The Science of Key Results
Getting to Our KRs
You’ve crafted our Objectives and taken a look at making them better. Looking at that list of Objectives, you might be thinking, “This is all great, but how do I make all this happen?”
That’s the perfect question to ask. Key Results are all about the “how.”
We’ll spend the next several lessons deepening our understanding of Key Results and refining our own.
What are Key Results?
Key Results are the measures and milestones that indicate how you know you will accomplish our Objective.
Each Objective has its own set of Key Results with at least 3, but no more than 5, per Objective. You can’t have an Objective without Key Results and vice versa. That’s what makes this goal setting system so unique. The “what matters” is intrinsically tied to the measurements.
Remember, good Key Results have several basic characteristics:
- They are specific and time-bound.
- They are aggressive, yet realistic.
- They are measurable and verifiable.
How Do I Start?
Start by looking at each individual Objective and asking yourself, “What are the three to five biggest things that would have to change in the next 90 days in order to make this Objective a reality?”
Simple, right? Perhaps! Let’s consider a few basic things about Key Results to keep in mind as you’re brainstorming.
Key Results Work as a Set
Key Results are not independent little goals to meet. They’re stepping stones on the way to achieving the Objective.
So if you could achieve your Objective without completing your Key Results, your Key Results probably aren’t the right milestones.
The same is true if you feel like you could complete all your Key Results and still not achieve your Objective. Key Results identify essential indicators to turn an Objective into reality.
Take a look at this OKR from Allbirds and how all of these Key Results are essential to making the Objective a reality:
Progress and Achievement
Good sets of Key Results are more than simple metrics. Think of each Key Result as its own marker. Like a set of downs in a football game, if we keep successfully progressing down the field, eventually we’ll reach our objective - scoring a touchdown.
Key Results should measure the progress you’re making week over week on the way to your Objective. What markers do you need to set to make sure you’re moving in the right direction?
In this OKR for building up to running a 10K, it’s easy to see how each Key Result specifically lays out the measurements that show the right kind of progress to get to the Objective:
The best sets of Key Results also capture achievement. They’re specific about the types and amount of progress we’re making. Define for yourself what success is for each of your Key Results. The sum of those successes should also mean you successfully achieve your Objective.
The right Key Results require some research
Since Key Results are measurements, we’ll be working with specific goals and numbers. Oftentimes, this requires a bit of “intelligence” about your organization. There may be research involved in order to be able to define the best set of Key Results possible.
In order to set benchmarks, you’ll need to know what you’re benchmarking against. This could be progress over your past output or even exceeding benchmarks set by your competitors.
Don’t be afraid to take the time needed to dig in and find the Key Results that will truly matter on the path to your Objective.
Take a look at the following OKR from Superhuman. It’s clear that completing these Key Results took a bit of business intelligence and the cooperation of multiple teams.
TO DO: Brainstorm 3-5 Key Results for each of your Objectives. Start by asking yourself, “What are the three to five biggest things that would have to change in the next 90 days in order to make this Objective a reality?”
TO DO: Take a first critical look at your Key Results. Are they:
- specific and time-bound?
- aggressive, yet realistic?
- measurable and verifiable?
Additional Resources & Further Reading
Inputs, Outputs & Outcomes