Why is setting ambitions OKR important? How Google did it?

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are a performance management framework that is widely used by companies like Google and many others to set and achieve ambitious goals.

The importance of writing ambitious OKRs

Ambitious OKRs are important because they help teams to stretch themselves and achieve more than they ever thought possible. Ambitious OKRs are essential for several reasons:

  • Motivation and Focus: Ambitious OKRs challenge and motivate teams and individuals to reach beyond their comfort zones. When people are working toward ambitious goals, they are more engaged and driven to perform at their best.
  • Innovation and Growth: Ambitious OKRs push organizations to think creatively and innovate. They require teams to come up with new and groundbreaking approaches to achieve their objectives, which can lead to significant growth and progress.
  • Alignment: Setting ambitious OKRs can help align everyone in an organization towards a common purpose. When people are working toward the same ambitious goals, it fosters collaboration and unity.
  • Stretching Boundaries: Ambitious OKRs encourage teams to set targets that may seem out of reach at first. This "stretch" often leads to higher performance and a greater sense of accomplishment when these objectives are met.
How ambitious OKRs should be

OKRs should be ambitious but achievable. If OKRs are too easy, then teams will not be challenged or motivated. If OKRs are too difficult, then teams are likely to become discouraged and give up.

A good rule of thumb is to set OKRs that are 70-80% likely to be achieved. This means that teams should be able to achieve their OKRs with hard work and dedication, but they should also be willing to take risks and push themselves outside of their comfort zone.

How Google sets ambitious OKRs

Google is known for its ambitious OKRs. For example, in 2017, Google set an OKR to increase the number of active Android users by 1 billion. This was an ambitious goal, but Google was able to achieve it by focusing on innovation and growth.

Google sets ambitious OKRs by following these steps:

  1. Aspirational Objectives: Google's objectives are meant to be aspirational and ambitious. They should inspire and challenge employees to think big. For example, an objective might be to "Dominate the Online Advertising Market."
  2. Alignment: Identify the most important goals for the company. Google starts by identifying the most important goals for the company. These goals should be aligned with the company's mission and vision, and they should be ambitious but achievable. OKRs at Google are set at different levels, from the company level down to individual teams and employees. This alignment ensures that everyone is working towards the same overarching goals.
  3. Measurable Key Results: Break down the goals into key results. Once Google has identified its most important goals, it breaks them down into key results. Google focuses on making key results measurable and time-bound. These key results are specific metrics that indicate progress toward the objective. For instance, a key result for the above objective might be "Achieve a 60% market share in online advertising within 12 months."
  4. Transparency: Google promotes transparency in OKRs, allowing everyone to see the objectives and key results of others. This fosters a sense of accountability and promotes cross-functional collaboration.
  5. Cadence: Track progress and make adjustments as needed. Google tracks progress towards its OKRs on a regular basis. If teams are falling behind, they make adjustments to their plans to get back on track.
How setting ambitious OKRs helps OKRs grow rapidly

Setting ambitious OKRs helps OKRs to grow rapidly by:

  • Motivating teams to achieve more. When teams set ambitious goals, they are more likely to be motivated and engaged in their work. They are also more likely to be creative and innovative.
  • Identifying and addressing challenges early on. When teams set ambitious goals, they are more likely to identify and address challenges early on. This helps to prevent problems from snowballing and derailing progress.
  • Creating a culture of continuous improvement. When teams are constantly striving to achieve ambitious goals, they create a culture of continuous improvement. This means that teams are always looking for ways to improve their processes and products.
  • Increased Employee Engagement: When employees see that they are working toward meaningful, ambitious goals, they are more likely to be engaged and invested in their work. This heightened engagement can lead to improved performance and rapid OKR progress.
  • Fostering Innovation: Ambitious OKRs encourage teams to explore new ideas and innovative solutions to meet their objectives. This focus on innovation can lead to rapid growth and expansion.

In summary, setting ambitious OKRs is essential for motivating, aligning, and challenging teams and individuals. Google's approach to setting ambitious OKRs, with aspirational objectives and measurable key results, has helped the company achieve significant growth and innovation. Ambitious OKRs can promote a culture of continuous improvement, data-driven decision making, and employee engagement, which, in turn, can lead to rapid OKR growth and success.