OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. They are a tool used by individuals, teams, and companies for setting goals to maximize alignment and transparency when pursuing ambitious goals. Adobe, Google, and Netflix are all companies known for their use of OKRs — and their audacious goals, alignment, and transparency. These are the inputs to those performance qualities.

The system was created by Andy Grove of Intel and was taught to John Doerr. Doerr became known as the “Johnny Appleseed” of OKRs due to his efforts to spread their magic. His book, Measure What Matters, laid out the management frameworks that are OKRs.

An Objective is what you want your team to achieve. It acts as a “North Star,” a guiding light that pulls everyone in the same direction. A Key Result explains how you will follow this star. An Objective is significant, concrete, action-oriented, and inspirational. A Key Result is specific and time-bound, aggressive yet realistic, and measurable and verifiable.

OKRs are typically calendar-based. An OKR cycle is often quarterly, but it can also be monthly.

Because of this inherent emphasis on time and measure, an OKR’s progress can be tracked throughout the OKR cycle. It creates a common framework when setting an Objective to talk about how to achieve big goals, track progress, and get measurable results. OKRs are more than wishes. They are rooted in reality. OKRs are calendar-based because tracking them regularly is like exercising — you have to do it repeatedly and regularly to make measurable progress in business goals throughout the company for high output management.

What are some OKR examples?

The longest bridge in the world is currently the Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge in China, which spans 102.4 miles (165 kilometers). So to accomplish our Objective, the bridge we are constructing needs to be longer. To do that, our Key Results would be this:

Build the world’s longest bridge.
Bridge has more than 103 miles of infrastructure.
Architecture plans to be completed by January 2020.
Federal environmental approval to be completed by July 2020.
Construction to begin by October 2020.

While there are four Key Results here, you should have no more than five. There can be more than one Objective, but fewer than three is ideal. Fewer is better. Every Objective should fit on one line.

Another great example comes from Measure What Matters, where John Doerr arrives at a young Google in 1999 to introduce his Objective of building a planning model for the new company. Written out, it looks like this:

Build a planning model for their company, as measured by three key results:
I would finish my presentation on time.
We’d create a sample set of quarterly Google OKRs.
I’d gain management agreement for a three-month OKR trial.

OKRs are that simple. Yet, because of their simplicity — thinking through HOW goals will be accomplished and measured — they can seem magical.

Where can I get more information?

If you’re just getting started, check out these free OKR tools.

For more information, exploring our FAQs, Resources, and Stories.

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