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 – Continuous Performance Management: OKRs and CFRs

Annual performance reviews are costly, exhausting, and mostly futile. Only 12% HR leaders deem the process “highly effective” in driving business value. Only 6% think it’s worth the time it takes.

What business leaders have learned, very painfully, is that individuals cannot be reduced by numbers.

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” – Albert Einstein

Alternative to annual reviews is continuous performance management. It is implemented with an instrument called CFRs, for:

  • Conversation: an authentic, richly textured exchange between manager and contributor, aimed at driving performance
  • Feedback: bidirectional or networked communication among peers to evaluate progress and guide future improvement
  • Recognition: expressions of appreciation to deserving individuals for contributions of all sizes
Annual Performance ManagementContinuous Performance Management
Annual FeedbackContinuous feedback
Tied to compensationDecoupled from compensation
Outcome focusedProcess focused
Weakness basedStrength based
Prone to biasFact driven

Measure What Matters – Superpower #4: Stretch for Amazing

OKRs push us far beyond our comfort zones. They lead us to achievements on the border between abilities and dreams.

At google, in line with Andy Grove’s old standard, aspirational OKRs are set at 60 to 70% attainment. In other words, performance is expected to fall short at least 30% of the time. And that’s considered success!

“if you set a crazy, ambitious goal and miss it, you’ll still achieve something remarkable.” When you aim for the stars, you may come up short but still reach the moon.

Here are some of the stretched OKRs:

  • Google Chrome’s OKR is to reach 111 million seven-day active users
  • Youtube’s OKR is to reach one billon hours of daily watch time.

Measure What Matters – Superpower #3: Track for Accountability

OKRs are living, breathing organisms. Their life cycle unfolds in three phases:

The Setup

If you have 82,000 contributors to the OKR, general-purpose software (e.g.: Microsoft Word) doesn’t scale. If you share a goal that nobody sees, is the system truly transparent?

OKRs speak to something more powerful, the intrinsic value of the work itself. Cloud based platform deliver transformative OKR values:

  • They make everyone’s goal more visible.
  • They drive engagement
  • They promote internal networking
  • They save time, money and frustration.

OKR Shepherd

For OKR system to function effectively, the team deploying it must adopt it universally. No exceptions, no opt-outs.

Midlife Tracking

As we track and audit our OKRs, we have four options at any point in the cycle:

  • Continue: if a green zone goal isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
  • Update: Modify a yellow zone (“needs attention”) key results or objective to respond to changes in the workflow or external environment.
  • Start: Launch a new OKR mid-cycle, whenever the need arises
  • Stop: When a red zone (“at risk”) goal has outlived it’s usefulness, the best solution may be to drop it.

Wrap-up: Rinse and Repeat

Wrap-ups consist of three parts: objective scoring, subjective self-assessment, and reflection.


Google use a scale of 0 to 1.0:

  • 0.7 to 1.0 = Green (We delivered)
  • 0.4 to 0.6 = yellow (We made progress, but fell short of completion)
  • 0.0 to 0.3 = red (We failed to make real progress)

If department so much as approached 100%, it was presumed to be setting its sights too low – and there would be hell to pay.


In evaluating OKR performance, objective data is enhanced by the goal setter’s thoughtful, subjective judgment. For any given gal in a given quarter, there may be extenuating circumstances. A weak showing by the numbers might hide a strong effort; a strong one could be artificially inflated.


“We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.”

Here are some reflections for closing out an OKR cycle:

  • Did I accomplish all of my objectives? If so, what contributed to my success?
  • If not, what obstacles did I encounter?
  • If I were to rewrite a goal achieved in full, what would I change?
  • What have I learned that might alter my approach to the next cycle’s OKRs?

Measure What Matters – Superpower #2: Align and Connect for Teamwork

Three watchwords for entrepreneurs:

  • Solve a problem
  • Build a simple product
  • Talk to your Users

Goals for Growth

As company scale, people need to see the CEO’s priorities and how they can align for maximum impact. And they need to see that it’s okay to make a mistake, to correct it and move on. You can’t fear screwing up.

The Same Page

Studies suggest that only 7% of employees “fully understand their company’s business strategies and what’s expected of them in order to helpĀ achieve the common goals.”

The answer lies in focused, transparent OKRs. They knit each individual’s work to team efforts, departmental projects, and the overall mission.

Cross-Functional Coordination

A Transparent OKR system, as Laszlo Bock points out, promotes freewheeling collaboration. When goals are public and visible to all, a “team of teams” can attack trouble spots wherever they surface. You kick off virtuous cycles that reinforce your ability to actually get your work done. And the management tax is zero-it’s amazing.

Measure What Matters – Superpower #1: Focus and Commit to Priorities

Measuring what matters begins with the question: What is most important for the next three (or six, or twelve) months?

Google’s mission statement: Organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

“When you’re the CEO or the founder of a company … you’ve got to say ‘This is what we’re doing’, and then you have to model it. Because if you don’t model it, no one’s going to do it.”

Communicate with Clarity

Leaders must get across the why as well as the what. “When you are tired of saying it, people are starting to hear it.”

Key Results: Care and Feeding

Objectives and key results are the yin and yang of goal setting – principle and practice, vision and execution. If an objective is well framed, three to five KRs will usually be adequate to reach it. If you’re certain you’re going to nail it, you’re probably not pushing hard enough.

What, How, When

The best practice: a parallel, dual cadence, with short-horizon OKRs (for the here and now) supporting annual OKRs and longer-term strategies.

Clear-cut time frames intensify our focus and commitment; nothing moves us forward like a deadline.

Pairing Key Results

The more ambitious the OKR, the greater the risk of overlooking a vital criterion. To safeguard quality while pushing for quantitative deliverables, one solution is to pair key results – to measure “both effect and counter-effect” e.g.Pairing Quantity Goal and Quality Goal.

The Perfect and the Good

Don’t allow the perfect to be enemy of good. Remember that an OKR can be modified or even scrapped at any point in its cycle. The “right” key results surface weeks or months after a goal is put into play. OKRs are inherently works in progress, not commandments chiseled in stone.

Less is More

As Steve Jobs understood, “Innovation means saying no to one thousand things.” The one thing and OKR system should provide par excellence is focus. This can only happen if we keep the number of objectives small.

Measure What Matters- Chapter 2. The Father of OKRs

MBO (Management by Objectives)

In 1960s had been adopted by a number of forward-thinking companies, e.g. Hewlett – Packard, which led to productivity gains of 56%.

Most common trap goals were centrally planned and sluggishly tricked down the hierarchy. Most deadly of all, MBOs were commonly tied to salaries and bonuses.

MBOsIntel OKRs
“What”“What” and “How”
AnnualQuarterly or Monthly
Private and SiloedPublic and Transparent
Top-downBottom-up or Sideways (~50%)
Tied to CompensationMostly Divorced from Compensation
Risk AverseAggressive and Aspirational

Andy Grove’s Basic OKR Hygiene

Less is more: “A few extremely well-chosen objectives, impart a clear message about what we say YES to and what we say NO to. Limit three – five OKRs per cycle lead companies.

Set goals from the bottom up: to promote engagement, teams and individuals should be encouraged to create roughly half of their own OKRs, in consultation with managers.

No dictating: OKRs are a cooperative social contract to establish priorities and define how progress will be measured.

Stay flexible: if climate has changed and an objective no longer seems practical or relevant as written, key results can be modified or even discarded mid-cycle.

Dare to fail: “Output will tend to be greater, when everybody strives for a level of achievement beyond [their] immediate grasp. Such goal setting is extremely important if what you want is peak performance from yourself and your subordinates.”

A tool, not a weapon: The OKR system is meant to pace a person – to put a stopwatch in his own hand so he can gauge his own performance. it is not a legal document upon which to base a performance review.

Be Patient; be resolute. Every process requires trial and error. An organisation may need up to four or five quarterly cycles to fully embrace the system, and even more than that to build mature goal muscle.

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.

5 Questions you need to be asking in life

The author of the book “Wait, WHAT?” book, James E. Ryan, spoke about how he never stop to ask questions in life. You need to be asking the right questions. Here are the 5 questions you need to be asking in life.

  1. Wait, … what?…
  2. I wonder .. why. I wonder … if
  3. Couldn’t we at least ….
  4. How can I help …
  5. What truly matters?

Bonus questions: Did you get what you want out of this life, even so?

Try asking some of this question in you day today, and see how it effect you in a positive way.

10 Steps to Building a successful Online Course

Here are the 10 steps to building a successful online courses.

  1. Transformation journey for your audience
  2. Brainstorm the content. Use Post-it 10 – 10 Break and 10 Brainstorm
  3. Organisation of the idea
  4. Outline and sharing the outline. Kill what is not necessary
  5. Pre-sell to 20 people, why?
  6. Build the Community, e.g.: FB Group
  7. Build the course, produce the lesson
  8. Collect feedback from student
  9. Refine the course to make it great
  10. Be Confident