While the number of OKRs will vary based on the size of a company, we believe 2 to 3 OKRs, each with 3 to 5 corresponding KRs, is ideal. Here, we detail why we believe less is more, how and when to exceed this recommendation, and some basic OKR rules to follow.

A common question that any organization starting with OKRs: How many OKRs should you have?

While the answer is the same across the board, there may be some nuances depending on an organization’s size. Simplicity is always key. To capture the ambitions of your organization, you should have a maximum of three Objectives, each with 3-5 Key Results. These should all fit on one or two pages.

On these pages should be concise, one-sentence Objectives. Objectives are significant, action-oriented, and, hopefully, inspiring. They represent the “North Star,” which guides every team member in the same direction. Each Objective should be supported with 3-5 Key Results that lay out how you measurably achieve them.

A Key Result will explain how you follow the North Star. It is specific, time-bound, and measurable. Just like an Objective, a Key Result should also fit on one line.

Put them together, and you have an OKR.

OKRs for all sizes

As stated above, there may be some nuances depending on an organization’s size when using OKRs.

For larger organizations, you may have multiple levels of OKRs that map to each department, team, and individual. Most of the OKRs will be top-level that will cascade downwards. These will then be taken on by department heads, managers, and individuals who will then make those Key Results one of their Objectives. In turn, at each layer, there will be an additional 2-3 Objectives paired with 3-5 Key Results each that capture the work needed to be done.

When your organization is small — fewer than 10 people — you may only have a set of organizational OKRs for everyone to share. Each Key Result should have an owner responsible for its delivery.

More than half of the Objectives should come from within the organization, not dictated from the top. John Doerr writes in Measure What Matters how to balance this:

High-functioning teams thrive on a creative tension between top-down and bottom-up goal setting, a mix of aligned and unaligned OKRs. In times of operational urgency, when simple doing takes precedence, organizations may choose to be more directive. But when the numbers are strong and a company has grown too cautious and buttoned-up, a lighter touch may be just right. When leaders are attuned to the fluctuating needs of both the business and their employees, the mix of top-down and bottom-up goals generally settles at around half-and-half.

OKRs also work for personal goals, too. You can use them for things such as training for a 10k, or even getting out of work and home to dinner on time. For these goals, the most important thing to do when setting the OKR is to practice transparency. Transparency creates unambiguous signals for everyone, even if they’re not involved.

Rules to follow

Where can I get more information?

OKRs are a powerful goal-setting tool used by teams to reach for their most audacious goals. There’s a reason why so many great companies like Google use them. Learn more about OKRs by reading Measure What Matters or exploring our FAQs, Stories, and Resources. Or sign up for our Audacious newsletter.

Or, if you are looking for an OKR coach, check this out.

If you’re interested in starting our OKRs 101 course, click here.