OKRs For Start-ups

With the most famous start-up story of all, Google, being one of the earliest users of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), it’s no surprise that most startups turn to OKRs as their preferred goal setting framework.

The truth is OKRs work and will help you move from Startup to Scaleup and perhaps Unicorn faster than you would do without them.

The information and resources here will help you get started and succeed with OKRs and grow fast.

From Finding PMF To Being A Fast Growth Scaleup

Finding Product Market Fit is the first key milestone a startup has to achieve. And it’s not easy.
ZOKRI has been there too.

It requires you to have a purpose, a ruthless focus on what matters most because you don’t have the resources to waste. It also requires you to be agile. The OKR framework and the ZOKRI platform has been designed to help you achieve both. Helping you achieve PMF faster.

As you raise capital to scale your focus on people, pillars, metrics, OKRs and execution needs to become systemized. You need a growth system that helps you scale in a fast and predictable way. A growth system that supports your growth mindset, like ZOKRI.

OKRs for Start-ups

Lean Startup & Cash Strapped – Totally Sorted

We know that you’re running lean, might have seed funding or might be really cash-strapped. We want to help.

We’d be proud to be part of your startup success story and when you’ve moved to scaling fast, have a funded runway and can afford to pay more, you will.

Setting OKRs for Start-ups

6 Steps To Embedding OKRs

These are the 6 steps we’d recommend you follow if you’d like to succeed with OKRs. You will have done some of these, but perhaps not revisited them recently. A month is a long-time in the life of a start-up so don’t be afraid to review them as part of this process.
Set Mission, Visions, Purpose and North Star

Set Mission, Visions, Purpose & North Star

The first thing you need to do is define your Mission, Visions and Purpose statements. These give you and everyone else in your start-up direction.

Your Mission describes what you do and how you do it.

You Vision describes what achieving your Mission looks like.

Your Purpose is there to inspire everyone and describe the cause employees and customers are signing up for.

Your North Star Metric is the metric that aligns with your reason for being and is often centered around your customer.
Define Strategic Pillars That Help You Scale
Define The Strategic Pillars That Help You Scale

Strategic Pillars are the battlefields that you must win in order to thrive long-term. Your key levers for success and your competitive differentiators.

You typically only want 3 to 6 of them, as the more you have, the less likely you are to win each of the battles.

The KPIs you track, the OKRs that are set, and the Initiatives that are running should all align with your Pillars.

Here are 3 Strategic Pillars that you might be able to build success on.

• Product Market Fit
• Innovation & IP
• Talent

Track KPIs
Track Your KPIs
KPIs are the metrics that correlate strongly with performance.

They align with your Strategic Pillars, and will allow you to track your goals.

A common mistake you need to avoid is using metrics that are easily accessible, as opposed to being the right metrics to track. Right and easily accessible are often not the same thing.

Like with pillars, you will also want to ensure that you do not have too many KPIs as too many can mean you lose focus.

Which of the those KPIs are:

Leading indicators – the metrics that look forward and can predict future performance – for example Customer Engagement can predict Expansion Sales and New MRR.

and which are:

Lagging indicators – these are the metrics that look back and tell you what has already happened like MRR / ARR and Churn.

Note that some KPIs can be both leading and lagging.

For example, Customer NPS both predicts future MRR and is improved as a result of building a great product customers love.

Measuring performance through KPIs and identifying ways to improve needs both types of indicators is important.

There is a library of KPIs that are used by startups in the Library in ZOKRI.
Setting Startup OKRs
Setting Startup OKRs
You’re now in a position to start planning your OKRs.

OKR as you probably know stands for Objectives and Key Results, which makes them feel new and different to how you’ve set goals before.

That’s probably not true. OKRs are like SMART goals, just with a little more goal setting best practice guidance built in. The extra guidance includes:

Grouping one to four Key Results that are “measuring what matters”, often KPIs, to give a more complete picture of what success looks like.

Horizontally aligning and cascading OKRs using hierarchical relationships to improve alignment.


Deliberately setting hard targets, because easy to achieve goals have zero net benefit, and stretch goals help teams innovate.

Here are two videos that you will find useful.

OKR Basics Tutorial

You’ve probably read an OKR book, your team might not have. Either way, here is a short video that introduces you to the basics of OKRs for you and your team. You will find lots of OKR content like this to help you in our YouTube Channel, and there’s exclusive OKR learning material in our OKR academy in ZOKRI.

The 5 Common OKR Mistakes Your Start-up Needs To Avoid

As important as knowing what OKRs are and how to create them, it’s as important to know what can go wrong and how to avoid common OKR mistakes. You’ve not got the time for an OKR re-boot. You also can’t afford not to feel the full force of the benefits the framework delivers. We really want you to get them right the first time.

Plan & Do The Right Initiatives

OKRs and Initiatives are part of the same framework and need each other in order to succeed.

Initiatives are the projects that are going to achieve your OKRs.

Where OKRs have fixed period end dates like Yearly and Quarterly, Initiatives have flexible end dates and their own progress measurements.

Initiatives might include one-off projects or frequently run projects like marketing campaigns, and development epics. They could also be a task.

This is why ZOKRI connects Initiatives to project software like Trello, Asana and Jira.

In ZOKRI, candidate Initiative ideas can be put forward for consideration, with the best ones being progressed.

Deciding which Initiatives to prioritize and resource are obviously key decisions in achieving your goals.

There is a library of Initiatives for startups in the Library in ZOKRI.

Take Your Pulse Weekly & Stay Agile

Setting and forgetting OKRs and not checking-in OKRs and Initiative statuses, progress, and confidence, in addition to flagging what’s holding you back and what’s going well, are why OKRs don’t get embedded, and why the results you were hoping for don’t materialise.

Check-in and review meetings should happen weekly. This keeps everyone focused and connected, reduces friction and frustration, and keeps you agile.

This requires you to schedule these activities and follow an agenda and workflow like the ones in ZOKRI.