Author:
Billy Casey

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Dear Andy,

Hello! I work for a vineyard in Oregon and we’re using OKRs to launch our new varietal wine. We thought we were good to go, but my boss instructed us to change up all of our KRs. She said what we have were all ‘inputs’ and they needed to be changed to ‘outcomes.’

Here are our OKRs:

O: Flawlessly launch the new varietal KR: Sell x number of units KR: Finish new website/social channels by x KR: Enter 10 wine compeitions KR: Identify and reach out to 6 Michelin starred restaurants

I always thought the Objective should be what you want to do, and your KRs should be how you’re going to do it? Do you agree with my boss and if so can you elaborate why goals should be measured with outcomes rather than inputs? If we only include outcomes in our OKR, it feels like we’re just crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. Where does the work come in?

Sincerely, Amelia

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Hi, Amelia—thanks for writing in!

Let me first start off by saying that ‘input vs. outcome’ is one of the most common questions we receive over at What Matters, so you are far from alone in your confusion. Our position has actually evolved over the years, and yes, we mostly agree with your boss. Let me explain why.

One of the most important differences between OKRs and more traditional means of goal setting is that OKRs ask you to define success from finish to start, rather than the other way around. You are correct in thinking that the Objective is what you want to do. Your KRs are how you measure whether or not what you want to do is successful.

If you’re having trouble turning KRs into outputs, try the ‘and then what?’ test. Meaning you do the work and then what do you hope will happen? You sell x number of units and then you have satisfied customers who will hopefully buy your bottle again. You create a first rate website and then hopefully you’ll see an increase in online sales. Instead of thinking of your KRs as ‘the work’ (inputs), look at them as indicating factors that will tell you whether or not ‘the work’ is, well, working (outcomes). Remember they’re called Key Results for a reason.

Maybe your OKRs could look something like this:

o
O: Flawlessly launch our new varietal
kr1
KR: 95% satisfaction rating on customer survey
kr2
KR: 20% increase in online sales from new website
kr3
KR: Make a top wines of the year list
kr4
KR: Get featured in 3 Michelin starred restaurants by x date

Do you see the difference? Your first set of OKRs reads more like a to-do list, the second gives concrete and measurable milestones that will tell you whether or not your ‘to-do’s are doing anything.

Though KRs are not listed as inputs, it is still important you define the actual work that needs to be done. After all, outcomes without a plan of action are more or less a wish list. For example, a professional sports team doesn’t measure their success in the amount of times they practice, they measure it in wins/points/trophies. That doesn’t mean that the actual work it takes to get those wins/points/trophies should be neglected, they just wouldn’t be included as KRs. If you feel nervous about excluding the actual work from your OKRs, you can absolutely include the plan of action in the same document.

Alright, Amelia that’s all I have for you—hope that’s cleared a thing or two up. Please feel free to reach out again if you need further clarification. Happy OKRing and cheers!

Sincerely, Billy From The What Matters Team

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