OKRs — The Ultimate Framework You Need to Boost Your Success
We will look at a methodology used by the largest cap companies that helps us make data-driven decisions and finally how to implement it with Notion or other software.
Welcome to FosteringThoughts.
Have you ever wondered if there is a method to measure and guide the success of your decisions? I’m not just talking about corporate business but also about choices in private life.
If the answer is yes, you are in the right place! I’m about to show you a framework that has made history for its ease of use and the huge impact on the strategies we undertake. I’m about to tell you about OKRs.
Making ambitions come true
You may be wondering what OKR means. Well, the word is an acronym which stands for Objectives and Key Results. In short, it’s a goal-setting methodology that has been used by some of the most successful companies in the world.
The appearance of this method dates back to the seventies when the former CEO of Intel, Andrew Grove, introduced this novelty in the company. It was later taken up by several companies including Google.
Whether you’re a startup founder, an employee or a freelancer looking to take your career to the next level, OKRs can be for you. If I have stimulated your curiosity and you are interested in learning more, all you have to do is continue reading.
In this article, I’ll show you how this framework works and how it can be used to improve your professional and personal success. Finally, we will see different techniques to implement it in a concrete way.
The importance of measuring
There is a quote I really like that some people probably mistakenly attribute to Lord Kelvin which goes:
“If you can not measure it, you can not improve it”.
The idea behind this sentence is that if we don’t measure a phenomenon during its evolution we cannot control it and therefore improve it. To improve something it is necessary to know what its initial situation is in order to know which direction to take.
So we understand, it’s important to measure to improve. It seems trivial but it is not. Indeed, to perfect something it is necessary to apply changes to the current phenomenon and to know exactly what to change it is essential to know that phenomenon. In a certain sense, we can say that to know a phenomenon it is necessary to measure it. In addition, once the improvement changes have been made, it is necessary to re-measure the phenomenon to evaluate whether there has actually been an improvement in the aspect we wanted.
I hope I haven’t lost any readers with this almost philosophical digression, I promise that now everything will become clearer and more tangible.
Now we’ve learned the importance of measuring, now let’s dive deeper into the concept of OKRs.
How do OKRs work?
The basics of the framework
As we saw at the beginning, the OKR framework is based on the concepts of Objectives and Key Results.
Let’s start with the first word: Objectives. We can imagine an objective as what we would like to achieve by the end of the period. Then ask yourself the question: “What do I want to achieve?”. The answer will be your objective and you will usually have more than one.
The second part of the acronym is about Key Results. Key results are hierarchically inferior to objectives. Referring to the objective, to find a key result it makes sense that you try to ask yourself: “How can I achieve this Objective?”. Each key result represents a small milestone for the achievement of the objective to which it refers.
Typically an implementation of the OKR framework has several objectives which in turn have three to five key results.
How to choose OKRs correctly
When choosing objectives, it is important to consider the following. First of all, it must be kept in mind that the objectives must be ambitious but at the same time not impossible to achieve. This fact guarantees the growth we seek.
The other aspect to consider is that to set objectives it is good practice to ask for advice from the people involved in that goal. For example, in the case of a company it is therefore useful to have a comparison with employees regardless of their job position. Obviously, this point makes no sense if OKRs are being developed for an individual business.
Well, we’ve covered how to set objectives. What about key results? As you can imagine, you need to be careful here too. First of all, it must be remembered that the key results must be measurable. In other words, we must be able to attribute a value to the phenomenon so that we can compare it with the value we have given ourselves. Second, one must try to find KRs with a low enough “granularity” or KRs that are not further divisible (let’s say — improperly — “atomic key results”).
Time frame and review
One of the main things to know before proceeding is that OKRs are always relative to a time interval. Usually the interval chosen is the quarter, i.e. three months. Every quarter, or in general at the end of the chosen time interval, the results achieved are reviewed and the strategy is modified with the aim of keeping it always updated and challenging.
As just mentioned, when the time period expires, the strategy is reviewed. However this is not the only moment in which we intervene on it. In fact, for this framework to be effective, it is good practice to update the completion percentage of each KR on a regular basis (e.g. weekly).
Setting the path
Are you starting to get interested and would you like to try to implement this framework? In summary, the steps to take are these:
- Choose your objectives.
- For each objective define 3 to 5 key results.
- Track progress weekly.
- At the end of the period draw conclusions.
- Start again from the first point.
A brief example
Well, did you understand what is behind this framework but are you still confused? Let’s look at an example.
Let’s imagine we want to implement the OKR methodology in a startup whose main business is the development of a mobile application.
We can hypothesize that a goal that the board of the startup wants to pursue is, for example, “Achieving good popularity and brand awareness”. Some KRs for this goal might be “Achieve at least X app downloads” or “Have at least Y daily active users”.
Why should I use OKRs?
Goal-orientation and improvement
The OKR framework is one of the most used continuous improvement methodologies, so if you are looking to achieve ambitious goals with your business you should definitely give it a try.
The fact that the OKRs are reviewed periodically means that the organization updates and follows its strategy. This ensures that you work with a long-term vision. Indeed, when a KR is reached, it is replaced by a new, more demanding one. This approach leads to continuous improvement.
Cohesion and transparency
By sharing objectives and key results with the entire company, everyone can see what others are working on and how their work contributes to the company’s goals. Another point is that this structure ensures the alignment between different departments of the same reality. In other words, sharing the framework is a way to align the entire company’s work.
Accountability and motivation
It is good practice to set up a team or responsible person for each KR. In this way, responsibility develops the motivation to achieve the result.
In addition, every manager can feel that they are actually working towards a larger goal. To some extent, this type of organization is also able to reward more people in roles with seemingly little impact on the long-term goals of the organization.
How to implement OKRs in practice?
Okay now you really got it all figured out. But how can I apply this framework in practice? As you can imagine there are several ways to do this and now I’m going to show you the ones I personally prefer.
Use an online platform
The first way I propose is to rely on an online service that is compatible with this framework. I have personally tried several of these services and I would recommend both Notion and Airtable.
They are two different platforms but both provide templates for tracking OKRs. Here are the links to the templates you can use:
- Notion: https://www.notion.so/templates/okrs
- Airtable: https://www.airtable.com/templates/okr-tracking/expANUwzYC7xvHuET
Use a spreadsheet
Another way to track OKRs is to use a spreadsheet. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Excel or Google Sheet. Online there are many valid templates for both of these software however, being the scheme very simple, you may want to create the document from scratch.
In this case, my suggestion is to create two tables: one having the objectives as rows and one having the key results as rows. In the KR table it is then necessary to add a column to indicate the reference objective, a column to indicate the value to be achieved and a column to indicate the current value or the percentage of completion.
Finally, with a formula like “=VLOOKUP(…)”, it would be appropriate to report in the objectives table the completion percentage of each objective based on the data present in the KR table.
Use pen and paper
Finally, one last method that I would recommend is to monitor the OKRs manually with pen and paper. Yes I know, for some of you it may seem like an unnecessary complication to write everything down on paper but I can confirm that in my opinion it is one of the methods that works best.
In my opinion, the reason is that once we have prepared the scheme, we will automatically proceed with its compilation and periodic review so as not to waste the effort made. Furthermore, this method has the smoothest learning curve as it is not necessary to understand how the software to use works.
However there is also a downside. In the methods seen previously, one of the advantages was that for the calculation of the current value of the KR it could be done through formulas. In fact, having a database available it is often possible to make queries and calculate the required value. Here, if the paper method was used, this process would have to be done manually.
Furthermore, it must be stated that this method is appropriate only in cases where the OKRs to be monitored are personal. In fact, if we were a company it would be difficult if not impossible to share the prospectus with all interested parties.
Well, I hope I have made you interested in the subject and have provided you with useful ideas. In case you are interested and would like to learn more, I would recommend the following resources:
- The book “Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs” by John Doerr.
- In addition to John Doerr’s book there is also a website called What Matters (https://www.whatmatters.com/) which has many resources on the subject.
- This resource is a Forbes article on what to consider when choosing a metric. It does not strictly refer to OKRs but it is valid for example on the choice of Key Results. The link to the article written by Joel Shapiro is the following: https://www.forbes.com/sites/joelshapiro/2022/01/31/measure-what-matters-how-to-choose-the-right-metrics/.
In this post we have seen the OKR framework that is a powerful goal-setting systems that helps organizations and privates to pursue their objectives.
Thank you for reading this post to the end. Feel free to comment and express your opinion on what you have read. If you liked the post I would appreciate it if you clicked clap and started following me.