How Google sets goals with Objectives and Key Results

The year was 1999 when John Doerr arrived at a two-story building that served as Google’s second headquarters. In tow, he carried with him a bright, new idea that he had learned through working in Intel. Google had one aspirational, company driven goal:

“Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

So Doerr, popular author of Measure What Matters, had a way to achieve it. As the eighteenth search engine to arrive on the web, Google faced some harsh competition, but it wasn’t luck that positioned Google as the tech giants that they are today.

Google had a leg-up in the management strategies of the future.

After all, in Doerr’s own words:

Ideas are easy. Execution is everything.

On that day in Mountain View, Doerr introduced Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). So, within Weekdone’s own history with its roots as a weekly planner, we decided it was about time to connect the weekly with the quarterly and introduce OKRs ourselves. Focused on collaboration, “OKRs” help you set goals at every level in order to unify your aspirations and keep everyone on track towards the same Objectives. OKRs, on top of a brilliant idea and forward-thinking leaders, are what helped make Google what it is today.

OKR Basics

With just two main ideas, OKRs are easy enough to grasp. You have your Objectives (your big aspirational goals), and your Key Results (which measure your Objective).

Using Weekly Planning along with OKRs, Weekdone provides you with an ideal package to start setting forward-thinking, transparent goals to align your organization. We have a two week free trial for new users and complete, no-cost access for up to 3 individuals.

Free 14-day trial. No credit card required.

OKRs are one of the standard models of new management, leaving old systems like MBOs behind in favor of giving every individual meaning within their organization.

For more about getting started with OKRs, the history of OKRs, and examples, check out our resource page.

Available Resources

For yet another great resource, look no further than the lecture given by Google Ventures partner and ex-product manager, Rick Klau. For OKR examples by department, look here.

If you don’t have time to watch the video and just want the summary, here are the key points that Rick addresses. You’ll notice that they’re quite similar to Doerr’s definitions of OKRs as well, hopefully making the transition for you easier:

  • Objectives are ambitious and should embrace the uncomfortable feeling of risk.
  • Key Results are measurable. They should be easy to grade with a number (Google uses a 0 – 1.0 scale to grade each Key Result at the end of a quarter, but you are free to use other metrics).
  • OKRs are transparent. Everyone in the company should be able to see what everyone else is working on (and how they did in the past).
  • The “sweet spot” for an OKR grade is .6 – .7 (60%-70% complete). If someone keeps getting 1.0 (100%) on their OKRs, they aren’t ambitious enough.
  • Low grades are not a bad thing, and should not be tied to compensation or employee evaluation. Instead, OKR grades should be used as data to help refine the next quarter’s OKRs.

In addition, if you prefer the infographic format, we also have an “Introduction to OKR’s” one that explains the history, provides some quotes from famous users, and offers OKR best practices.

Here are more useful OKR materials: