An objective and key results (OKR) is a goal setting methodology used by individuals, teams, and organizations to set challenging yet achievable goals and measure their progress.
An OKR has two major components:
An objective is a clearly defined goal that is both qualitative and inspirational. It should also stretch the capabilities of the team or organization, rather than simply reflecting the status quo. A well-constructed objective rallies a team around a common purpose and direction. It should reflect outcomes, rather than activities. For example “Launch the next generation Performance Management Software” is a better objective than “Improve performance management”.
Key results benchmark and monitor how well the team is progressing towards the defined objective. They should be specific, time-bound, aggressive yet realistic metrics. Metrics that reflect the most important interim outcomes. Usually an objective will have 3 - 5 measurable key results attached to it over a defined time period. For the above example objective, key results could include “Achieve over 100 4.5+ star G2 Reviews by the end of Q4” and “Reduce the number of support tickets by 75% over the next 6 months”.
Some best practices when setting OKRs:
1. Create them collaboratively as a team
2. Focus on the highest priority goals with highest impact
3. Ensure objectives are realistic and achievable
4. Use key results to build accountability
5. Align individual, team and organizational OKRs
6. Track progress and review frequently as a team
7. Iterate based on learnings rather than over-attach to original goals
The OKR methodology rests on a few core principles:
Focus and Prioritization
OKRs instill focus on the most important company and team goals. Saying “No” to less critical work is as important as prioritizing the most impactful work.
Well designed OKRs foster vertical and horizontal alignment up and down the organization by cascading goals and tracking their progress.
Openness about setting ambitious OKRs and monitoring achievement drives accountability and instills trust in an organization’s culture.
Rapid learning, real time feedback, and course correction of OKRs improves agility in reaching desired outcomes.
By setting challenging but not impossible objectives anchored to concrete key results over a defined time span, teams build trust, alignment, and accountability. The OKR methodology powers some of the most successful and innovative companies in the world because well designed goals are energizing and correlate strongly with desired outcomes.