Set Goals
Using OKRs

OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. Far from being new, OKRs are now one of the most popular ways of setting goals for all types of organizations, as well as teams, because they make best-practice goal setting, accessible to all.

Below is a simple guide for getting started with OKRs fast.

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Set Goals Using OKRs

Familiar – But With A Little More Goal Setting Best Practice Built-in

Just because you may not be familiar with the term OKR, doesn’t mean you are going to find creating them hard. Especially if you’re used to other ways of goal setting goals, like SMART for example.

So forget what OKRs are for a moment and consider what the characteristics of good goal setting are.

Firstly, goals are there to translate your purpose and strategy into specific, measurable, actional, reasonable and time constrained targets – sound familiar? These are often called SMART goals.


OKRS Explained

In this OKRs video we explain OKRs and their history, in addition to discussing best practices like how to write OKRs, how to create Key Results that ‘measure what matters’ and create OKR alignment. 

The video works through simple example OKRs with how they are aligned between multiple teams This is often called OKR cascading.. 

It’s not that long and it’s a really easy way to introduce yourself to OKRs.

SMART Goals Get You As Far As OK Goal Setting

Great Goal Setting Has Other Traits

Measurable And Impactful

Measurement is not enough – what you need to be measuring is what really matters to the company, team or individual – the metrics or KPIs that correlate with performance.

Rounded And Balanced

Single metric goals can be too one dimensional and do not tell the story of what you need to achieve – grouped metrics can create a more rounded and balanced goal.

Vertically Aligned

This means aligning team and sub-team goals that help the organization reach its goals vertically. Marketing into specific marketing teams like Paid Media for example.

Horizontally Aligned

This means your inter-team goals don’t conflict e.g. marketing goals generate sufficient lead volume for the sales goals to be reached.

Hard To Achieve

Hard matters because hard to achieve goals have been proven to have a significant impact on performance when compared to easy to reach goals that have zero net benefit.

Frequently Checked-In

Progress and other related information like the Status and Confidence need to be updated frequently, ideally weekly, along with Initiative Check-ins.

So we need SMART goals PLUS the high value extra traits to know that an organization, team or individual has set great goals.

This is where OKRs come in, and is what they were designed to achieve decades ago when they were introduced to Intel and then Google, when Google was a handful of people.

It’s also where OKR Software comes in as many of these traits are hard to represent, manage and achieve in spreadsheets. In addition, software can guide best practice without a big educational overhead.

What Do Good OKRs Look Like?

As the name suggests, there are two parts. The Objective and the Key Results. Think of these as a story with chapters.

The Objective is the title and is designed to educate you about the book and inspire you to read it. The Key Results are the chapters of the story and describe now the Objective will be reached and satisfied, and must satisfy the SMART PLUS traits above.
Here’s a Sales / Marketing OKR example:

Obj – Revenue growth at the right cost

KR – Generate New Revenue of $100K this Quarter

KR – Keep our CAC under $150 Per Customer this Quarter

This example shows the benefit of being able to group more than one Key Result to describe the Objectives success.

It set’s out the revenue target for the Quarter but adds a condition to what the Objectives success looks like – customers have to be acquired cost effectively. Meaning you can’t buy revenue in an unprofitable way.

NOTE: You typically have 1 to 4 Key Results for each Objective.

Here’s another that uses the same idea but is one of the goals that could align itself with the above goal. I.e. One of the ways we will acquire customers cost effectively is by targeting a volume of quality content downloads this Quarter.

Obj – Great content is helping us sell

KR – Generate 1000 Content Downloads this Quarter

KR – Leads from Content Sign-ups are converting to SQLs 20% of the time

Marketing has set a number of downloads, but that could be reached and not have an impact on the business. Perhaps the people downloading it are not your Ideal Customer Profile? So you pair it with a metric that would target quantity and quality

You can read more OKR Examples here.

Once you’re happy that your company and team goals have OKRs that are aligned, meaningful and hard to achieve, you’re ready to plan how best to achieve them.

Initiatives Are The Key To OKR Achievement, Not OKRs

It will be a given that you craft great OKRs. Especially as we will help you plan to master and embed them. How you propose to go about achieving OKRs like the ones set out above is the job of the Initiative, and they are the key to OKR achievement.

So what is an Initiative?

An Initiative might be as big as a project or as small as a task.

An Initiative has a target due date that might be shorter than the OKR Period or even extend beyond it.

An Initiative also has its own Status e.g. Stuck, as well as its own Progress, and Confidence levels.

It’s the delivery of Initiatives that deliver the OKRs. They are also the focus of daily and weekly meetings, within the context of the goal.

In Marketing they could be as big as completing the Black Friday Trello Board by the 27 November, or as small as creating an amazing white paper by 7 October.

In Engineering they could be as big as moving hosting from Amazon to Google as part of a drive to reduce costs by 15 November, or as small as completing a key feature for Sales as part of an Epic in the next Sprint.

These are all the units of work that teams have chosen to do in order to achieve the hard goals that are measuring what matters.

Executing Initiatives

Because OKRs and Initiatives need each other and are critical to achieving your projects aims, ZOKRI has created class-leading OKR management functionality and workflows that help you gather the inputs you need in order to create essential OKR and Initiative insights. This sets us apart from other vendors.

OKR Questions and Answers

We get to see great implementations of OKRs all of the time. We also get to help people avoid common mistakes so they get the full benefit of the OKR framework.

What are the most common OKR mistakes?

The four most common OKR mistakes are:

Tasks not Key Results: Key Results that look like tasks and are not constrained to the end of period e.g. Quarter.

Poor measurement: Key Results that don’t contain metrics or the metrics chosen are NOT true reflections of performance and success aka Vanity Metrics.

Too many OKRs: Good OKRs are like good strategy, focusing on fewer areas of maximum impact is generally much better that doing and focusing on everything – sometimes called focusing on ‘key pillars’ or ‘big rocks’.

Set and forget: If your OKRs are in a place where they are not part of your daily and weekly workflows they can be set and forgotten until the end of the month or quarter. Read more about OKR tracking here.

Aren’t hard goals demotivating?

Hard goals create ambition and innovation, easy to achieve goals far less so. So what you need to do is not change the target, but change the definition of success.

Success can’t always be 100% of the goals are hard or even ‘moon shots’. Success of a hard goal is often 70% to 100%.

This means when you set target values, the difficulty and definition of success conversation are part of the narrative.

Where can we get great OKR training?

As part of our commitment to helping you embed OKRs in your organization, we will scope your training requirement and propose the best training solution for you. This usually incorporates training an internal OKR champion / lead.

How long does an OKR roll-out project take?

It depends on the level of commitment from different levels of your organization and the availability of key people during the roll-out. But typically you can be up and running effectively in 90 days with every subsequent quarter being better than the last as the thought processes and workflows become second nature and embedded.
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