Dear Andy,

My team is writing OKRs for the first time and I think we’ve got a good set in place. However, I remember John Doerr really emphasizing in ‘Measure What Matters’ that the Objectives should be ‘engaging.’ I understand what this means hypothetically, but could you go into a little more detail on what makes an engaging Objective? Are there any telltale signs to indicate when you’ve got it right? Any tips or tricks would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,
Raveed

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Hi Raveed! Thanks for writing in!

You are 100% correct —good objectives absolutely should be engaging. You can, of course, phrase your Objective however you please, but engaging ones yield the best results. Good on you for taking this extra step to make sure you’re going full throttle.

When it comes to writing an engaging Objective, less is more. As What Matters’ fearless leader Ryan Panchadsaram likes to ask, ‘Can you say that in fewer words?’ How succinct can you get? The Objective should be short and sweet, and pack a punch like a good haiku.’ Think of Objective writing as a distillation process—to start, describe in detail where you want to be in the next 90 days. Then whittle it down until you’ve got something sleek, succinct, and dare I say it - sexy. When you’ve got it right the team knows what to do next because what’s most important is extremely clear.

OKRs reflect shared priorities, so getting team input is crucial. Make writing OKRs collaborative, allowing time for conversation and debate. Don’t worry if the first go isn’t perfect—like a good work of art, writing a strong Objective often requires multiple drafts. Give the entire team access to a shared document so people can edit and comment. Make sure they know it’s a safe space where they can hash out their thoughts. You’ll be amazed at how much clearer your Objective becomes when someone simply asks ‘What did you mean by that?’ or ‘Is there a better word for this?’ or ‘Can we stretch this a little further?’

The words you use reflect the culture of your company. Look at your Objectives - will they inspire your team? And don’t be afraid to have fun with it! If an OKR was a mullet, the KRs would be the business and the Objective would be the party. For the right culture, here are a few examples of Objectives that can be a good rallying cry:

O: Dominate the market
O: Kick (insert competitor’s name here) butt
O: Become a household name
O: Fix the dang website!

The appropriate wording will obviously vary from team to team (for example, New Zealand based footwear company AllBirds calls their OKRs ‘KIWIs’), but you’ll know from your team’s response when you get it just right.

Still have questions? Check out this video from the What Matters on how to write an engaging Objective.

Thanks so much for writing in, Raveed, and please keep us posted—we’d love what you and your team settled on!

Sincerely,
Billy from the What Matters Team

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