Objectives and key results (OKRs), combine a goal and a metric to determine a measurable outcome.
- Defines what needs to be achieved
- Describes the desired outcome
- Key Results
- The measurable outcomes that objectively define when the objective has been met
Company-wide OKRs are used to set an ultimate goal for an entire organization, while team, department, and project-level OKRs describe the focused results each group will need to achieve in order to support the organization.
OKRs and Project Management
OKRs can help you expand upon project goals and further clarify the deliverables you’ll need from the project to accomplish those goals. Project-level OKRs help establish the appropriate scope for your team so that you can say “no” to requests that may get in the way of them meeting their objectives. You can also create and use project-level OKRs to help motivate your team since OKRs are intended to challenge you to push past what’s easily achievable.
Creating OKRs for your project
Set your objectives
- Project objectives should be aspirational, aligned with organizational goals, action-oriented, concrete, and significant. Consider the vision you and your stakeholders have for your project and determine what you want the project team to accomplish in 3–6 months.
- Build the most secure data security software
- Continuously improve web analytics and conversions
- Provide a top-performing service
- Make a universally-available app
- Increase market reach
- Achieve top sales among competitors in the region
- Strong objectives meet the following criteria. They are:
- Aspirational: Is the objective challenging and inspiring?
- Aligned with company goals: Does the objective support company and/or departmental OKRs?
- Action-oriented: Does the objective motivate the team to take initiative?
- Concrete: Can the project team easily grasp the objective?
- Significant: Will achieving the objective make a meaningful impact or change from where you are currently?
- To help shape each objective, ask yourself and your team:
- Does the objective help in achieving the project’s overall goals?
- Does the objective align with company and departmental OKRs?
- Is the objective inspiring and motivational?
- Will achieving the objective make a significant impact?
Develop key results
- Next, add 2–3 key results for each objective. Key results should be time-bound. They can be used to indicate the amount of progress to achieve within a shorter period or to define whether you’ve met your objective at the end of the project. They should also challenge you and your team to stretch yourselves to achieve more.
- X% new signups within the first quarter post-launch
- Increase advertiser spend by X%
- New feature adoption is at least X%
- Maximum 2 critical bugs are reported by customers per Sprint
- Maintain newsletter unsubscribe rate at X%
- Strong key results meet the following criteria:
- Results-oriented—not a task
- Measurable and verifiable
- Specific and time-bound
- Aggressive yet realistic
- To help shape your key results, ask yourself and your team the following:
- What does success mean?
- What metrics would prove that we’ve successfully achieved the objective?
- Each key result should address the following questions:
- Does the key result help define success for your team?
- Can it be measured to prove that you’ve achieved your objective?
- Is it specific and time-bound?
- Is it ambitious yet realistic?
OKR development best practices
- objective describes what you want to do and the key results describe how you’ll know you did it.
- As a general rule, try to develop around 2-3 key results for each objective.
- Be sure to document your OKRs and link to them in your project plan.
OKRs are never set in stone-they can and should be revised as you make progress, so it’s okay if you need to adjust your key results later on.
OKRs combine a goal and a metric to determine a measurable outcome. Objectives define what needs to be achieved and describe the desired outcome, while key results define how you will measure that outcome.
Communicating and tracking OKRs
Conducting regular check-ins and actively tracking progress with your team can help ensure that objectives are being met and that any issues are resolved as soon as possible.
- Share your OKRs with your team. Once you’ve created OKRs for your project, it’s important to communicate them to your team so that everyone knows how to focus and align their efforts. You can do this by sharing a digital document, presenting them in a meeting, or adding them to an internal website. OKRs can help your project team stick to its goals, monitor which is falling short, and be continuously motivated to meet project objectives.
- Assign owners. Assign an owner to every key result so that everybody knows who’s responsible for what. This helps add clarity and increases accountability.
Measuring your OKRs is an important part of tracking and sharing your progress. One shortcut to determining the status of a project is to score or grade your OKRs. While scores or grades don’t provide a complete assessment of a project’s success, they’re helpful tools for determining how close you came to achieving your objectives. You can then share your OKR scores with project stakeholders and team members as part of your overall project updates.
- Determine how you will score your OKRs. OKRs can be scored in different ways. You can score based on a percentage of the objective completed, the completion of certain milestones, or a scale of 1 to 10, for example. You can also use a “traffic light” scoring approach, where red means you didn’t make any progress, yellow means you made some progress, and green means you completed your objective.
- The simplest approach to scoring OKRs is the “yes/no” method, with “yes” meaning you achieved your objective and “no” meaning you didn’t. Using this approach, a key result such as “Launch a new widget marketing campaign” might be graded a 1 or 0 depending on whether it was launched (1) or not (0).
- A more advanced scoring approach is to grade your key results on a scale. With this method, if a key result was to “Launch six new features” and only three new features were launched, the OKR might be graded 0.5. Generally, if the OKR helped you achieve the objective, your OKR should receive a higher score; if it didn’t, your OKR should receive a lower score.
- At Google, OKRs are usually graded on a scale of 0.0 to 1.0, with 1.0 meaning the objective was fully achieved. Each individual key result is graded and then the grades are averaged to determine the score for that OKR.
- Set your scoring expectations. With Google’s 0.0–1.0 scale, the expectation is to set ambitious OKRs and aim to achieve an average of at least 0.6 to 0.7 across all OKRs. For OKRs graded according to percentage achieved, the sweet spot is somewhere in the 60–70% range. Scoring lower may mean the team is not achieving what it could be. Scoring higher may mean the aspirational goals are not being set high enough.
- Schedule checkpoints. It’s important to regularly communicate the status of project OKRs with your team and senior managers. For example, it can be helpful to have monthly check-ins on the progress of OKRs to give both individuals and your team a sense of where they are. Typically, at the end of the quarter, you’ll grade each of your OKRs to evaluate how well the team did to achieve its goals.
OKRs can help you define and measure your project’s success criteria. In order for OKRs to be used to effectively meet your project’s success criteria, it’s important to share them with your team, assign owners to each key result to ensure accountability, measure your OKRs’ progress by scoring them and track your OKRs’ progress by scheduling regular check-ins with your team.