The OKR framework helps a team set and reach goals in a systematic way. “OKR” stands for Objectives and Key Results. The system was originally introduced by Andy Grove, founder of Intel. It has been used by Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter, among many others to fuel success.
The framework is designed to help an entire company or team align around specific goals, in order to maintain focus on the right things. Because OKRs are visible to the entire company, it fosters accountability. When documented and reviewed on a regular basis, OKRs can help a team identify and mitigate problems. This template can help you and your team adopt an OKR framework, in order to function as a high-performance team.
The Components of the OKR Structure
Grove’s OKR Framework has two primary components: Objectives and Key Results. Many teams select their OKRs on a quarterly basis, but some choose to do so more or less frequently. In most cases, teams will choose a few key results that indicate whether they’ve achieved each objective. Let dig into the why and how behind objectives and key results.
“Objective” is another word for goal. Objectives are important because they paint a picture of what the team wants to achieve. Generally, these objectives are intended to be inspirational, rather than numeric. For example, “become the #1 knowledge management tool for tech teams” would be a good objective for us at Tettra. “Grow from 4,000 teams to 8,000 teams using Tettra” would be a bad objective. We’ll get to numerics in the Key Results section.
Most teams will set an objective (or 3-5 objectives, commonly) at the company-wide level. Then different functional groups (like product, engineering, marketing) will set their own objectives that roll up into these company objectives. Some teams also use OKRs at the individual level, letting each employee set OKRs that drive towards departmental and company OKRs.
Like your objectives, key results should be set at the company level first, then the team level, and then the individual level, (assuming you choose to use individual OKRs). This is because you want each person to focus on how the work they’re doing will contribute to the overarching goals.
Your key results should be well-defined numbers that you measure and track. When setting your key results, you want them to be neither impossible nor easy wins. According to Christina Wodtke, longtime tech exec and author of Radical Focus, your key results should be such that you believe there’s a 50/50 chance of attaining them. Over the course of the quarter (or whatever time period you’ve selected,) check in regularly about whether confidence levels have risen or fallen, and discuss why.
Transparency is a key component of the OKR system. The entire team should document and share the OKRs they’re focused on, making this info available to one another. Furthermore, team members should regularly check that projects and initiatives drive towards these key results. It can be challenging to say no to things, but this is the crux of the OKR system. The team should halt work on projects that don’t support that quarter’s OKRs.
How to Use OKRs on Your Team
The leadership team must set the company objectives and key results. These will be the foundation of any departmental OKRs. Share these in a central, easily-accessible location like Tettra, so everyone can read, digest, and ask questions.
Next, give people context on the OKR system and why you’re adopting it. Help people understand that OKRs won’t limit their freedom; rather, they offer increased freedom. Because teams gain a clearer sense of where they’re headed, each employee has more latitude to decide where to focus, provided their work helps achieve the agreed upon objectives.
Ask each department to draft OKRs that help support the broader company OKRs. Again, transparency is key, so have your departmental leads share their team’s OKRs in a central place. Spend time refining your OKRs to ensure that key results are both achievable and measurable.
Finally, measure and share progress towards the key results you’ve set. You should do this on a weekly or monthly basis, so people can share updates on whether confidence levels are rising or falling. Celebrate wins, and help employees overcome blockers. At the end of the quarter, determine how you stacked up against the key results you’d set.
Iterate and Learn
Remember, you’re not aiming for a 100% success rate, nor should you expect the process to work perfectly the first time. Your goal should be to develop good team habits, ones that will help everyone focus on the right things. Use what you learned in one quarter to inform your process in the subsequent quarter. Over time, your whole team will get better at setting good objectives and key results, enabling everyone to focus on the highest impact work.