What are OKRs?

Explanation, examples & how to set OKRs

Objectives and Key Results, commonly known as OKRs, are a dynamic and results-driven framework for goal setting and performance management. While the concept of setting goals is not new, OKRs provide a structured approach that has gained immense popularity across organizations, from startups to industry giants like Google and Intel.

OKRs Explained

An OKR consists of an Objective and typically includes 3 to 5 Key Results. Let's delve into their meanings.

Objective: An Objective is a high-level, aspirational goal that an organization, team, or individual aims to achieve. Objectives provide direction and purpose, guiding efforts towards a desired outcome. They are typically qualitative and should be inspiring and challenging. Objectives answer the question, "What needs to be accomplished?"

Example Objective: "Lead the market in sustainable product innovation."

Key Results: Key Results (KRs) are specific, measurable, and time-bound metrics that quantify progress toward achieving an Objective. They provide concrete evidence of success and help teams stay focused and accountable. Key Results answer the question, "How will we measure progress toward the Objective?"

Example Key Results:

  • "Reduce carbon emissions by 30% within the next year."
  • "Increase customer adoption of sustainable products by 20% in the next quarter."
  • "Achieve a 90% positive rating in customer satisfaction surveys for our sustainability initiatives."

In this example, the Objective is to "Lead the market in sustainable product innovation," and the associated Key Results provide measurable targets to track progress and success in achieving that Objective. OKRs encourage teams to set ambitious Objectives and align their efforts to achieve measurable outcomes.

How to Establish the Right Objectives & Key Results for Your Organization?

Without effective goal setting, the OKR framework loses its purpose and effectiveness. Therefore, goal setting is foundational to the success of OKRs and is often considered the starting point for any OKR implementation.

Adhere to the following best practices when setting effective OKRs for your organization

Have a Clear Strategic Vision
A clear strategic vision provides the context for setting meaningful objectives. It should answer the questions of what your organization wants to achieve and why. Once you have a clear understanding of your strategic vision, you can start to set objectives that are aligned with it.

Keep Objectives Simple
Your objectives should be straightforward and concise. They should be easy to understand and remember, and they should be motivating. Avoid using jargon or acronyms that people may not understand.

Prioritize Outcome-Based Goals
Your objectives should be outcome-based goals, rather than tasks. This means that they should describe the desired impact, rather than the specific steps that need to be taken to achieve it. For example, instead of saying “Implement 3 new web campaigns to increase lead generation” you could say "Increase lead generation by 10%."

Ensure Alignment
Your OKRs should be aligned with your organization's strategic vision. This means that they should all be working towards the same goals. When OKRs are aligned, it helps to ensure that everyone in the organization is working towards the same thing.

Collaborate in OKR Setting
Collaborative OKR setting involves input from multiple stakeholders. OKRs should not be pushed from top-down; this can lead to lack of buy-in and stifle innovation. This ensures that everyone has a say in the goals that are set, and that everyone is committed to achieving them. When people are involved in setting the goals, they are more likely to be motivated to achieve them.

Embrace Ambition
Your objectives should be ambitious, but they should also be realistic. If your objectives are too easy, you won't be motivated to achieve them. If they are too difficult, you will likely become discouraged and give up. The right level of ambition will push you to achieve more, but it will also be achievable with hard work and dedication.

Maintain Focus
It is important to limit the number of OKRs to 3 to 5 per level. This focus ensures that everyone's attention remains on the most critical goals. When you have too many goals, it can be difficult to focus on any one of them.

Specific, Measurable Key Results
Your key results should be specific, measurable, and focused on outcomes as much as possible. They should provide clear markers of progress so that you can track your progress and see how you are doing. For example, instead of saying "Increase website traffic," you could say "Increase website traffic by 10% in the next quarter."

Quarterly OKRs
It is a good idea to set team and individual OKRs on a quarterly basis. This allows for adaptability and keeps goals relevant in a fast-paced environment. When you set quarterly OKRs, you can review your progress and make adjustments as needed.

Regular Cadence
Establish a regular cadence for updating and tracking progress on key results. This ensures that issues are addressed promptly. It is important to track your progress on a regular basis so that you can identify any areas where you need to make adjustments.

By following these guidelines, your organization can effectively set and achieve objectives that are aligned with your strategic vision, motivating teams and individuals to drive meaningful results.

OKR Examples

Enhance Customer Experience

  • Achieve a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 75 or higher among our customer base within the next quarter.
  • Reduce customer support response time by 30% through streamlined processes and automation.
  • Launch a customer feedback program, with at least 80% of customers participating.

Drive Revenue Growth

  • Increase quarterly revenue by 15% through organic growth and expanded offerings.
  • Acquire 10 strategic partnerships or alliances to drive new revenue streams.
  • Launch two new products and achieve $5 million in combined sales within the fiscal year.

Strengthen Employee Engagement and Development

  • Reduce employee turnover rate to below 10% by implementing targeted retention strategies.
  • Conduct individual development plans for 100% of employees and achieve a 90% completion rate.
  • Launch a mentorship program, matching 80% of employees with mentors.

Optimize Operational Efficiency

  • Improve supply chain efficiency, resulting in a 20% reduction in production costs.
  • Implement a company-wide sustainability initiative, reducing carbon emissions by 25%.
  • Streamline project management processes, leading to a 15% reduction in project cycle times.

Expand Market Share and Global Presence

  • Increase market share by 10% in key emerging markets within the next two quarters.
  • Expand international presence by opening offices in three new countries.
  • Launch a comprehensive global marketing campaign, resulting in a 30% increase in brand recognition worldwide.