Improving Your Key Results

We’re now going to continue refining our Key Results. As you saw with Objectives, language really impacts the interpretation — and even the quality — of OKRs.

The point of the next two lessons is about taking Key Results from good to better — to help yours be as good as they can be right away!

OKRs are a Unit

We can’t separate our Objectives from our Key Results, they complete each other. If you see that accomplishing the Key Results won’t quite add up to achieving the Objective, now is the time to make a correction.

TO DO: Look at each one of your OKRs and ask, “If I accomplish all of my Key Results, do I achieve my Objective?”

A Definition of Success

This is also a great moment to look at how our OKRs define success for our teams. Will this OKR push the team to go a little bit further or push very far ahead? How close is “good enough?” It’s important to be precise with the team about where the “finish line” is. At What Matters, we define three kinds:

Committed OKRs
Committed OKRs are the goals we all agree need to be achieved. Without them, we don’t have success. We’ll prioritize everything to make sure this OKR is successful by the end of our 90 days.

Hit company booking target for Q1.
Secure $10M in bookings by end of Q1.
Ensure each sales manager contributes $4M or more in bookings.
Ensure at least 60% of sales team achieves quota.
Deliver 40% of our overall. bookings via upsell and cross-sell.
Attend 3 industry events by end of Q1.

Aspirational OKRs
Aspirational OKRs push us to be audacious. They required teams to stretch well past the usual to make them happen. For this reason, they’re harder to accomplish, but they are useful because they push teams to think and act differently and get us outside our comfort zones.

The idea is that if we organize around reaching 100% of an aspirational OKR, we may only make it to 70%. But 70% of a big, audacious goal gets you much farther than just 10% of a mediocre goal!

Increase sales by 50 percent over last quarter.
Generate $10 million in sales.
At least 10 percent of sales must come from returning clients.
Reach 95% customer satisfaction.
Provide monthly training for sales team.

Learning OKRs
Learning OKRs are explorations or experiments to prove a hypothesis.

The expectation with a learning OKR is to report findings or prove or disprove that hypothesis at the end of the 90 days. They are best for early stage ideas where the inputs and outputs may not yet be clear, but the idea is still considered a top priority to pursue. The key to writing a successful learning OKR is to identify what information will give you intelligence about how to move forward, and even to craft your next set of OKRs.

Make Stories the best product possible.
Talk to X users.
Understand their top pain-points.
Produce a document analyzing users' pain points.

TO DO: Look at each of your OKRs. Is it committed, aspirational or learning? How does that categorization affect your definition of success for that OKR?

Practice writing Your OKRs in different ways

We spoke about Inputs, Outputs, & Outcomes in the last lesson. Here’s an exercise that helps build great OKR muscle: writing the same Key Result as Inputs, Outputs or Outcome.

Here’s the example from the video above:

  • You’re a political organizer and your Objective is to get your candidate elected.
  • You phrase your first Key Result as an Input: Knock on 10,000 doors.
  • You then phrase it as an Output: Get 5,000 people to commit to voting for your candidate.
  • You then phrase it as an Outcome: Get 20,000 votes for your candidate.

When we look at our Key Results from every angle, it helps us learn more about how we would tackle the job. In this case, if we phrased our Key Result as an Outcome, we may not know if we were successful until too late, so it’s not the right Key Result for us.

TO DO: Take one of your OKRs and practice stating each Key Results as an Input, an Output and an Outcome. Then review and decide: which version describes the best indicator of progress and achievement?

Additional Resources & Further Reading