Dear Andy,

I just got a new job and my boss has instructed me to write OKRs for the entire department. To be honest I’m pretty intimidated as I’ve A) just joined the company and B) never done OKRs before. Who normally writes OKRs? It seems to me like something the higher ups would do or at least someone who’s had more experience? I’m worried it’ll look bad if I try to push off one of my first tasks, but I really don’t feel like I’m the right guy for the job. Can you help?

Sincerely,
Isaac

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Hi Isaac — thanks for writing in!

My, that does seem like a big task for someone who’s just joined the company. OKRs are generally first cascaded down from the higher-ups, so your trepidation about writing them this early into your tenure is definitely understandable. OKRs are used to pin-point a team’s top priorities for the next 90 days, so a strong familiarity with the team’s practices and history is crucial. Whether you’re a company veteran or a veritable newbie, don’t be afraid to ask for help and guidance. Afterall, OKRs are owned by teams, so it’s only right the entire department has a say in them, too!

That being said, let’s say you’re up for the challenge of creating that ever-elusive “first draft” of your team’s OKRs. Is it possible because you are new you have valuable perspective to add? OKRs are all about enacting significant and pressing change— a fresh set of eyes to determine where to go next could be a real gift! From your professional perspective, are there any changes or advancements you think your new department needs to make? When you were hired, did you, perhaps, promise to save the department x amount of money or sign x amount of new clients? What would accomplishing that set your team up to do? Solve a customer problem? Expand into a new market? These could all work as the basis for OKRs.

I’d also recommend asking your team about their previous OKRs. What have they been striving towards? Where are they directing their best energy and attention? Is that still the most important thing? What has and hasn’t worked for them in the past? See if you can summarize each of the most important priorities in one short sentence. Voila! You have a stub of an OKR.

And hey—I get it. Learning how to actually write OKRs in the first place can feel like a daunting challenge on top of starting a new job. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. Our team has created a terrific class called OKRs 101 that will teach you the building blocks of OKRs and guide you in writing your first set. We also have pages and pages of OKR examples to help inspire and tons of FAQs if and when questions arise. Best of all? It’s all free.

My final recommendation? Relax, take a deep breath, and remember you don’t need to get this 100% right the first time. Writing great OKRs takes practice and patience—you can do this!

Thanks for writing in, Isaac, and best of luck!

Sincerely,
Billy from the What Matters Team

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