If you’re part of a business, chances are, you want it to grow. And this will most likely involve setting goals.
The trick to setting good goals is to be specific. Saying things like ‘we want to grow’ isn’t much help to anyone. But saying ‘we want to grow by 5% every quarter’ is a lot clearer. Why? It’s specific, and most importantly, measurable.
Making your goals measurable means you’ll have a clear way of knowing whether you hit them or not — and by how much. There are many frameworks to help you measure your goals — SMART goals and KPIs are among the most popular. But today, we’re going to take a closer look at another one: OKRs.
In this article, we’ll explain OKRs, how they work, and which ones you should be using in your business. Read on for OKR examples and tips on how to develop a strategy.
What are OKRs?
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are a method of setting quantifiable goals and aligning everyone in an organization around a shared mission.
John Doerr first developed this technique for the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, and Byers in the 1970s. He used this method to help build them into one of the leading VC firms in Silicon Valley and then scaled it throughout the organization in Google. Now, OKRs are in wide use among companies of all sizes.
The objective part of each OKR is a broad goal with no timeframe, such as ‘Increase traffic by 10%’ or ‘Launch product X successfully.’ The key result part is what’s necessary to achieve that objective — how you’ll know when you’ve succeeded.
The goals you set should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). For example, ‘Launch product X successfully’ could include key results such as ‘Have 300 people registered for the beta’ or ‘Generate $10K in revenue from product X.’
Who can use OKRs?
Anyone can use OKRs because there’s no ‘right’ way to structure them. They allow for alignment between departments, making them effective across various roles, including marketing, business development, operations, and engineering teams. The only type of person who may struggle with OKRs is someone who prefers a set structure they can follow by the letter, rather than a framework for creating something original.
OKRs are beneficial for everyone in every business, but they’re especially important for:
- New managers seeking direction
- Executives looking to get their teams aligned with their priorities
- Employees who want greater autonomy over what they do at work.
In short, anyone who feels like they could use more focus or clarity in their professional lives will benefit from these tools. OKRs encourage organizational alignment around long-term goals while allowing individuals to take ownership of projects big and small. This approach to setting and tracking goals works well for everyone, from the executive suite to entry-level employees.
Here are some ways OKRs can benefit different types of users:
1. The individual
OKRs are particularly advantageous for individuals and small teams, as they encourage focus and alignment between the various projects you might be working on at any point in time.
At the end of every quarter, write down your top three personal OKRs for the next quarter and distribute them to your manager, peers, and subordinates, so they know what you’re aiming for.
2. The manager
Managers need full visibility and regular progress reviews — so OKRs make sense. An excellent way to start is by creating an OKR template to outline all of your projects in one place. From there, ask yourself how each project contributes to these larger initiatives, adjusting as necessary.
3. The executive
Executives should use OKRs to give guidance and prioritize initiatives. A good OKR strategy for executives who are just getting started is to list three big ideas that guide their company’s near-term objectives. The next step is to align their team projects around those ideas after building some momentum.
How do I get started with OKRs?
Depending on the size of your organization, you may have one set of OKRs for all teams or separate sets for different teams, groups, or departments. The idea behind having multiple OKRs is that each group has accountability for its unique goals.
Typically, the contents of an individual team member’s OKR list consist of objectives relevant to their particular roles within the company. For example, if your department is responsible for SEO, your SEO-related objectives might include things like ‘increase page views by XYZ%’ or ‘improve Google+ community engagement by Z%.’
Implementing OKRs is a relatively straightforward process. First, you’ll need to define what you’re trying to accomplish at any given time. Once you’ve got that down, you’ll need to find out what available resources you have for achieving that goal. Then, determine the criteria by which you’ll measure your progress so that you can do so on a regular basis — weekly or monthly, depending on how often you set goals.
Here are some examples to help you map your own goals.
CRO OKR examples
OBJECTIVE: sell $200k in bookings
- Win 500 deals worth $10 to 15k each
- Conduct 10 demos, with $2k bookings each
- Qualify 100 leads, with $500 bookings
OBJECTIVE: grow our business
- Grow revenue to $10m
- Increase customer satisfaction to 80%
OBJECTIVE: improve customer satisfaction rating
- Collect feedback from 100 customers per month
- Boost customer retention to 80%
OBJECTIVE: improve company culture
- Achieve an average employee satisfaction score of 8 or higher
- Reduce staff turnover by 20%
- Implement a monthly staff feedback survey
Companywide OKR examples
OBJECTIVE: boost market share
- Grow overall user base by 50%
- Design team objective: reduce website bounce rate by 10%
- Product team objective: reduce bug reports by 40%
- Sales team objective: increase average deal size by 20%
OBJECTIVE: improve brand visibility
- Generate X new social media followers per month
- Increase email signups by 25% every quarter
OBJECTIVE: reduce operating costs
- Design team objective: reduce research cost by 20%
- Marketing team objective: reduce the cost of marketing spend by 25%
- Payments team objective: reduce late fees by 60%
Marketing team OKR examples
OBJECTIVE: improve brand awareness
- Generate 10 new demo requests per month
- Increase email signups by 10% every quarter
- Publish four new blog posts a month
OBJECTIVE: reduce marketing spend
- Lower the cost of marketing spend by 25%
- Reduce time per research project by 20%
- Reduce content writing budget by 10%
Design OKR examples
OBJECTIVE: differentiate our design company as a leader in the market
- Win one design competition
- Attract one big-name client before the end of the year
- Increase new business inquiries via the website by 20%
OBJECTIVE: improve website conversions
- A/B test homepage
- Increase number of lead inquiries from website by 10% every month
- Create a new landing page for the September marketing campaign
- Improve conversions by 10%
- Reduce website bounce rate by 30%
OBJECTIVE: attract new talent to the design team
- Host a student portfolio critique, and sell 50 tickets
- Hire two design team interns
- Increase job applications by 10% this quarter
OKR best practice
The good news is that there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to go about creating OKRs. The key is to try out different ways of achieving the objective until you land on an approach that works best for everyone involved. That said, here are a few basic guidelines you can follow when tinkering with your process.
How and when to use OKRs
- Create your OKRs from the top down. Start with your overarching organizational goal(s) — then break them down into department, team, and individual objectives.
- Don’t build OKRs without taking other projects and goals into account. Consider the entire business when defining your goals.
- Use OKRs when your business wants to grow fast. They help provide momentum and direction.
- When creating your OKRs, decide if you want them to be aspirational or realistic. If you’re an early-stage company just trying to keep up with customer demand, you probably don’t have the luxury of being too ambitious. However, if you have some breathing room in your development cycle and know there are certain things that need to get done, feel free to use larger goals.
- Don’t place too much emphasis on numbers or statistics; instead, trust personal progress reports and qualitative feedback. Only use metrics as an aggregate score after completing multiple checkpoints — not a condition for opening up a dialogue.
- Encourage employees to do their own research. Give them a week or two to experiment with different ideas, and then gather everyone together for a brainstorming session.
Managing your OKR strategy
- Try out OKRs on an experimental basis before adding them into company policy. You can use OKR examples from other companies and run trials within your organization’s own structure.
- Remember that you don’t need to stick to the model exactly as is, so long as everyone agrees on what you’re trying to achieve and why. The trick is finding the right balance between too little guidance and too much micromanagement, which may vary depending on how hands-on your leadership style tends to be.
- Take the time for regular check-ins. This gives everyone a chance to air grievances, convey concerns, and discuss potential roadblocks together. It also provides an opportunity for managers to coach their teams on how best to achieve their goals.
- Use project management software to help you manage your OKRs. Why? Because OKRs are very time-sensitive. The whole process is meant to be done quarterly, and each quarter should start with a fresh set of goals. Project management software can help make sure nothing slips through the cracks because all your tasks, metrics, and goals are in one place.
Setting objectives is vital for growth: if you don’t, you’ll drift along and never accomplish what you set out to do. But if your objectives are too lofty and difficult, your team will feel undue pressure. By setting achievable objectives, managers can help support their team’s success while ensuring they remain engaged with their work.
The worst thing you can do when setting OKRs or KPIs is to create a list of goals, then hide it away on the server, never to be seen again. Our tip? Make goal-setting a collaborative effort. And the best way to do that is to track goals on your project management software.
With Backlog, our own project management tool, you can set OKRs and share them with the wider team. As people complete jobs, the software automatically tracks progress and sends notifications when team members reach key milestones and objectives. This means you can stay on top of your team’s OKRs and remain involved — but not too involved — as things go along. And when the quarter or year is over, you’ll be able to look back on your goals and see just how much you’ve accomplished.