Why use OKRs? I have goals

Why use OKRs? I have goals

by Ryan Panchadsaram & Sam Prince


Published on 06.27.2019

Excellent. You have goals. OKRs (objectives and key results) can help you achieve those goals—no matter what kind they are.

Whether you are looking to improve your individual goals, your company goals, or are suggesting a new management tool to other leadership, OKRs will work. That's because as John Doerr, the evangelizer of OKRs, said in "Measure What Matters", "Ideas are easy. Execution is everything."

The OKR process helps turn good ideas into great execution. They tighten employee engagement and drive high performing teams. Those who have adopted OKRs include companies like Allbirds, Google, Netflix, and more.

OKRs help you articulate your goals

The first step of using OKRs is to define your Objective. Really audacious goals make fantastic objectives.

An Objective is simply what is to be accomplished. It should be a crisp, one-line statement that is meaningful, action-oriented, and, ideally, inspirational.

Once you’ve defined your objective, you have to articulate how you are going to achieve it. For this particular goal, think of 3-5 key results that best chart your path to accomplishing it. Key results should be specific and time-bound. They should be measurable and able to be assigned a grade at the end of the OKR cycle. For example, a goal might simply be: “Improve sign-ups." But an OKR would be: “Improve weekly sign-ups by 15% by December 1.”

The rest of this OKR would be written like:

  • O: Become the #1 free mobile banking app for developing countries.
  • KR1: Improve weekly sign-ups by 15% by July.
  • KR2: Launch a marketing campaign in every language by August.
  • K3: Establish at least one ATM-access point across all countries by September.

Now that you have a bold objective and trackable key results, you can get to work. Just be sure that others know about it. OKRs must be transparent.

OKRs help you track and measure progress

Track your progress on a regular basis. Ideally weekly. Record how you are doing towards your key results. There are various tools to help expedite this but a Google Sheet or something similar will work for smaller companies. You can check out our official ones here.

Some team members also like to hold a weekly or monthly all-office WINS meeting where people can update everyone on their OKRs or give shout outs. Companies like Apartment Therapy and Zume Pizza do this and it not only helps with the completion of OKRs, but also company culture, too.

OKRs help you reassess and stretch

One important thing to remember, however, is that OKRs are not written in stone. At any point within an OKR cycle, typically a quarter, feel free to revise, add, or delete OKRs as appropriate. It’s counterproductive to hold stubbornly to objectives that are no longer relevant or attainable.

But no matter what, at the end of each OKR cycle, you should look at your key results and determine if you accomplished them or not.

If you have not, then this is an opportunity to ask yourself if the key results you chose need to be adjusted. Were the challenging objectives too ambitious? With what you know now, how can you make your key results audacious, yet realistic?

If you have, then you can celebrate, you have reached your objective. This an opportunity to stretch goals and commit to an even bolder objective with even more aggressive key results. It may even be time to implement an aspirational OKR, also known as a "moonshot." It's a kind of OKR that helps move teams from smaller steps to moonwalks.

If you're interested in learning more about those, click here.

Where can I get more information?

OKRs are a power goal-setting tool used by teams to reach for their most audacious goals. If you want to learn more about OKRs, read "Measure What Matters" or explore more Stories, Resources, and FAQS right here.

Or, if you happen to be on the hunt for an OKR coach to help with implementing OKRs, check this out.

Ryan Panchadsaram (@rypan) is the co-founder of WhatMatters.com and is the technical advisor to John Doerr at Kleiner Perkins.

Sam Prince (@samprincetweets) is a journalist, storyteller, and the content strategist of WhatMatters.com. 


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Get exclusive guidance from John, Ryan, and the What Matters team by signing up for our weekly newsletter, Audacious. You’ll learn week-by-week how to sharpen your OKRs and stay on track to reach your goals.

Get exclusive guidance from John, Ryan, and the What Matters team by signing up for our weekly newsletter, Audacious. You’ll learn week-by-week how to sharpen your OKRs and stay on track to reach your goals.