After watching the video or reading this article, you will be able to work with your team to come up with some inspiring and meaningful goals.

OKRs is a goal setting framework composed of two parts: objectives and key results. 

  • Objectives are what you're trying to accomplish. They should be qualitative and inspiring. Aim for just 1-3 objectives per team. More than that, and you risk having so many priorities that you have no priorities.
  • Key results are how you measure whether you've accomplished your objectives. They should be measurable and verifiable. It should be very black and white whether it's done. Avoid "yes/no" as your measurement and push yourself to identify a number to measure. Aim for 3-5 key results per objective. 

A simple template for writing OKRs:

We will __(Objective)__ as measured by __(these Key Results)__.

A few pro tips:

  1. Start by asking your team (and peers and boss): "What are the three most important things for us to accomplish in the next three months? Why is this important?"
  2. Put draft objectives in front of your team and ask them to write a better version.
  3. Brainstorm key results with the team and let your team members identify which key results they want to lead.
  4. Not everything should be an OKR. Some work is to keep the lights on, business as usual. Reserve OKRs for the efforts that will really move the business forward.
  5. OKRs work best when each team sets their own. The OKR process works best when it draws on expertise at every level of the organization to help the company win.
  6. Don’t “cascade” OKRs down the org chart. If all your goals fit together into a pretty parent/child tree, you’re doing it wrong. Instead, “align” your OKRs with a bottom-up process. You want OKRs to connect, not cascade.
  7. Publish OKRs publicly. Transparency of OKRs will help drive alignment.
  8. Don't link OKRs to performance management, doing so stifles the innovation needed to push your business forward.

A few questions to ask to avoid the most common pitfalls:

  • Are there too many? Too few?
  • Do they represent tasks rather than outcomes?
  • Are the targets realistic?
  • Are they ambitious enough?
  • Do we have the resources we need to deliver?

The more you challenge each other, the more likely your OKRs will be incredible.

A few things we have heard ourselves say during our OKR planning process here at Team Koan to push ourselves toward incredible:

  • “You don’t have goals, which means you haven’t formalized priorities for your team. That’s crazy.”
  • “Can everyone on your team say the goals without thinking really hard?”
  • “You have too many goals. Seriously.”
  • “Your goals don’t seem that important. Will achieving them mean transformative progress?”
  • “There don’t have to be goals to represent all the work getting done.”
  • “Do your goals create more or less autonomy on your team?”
  • “Good difficulty = ‘I’m pretty sure this is possible, but not sure how yet’” 
  • “You just implement what Product says to do? That doesn’t sound like a very interesting job for you or your engineers.”

YES! It is okay to change your goals mid-cycle.

  • Sometimes you’ll learn something new that wildly changes initial assumptions. In that case, change the goal.
  • Sometimes you’ll realize a different goal is actually more important. In that case, cancel the goal and set a new one.
  • Sometimes the team isn’t executing well. In that case, leave the goal and change the deadline.

And, some final advice:

  • Whenever possible, let team members decide which key results they’ll lead.
  • Make it ok to deliver bad news and encourage it to be early. “If you tell me there’s a problem 2 weeks before the deadline, it’s my problem. If you tell me there’s a problem 2 days before deadline, it’s your problem”.
  • Goal confidence ratings are subjective, but set some norms about what they mean to your team.
  • Goals are not the same as the plan. Link a plan to each key result so that everyone has visibility into how the goal will be achieved.
  • Rate each goal every week.
  • Make it ok to stretch and fail.

Finally, remember that it's important to celebrate WINS and learn from FAILURES.

  • Celebrate when you win by providing public recognition of the leads and supporting players. Use the opportunity to connect the win to the bigger picture of why it matters.
  • Have retrospectives: “what went well, what didn’t, how can we improve the goal setting process the next time?

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