Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are an easy-to-use methodology for setting goals. Many start-ups implement the system as it is flexible and easily scalable. Companies like Google, Twitter, and Spotify are just a few of the success stories for OKRs.
With OKRs, you set inspirational, long term goals (Objectives) that are measured by specific Key Results (KR). The system is based on transparency. The goal is that every Objective should be made public so the entire team knows what's going on. As a manager or leader, this means that every person in your company knows what the company goals are and how to achieve them.
Before shifting to the OKR methodology, I had the traditional "yearly review" as my main form of evaluation. However, at the end of the year, I realized that I often forgot some of my major goals. The benefit of the OKR methodology is that OKRs are meant to be continuously evaluated. This way, you can focus on what truly matters without losing track during day-to-day occurrences.
5 ways to find peace of mind
Having used OKRs for 3 years now, I've learned of their benefits over time while evolving with my team. These were my biggest takeaways:
- OKRs keep your team focused – Using OKRs, our team knows what we need to focus on. We update KRs every week and this helps us focus on our Objectives. So, getting sidetracked is a smaller issue.
- You can anticipate problems with greater ease- If our team doesn't make any progress on our Key Results, we see the problem right away in both numbers and colors. It's possible to know 6 weeks in advance if we will be able to accomplish that specific goal by the end of the quarter or not. Remember that a quarter is a limited period of time. If you are not making progress on a KR, it means it will be much more difficult to accomplish it in the remaining time that you have.
- You always know what you need to do – When I go to work Monday, I know what KRs I need to improve, and I know where my focus needs to be. This means I don't do spend my time on "fake work" with tasks that feel urgent but have no long-term benefits for us. I also don't have to rethink our long-term plans every week. Once goals are set for the quarter, you can focus on the real work needed to accomplish them.
- Your employees will be more engaged in their work – OKRs help you understand how your personal goals impact your team and how your team's performance influences the overall company. Our team hardly ever feels that we are doing something trivial. This boosts our motivation.
- You save time instead of compiling reports – We use Weekdone for automated reporting. This means that weekly and quarterly performance reviews hardly take any time. As employees update the progress on their KRs, anyone can simply glance at the dashboard to see what is going well and where we are lagging behind. While I still try to give feedback and ask for more info if needed, I've freed up hours of time every week that I otherwise would have spent on reporting.
If you want to get started setting OKRs in your own team, take note of OKR coach Felipe Castro. He gives a few tips to help companies to get started using the "Set-Align-Create" cycle:
- Set OKRs that measure impact instead of tasks
- Align them with other teams to solve interdependencies
- Create a weekly follow-through cadence to Achieve them
They're easy to implement
OKRs are easy to set once you get the hang of them. However, it can be a little tricky to get started for first-time users. Without experience, it's difficult to decide what makes a good Objective. It will be hard to determine how much a person or a team can accomplish in a quarter. That is why we recommend the "Lean OKR" system for first-time users.
With Lean OKRs, you assign 1 Objective and 1 Key Result to each employee. This should be the most important goal that has to be achieved in a quarter. Each week, employees record their progress towards that goal with their Key Result.
You can use the Pareto principle to figure out the main Objective your team needs. The principle states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of work. So, for your Objective, you can set the one impactful goal that will truly move your team forward.
If you want to rest easy at night knowing your team is working hard on the right things, you can start testing out Weekdone and OKR. If you get stuck, we will help you.