Quarterly OKRs vs Annual: When Should You Use Them?

When you set up your company’s Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), you may want to follow your long-term vision and set up ambitious yearly goals.

And that’s not wrong.

While annual goals are something you may have, you must also set up quarterly OKRs that help you and your team stay focused and drive improvements every week. In fact, teams that set quarterly goals, compared to annual goals, see a 31 percent greater ROI.

Read on to learn how to use quarterly OKRs to set better goals, identify measurable results, and generate long-term success for your team. 

What Are OKRs?

OKRs stand for Objectives and Key Results, a quarterly goal-setting strategy that consists of 2 crucial components: 

  • Objectives: Qualitative goals that clarify what you want to improve
  • Key Results: Quantitative metrics that define whether or not you’ve achieved a specific objective

OKRs are driven by Initiatives. Initiatives are the particular plans and projects implemented to achieve a given Objective.

OKRs are also analyzed with the help of OKR Weekly Check-ins. Weekly Check-ins allow you to monitor team members’ accomplishments, discuss potential problems, and evaluate upcoming plans and projects.


Should OKRs Be Quarterly or Yearly?

You can set annual Objectives as strategic goals that do not use the OKR methodology at all.

When it comes to your quarterly goals, the best OKR practice is:

  1. you set quarterly Objective to your company;
  2. you let all teams come up with their Team Objecives to support the Company one;
  3. teams assign 3 to 5 Key Results to each quarterly Team Objective.

This allows your team leaders to set quarterly Objectives that create a focus for their team and are linked to these quarterly company Objectives. 

That way, quarterly OKRs will be linked to your annual goals and show what you need to do each quarter to accomplish your annual plan. Quarterly OKRs are a breakdown of what your company needs to do in order to succeed, and they show how the work you do now impacts the long-term vision.

OKR progress

OKR Examples 

The following are some examples of the OKR method in action that will provide a clearer idea of how this system works: 

Quarterly OKR Example 1

Objective: Improve the way our team manages warehouse inventory records so we can save time on inventory checks

  • Key Result 1: Reduce the average time needed to complete inventory checks from 12 hours to 3 hours
  • Key Result 2: Automate 2 critical inventory check processes to minimize human error
  • Key Result 3: Reduce bookkeeping data and factual information discrepancies from 5% to 2%

Quarterly OKR Example 2

Objective: Research and gain a deeper understanding of customer churn

  • Key Result 1: Receive a 35% response from the customer churn survey
  • Key Result 2: Conduct interviews with 10% of respondents to gain more insight
  • Key Result 3: Analyze responses and identify 2 specific issues on which we can improve

Quarterly OKR Example 3

Objective: Improve the company’s recruitment process and increase candidate satisfaction ratings

  • Key Result 1: Decrease the average rejected candidate feedback time from 12 to 6 days
  • Key Result 2: Reduce the number of recruitment meetings from 5 meetings to 3
  • Key Result 3: Increase final round candidate satisfaction rating from 65% to 95%

Quarterly OKR Example 4

Objective: Improve search engine ranking for cornerstone content 

  • Key Result 1: Increase the number of backlinks for 12 cornerstone content articles to at least 6
  • Key Result 2: Publish 8 guest blog posts with links to cornerstone content on sites with domain authority of 40 or higher
  • Key Result 3: Ensure 100% of cornerstone content loads within 2 or fewer seconds

Quarterly OKR Example 5

Objective: Successfully launch version 2.0 of our company’s main product

  • Key Result 1: Generate at least 12,000 new signups  
  • Key Result 2: Publish product reviews in at least 10 publications
  • Key Result 3: Improve our On-time Delivery rate from 70% to 85%

💡 Didn’t find a suitable OKR example for your team? Discover 100+ OKR examples for different teams in our evergreen OKR examples database!

OKR Principles

When writing quarterly OKRs, keep these 4 principles in mind. They’ll allow for proper OKR visualization and proper OKR grading

1. Measurable 

While the Objective in the OKR framework should be qualitative, the Key Results must be quantitative and measurable. You and your team should define exactly what it means to be “successful” at achieving a particular Objective. Measurable Key Results allow you to do this. 

2. Ambitious

When identifying Objectives and Key Results, make sure they are ambitious. Set goals and choose Key Results that will require you and your team members to push yourselves and step outside of your comfort zone to succeed. 

3. Agile

Agility means the ability to change and adapt quickly. The best OKR strategy is highly agile and creates regular opportunities for team members to evaluate their progress, identify problems, and make adjustments as needed.

4. Quarterly

Building off this last principle, OKRs should also be planned and evaluated every quarter. This gives teams at least 4 opportunities per year to assess their OKRs and make changes that are in alignment with the company’s overarching mission and goals.

Benefits of Quarterly OKRs

The following are some of the most noteworthy benefits you and your team can enjoy when you establish quarterly OKRs:

1. Improved Goal Alignment

OKRs ensure your team’s goals align with larger company goals and Objectives. This makes it easier for teams to contribute to the greater company vision and improve overall company performance.  

2. Increased Focus

Setting ambitious Objectives and identifying measurable Key Results helps to increase team members’ focus. This approach clarifies what each team member should be working on during the quarter. It also provides a system for them to measure their progress throughout the quarter.

3. Increased Productivity

When team members are more focused and able to see how they’re progressing toward their larger Objectives, they tend to be more productive and get more done each day. This sets your team up to accomplish its goals faster and make better use of company time and resources. 

4. More Accountability

Quarterly OKRs, especially when they’re combined with an effective OKR tracking tool, create more accountability among team members. OKRs clarify where everyone is at in their current process and shows how much more work they have to do to complete their tasks and accomplish their goals.

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What Is a Quarterly OKR Cycle?

A quarterly OKR cycle lasts 3 months (i.e., one quarter of a year). At the beginning of each quarter, you will identify specific Objectives and the Key Results you’ll use to monitor progress. 

During the quarter, you’ll be using Initiatives and Weekly Plans to break up your quarterly OKRs into smaller actionable steps.

At the end of the quarter, you’ll hold an OKR review or OKR evaluation to see how successful your team was.

Each quarterly OKR cycle should bring your team closer to accomplishing the larger annual Objectives you set for the entire year.

Quarterly OKR Cycle

What Does the OKR Process Look Like?

The process for setting annual Objectives and quarterly OKRs should go as follows, whether you’re working with an OKR spreadsheet or using a dedicated OKR management tool:

Plan Your Company Annual Objective

Your yearly Company Objective should represent the long-term progress you want to make at your company. Where do you want to be 12 months from now? These annual goals should only exist at the company level of OKRs. 

Set Quarterly Company Objective to Match Annual Objective 

Next, identify quarterly Objectives that align with the yearly Objective. Where can you be in the next 3 months that will move you closer to where you want to be in 12 months? Quarterly Company Objective gives guidance to teams for setting their OKRs for the first quarter of the year. 

Set Team-Level OKRs

Next, break Objectives down further into team-level Objectives that each branch of the company can work toward. Write measurable team Key Results for each Objective.

Don’t forget, for teams, you only need quarterly OKRs.

Setting goals 12 months in advance, makes them too abstract for employees. These goals always seem so far away that you get the reaction: “I still have time to deal with this later”. Instead, with quarterly OKRs, people will focus on goals harder as deadlines are only 3 months away. 

Add Initiatives to Drive Team OKRs

Moving on, identify specific OKR Initiatives (plans and projects) that each team can use to generate progress toward accomplishing their Objectives and Key Results.

Create Weekly Plans Right Under OKRs

Building off of the previous point, create weekly plans right under your quarterly OKRs as well. This breaks things down further and clarifies what everyone should be working toward in the present.

Connect OKRs, Initiatives, and Weekly Plans

OKR software like Weekdone makes it easier for you to connect your OKRs, larger Initiatives, and Weekly Plans. This provides a clear view for everyone so they can see how they’re doing and what they need to focus on. 

Weekdone OKR softtware

Free for up to 3 users. Bigger teams get a 14-day trial.

Update and Track Your OKRs Progress Every Week

Make sure everyone is regularly updating and tracking their OKRs. This helps you to stay up-to-date on each team member’s progress so you can provide feedback and recognition as needed.

Hold a Quarterly OKRs Review

At the end of each quarter, when the OKR timeline is complete, assess your OKR report. Hold a quarterly review to discuss which Objectives were successfully met and which ones still need work. This gives you a chance to start planning OKRs for the upcoming quarter, too.

Wrapping Up: Achieve More With Quarterly OKRs 

Quarterly OKRs are a practical tool that can help you to achieve your long-term business goals.

  • OKRs consist of Objectives, which are qualitative goals, and Key Results, which are quantitative metrics that define your team’s success;
  • OKRs can be used for teams in a variety of departments, as this guide to OKR examples illustrates;
  • OKR best practices state that OKRs should be ambitious, measurable, agile, and quarterly;
  • When planning OKRs, it’s important to remember that each cycle should last one quarter — or 3 months — you’ll then hold a review for grading OKRs at the end.
  • OKR tracking software and OKR tools help you to monitor progress and conduct regular check-ins with your team.

👉 To learn more about OKR tracking, how to measure OKRs, or how to start using quarterly OKRs with your team, check out Weekdone OKR software. Sign up today to try it for free!

Free for up to 3 users. Bigger teams get a 14-day trial.