Managers love to set goals. So do CEOs. For employees, however goal setting and reporting may seem like a waste of time meant to keep them in the office longer. I remember when I started a new job, was told to use OKRs and how useless this sort of work seemed to me. 3 years later, I’m a fanatic believer in OKR methodology and quarterly goal setting.
So, what to do if your boss comes to the office and says “we’re going to start using Objectives and Key Results for quarterly goal setting now. Figure it out.”
Often a goal setting system fails because while managers like it, employees won’t come on board. They are either very keen on old systems (especially if the system is “no system;”) or employee feels that learning a new system is a waste of time. However, every company needs some sort of management system.
OKRs are designed so that everybody in the team would have a clear understanding of the big picture and knows what are the indicators of success. Who would not want to have more clarity in their life?
When everyone knows how their work matters, it increases overall engagement, motivation, and determination. And Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is one of the easiest and user-friendliest system out there. You should give it a try.
This guide will give you everything you need to know to get started.
Basics of OKR.
OKR is a simple process of setting company, team and personal goals and connecting each goal with 3-4 measurable results. As you achieve those results, the whole objective gets marked done. That means that while doing your everyday tasks, you see how they impact your long-term goals. This will further help you eliminate the tasks that may seem important, but actually don’t help you along. Like they say: “work smarter, not harder.” After 3 years of using OKR methodology, I can say, I save about 5 hours a week, by only focusing on what’s really important. I am more relaxed and my bosses are happy.
OKR structure is very simple:
You start by defining 3-5 key objectives on company, team or personal levels. Objectives should be ambitious, qualitative, time bound and actionable by the person or team. A good example would be to “ Increase Q2 recurring revenues.”
Under each objective, define 3-4 measurable results. Key Result show the most important things you need to do this quarter, not every small task you do each day.
Key results should be quantifiable, achievable, lead to objective grading and be difficult, but not impossible. OKR results can be based on growth, performance, revenue or engagement. Often they are numerical, but they can also show if something is done or undone, graded with a binary system “0 or 1”. To continue with the example objective given in the last paragraph, a good key result would be to “Increase average subscription size by $500 dollars per month”
Using OKRs makes you happier and more engaged. According to a customer survey we did, an average Weekdone user is more than twice engaged then an average employee in the US and 6 times more engaged than average employee worldwide (US employee engagement rate is 30% and worldwide 13%).
We can also see that people who answered the survey enjoy mostly positive workplace relations which adds a lot to working environment and team spirit.
Quarterly goals setting.
You need to evaluate OKRs every three months, after which, new goals are set. For you as an employee, this means that you don’t have to spend time on 1 on 1 meetings every month and you have time to work on your goals. At the same time, the period is short enough that you don’t forget them.
Forgetting your goals and focusing on unimportant often happens when you are graded only one a year during a yearly review. When the year ends, it’s terrible to discover that you have done the wrong things and the management isn’t happy. With quarterly OKRs, you’ll avoid it by constantly focusing on your goals. It’s a lot less stressful and therefore a more routinely process.
Lyle Stevens from Mavrck said it well: “It became easier to identify when an employee was straying from their long term objectives if they were continually inputting information that was unrelated to their OKRs.”
Objectives must be qualitative and describe the desired outcome (“Objective: Understand customer needs.”). This will give you a clear task to do and helps you stay on track. There is no need to have numeric metrics for objectives (you’ll have those with key results) as objectives are more like a vision not your performance indicator.
The main characteristics of objectives are:
- Actionable: Objectives should be goals that a person or a team can execute independently. If, for instance, you work in marketing, that could be “Successfully implement the weekly newsletter.“
- Inspirational: They should excite you and give you a reason to be psyched on Monday morning when going to work. Objectives like “Get the new product ready for launch,” is a good example here.
- Time Bound: As mentioned previously, OKRs should be set quarterly so that people can get them done as fast as possible. It could be something like “Organize a team motivational event every month.”
Key Results (KRs) measure how far from reaching your objective you are. It basically shows you and your superiors what you’ve been doing at work. This helps you show your value and abilities and explain why you haven’t done some tasks that are not needed for achieving company’s goals. It adds numeric measurable metrics to objectives.
The easiest way to set Key Results is to follow the SMART model. SMART is a methodology that sets criteria to the tasks you set. The KRs must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.
The questions you need to ask for each goal are:
- Specific: is the KR well-defined and understandable for everyone?
- Measurable: can you measure success or failure?
- Achievable: is it realistically possible to do?
- Relevant: is this KR important for your objective?
- Time-bound: have I clearly established when the goal must be met? For OKRs this time is usually one quarter
This is of course only a suggestion. You can approach your KRs very differently as long as you keep them measurable.
It’s important to decide beforehand, what is considered a success in KRs. You must be sure on what is expected of you. Do your managers want you to achieve 100% on or goals or should you set them so ambitious, that 60% is a good result? If you’re tasked with setting your own KRs, make sure you and your boss have a clear understanding on that. Often OKRs are set very ambitiously and a 70% completion is considered a job very well done.
While set quarterly you should still go over your OKRs every week. That’s how you make sure that the work you do is really important and doesn’t just waste your time.
It’s a good idea to take 5 minutes every week and update the progress you’ve made on your KRs. It also gives you a satisfaction of marking things done. Think of it as taking things off from your bucket list. It feels good.
Adapting OKRs with Weekdone.
Shawn Rucks, CEO of deverus, one of many Weekdone OKR software users, points out that at first the process of adapting OKRs can be difficult. For example, deverus moved their goal planning from once a year to quarterly OKRs and that required more disciplined thinking. “It is hard, because you are asking somebody to clearly define what they are going to do and how to get it done” said Rucks.
He thinks that it helps adapting to a new system if the leader believes in it, manages it and embraces it. “And thanks to Weekdone everybody else can see what I do and that has made an impact” said Shawn.
As another person said in our user survey:
„Weekdone is a great way to track progress on your daily work as well as map your career aspirations to smart OKRs. However, as software goes, it's only as good as its users, so it very much depends on the way the company is using it. Overall, I think it can add value to any business and its workforce if used correctly.“
Further reading on OKRs.
Weekdone has a lot of materials that help you use OKRs. You can take a look at our infographic on OKRs or you can take a look at our FAQ page. And our customer support is always here to help you. Send us an e-mail.
More OKR materials:
- Resources page with OKR examples and OKR templates
- OKR ebook: Step by Step Guide to OKRs
- OKR examples by different teams