OKR Planning: 8 Step Guide to OKR Planning Process

According to the Harvard Business Review, only 16% of employees have a clear understanding of their connection with corporate priorities. How can employees deliver results without a firm grasp on how their daily efforts will affect business goals and the company vision?  

At Weekdone, we believe in the power of planning, and the popular goal-setting methodology: OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). A crucial element that plays a role in the success of the framework is planning your OKRs on both company and team levels – annually and quarterly. In order for OKR planning to be effective and see any positive changes, your company vision and team’s efforts should be aligned and focused on what matters the most.

In this article, we'll discuss the basics of OKRs with detailed examples, as well as the benefits of using the OKR system. More importantly, we’ll provide you with the principles of OKRs and 8 steps for proper OKR planning within your company and teams.

What are OKRs?

OKRs stands for Objectives and Key Results. Let’s start with a quick run-down and some definitions. The OKR goal setting framework is driven by outcomes and sees best results when planned, executed, and measured on a quarterly basis. 

The O = Objective – a qualitative outcome that tells you “what to improve” during a reporting period;

The KR = Key Results – 3-5 quantitative measures that help you “define the achievement” of your Objectives.

Example of a Company Objective - OKR planning Weekdone Blog

OKRs are thoughtfully agreed upon by analyzing the numbers and outcomes from previous quarters. These strive to explain growth and/or shortcomings, and act as a guiding light as you move forward toward Company Objectives in the short term – one quarter at a time.

What are some OKR examples?

Writing OKRs can seem daunting at first, especially if you’re putting pressure on everyone to “get it right”, or make them “good”. But, rest assured – it’ll take some time to get on your feet. You should always be looking retrospectively, thinking – “what did we miss” or, “how can we improve”? That’s the beauty of the OKR framework – there’s no room for judgement, only improvement. 

Let’s dive into some OKR examples from 5 different teams so you’ll be able to note some for yourself:

1. Administrative OKR examples

Objective: Successfully implement a Learning Management System to improve internal expertise  

Key Result: 90% of all employees complete the introductory videos on the platform

Key Result: Develop 10 modules for our company wide basic training program 

Key Result:Share and add 20 articles through internal channels Key Result:  Measure system usage and performance at quarters end, achieve at least 65% retention in order to move forward for the year

2. Business Development team OKR examples

Objective: Expand successfully into the Latin American Market 

Key Result: Sign a contract with 8 resellers from Mexico

Key Result:Achieve average order value of $60,000

Key Result: Improve relationship with resellers to sell out all first orders within 14 days

3. Marketing team OKR examples

Objective: Maximize organic reach of existing content to dominate search among commercial-intent leads

Key Result Increase # of commercial intent keywords in the top 3 SERP from 4 to 20 

Key Result Increase quarterly new visitors to homepage from blog posts from 30 to 38K 

Key Result Increase quarterly returning visitors to resources page from 24,629 to 25K

4. Customer Success team OKR examples

Objective: Increase engagement with new customers with >3 users – get to paid

Key Result Increase # of follow up meetings booked from 7-15 per week

Key Result Increase open rate of in-product communications by 10% 

Key Result Decrease our average response time from 6 hours to 1.5 hours

5. Sales team OKR examples

Objective: Drive “Demo to Value” seen stages of the sales process to maximize trial accounts

Key Result Increase # of :good demos to OK lead” ratio from 13% to 25%

Key Result Increase demos booked from in-product intercom messaging from 15 to 35 per quarter

Key Result Increase MQLs to Trial percentage from 13% to 30%

👉 Need more OKR examples to get inspired? Discover our 100+ OKR examples database prepared by Weekdone’s OKR coaches.

The OKR Format -OKR planning Weekdone Blog

As you can see, these examples are decided among teams with careful consideration. OKR planning takes some time and strategic thinking within your team to ensure everything aligns with the company OKRs.

What are the principles of OKRs?

Let’s consider the following principles as some of the OKR best practices pertaining to writing, planning, and setting your OKRs.

Objectives should be inspirational and easy to remember

This is especially important for company level Objectives. If your employees can’t remember what your annual long-term goals are, then chances are, they won’t be motivated by them! Objectives of all levels (company, team, and individual) should remind you of the company vision, and help connect individuals to that greater purpose for the company. 

Objectives should be qualitative 

Since the OKR method is focused on creating measurable outcomes, you need to be sure that the success of your objectives can be defined by those numerical values. So, take the numbers out of the Objective and save them for the Key Results! 

Ask yourself: what positive benefit do you want to gain this quarter? 

Further, is there qualitative data we use in order to measure the success of this throughout the next 3 months? 

Objectives should be actionable and achievable in a quarter

When planning OKRs, think about the smaller actions you can take; those initiatives and daily tasks you will take on in order to achieve them. This is one way to help assess the length of time it will take to achieve your objectives. Targeting quarterly objectives increases focus and ensures the tasks you’re planning are relevant and driving those goals in the right direction. 

Objectives should provide business value

It goes without saying that aligning team and company objectives to your long term business strategy and company vision is essential. 

Ask yourself, how does this objective play a role in the bigger picture? What value does this add to our brand, revenue, or position in the market? 

Key Results should be measurable 

Make sure there are numbers here! What value do you begin, and at what end point would you consider this KR to be a “successful” outcome? What can you evaluate at the end of each week that will help you see an increase in your qualitative objective? 

Think about different units of measurement here, such as: percentage increase or decrease, # of signups, # of meetings, Click Through Rate, event completions in GA, and so much more! 

Key Results have to be actionable 

You should always be able to link your daily and weekly tasks to your OKRs. This helps you create the action of moving everything forward. If you don’t have the resources to complete an action related to achieving your Key Results, then it may not be the quarter to implement this Objective. 

Key Results have to be time-bound

We recommend setting and planning quarterly OKRs according to the fiscal year: every 3 months, with 4 different OKRs during 1 year. This helps to maintain focus on certain projects without losing momentum. Setting time bound Key Results gives you a set time frame to analyze data and gain a clearer picture of your results and growth. 

What are the benefits of OKRs?

There is nothing like a good old fashioned case study to prove why companies love OKRs and use them year after year. However, if you’re just looking for a short list to get your feet wet – here are 5 key benefits of OKRs that we hear regularly from customers and see for ourselves.

1. Aligns and connects employees with business goals

By setting OKRs together as a team, with reference to Company Objectives, employees will gain a deeper understanding of how their day to day activities help drive the business goals forward. Especially when they are included in the OKR planning process from the beginning. 

The OKR Hierarchy View -OKR planning Weekdone Blog

Using an OKR tool like Weekdone provides the entire company and individual teams with various dashboard views to see the different levels of OKRs and how they are connected. Check out the “hierarchy view” under “Quarterly Objectives” in Weekdone: here anyone can see how each Team Objective funnels down from the Company Objective.

2. Creates company wide accountability and transparency 

Working with OKRs encourages collaboration from the very beginning. Whether you’re planning OKRs for the quarter, or creating a weekly plan based on the set OKRs – the conversation between co-workers must center around these Objectives. 

The OKR framework is more than a goal-setting technique – it’s a way of running internal processes as a company. When companies choose to implement OKRs, they must record everything transparently in order to gain optimal results and track progress over time. We learned that one of the principles of OKRs is that they are actionable; and without accountability and transparency those actions cannot be tracked properly. 

3. Increases productivity with a clear focus on goals

You can thank the time-bound nature of OKRs for this benefit. The OKR process moves fairly quickly since you’re focused on one 3-month period at a time.

This means individuals set their plans on a weekly basis, adding 3 to 5 important tasks to get done over the course of a week. Because tasks are formulated with regard to OKRs, you’ll see the value of each task increase over time, becoming more clear of their value added to the business. 

4. Provides teams with structure 

Creating a designated goal-setting framework at the company level holds a certain expectation for teams – not only what they expect from the company, but for themselves. 

They hold themselves at a higher level of capability due to the fact that they have something to compare their previous efforts to. This creates structure in the work environment and removes the feeling that everyone is working in a silo. 

5. Set ambitious and measurable goals 

Because of the notion that improvements, weekly analysis and adjustments are welcome – employees are encouraged to be ambitious with their goals and think outside the box.

When you fall short from your targeted Key Result, it doesn’t automatically associate with failure, rather an opportunity to re-evaluate your targets for the next quarter. Shoot for the moon and land among the stars – read our post about business terms and learn how to get your business to the moon! 

8 steps to OKR planning: how do I start an OKR plan?

Now that you have a grasp on the benefits of OKRs, principles for writing them, and examples to get you started, let’s dive into the long awaited 8 steps to what OKR planning looks like:  

Step 1: Leaders agree on the Company Objectives

First and foremost, don’t look at Company Objectives as KPIs – Key Performance Indicators

Because as we now know, Objectives are qualitative areas for improvement. These high-level objectives should take into account that various teams will be contributing to them simultaneously.They should be thought-provoking for everyone in the company as they work to choose their own, most impactful Team Objectives linked to the overarching objective. 

It should be easy to remember and aspirational. Here are 2 good Objective’s: 

  1. Review, research, and understand the value of competitors – agree on our main differentiating factors 
  2. Improve customer retention rates as a means to increase revenue

Step 2: Teams develop and set their OKRs

Once leaders have decided the Company Objectives and written them somewhere for everyone to see and provide feedback if necessary, it’s time for Teams to develop and set their OKRs. 

When planning your Team OKRs, you should again think of aspirational, quantitative goals that link to the greater company objective. Confirming that your OKRs follow this principle, it will give teams a sense of urgency, focus, and motivation for the quarter. 

Some questions to ask yourself when developing and setting Team Objectives: 

  1. What is our role in moving this specific Company Objective forward? 
  2. What can we create (in 3 months) to be successful in our efforts? 
  3. What can we fix (in 3 months) in order to be successful in our efforts? 
  4. Is there something to improve/change (in 3 months) in order to be successful in our efforts? 
  5. What challenges are stopping us?
Guiding Questions to Help Write OKRs - Weekdone Blog OKR Planning

Step 3: Plan out execution of Team OKRs

The OKR process must include ways to help you reach what you’ve set out to achieve. Your execution plan should have: Initiatives and Weekly Check-Ins. Without these, the OKRs you’ve set may seem unattainable, or leave employees feeling stagnant against a goal too large to achieve. 

Initiatives – Sometimes referred to as: projects, activities, or the ideas planned by a team in order to move the needle forward on quarterly OKRs. 

Weekly Check-Ins – Typically a 15-20 minute weekly team review designated for a discussion on your OKR progress, or even OKR strategic planning. 

👉 Check out our awesome OKR planning template that breaks down how to draft your OKRs while planning. In the template you’ll have an outline for: 

1. Drafting your OKR and your expectations for the quarter

2. Prioritization of individuals’ tasks using the RAG rating system 

3. Initiatives, projects, and initial ideas and timeline for which you want to execute this OKR.

Step 4: Set up a system to track OKRs

Of course, implementing company-wide OKRs is one thing, but tracking them over time is another. We recommend using an OKR software with intuitive features that will provide you all the benefits mentioned above, and more. Tracking progress toward goals shouldn’t be another managerial task to add to your workload. 

👉  Make sure the OKR system you put into place helps you simplify the reporting process. Take a look at our buying guide to help you find the best OKR software for your business in 2022. 

Step 5: Share plans and update progress

After implementing your OKR tracking system you should share your Weekly Plans and quarterly Initiatives with your team, and company – after all, a good OKR system promotes transparency. In Weekdone, you can link weekly plans directly to your OKRs so others can see how you’re directly impacting the progress of team goals.

OKR Linking for Progress Tracking - Weekdone Blog OKR planning

Step 6: Give feedback

During your weekly OKR check-in is a great time to facilitate feedback on what’s happened during the week and how you’re progressing on OKRs.

In Weekdone, our progress reports are compiled at the end of the reporting period (one week). These automated reports help to facilitate your OKR check-ins and discuss how everyone’s week went, and where they ran into any problems.

Team members should share their feedback openly with one another, anything from difficulties faced or even how they’re feeling about the current OKR plan. Team leaders should also remember to schedule 1:1s for feedback on a more personal level.

Step 7: Organize Monthly OKR Reviews

As a part of your OKR planning, schedule a fixed time that you and your team hold monthly OKR reviews.

You guessed it, you should have 3 OKR reviews per quarter – preferably near the end of the month so you can look retrospectively together as well as discuss upcoming Initiatives, ideas for improvement on OKRs, and how on track or at risk you are in completing your OKRs. 

These reviews are crucial in order to keep everyone on the same page, and confirm that plans are moving in the right direction. 

Step 8: Hold a company-wide review at the end of the quarter

As the final step in the OKR planning process, we bring it back to the company level. This review should be held after all teams have completed their 3rd monthly review for the quarter – meaning they’ve prepared for the meeting and have something to report about their progress.

This company wide review should have a clear agenda so it doesn’t turn into a free-for-all tangent for everyone to share their grand ideas. Team leaders should be prepared to: 

  • Back up their reasons for choosing each of their Objectives and Key Results 
  • Explain the connection to the Company level Objective
  • Reflect on any Initiatives or Projects that were planned, completed, or fell short 
  • Present the progress made on their OKRs at the end of the quarter

These talking points leave room for management to provide feedback, offer support, or where more resources are needed going into the new quarter.

Wrap up

If you’re thinking about introducing OKRs into your company but don’t know where to start – try Weekdone. Using an OKR management tool helps connect all the steps in your OKR planning process, allowing you to focus on the bigger picture. 
Weekdone is free for teams of 3 or less, and all teams receive a 2-week free trial. If you’re not quite ready for an OKR software, try our free OKR reporting templates to get started!