Effectively Using OKRs
- Why would you want to use OKRs?
- What are OKRs?
- What makes a good objective?
- What makes a good key result?
- Tips for setting good OKRs
- Frequently asked questions
Why would you want to use OKRs?
OKRs, or Objectives and Key Results, are a simple way to stay focused on what’s most important to achieve for an individual or a team.
Do you want to…
- Accomplish essential things?
- Stay focused and not do 100 things at the same time?
- Be ambitious and stretch a little further than you are comfortable with?
- Keep others informed about what you aim to achieve without everyone having to understand every detail?
- Prioritize your work on a day-to-day basis so that the most important work doesn’t get neglected?
- Ensure everyone in the team has an opportunity to affect their work?
If you care about most of the above, OKRs are a great tool.
What are OKRs?
What is the single most important thing to achieve in the next three months?
- The answer to this question is your objective
Given your objective, what are the 2 to 4 ways you will measure progress towards it or measure success?*
- The answers to this are your key results
Example 1: OKR for a city government
Objective: Increase economic investment to promote neighborhood stability1
95% of permits and zoning approvals will be issued on time.
Increase compliance of code violations by the comply by date from 20% to 35%.
Improve stability in the quality of life pilot area by 20%.
What makes a good objective?
Inspirational — it describes the desired outcome
Qualitative — non-numerical (key results cover the numbers)
Ambitious — Forces us to think of creative ways to achieve it
Important — only the most essential thing for you to accomplish, not everything you will do
Advanced tip for OKR setting! A good objective should fall in the team’s zone of influence. See Zones of Control, Influence, and Interest.
Example 2: OKR for your personal life
Objective: Have more quality family time2
Get home for dinner by 6:00 PM, 20 nights a month.
Turn off the internet router to eliminate distractions two weekend days per month.
Example 3: OKR for a marketing team**
Objective: Increase brand awareness.3
Drive 10 000 web visitors per month.
Increase social media following by 10x.
Recruit and onboard 500 community members.
What makes a good key result?
Relevant — contributes to objective
Measurable and verifiable — contains a number, and you can measure it
Difficult, but not impossible — aim for 50% chance of success
Example 4: OKR for a development team
Objective: Successfully launch a new budget tool in the app by the end of the quarter.
20% of monthly active users use the new budget tool during the first month.
Recommendation score of 8.0 or higher among users of the budget tool.
All features of the budget tool are available to beta testers before the launch.
Example 5: OKR for a customer support team
Objective: Improve internal ways of working to be able to offer better customer service than ever.
< 50% of users wait for a response of more than one hour
Target our customers in the chat so well that 25% of all users receiving a teaser will click the link
Tips for setting good OKRs
Aim for the thing on the left over the thing on the right.
- Set only one objective per team, and two to four key results per objective — Instead of setting lots of OKRs
- Choose an objective that describes the most important thing that needs to change — Instead of setting business-as-usual objectives, like “Continue maintaining existing systems”
- Make an inspirational objective and put numbers in the key results — Instead of putting numbers in the objective
- Key results measure progress towards the objective — Instead of key results that are tasks
- Remembering that your OKR is the most important thing you will achieve — Instead of trying to capture everything you will work on
- Choose an OKR that stretches you a little — Instead of choosing an OKR that is easy
Frequently asked questions
Does an OKR replace a team’s backlog?
- Achieving the OKR is each team’s focus, but a team can use any additional tools to visualize and manage their day-to-day work if wanted
Is reaching the OKR the only thing the team can work on?
- No! The OKR covers the most important metrics to improve, but there’s probably a lot of other valuable work your team has to do.
- If you finish your OKR one day after the quarter starts, great! (but maybe you have chosen an OKR that is too easy!)
City of Syracuse, New York, United States. Sometime around 2018?↩︎
John Doerr, the inventor of OKRs. Adapted from: Julia Martins. “What are objectives and key results (OKRs)?” Asana Resources. October 28th, 2022, https://asana.com/resources/okr-meaning.↩︎
Adapted from: Julia Martins. “What are objectives and key results (OKRs)?” Asana Resources. October 28th, 2022, https://asana.com/resources/okr-meaning.↩︎