagram, contribute in a wide range of valuable areas in a variety of ways. If you over-index on recognition by OKR, expect OKRs to be used sub-optimally. This is why ZOKRI combines market leading OKR features with a more holistic view of performance. 

OKR Management is part of Performance Management

What Is Your Strategy?

If you don’t have a Mission or a Strategy you’re not going to get OKRs to work well, if at all.  Think of your Mission as your long-term guide. And your strategy as an expression of the battlegrounds you must win this year. ZOKRI allows you to define your Mission, Vision and Purpose, and even a North Star metric if you have one, along with Strategic Pillars, and align OKRs to these.

Are you moving into new markets? Or are you going to increase customer choice? Reduce operational costs? Or perhaps diversify revenue sources? Try not to have too many Pillars. From this you can set a Company Objectives and means of measuring its achievement.

“People who understand and buy into the strategy will work toward achieving it. If people don’t understand or buy in, at best they won’t contribute much, and at worst they will actively undermine the strategy” Management Today

Dave Richards is MIT Innovation Lab co-founder

Business-As-Usual vs OKRs

There are teams in most companies that are more service orientated, with much of what they do being geared to business-as-usual (BAU) activities and levels of performance. Think of teams like Finance and processes like Payroll, Legal who look after Contracts, Dev Ops with processes like Code Testing. 

You will have teams that have jobs-to-be-done and follow established processes, maintaining great or at least good enough levels of performance. They probably spend 80% to 100% of their time making these essential things happen. These teams may not always set OKRs for areas they want to improve, but can have and use what are sometimes called ‘health metrics’ or KPIs to monitor performance and stay on track. BAU work is hugely valuable. 

You might also have mature cash-cow products that are being maintained or slowly evolved to minimise churn and address an existing and well understood  customer segment, but they are not your most significant opportunities now.

ZOKRI allows Health Metrics or KPIs to be tracked and have owners and collaborators. This provides a way of valuing BAU work and providing the same level of transparency as is present with OKR. You want to avoid a two tier system of employees that are highly visible and those who work hard in the shadows.

Other teams and employees can prioritise their goals and align time and resources to these goals in a more fluid way. Product, Engineering, Sales, and Marketing for example are used working in a more autonomous, agile way. ZOKRI allows everyone to be seen and participate in helping a company succeed. The people that are often ‘invisible heroes’ doing the BAU and maintaining great, and the agents for change that are focused at helping to fight the battles you’re trying to win to deliver the performance step-changes set-out as OKR.

Depending on Roles & Responsibilities, and the Quarter you're in, some or all of your time is guided by OKRs.

Increase Commitment To Harder Targets With OKR

When you’ve played an active part in goal discussion you are typically more committed to the goals achievement according to McKinsey. Gone are the days of being given goals to achieve once a year. Quarterly Business Reviews and discussion with departments and teams allow for dynamic alignment and priority setting. McKinsey also reported that at the use of OKR in a B2B sales organization resulted in 20 percent higher overall targets, because teams and individuals could set their own targets.

Commitment to goals that you have set is typically stronger than to those set for you. Supporting the need for bottom-up goal setting and OKR.

Clarity Often Means Being Single-minded

When you’ve lots of Objectives i.e. priorities you might either distribute your efforts evenly or focus on the Objective you find most rewarding. Having real clarity on what you should be investing your time and energy into without having to think about it is easier when you have just one thing to focus on. When you see people working on lots of OKRs expect less to be achieved. If there is a need for a number of OKRs set a sequence that makes sense and don’t start another until one is finished. With ZOKRI you have States like ‘Not Yet Started’ to help with this. Remember that with OKR, less is more.

When I am not working on Business-as-Usual activities, I know exactly where to focus my skills and energy.

Ready To Jump In & Write An OKR?

A Simple Guide To Creating An OKR

If you’ve got this far and you like the sound of using OKRs to deliver your strategy, you’re now ready to write OKRs. John Doerr, who introduced OKR to Google uses a simple way to express how you should write OKR.
OBJECTIVE: I will: ____________________
KEY RESULT: As measured by: ____________________

Writing Objectives

When writing an Objective, it should ‘ideally’ fit the following criteria:

An Objective should:

Read a little like a Mission Statement for a Year or a Quarter

Be qualitative and not quantitative – that’s what Key results are for

Describe the challenge / opportunity you want to address

Be positive and even inspirational

Be aspirational with a stretch challenge

Be time-bound and achievable in the Quarter or Year

Has no dependencies and can be done by it’s owner and collaborators

Writing Key Results

Everyone is busy, and everybody wants to know that the work that they are doing is helping their team and helping the organization to succeed. This is where well thought out Key results come in. You’re trying to connect the work that you’re doing with the outcomes you want when that work is completed.

This means that your ‘as measured by’ Key Results are carefully thought through success factors that help you achieve your Objective, and the measurable ‘outcomes’ you want to achieve at the end of a period of time, usually a Year or Quarter.

A Key Result should:

Be part a set of 2 to 4 Key Results for each Objective

Be measurable and therefore ‘ideally’ contains a metric (KPI) & a target (increase, decrease or maintain over time) with leading indicators being better than lagging, especially for quarterly Key Results. If we are not measuring the right metric (KPI) find out if it’s possible and get a baseline. It’s better to define and target the right metric and plan to track it than measure the success of a poor metric you do have.

If you want to add a project or a task, it’s usually better to add it as an Initiative.

Objectivity when setting Key Result targets is also really important. The default for Key Results is the target should be hard. But getting agreement on what ‘hard’ is where historic data, debate, and at worse, gut feel come in. But consensus is needed in order to avoid any potential for biases. Why should targets be hard is explored below.,

7 Important OKR Checks & Balances

#1 – Alignment – Does this Objective support the achievement of our company or other team goals?

#2 – High Priority – Is this Objective a key priority for the coming quarter and do we need to commit to achieving it?

#3 – Step-change – Are we thinking big enough or playing it safe and describing business-as-usual?   Would the achievement of this Objective and Key Results make material difference / create a step-change in performance?

#4 – Outcomes – Have we defined outcomes that would measure the impact our hard work has had?

#5 – Ideas – Have we shared and discussed our best ideas for Initiatives that would achieve our OKRs?

#6 – Clarity – When we’re not doing BAU work, do we know what. we need to focus on?

#7 – Cadence – Do we know when we’re meeting to discuss  progress, plans, problems and to celebrate our wins?

Why Should Key Result Targets Be Hard?

There is over 35 years of research on goal setting that beyond telling us what we know, which is goal setting is an essential part of achievement, the research tells us why goal setting works and the conditions that make some goals way more effective that others.

Goals increase our focus on the relevant activities – Goals serve as a directive function. They direct attention towards goal relevant activities, and away from irrelevant ones.

Hard goals increase effort – Hard goals are energising and lead to greater effort. Easy to achieve goals have low levels of impact and value so should be avoided.

Hard goals prolong effort – When employees can control their time, e.g. they work remotely, hard goals prolong their effort, with sustained effort helping to achieve more.

Hard goals accelerate learning & improved collaboration – Hard goals cause the arousal, discovery and use of task relevant knowledge and strategies. Easy goals don’t.

Committed vs Aspirational OKR

Most OKRs you will create are what are sometimes called ‘Committed OKRs’. As their name suggests, they are are the commitments your company, department, team or you has agreed to should be a priority and people, time, money and other resources should be used to achieve them. Because of this ‘commitment’ you need to ensure there is agreement on the impact an OKRs achievement would have. Committed OKRs also need to be hard to achieve, and have a level of stretch. 

If you want to stimulate progress, inspire some ‘out of the box’, ‘innovative’, and ‘creative’ thinking, then you might want to have teams apply their energy, time and talents to an Aspirational or Moonshot OKR or Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) – pronounced “Bee Hag,” short. In Jim Collins book, “Built to Last”, it was noted  that the BHAG was not the only mechanism for stimulating progress,  but more more evidence of its use was found in the “visionary companies” and less evidence of it in the “comparison companies” in 14 of 18 cases. 

You Must Make It Safe To Set Hard Targets

The impact of ‘Psychological Safety’ on team performance can not be understated.  With questions like:

If I make a mistake in this team, it is held against me?

Members of this team are able to bring up problems and tough issues?

It is safe to take a risk in this team?

You can see how your ability to set hard goals and your company and team culture, and ‘Psychological Safety’ are closely linked.

What Would Success Look Like For A Moon Shots Or BHAG?

OKRs are not meant to be safe bets. They are meant to push us to take risks, find new ways of approaching problems or opportunities, and achieve more than we often think we are capable of. This is why it needs to be safe to fail, no matter how much we push ourselves to succeed. We need to know where our limits are. Like with exercise, when we stress our muscles our bodies respond with muscle growth and increased strength, by stressing teams and ourselves, we respond with new knowledge, new ideas, new ways of working and solutions that achieve more.

Activity Based Key Results

With Key Results you want to be measuring outcomes not effort. This means you’re measuring a ‘success factor’, not your means of achieving success.

If your Key Results contain a verb like: complete, help, develop, plan, create, deliver, build, implement, release, or launch, then they are likely. to be activity based key results and the result that will have progress measured by completing a project, task(s), or achieving specific milestones. As open-source and flexible as OKRs are, the collective wisdom of over 20 years would guide and challenge you to avoid Activity Based Key Results.

In no way is OKR trying to de-value the work that you're doing.
OKRs are trying to do the opposite!

Key Results value the work that you're doing by connecting the work that you're doing with a measurable outcome. This will show that your well thought out ideas, plans and hard work had an impact on measurements that mattered. If it did not, we will learn and move on. and try something else.

Avoiding measurement is a zero sum game where the impact of hard work is ambiguous and therefore matters less, we ultimately achieve less, and perhaps worse of all, we learn less because we can't connect what we're doing with what works or doesn't - opening the door to being busy doing things that don't work.

Turn Activity Based Key Results To
Outcome Based Key Results

If your Key Results involve:

Completing
Defining
Providing
Helping
Developing
Planning
Creating
Delivering
Building
Implementing
Releasing
Launching
Etc…

And success means completing valuable and important projects and tasks, then a question that needs to be answered is – what would be the impact of delivering this project or task?

What would be the desired measurable outcomes?

If we ‘build’ the new feature we ‘think’ we will:

Increase Weekly Active User from X to Y
Increase Free to Paid Conversions from X% to Y%

If we ‘launch’ a campaign we ‘think’ we will:

Increase Organic Traffic from Paid Search Keywords by 20%
Generate 1000 downloads
Generate 200 MQLs for Sales

If we ‘complete’ the re-platforming of our tech we ‘think’ we will:

Increase Story Points Per sprint from X to Y
Increase release frequency from X to Y
Reduce Customer Reported Bugs from X to Y

 

"We Don't Measure That"

It’s common to not have the metrics that you want for a Key Result. If this is the case then you would ideally plan to get it and get as ‘baseline’. For your Key Result, simply put “Improving [metric] – getting a baseline to set target”. It’s better to show that you intend to measure what matters than not measure anything important or meaningful.

It's Better To Show Measurement Intent Than Ignore Measurement

If you’ve not got the metric (KPI) you want but have decided it’s important you can describe that in your Key Result. It’s better to show that you intend to measure what matters than not measure anything important or meaningful. The example below has the Objective – “Increase Customer Satisfaction”. The Key Result “As Measured By’ has simply been added as “Baseline Customer Satisfaction Score”. The Initiative is to “Implement Quarterly Customer Satisfaction Survey”, which in this instance is being run as a project as there’s lots of tasks involved.

'Doing' Drives Metric Change So Initiatives Really Matter

Your best ideas for projects and tasks that you ‘think’ will  improve the measurements that matter are Initiatives.  It’s a ‘think it’ not a ‘know it’ by virtue of the fact that Initiatives, in most instances, are non-validated hypothesis for work you believe will have a measurable impact on metrics (KPIs) that you have decided matter and need to be improved.. 

There are examples whereby you might also repeat and Initiative. For example, the hypothesis was that improving the ‘quality and depth’ of content on the website would help generate traffic and leads. Once proven you are likely to do more it.

This is why ZOKRI allows you do document Initiative results and success, and share what you’d Keep, Start and Stop doing next time should you repeat the Initiatives. This provides a structure and process where ideation, intent, rigour and learning loops can compliment busy hard working teams. In ZOKRI can also link Initiative progress to your project tools e.g. Jira, Trello, Asana .. so no double entry is going to be required.

Try our simple to use OKR Software for free. Learn and roll-out OKRs fast!

 

OKR Examples With Balanced Key Results

Below is an example of an annual company OKR that is being supported by Sales OKR. Note how the Sales OKR aligns with the ‘Growth Rate’ Key Results and how in both examples the Key Results and ‘balanced’ which in the Company OKR example ‘Growth’ is being balanced by ‘Margin’, this could also be ‘Profitability’. In the Sales example ‘Lead Quantity’ is being balanced by ‘Lead Quality’.

Objectives

We provide outstanding customer value
Annual OKR

Objectives

200% y-on-y Growth rate
KPIs in Key Results

Objectives

Increase retention rate to 95%
KPIs in Key Results

You can align with the Objective or an individual Key Result

Objectives

The meeting diary is full
Quarterly OKR

Objectives

500 qualified meetings booked
KPIs in Key Results

Objectives

30% of meetings become quotes
KPIs in Key Results

Objectives and Key Results Arrow

The ability for OKRs to contain multiple Key Results and therefore metrics allows for really high quality Objective success criteria to be defined.

Aligning OKRs & Tracking Progress

An Objective can support the achievement of and be aligned with another Objective or a specific Key Result.

When organised as a cascade, this is called Vertical Alignment, and follows a Parent / Child type relationship.

Horizontal alignment typically comes from having transparency and conversations between teams, and mutual agreement that there is alignment and not conflict.

In large organisations it’s typical to opt for fewer tiers in the cascade and invite departments and teams to satellite a company Objective in a one-tier flat structure. This is because the thought, complexity, time and effort of creating N -levels of a cascade are no that useful.

OKR Software like ZOKRI also allows you to report progress for single and branches of aligned OKR.

Company, Departmental and Cross-functional Team OKR

It’s common to have Company OKRs and both departmental and cross-functional team OKR.

Cross-functional OKR are a result of thinking about what the OKR should be and who is best placed to work towards achieving it, regardless of their current department.

Cross-functional teams require the support of team managers, and the impact or opportunity-cost of using a departmental team member to contribute towards a cross-functional OKRs should be openly discussed, understood and agreed.

OKR Owners & Collaborators

Every OKR has one Owner, and can have one or more individual or team collaborators.

Individual Key Results can also have their own Owners and Collaborators where required.

OKR Check-ins & Meetings

Committing to OKR means committing to  sharing updates and having great meetings at agreed cadences. This creates a pulse that drives progress and the whole business forward. 

Check-in your OKRs weekly. If you set-and-forget your OKRs there is every chance performance and achievement levels will slip. When Confidence levels change, record why in ZOKRI so it can be read in the software, email, or via Slack or MS Teams, and responded to and resolved. Share the good news as well!

Make OKRs a key part your weekly team meetings. You could even add them to your weekly round-up / status emails.  

Weekly Check-ins: Weekly check-ins are where individuals update OKR and Initiative progress and include a commentary for colleagues to read and respond to where appropriate. Sharing what is holding you back – dependencies and blockers are especially important.

Weekly Team Meetings: OKRs are part of the agenda for start of the week meetings where there’s more of a focus on executional plans, problem resolution and what needs to be accomplished in the coming week. You can also do a ‘Friday Wins’ meeting or round-up where you get to show-off successes and share learnings.

Monthly Meetings: Monthly meetings where to review the progress of all of your OKRs and agree what needs to be done in the next 30 days.

Quarterly Retrospective & Planning: Quarterly retrospectives are meetings where you review your OKR performance, discuss what you have learned and agree your priorities over the next quarter.

Annual Retrospective & Planning: An annual retrospective looks back on the past 12 months and where you plan the next 12 months.

5% Of Time In Meetings & 95% Of Your Time Spent With Clarity

Performance Management and OKRs all rely on continually two-way communications that optimise alignment, and encourage agility. The perceived time requirement always exceeds the reality, and the perceived benefits are always undervalued.

  • Independent Check-ins (5 minutes per week – 1 hours a quarter)
  • Manager Weekly 1-on-1’s (30 minutes per week – 6 hours a quarter)
  • Short Weekly Team Meetings (30 mins per week – 6 hours a quarter)
  • Monthly Review Meetings (45 – 60 mins – 3 hours a quarter)
  • Quarterly OKR Planning Meetings (2 hours a quarter)
  • Quarterly Personal Development Planning (1 hour a quarter)

19 hours of meetings out of 420 working hours a full-time employee works in a quarter means that about 5% of time is spent aligning, collaborating, praising, solving problems, planning, learning, developing, building friendship bonds, and absorbing culture. Probably way less than is spent in meetings now. That leaves over 95% of an employee’s time for OKRs, Initiatives, and BAU.

OKR Meeting Agendas

OKRs thrive when teams have having regular well planned meetings where OKRs are a core part of the agenda. The Monthly and Quarterly Retrospective / Planning meetings are the meetings that go into OKR progress, plans and problems at the most depth. 

Meetings really matter to the OKR process and ZOKRI is the only goal management platform that has meeting management built-in.

ZOKRI ensures agendas are set, meetings run smoothly, actions and notes are captured and shared.

Getting these meetings planned and in diaries via ZOKRI. Commit to them and ensure they happen. Cancelling these meetings is detrimental to performance and the OKR process.

Add Recurring Meetings To Diaries, Propose Agendas, Take Notes, Assign Actions,
Document Decisions, With Automated End Of Meeting Email, Done

ZOKRI automates and manages OKR meetings. Everything that ensures great meetings happen has been thought of for you. 

  • One-off and recurring meetings like the weekly team meetings, monthly review and quarterly retrospective can be scheduled and added to diaries – ensuring great OKR meetings are committed to and happen

  • Participants can propose and votes on discussion points

  • OKRs, Initiatives and KPIs can be added to agendas in a few clicks

  • Recurring discussion points help you set the scene and gather information
  • Previous meeting action are at hand already and nothing is forgotten or lost

  • Meeting notes can be taken as you go, and meeting actions assigned for follow-up in the next meeting

  • Presenter mode ensure screen sync for all participants

  • Post meeting emails share notes and actions

  • Optional post meeting surveys provides insights on how good your meetings are.

Set- yourself up for OKR success from day 1 with ZOKRI. Everything from OKR coaching to OKR software is covered so employees can learn the right ways fast, and enjoy the clarity and agility OKR bring.

Transitioning Between Quarters

At the end of each quarter or right at the beginning of the quarter you are going to plan your OKRs. This is your opportunity to discuss with colleagues what you have learned, what your priorities should be, what you should be measuring, what the target should be, and what Initiatives would help you achieve those goals.

Some of the next quarters OKR will be new, some will be continuations of exiting OKRs with a target reset. ZOKRI makes the transition between periods for both options easy. If you are continuing OKRs, warnings will be set to check and set your targets. 

Good team OKR retrospective & planning questions?

How did we do / what progress did we make?

Did we find the OKRs a stretch?

With hindsight did we choose the right OKRs?

Did our OKRs help the company OKR in the way we had planned?

What were our biggest challenges?

What were our key learnings?

Did we have the skills and resources to achieve the OKRs?

Did anything important not get done as a result of focusing on this?

Do we want to continue with the OKR or specific Key Results in the coming quarter?

What should be focus on achieving in the coming quarter?

Do these OKRs align with the company OKRs as well as other teams?

Who is going to own and collaborate on these new OKRs?

What would be a good stretch target for each Key Result?

What Initiatives could and should we do to achieve our new OKRs? 

Important OKR Roles

For OKR to work you want to have transparency and alignment adhered to across the business. This means that there can be no exceptions and you will need to commit to OKRs as your way of creating annual and quarterly goals.

Commitment and adoption is made easier where you have an executive sponsor and OKR leads / champions identified.

Executive Sponsor

The Executive Sponsors is a senior leader that is committed to driving the use of OKR, and can make or help make decisions on changes in policy, resources, and people where necessary.

OKR Lead or OKR Champion

The OKR lead is you internal OKR champion, OKR expert and go-to. They can help onboard existing and new employees, QA OKR planning and where necessary, escalate issues.

 

ZOKRI can work with your Executive Team, Managers and your wider employee base to provide the right training to the right people. Including OKR Accreditation for OKR Leads.

FREE OKR Download

Blueprints

Diagrammatic blueprints of how the whole company can measure, share and work on what matters, improve performance, and ensure everyone knows and feels that they really matter as well.

A Summary Of The Benefits Of OKR

Improved Agility

Shorter planning cycles and weekly check-ins and meetings help your respond to change much faster than longer planning and review cycles.

Increased Alignment & Transparency

Top-down, bottom-up and horizontal alignment can help you use resources effectively, focusing them in the areas of most impact. OKR also bring much needed transparency, breaking down silos.

Clarity

Goal, roles and plan clarity together with transparency allows employees to connect what they do with what their team and the company needs to achieve.

Enhanced Efficiency

With set planning and operational cadences, OKRs when implemented correctly reduce planning and meeting time, increase execution time and improving your meeting Return On Time Invested (ROTI).

Much Better Meetings

One of the less spoken about superpowers is the power of better conversations. To plan, align and agree OKR you need to have conversations in team and across teams. These debates are focused primarily on what your ‘real’ priorities are now, meaningful measurement and target setting, aligning executional plans, and resourcing.

Advantages & Disadvantages Of OKR

Advantages Of OKR

Objectives and Key Results are fast becoming the default way of setting goals for companies wanting to be more agile, improve performance management and have a more open and transparent culture. It has a number of strengths. These are:

1) OKRs force you to consider and then focus on what matters most right now and then commit to these set of defined priorities. By their nature, this means OKR are not measuring or tracking everything that’s going on in a company or team.

2) OKRs are created to be highly collaborative and ambitious, and loosely coupled to any individual performance conversations. This provides employees with the safety they need to take risks, be ambitious and innovate where there is an opportunity to do so.

3) OKRs are inclusive once the company level Objectives and Key Results are set. Top down dictatorial goal setting is replaced by a more autonomous, agile and inclusive way of achieving company objectives. A way that connects employees with the impact their goals and roles have, which is highly motivational.

4) It’s common for goals to live in team silos. OKRs are by design meant to be visible to everyone and shared. This not only facilitates alignment, but creates a more open, fair and energising culture where performance can be seen, understood and contributed towards.

Disadvantages Of OKR

There are disadvantages to OKR as well. These are:

1) Employees need to be trained to set goals, not just told what to do, which is the flip side of being a more agile and autonomous company. That said, OKRs are simple and easy to understand and how you roll-out the framework at scale is understood and something ZOKRI can help with.

2) Managers that are more top down, dictatorial and like to micromanage will not like OKR and their style will need to evolve. OKR are not for command and control styles of company and leadership.

3) If employees are not playing a significant part of a team’s OKRs in a period they can feel excluded. This is why it’s important to value work outside the OKR as well as make that also visible to others.

4) If you’re using OKRs as part of your Performance Management processes you need to ensure that there is fairness and consistency across the team and teams in how OKRs are set, how success is calibrated and how much or little they play a part in an employee’s performance assessment. All of which can easily be addressed with policies and training.

OKR FAQ

How do you align OKR
with Strategy?

One of the very few downsides of OKR is unlike Balanced Scorecard and Strategy Maps, and the use of Strategic Pillars, there is no way of expressing strategy, but it does provide the means to align with and deliver on it. This is why ZOKRI allows you to share your Mission, Vision, and Purpose, along with your Strategy, and then align Objectives and Key Results, that have a faster moving cadence with them. Giving you the best of both worlds.

When do you plan OKRs?

Most companies’ OKR planning cycles involve setting annual and quarterly OKRs.

In the last week of a quarter or the first week of the next quarter it’s a good idea to do retrospective, discussing what you should ‘keep’, ‘start’, and ‘stop’ doing’.

OKR planning exercises where we debate our upcoming priorities (most significant challenges and opportunities) then help you create the next quarters OKRs.

That said, if OKRs are completed mid quarter, or stop making sense because things have changed you can pause Objectives and / or Key Results, and create new ones. It’s important to stay agile.

How many OKRs do we create?

You are NOT trying to express everything a company, department, team or individual is doing as an OKR.

You should apply the principle of ‘less is more’. The more OKRs you create the less you will focus on what really matters – the OKRs that will make a difference – think 80/20.

This is what a key part of the OKR planning process are the group conversations you have that decide which OKRs and Initiatives will make a material difference to performance.

Does everyone have OKR?

A key part of the OKR planning process is to decide which OKRs will make the biggest difference to performance and therefore should be a priority to achieve. Then you decide which individuals and teams are going to work on these.

The reality is most, but perhaps not everyone will be working on these OKRs. Unless you’re setting individual OKRs. Instead of owning or being a named collaborator on team OKRs, employees might own or be helping maintain a KPI that’s already ‘great’ or ‘good enough’. Or working on an Initiative supporting and OKR. Again, important work and part of how you can align and recognise everyone’s efforts.

This highlights that performance management is wider than OKR, but OKR are an important part of it.

How often do you meet to discuss OKR?

Meetings with OKR on the agenda are a key part of the OKR management process. Like with all good meetings, setting agendas, proposing discussion points, assigning actions and taking notes, and documenting decisions as you go are all best-practices to follow.

Typical OKR meetings include:

  • Weekly team meetings
  • Weekly 1-on-1s with your Manager
  • Monthly OKR review meetings
  • Quarterly retrospective and OKR planning meetings

Should you manage OKRs in a spreadsheet or software?

Most of ZOKRI’s customers started with a spreadsheet and soon realised that there were issues in how alignment is illustrated, how alignment is shown, how key processes like check-ins are managed, to name but a few, and for every employee added, the issues were amplified.

So as soon as you get into 10’s of employees the spreadsheet becomes obviously suboptimal. Given the relative low cost of software and the value of improvements in alignment, engagement, productivity, learning and development and of course, goal achievement, not investing in goal management software doesn’t really make sense.

Key Takeaways On OKR

OKRs will help you deliver your strategy with the help of the team you trust and have empowered to work out how.

This means you need to start with your Mission and your Strategy – This will help you set Annual Company Objectives.

Set your strategically aligned annual OKR carefully and remember that your annual Company Objectives are like a mission for a year and should direct and inspire.

Set 2 – 4 Key Results for your Company 2 that are outcomes, not activities or tasks. This means investing time and energy into thinking about measurement. Make sure the targets are a genuine stretch.

Invite and  trust your teams to work out a way how of achieve them with their Quarterly OKRs. The same rules apply for their creation.

Track Health Metrics or KPIs for the BAU so you don’t feel the need to express everything as an OKR. Keep OKRs for strategically aligned, quarterly  priorities.

Track OKRs weekly using check-ins, meet weekly to discuss progress. Sharing problems, celebrating the wins, and making adjustments to executional plans where required. Cadence matters.

Do this and you will have avoided common OKR mistakes and unlocked OKR superpowers.

OKR Case Studies & OKR Success Stories

The most referenced OKR Success story is Google as they’ve used OKR from having a few employees. Today, Google sets annual and quarterly OKRs and has company-wide meetings quarterly to share and grade OKRs.

Google is obviously not alone in being totally committed to OKR to deliver their strategy and achieve growth. Facebook, Salesforce, Spotify, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Airbnb and pretty much all fast growing tech companies are using OKR.

It can be used for all sectors, including retail, publishing, financial services, and professional services. Sears is another success story. Sears use OKRs for their 20,000 plus employees with attributable and positive impacts on sales and individual performance being experienced.

And success is normal with OKR. ZOKRI has helped over 3,000 companies, across a huge variety of sectors, discover OKR to set goals. This scale and variety has helped ZOKRI create the leading platform for OKR management.

Michael Conn

"At Atlas Cloud we were looking for a platform to implement OKRs in order to provide clarity to our employees on the strategic direction of the business and how they could contribute or influence this. We wanted to inform and also empower our people to work on initiatives that would help Atlas Cloud to achieve strategic objectives, as well as promoting personal development.

Since implementing ZOKRI we have started to see the expected benefits, but also many more that we did not anticipate. ZOKRI facilitates important conversations that people weren’t necessarily having before, removing roadblocks to progress, providing clarity of prioritisation and improving collaboration across our business. This is even more critical for us given the move to remote working during the Covid pandemic, which had limited the ways that people traditionally interacted with each other.

The Wellbeing function has given us unprecedented insight into how our people are feeling, whether is it business related or driven by outside factors such as the continuing lockdown, and our people have really bought into this. This has allowed us to take action to address and reduce or eliminate problems at an individual and organisation wide level where appropriate.

The implementation of the platform itself was very smooth, and the ongoing support provided by ZOKRI has been excellent, including the Knowledge Base and quick response to support requests.”

Michael Conn, CFO

"No book could replicate our path to success...the system brought us clarity, the coaching brought us consistency.

ZOKRI is intuitive, user-friendly, and flexible. Combined with OKR coaching, it has evolved our business in a very short time. We are clear on what we need to action, its impact, and how we can be each other's support network. Now we are set to capture the market.

The software, insights and on-call support has made an impact in less than 6 weeks."

Mel Tsiaprazis, COO
Mel Tsiaprazis
Peter Kerr AuxinOKR

"ZOKRI is much more than an OKR tracking tool to us. We view the platform as an engine for business transformation. It is really easy to use and enables teams to plan, set goals and then execute effectively.

ZOKRI helps business that are serious about implementing OKRs to create workflows that enable teams to share the right information with the right people at the right time."

Peter Kerr, OKR Expert

The process of setting up OKRs for the business and getting buy-in from stake holders can feel quite overwhelming. Although we have read so much about its success with other organisations, we weren’t sure where to start, as you’re required to switch between thinking about the big picture stuff one minute, granular detail the next and how everything fits in between!

It is easy to sign up to a software and give it a good go. It is likely to fumble in the dark for a while though until you get it right. Having very little time to implement ours, we opted to get ZOKRI and the coaching instead and looking back, we are so pleased we did.

The training took us through the process strategically, helping us create our company OKRs and walking us through the steps we need to create clear objectives linked to even clearer key results.

Chirine Harb
Once we’ve understood the concept of OKRs and how we would like to apply them to our business, ZOKRI helped us navigate through the software, although it is an extremely user friendly software. The software logically sets out the various levels of our OKRs and translates them along with their progress and who they are assigned to into snappy visuals for everyone within the organisation to monitor.

In addition to this, the software has added features such as capturing team engagement, organising meetings and check-ins, tracking team and individual KPIs and maintaining team personal development plans.

Long gone are the days of time wasted on trying to find out what is happening around the business, or looking for meeting notes saved in the least likely folder.

Chirine Harb, Head of Operations

OKR Content To Help You Right Now

8 ways to improve OKR Management

Ensure you’ve created OKRs that when managed will deliver the performance improvements you’re looking for.

6 OKR Videos For Company Leaders

OKR video content, along with must watch content for leaders to embed a better way of setting and measuring goals.

KPIs vs SMART
vs OKRs

What’s the difference between KPIs, SMART goals and OKRs? When and how you should use them? What are the mistakes to avoid?

OKRs & Performance Reviews

A common question asked about OKRs – should you tie in OKRs to performance reviews and compensation conversations.

OKR Spreadsheet Download

OKRs belong in OKR software – but if you’re starting or experimenting with OKRs use our helpful OKR spreadsheet.

OKRs For Start-up Businesses

As you raise capital to scale your focus on people, pillars and metrics – OKRs are answer to scaling in a fast predictable way.

OKR Examples Written By Experts

OKR Examples For 2021

We’ve created OKR examples for common departments and teams within a company to help inspire your own.

Company OKR Examples

Company OKRs are top of the OKR hierarchy. They are often Annual or Quarterly and are an extension of your strategy.

Finance OKR
Examples

The finance team are often the custodians of a companies most important metrics and as such are usually aware of set targets.

Human Resources OKR Examples

Human Resources OKRs have a huge impact on a business – and OKRs can be used to measure HR effectiveness.

Marketing OKR Examples

Marketing is one of the teams that sees significant performance increases from using Objectives and Key Results.

Sales Team OKR Examples

Sales teams are used to having goals, but setting OKRs are quite different. Sales have their tools but they lack transparency.

Customer Service
OKR Examples

Whether you call your department Customer Service or Customer Success, it’s all about keeping them happy.

Engineering
OKR Examples

Engineering build the products that underpin competitive advantage. OKRs will really help to streamline this.

Product Marketing
OKR Examples

Product Marketing OKRs are really important to growth. Improvement ensures your product is understood and trialled.

Product Management OKR Examples

Product Management OKRs are where you will express the biggest priorities you’re facing right now as a department.