What is OKR?
OKRs stands for “Objectives and Key Results”.OKR is an agile framework for setting and tracking goals. It has become a popular management methodology for strategic execution especially for organizations that are looking for high growth.
OKR framework provides the ability to set goals at all levels of an organization from company to department, team or individual levels.OKR focuses on the impact of individual functions for the realization of the overall organization objective. The key principle for OKRs is that team and individual goals should always be vertically aligned to the corporate goals to ensure focused execution towards one strategic vision.This alignment will also allow effective collaboration between different functions to achieve the overall organization goals.
OKRs have an Objective and its Key results.
Objectives are business outcomes that can be achieved in a set timeframe and provide value. Objectives should be inspirational, ambitious, qualitative, concrete, short and easy to understand.
Key Results are the metrics that are used to measure the outcomes of the objectives. Key Results should be measurable, quantitative, specific, and verifiable.
It is highly recommended that each Objective have 3 to 5 key results. More than 5 key results are highly undesirable and tend to distract from measuring the key metrics that matters most. Similarly, each team or department should work on 3 to 4 objectives at one time to ensure focussed execution, too many objectives will distract teams from their priorities and OKR is an agile framework and needs to be set frequently, monitored, and evaluated at regular intervals. Generally, strategic goals are set annually and operational goals are set quarterly or in a shorter time frame. The OKR framework requires that the progress is measured continuously through frequent check-in ideally weekly or bi-weekly intervals and adjust the execution to reach the targeted outcomes.
Andy Grove, Intel CEO in early 1970s adopted Peter Drucker’s Management by Objective(MBO) concept to develop the OKR framework and it was used extensively by intel employees with great success and showed how collective actions with alignment and focus can have a great impact on the organization goals . Grove focused on execution in intel and he made sure financial incentives are separated from OKRs.
In his words “ It almost doesn’t matter what you know. It’s what you can do with whatever you know or can actually acquire to accomplish”.John Doerr learned OKR from Andy Grove in intel and introduced it to Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin early in their Google journey and the rest is history. Google took OKR to the next level and took it to prominence with its success.
OKR framework is still used in google and google often sets goals that are just beyond the thresholds of what seems possible which are now famously called stretch goals. Larry quoted “OKRs have helped lead us to 10x growth, many times over” attributing google success to the OKR framework.Today there is more interest in OKR than ever before and is successfully used by hundreds of companies of all sizes from startups to fortune 100s such as Microsoft, Amazon, Spotify, Airbnb, Zendesk, Netflix, Zynga, etc.
Benefits of OKR Framework
OKR as a management tool can bring many benefits to an organization that is successfully adopting the framework to execute their strategy such as
Why are OKRs different from other Goal Management frameworks?
There are many goal management frameworks such as MBOs, SMART, Goal Pyramid, BSQ but OKR framework is different from the other frameworks as
- OKR is a bidirectional framework while most of the others are top down. OKRs should be set from both the top-down and bottom-up approach, and encourage collaboration and feedback in the goal setting process
- OKR is an agile framework that has short goal cycles and recommends continuous monitoring of the goal progress to make quick adjustments and adapt to change as they may rise.
- OKR promotes a culture of transparency, accountability, ownership and trust among employees in organization
- OKR recommends setting stretch goals by keeping compensation separate from OKR goals.
- Finally, OKR is simple and can be adopted easier than other frameworks with the right tools and processes.
Why is OKR needed now?
World has changed a lot in the last decade and organizations need to adapt fast in this ever changing environment to grow and even survive. Markets are dynamic and more global than ever before, competitors are numerous, nimble and can adapt quicker, teams are diverse and dispersed, and finally customers are more demanding and expect better quicker outcomes.
Especially in the last couple of years with the pandemic the changes have accelerated even further in a very short span of time, how businesses are carried out and how teams performed their functions have all completely changed in this new world. It is now absolutely essential for organizations to be more agile, collaborative, aligned and focused to be able to be successful in this environment.The OKR framework is the right tool that can help organizations be better prepared to survive or even grow in this new world. OKR can help organizations align their team and resources towards their strategic goals and provide clarity for teams to execute with focus. Adoption of OKR will also enable organizations to be agile, work in short goal cycles, continuously improve, and focus on important outcomes that add value to the organization.
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