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The Ultimate Guide to OKRs

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How to get started with OKR?

If you set a crazy, ambitious goal and miss it, you’ll still achieve something remarkable.

Larry Page, Co-Founder at Google

In previous chapters of this OKR guide, we have seen the ‘why 'of OKRs and how their implementation impacts your organization. OKR share personified leadership that gets woven into the complete organization and drives the visionary goals.

In this section, we will start implementing OKR by understanding in depth what Objectives, Key Results, and Projects mean and how to design them.

We also have a 10-day email course on implementing OKR specifically for early-stage start-ups that you can use to take actionable steps each day for rolling out your OKR program.

What are Objectives?

Objectives are the strategic priorities you envision for your organization, that could be immediate or long-term. They are focused on attaining the high-level goals that cut across the organization and depend on all teams for successful execution. Depending upon your organization’s priority, objectives are of 2distinct types:

  1. Committed Objectives: These are stretch goals - ones that are around 20% - 30% over ambitious than the present workflow. These objectives have a clear roadmap of how they are to be achieved and the completion rate is expected to be 100% by the organization.

Committed OKR Objective example:

  • To prepare our organization for IPO by 2022
  • To scale down marketing costs by increasing ‘word of mouth’ by 40%
  • To improve organization’s image amid data leak controversy
  1. Aspirational Objectives: These are moon-shot goals - ones that are designed to take your organization into the next phase of the company’s future. The clarity of the roadmap to achieve them is not clear, lots of experimentation could be involved and room for accommodating failure needs to be allowed.

Aspirational OKR Objective example:

  • To send a manned rocket to Mars by 2030
  • To bring down global temperature rise by 1℃
  • To include virtual reality-driven custom trials for our lifestyle product segment

The type of OKR you choose truly depends on the ambition and stage at which your company resides. For a stagnated business or an ambitious entrepreneur, Moon shot OKRs would make more sense. For everyone else, Committed OKRs could be focused on.

What makes a Good OKR Objective?

Writing Good OKRs, as mentioned previously in this OKR Guide, can send either your organization to the moon, or your organization's rocket ship could deflect off somewhere in the ocean.

The first step to writing good OKRs is to nail your Objectives that reflect your vision, the organization's aspirations for business growth, and available resources. Here’s what makes a good OKR objective:

  • Ideally, a single OKR exercise should have 3-5 objectives only. If you overload your teams with more objectives, it could confuse and scatter their efforts
  • Include words of expression that induce ‘action’. A good Objective example would be - ‘Expand the organization to top 3 metro cities in UK’
  • Be specific and ensure you have added numbers that would help your team visualize what the winning position looks like. A good Objective example would be - ‘Reduce operational costs by 30% for our low-end products range’
  • Clarify the expectations of objectives that are written with the execution team. As mentioned previously in the OKR guide, the higher management and employees need to be aligned by communicating the needful.
  • Your OKR objectives should be unambiguous and have a context, especially while writing OKR goals that are aspirational. A good OKR Goal setting example would be - ‘Induce repeat purchase by nurturing lifelong customers’

OKR Objective Examples

At Superbeings.ai, we have designed an easy to use tool for you to create and manage your OKR program. One can view and track their objectives and key results in one single place along with assigning roles and organizing OKR meetings. We also provide you intelligence on your progress to ensure maximum achievement in completing the designed OKRs.

Here’s a glimpse into our tool with some OKR Objective examples written by implementing best practices

Let’s understand more about writing OKRs by studying some examples.

Rewriting less effective Objectives using Good OKR practices

In this section, we have demonstrated here how an objective can be made more effective to ensure it is well understood and can be attained by the team.

Objective:

Increase traffic by 10%

Why is this a bad Objective to set?

  • It lacks context
  • Does not communicate what is the real problem to be solved
  • Defining key results would be difficult since the Objective is specific, but still ambiguous
  • It does not articulate the end state in comparison to the current state
  • It does not set a clear timeline

Rewritten Objective as per Good OKR practices:

Scale website traffic to 1 Million unique visitors by Q1 2022

We have made the Objective more specific and assigned a timeline that would help employees design measurement scales with Key Results and chart out an adequate plan of action in the form of Projects.


What are Key Results?

While you have marked your goalposts, the pathway towards the same seems hazy at first. To ensure your team can visualize progress and know if they are going in the right direction, defining key results helps.

If it does not have a number, it is not a Key Result.

Marissa Mayer, former Vice President at Google

Hence, Key Results are the measurable steps that your execution teams need to take to achieve the objectives. Also, a Key Result needs to measure what matters. It’s an answer in terms of ‘How’ to the ‘Why’ of your Objectives.

Framing Key Results using good OKR practices

Your team should be able to visualize Key Results as small steps that can lead to giant leaps towards achieving your objectives.

Let’s take an objective and key result example where we are achieving a monopolistic market share of a product. While monopoly dreams sound great, how will your team know we are indeed creating a monopolistic product? We do so by defining the key parameters to track that helps us move our organizational efforts towards the objective as follows:

Here, you can observe how each of the key result examples helps your team reach the desired OKR goal-setting defined.

By the end of your OKR writing exercise, you should not feel that:

  • Even after completing key results, your objectives are unfulfilled
  • You can easily achieve your objectives, making your key results redundant

Key Results Examples

Writing Key Results using best practices is critical to ensure your OKRs are executed and realigned towards the right direction desired. At Superbeings, we enable accountability, collaboration alignment that helps you view a holistic picture of how your key results are shaping.

Thus, writing an apt Key Result to your objective involves:

  • Assigning the key result to relevant departments and talent within your organization
  • Having clarity on how to track the alignment of Key Result with the Objective
  • Adding a deadline
  • Integrating other organizational and employee productivity tools for smoother collaboration
  • Defining outcomes and metrics to be achieved to grade OKRs

At Superbeings, we help you include the above aspects into your OKR writing exercise to ease your OKR writing and tracking activities. Let us sharpen our understanding of writing Key Results by rewriting less effective KeyResults as an example.

Rewriting less effective Key Results using Good OKR practices


Let’s do the rewriting exercise to hone your skills for writing Key Results for any OK Rgoal-setting example defined.We will take the previously rewritten objective.

Objective:

Scale website traffic to 1 Million unique visitors by Q1 2022

Key Results:

  • Write more consistent blog posts
  • Conduct SEO audit and improve key metrics
  • Start social media marketing on relevant platforms

Why is this a bad OKR example?

  • OKR lacks measurable outcomes
  • End states are not well defined
  • Key results are not time-bound

Rewritten Key Results as per Good OKR practices:

  • Write 10 SEO optimized blog posts per month
  • Conduct SEO audit and improve site speed by 20%
  • Identify 2 key social platforms and achieve 10,000 following by Q3

Here, the rewritten Key Results example has well-defined targets, has time limits, and is more specifically aligned to the objective.

Best Practices for writing Key Results

When you’re finalizing your objectives and key results for your OKR exercise, use the below checklist to go through once to see if what you’ve written is the best you could do:

  1. 2-5 key results under a single objective is a good standard to follow
  2. Ensure your Key Results have a well-defined deadline that could be repeated at regular time intervals
  3. Each key result should have its distinctive marking or should seem like a separate stepping stone. While all key results, when read together or summed up, should be synced such that it takes us closer to the objective.
  4. Key results should be able to tell you when you should celebrate a win or at what point is one reaching the ‘end goal’ of your objective
  5. Don’t confuse KPIs and OKRs metrics that you might have had included in your key results

We have covered the ‘why’ and ‘how’ in this OKR guide of our OKR implementation exercise. Let’s close it by educating our selves about ‘what’ your execution team should be doing to achieve the OKR goals defined.

What are Projects?

We all have been there - loaded with to-delists that simply seem never-ending. As a business, you don’t want to get stuck in your bubble and become like the hamster in the wheel- always working hard, running, but not going anywhere. With Objectives and Key Results, your employees will finally be able to prioritize and complete their tasks.

Projects and Key Results could get confusing - but the distinction is very clear. Key Results are them easured outcomes you must complete while Projects are the ‘tasks’ you need to do to make that progress and reach the measured outcomes.

Success is not checking a box. Success is having an impact. If you complete all tasks and nothing ever gets better, that’s not success.
- Christina Wodtke, author of Radical Focus

Projects are simply the main headers to the subsequent bunch of small to-do lists that you always meant to narrow down. Post writing down your Projects is when you finally get to work in checking your task list, measuring the impact of your work with key results while looking up to see if you’re closer to the objective.

Framing Projects for a Key Result using good OKR practices

When you’re executing a plan of action, it’s important to have a flexible mindset because plans always change due to various uncertainties.

Give up the thought that you have control. You don't. The best you can do is adapt, anticipate, be flexible, sense the environment and respond.
- Frances Arnold, Nobel Laureate

It’s important to understand that the action plan and tasks you have defined under your Projects are mere hypotheses. You need to optimize your tasks as per the situation you are in while keeping in mind it takes you closer to the main objective you’re supposed to chase.

You also need to ensure your project is not too vague or broad. All your Projects need to tie up to specific Key Result and not have any random or independent existence of their own.

Let's take the previous Key Results example sand write Projects for the first three:

Objective:

Increase market share of Product A towards monopoly in City B

Key Results:

  • Make our product available in > 60% of grocery stores
  1. Create a database of 50 grocery stores and contact for the distribution
  2. Design a commission proposal with 3 iterative feedback
  • Measure NPS in city B and increase it to more than 50
  1. Plan a 2 step process for taking NPS feedback by random sampling method
  2. Create a chart of what our consumers ‘like’ and ‘don’t like’ about our product. Narrow down the reasoning to the top 3 across each
  3. Research on top 2 competitors in city B
  • Sponsor 30% of billboard ads
  1. Identify top 10 locations with maximum billboard visibility
  2. Design a campaign like Spotify for billboard advertisement

Examples of Projects

Once you are done writing measurable goals, Superbeings helps you jot down the actual tasks to be done to ensure your organization is able to drive performance towards them. Here’s how to define Project sunder an OKR:

Hence, writing an apt Project under OKRs would involve:

  • Defining the right set of immediate tasks to be done that would help the team achieve the key result numbers
  • Assigning the projects to relevant departments and talent within your organization
  • Adding a deadline
  • Integrating other organizational and employee productivity tools for smoother collaboration
  • Defining outcomes and metrics to be achieved to grade OKRs

Using Superbeings, you can easily track your Projects and assign them to the relevant employee for execution. This ensures your OKR ambitions are not just on paper,but actionable with accountability assigned. Let us understand designing better Projects by rewriting less effective ones as an example.

Rewriting less effective Projects using Good OKR practices

Let’s do the rewriting exercise and jotdown OKR Projects for the Key Results examples we rewrote before for the OKR goal-setting example.

Objective:

Scale website traffic to 1 M unique visitors by Q1 2022

Key Results:

  • Write 10 SEO optimized blog posts per month
  1. Identify top ranking SEO keywords
  2. Create a uniform format of blog posts
  • Conduct SEO audit and improve site speed by 20%
  1. Hire an SEO auditor and consultant
  2. Redesign site UI to improve the speed
  • Identify 2 key social platforms and achieve 10,000 following by Q3
  1. Do brand collaboration
  2. Find more social platforms to repurpose content

Why is this a bad OKR example?

  • Projects are too vague and loose
  • Projects are not time-bound
  • Some Projects are out of context or might take OKR in another direction

Rewritten Project as per Good OKR practices:

Key Results:

  • Write 10 SEO optimized blog posts per month
  1. Identify top ranking and long-tail SEO keywords - 50 nos. each
  2. Identify the top 3 themes and create a uniform format to write down a series of blog posts under them as per SEO keywords
  • Conduct SEO audit and improve site speed by 20%
  1. Hire an SEO auditor and consultant within USD 200 fees
  2. Lay down a 2-week plan of action to improve site speed with the consultant
  • Identify 2 key social platforms and achieve 10,000 following by Q3
  1. Identify 100 influencers across each platform for brand collaboration
  2. Plan a weekly posting strategy for both the platforms

Use the below 5 questions before you start working on your Projects. When you pass the questions, your next step is to break the Projects down further into your daily to-do lists!

  1. Do your Projects link with the key result under which it is being written?
  2. Extrapolate the impact of your Project - does the activity help you get closer to your objective?
  3. Does your Project have a measurable impact? If not, add numerical outcomes associated with your Project that is in line with your key result
  4. Is your Project defined as per the bandwidth and resources available within your organization? Ideally, try to maintain your plan of action under the team resources allocated, unless your management has agreed to provide you with the needful
  5. Are there any possibilities of the Project drifting the OKR in another direction?

Checklist- Choosing the right OKR software to write effective OKRs

While OKR software is great for automating and tracking your OKR exercise, at Superbeings, we understand it might be too soon for you to adopt one, especially if you’re still learning about OKRs. Hence, we have created a FREE Google Sheet Template added to this OKR Guide for you that you can use to write OKRs for your organization.

Here's a detailed article to help you with choosing the best OKR tool for your specific business needs.

When you’re ready, consider the following points while choosing the right OKR software to scale your OKR exercise for your organization:

  1. Easy to Use: OKRs need not be complicated, hence choose an OKR tool with a simple user interface that is clutter-free and helps you focus
  2. Enables Teamwork: OKR is a collaborative, and transparent exercise, hence all teams should have access to each other's progress so that they can adapt accordingly
  3. Multiple Integrations: Ease of sharing documents, images etc. with colleagues will save time and additional effort required by hopping from one platform to another.
  4. OKR support and coaching: OKR involves moments of learning and unlearning. Hence, educate yourself about OKR so that you, your organization, and your software are all aligned.
  5. OKR analytics: This would reduce your burden to track the progress of your OKR exercise so that you can continue to focus on execution.

Our OKR tool at Superbeings provides marks each item on the above checklist and enables a successful OKR implementation for you. Contact us at hello@superbeings.ai for a Demo!

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