Dear Andy

I have a question about how to grade committed OKRs. My understanding is that a committed OKR must deliver a 1.0. Given that, what would the “fair” grade be if you score 0.8 on a committed OKR? Based on your description of the “more advanced” way to score each key result, i.e. on a scale where “0” equates to failure and “1.0” means the objective was completely achieved, a score of 0.8 is a passing grade (green). However, it doesn’t meet the requirements of a committed OKR delivering 1.0, and would get a failing grade on Andy Grove’s more simplistic yes/no grading.

In the end, I’m trying to find a balance in grading where you are fair, don’t discourage people who have made progress (scoring 0.8 could be a sign of good progress on a committed OKR), but also don’t give people a false sense of accomplishment (scoring 0.8 still means the goal wasn’t met completely, and that was the commitment). So, how should you grade committed OKRs? Is 0.8 a passing score for a committed OKR? Does it deserve a “green” color? How can we be fair with grading, acknowledge progress, but also acknowledge when people fall short of achieving committed OKRs in full?

Thanks in advance for your time and help!

Sincerely,
Vikram

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Hi Vikram!
Thanks for writing in and for this extremely thoughtful question.

First of all, there are two parts to ending your OKR cycle: grading and reflecting. There are also two kinds of OKRs: Committed and Aspirational. As you surmised, the score depends on what type of OKR it is. No matter what kind of OKR it is, the grading process should be anything but subjective. Because KRs are numerically measurable, you should be able to say with certainty at the end of each cycle whether it was fully completed or not.

A Committed OKR is…well, a Committed OKR. 0.8 means you got close! But, no, the overall goal would be graded as a failure. Committed OKRs are pretty cut and dry, you see—you either did it or you didn’t. Let me give you an example:

Say you were working on a team committed to reducing global warming, and your Objective was to lower the global temperature by 1.5 ℃. In order to do that, you’d need to reduce the 59 gigatons of carbon released into the atmosphere by, say, 50% by 2030—no ifs ands or buts about it. If you fall short of that 30%, the temperature will not drop and the Committed OKR would be graded as a technical failure.

On the other hand, if the OKR was truly Aspirational from the start, chances are 80% is extremely good. 70% might be too. That bar is set by each organization.
There will, of course and unfortunately, be times when you fail to meet a Committed OKR. When that happens, it’s up to you to set the right tone. Yes, you technically failed to deliver, but there’s no need to put anyone in the time out corner.

Every missed Objective is an opportunity for growth and reflection. Acknowledge the failure, learn from it, and use it as data to to work more effectively in the future. It is entirely possible to recognize the hard work your team put into achieving 80% of the goal, and also have an open and honest discussion of what got in the way of 100% success.

Well, Vikram, I hope this has been helpful for you. It’s clear you’ve put a lot of thought into this and truly care about the folks you work with. Thanks for writing in and best of luck to you and your team!

Sincerely,
Billy from the What Matters team

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