Writing Effective OKRs

Writing OKRs isn’t easy, but not impossible, either. Here are the simple rules that Google use:

Objectives are the “Whats.” They:

  • express goals and intents;
  • are aggressive yet realistic;
  • must be tangible, objective and unambiguous; should be obvious to rational observer whether an objective has been achieved.
  • The successful achievement of an objective must provide clear value to organistaion.

Key Results are the “Hows.” They:

  • express measurable milestones which, if achieved, will advance objective(s) in a useful manner to their constituents;
  • must describe outcomes, not activities. If your KRs include word like “consilt”, “help”, “analyse”, or “participate”, they describe activities. Instead, describe the end-user impact of these activities: “publish average and tail latency measurements from six Colossus cells by March 7,” rather than “assess Colossus latency”;
  • must include evidence of completion. This evidence must be available, credible, and easily discoverable. Examples of evidence include change lists, links to docs, notes and published metrics reports.

Measure What Matters – Chapter 1. Google, Meet OKRs

OKR is short for Objectives and Key Results.

Objective is simply WHAT is to be achieved, no more and no less. By definition, objectives are signifiant, concrete, action oriented, and (ideally) inspirational.

Key Results benchmark and monitor HOW we get to the objective. Effective KRs are specific and time-bound, aggressive yet realistic. Most of all, they are measurable and verifiable.

The dark side of goal setting could swamp any benefits, e.g.: Enron’s recklessly inflated sales targets. “WARNING! Goals may cause systematic problems in organisations due to narrowed focus, unethical behaviour, increased risk taking, decreased cooperation, and decreased motivation. Use case when applying goals in your organisation.”

The 4 OKR “superpowers”: Focus, align, track, and stretch.

Superpower #1 – Focus and Commit to Priorities: High-performance organisations home in on work that’s important, and are equally clear on what doesn’t matter.

Superpower #2 – Align and Connect for Teamwork: OKR transparency, everyone’s goals – from the CEO down are openly shared.

Superpower #3 – Track for Accountability: OKRs are driven by data.

Superpower #4 – Stretch for Amazing: OKRs motivate us to excel by doing more than we’d thought possible.

CFRs (Conversation, Feedback, Recognition) – Continuous performance management instead of annual performance reviews.