How many OKRs should you have?

How many OKRs should you have?

by Ryan Panchadsaram


Published on 12.26.2018

A common question any organization starting out with OKRs has is, 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—although simplicity is always key.

Capture the ambitions of your organization with a maximum of 5-7 objectives with 4-5 key results, fitting on one or two pages. Aim to make your objectives significant and action-oriented. Support those objectives with key results that lay out how you measurably achieve those objectives.

Depending on the size or your organization, you may have multiple levels of OKRs that map to each department, team, and individual.

When your organization is small—less 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.

For larger organizations, the top-level OKRs will cascade downwards to 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 5-7 objectives paired with 4-5 key results that capture the work needed to be done.

More than half of the objectives should come from within the organization, not dictated from the top. Measure What Matters describes 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.

At the end of the day, keep things simple. Some rules to follow:

  • 5-7 objectives, 4-5 key results. Less is more. We’ve seen organizations that have only 2 top-level objectives guiding their company.
  • One page ideal, two pages max. Strive to be concise and specific. We’ve seen an entire public company’s top-level OKRs fit on a single PowerPoint slide.
  • Everyone should be able to see them. Transparency is key. For collective commitment from you entire organization, make the drafting process as open as possible by using a tool like Google Docs or BetterWorks.

OKRs are a power goal setting tool used by teams to reach for their most audacious goals. Learn more about OKRs by reading Measure What Matters or exploring more stories and resources right here on WhatMatters.com.


MORE

FAQ

Cascading OKRs will help align the various teams and individuals across your company toward the same overall goals. Here are some examples.

FAQ

What free tools and software are available for tracking OKRs? If you're looking for a budget-friendly way to commit to transparency, here are some ideas.

FAQ

What are some examples of OKRs and how do I write them? Get ideas for bettering your OKRs or compare your current ones to gain insight.

FAQ

Company-wide OKRs help align teams and provide clarity throughout entire organizations. Spark inspiration for your company with these examples.

FAQ

OKRs are about way more than just having goals. Objectives and key results help you define and articulate how you're going to achieve them. Learn more here.

FAQ

"OKR" stands for "objective and key result." OKRs are a goal-setting tool that helps figure out what you want your team to accomplish and how to do it.

Hear from John

Get updates and exclusive access to content.

Hear from John

Get updates and exclusive access to content.