An employee’s guide to writing great OKRs

It’s fair to say that just like any other process, writing great OKRs is one that produces better results when it’s broken down into different steps. This approach will help you understand and solve one question:

How can I best support my organization within my set of responsibilities and skills?
Tired of reading? Here’s an audio version we recorded for you:

 

Step 1: Orientate

This step will set the stage to write great OKRs. The more you understand your company’s structure and strategic objectives, the better relations you can form between them and your own work. Those relationships will provide you with the right arguments to craft objectives that perfectly support those of the organization.

Tips:

  • Always be aware of the annual company level objectives (Looking at your company’s Map in Perdoo will help with this step). They will provide you with the high-level direction needed to find your focus for the next timeframe (i.e. quarter).
  • It’s important to understand what your team has planned to tackle, so coordination with your manager is key. Sit down together two or three weeks before the end of the timeframe to understand your team’s priorities.
  • Always close, or at least review, your OKRs when the timeframe is about to end. This task will tell you whether you need to port over any OKRs to the following timeframe, significantly impacting your available bandwidth for the future.

 

Step 2: Craft

The crafting step is pretty straight forward—if you did your homework in the planning step. With the proper operational context, you should know by now exactly where you are going to concentrate your efforts. Now the challenge is properly wording your Objectives and building compelling Key Results. One thing we must remember every time we are about to craft our OKRs is “Context is king” and that descriptive subjects in your OKRs will allow people from other teams in the company understand what it is that you’re focusing on for this timeframe.

 

Here are some common practices when it comes to writing OKRs:

 

Objectives

An objective tells you where you need to go by setting a clear direction. It’s something that your actions or tasks are intended to accomplish.

Traits of an Objective:

  • Directional
    An objective tells you where to go. It’s the key results that will tell you how to get there. An objective could for instance be Increase employee engagement. This objective tells you nothing about how you will actually make that happen, for that you will create Key Results.
  • Brief
    Keep it short, simple, and direct. More than 70 characters is considered clutter.
  • Memorable
    Must be memorable enough for it to be top of mind. Remember these objectives will be driving your day-to-day work and should be present every time you make a decision. Objectives should be written down in the individual “language” of the organization so everyone can identify with them.
  • Time-bound
    Time box it! You want your objective with a clear time span, so if your objective is a year long, then consider it a personal mission and go back to the drawing board.
  • Aligned
    The Objective should contribute to other OKRs in your organization, either in the same timeframe or to objectives you have for the year. Ultimately, everything should contribute to the organization’s vision.
  • Inspiring
    Some people in your company are motivated by numbers. Others need a more inspiring goal. Use inspiring language for your Objective. The numbers will follow with the Key Results. Working with OKR creates an environment in which every individual, every team, and the company is challenging themselves and each other. This will stretch capabilities. OKR is about moving forward, about getting somewhere. If you don’t start with ambitious Objectives, you won’t un-lock creative thinking and continue doing things you are already doing. Don’t shoot for the moon, shoot for the stars!

Examples of Objectives:

  • For individuals working in Marketing:
    • Create a high-converting landing page
  • For Individuals working in Engineering:
    • Improve overall app performance
  • For individuals working in Product:
    • Successfully launch milestone release by X date

 

Key Results

A Key Result can be described as a KPI with a target. It’s a feedback mechanism telling you whether you’re getting closer to your objective or not. A Result—as you know—is an outcome of something. Your Key Results should be your most important outcomes. Actions (like tasks and todos)  will drive these results.

Traits of a Key Result:

  • Measurable
    With a number you will be able to easily define progress. If you have a Key Result that says ‘Sell books’, it will be impossible for you and others to see how you are progressing. If you have a Key Results that says ‘Sell 1.000 books’ and you’ve sold 700 so far, you are at 70% of your target.
    “It’s not a Key Result unless it has a number” – Marissa Mayer
  • Make the objective achievable
    When creating Key Results for an Objective, you’re answering the question “How do I get to my Objective?” We are talking about Key Results here. That means those results that are key to getting closer to the Objective. You won’t have to list all the things you’ll do, as long as you list the most important ones. If you end up with too many Key Results, see if you are able to group a few of them.
  • Challenging
    Go big or go home! Key Results are where your OKRs denote ambition, when writing your KRs, try to make the metrics uncomfortable but realistic, rule of thumb, forecast 30% to 40% above your sweet spot.

Examples of KRs:

For individuals working in Marketing

  • Increase conversion rate to 10%

For individuals working in Engineering

  • Increase APDEX score to 0.8

For individuals working in Product

  • Conduct 16 testing sessions with target users

 

This is how an OKR for someone working in Marketing could look like (in-app Screenshot from Perdoo):

Step 3: Iterate

After setting your OKRs, we highly recommend having another look at them halfway down your timeframe to see if they’re still valid. Especially in fast-moving environments like startups, Key Results can sometimes become obsolete. In this case, sticking with them is self-defeating behavior. While it’s important to maintain the essence of your Objective, Key Results shouldn’t be set in stone.

 

Following these three steps will allow you to methodically craft clear and executable OKRs and mitigate the risk of poor alignment later on the OKR cycle.

Author
Raul Gonzalez

Head of Customer Success at Perdoo. After studying Communication (BA) and Technology Administration (MBA) at Universidad Anáhuac México Sur, he soon relocated to Silicon Valley to work for companies like Google, Declara, and SupportSpace. He has 12 years of experience in managing e-learning, training, and enterprise implementation projects. In 2016, he joined Perdoo.

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