OKRs are gaining momentum as the most effective framework to execute strategy without losing visibility on who contributes to the strategic outcomes and how. The strength of OKRs lies in its ability to simplify the complexity at workplaces. More often than not, we see that teams end up complicating the way they craft OKRs instead of keeping it simple, specific and outcome-based. The most significant change that OKRs bring is that they connect teams to a common outcome where they leverage each other’s strengths in order to plan their activities, run experiments and work as a team to focus on achieving their goals together.
While implementing OKRs, the first and most critical step in the process is to get the crafting right. Why? Because when your KRs are crafted correctly, picking the best outcome metrics results in teams aligning their tasks and activities to the right outcomes…This, in turn, allows you to visualize the movement of the progress needle and gauge if it is moving in the right direction. Now isn’t that something every strategy planning team dreamt of?
While there are many OKR guides out there, there isn’t much on explaining how you craft OKRs in a way that a complete beginner would be able to understand… Except this one, of course! Whether you’re someone who is exploring the possibility of adopting OKRs and wants to get an idea with the entire framework, or someone who is already using OKRs and wants to know why their ORKs look more like tasks and not outcome metrics, we know our little guide will be of use to you.
So, let’s get started!
OKRs stand for Objectives and Key Results. We don’t need to get into the details of the OKR framework right away, but if you are interested in learning more about how this framework works, check out our eBook on the ABCs of OKRs and get pro with the entire concept.
OKRs are used to set goals and track whether or not you are progressing towards that goal in a systematic manner.
For this beginner’s guide, here is what you need to know about OKRs:
Did you notice how Tasks and Initiatives are not an actual part of the OKRs abbreviation? We take them as a given, because humans are trained to think in tasks. As soon as we think of a goal, the human mind immediately goes to planning the activities that need to be done to achieve it.
However, the OKR framework works best when planning tasks is the last thing we consider. Before getting to tasks, we should first focus on defining our goals and understanding how we define the key success metrics that tell us that we are closer to the Objective.
Imagine you are at a Friend A’s house and you wish to get to Friend B’s house. So, your desired state is being at Friend B’s house. You have now identified your Objective.
You exit Friend A’s house. But without a map, a GPS, or at least a compass, you will have no idea where to go. You won’t even know if you’re walking in the right direction. The map, GPS and compass are your Key Results.
Your Key Results will help you reach the correct destination. But they will also help you realize if you’re not on the right track. For example, if you miss a turn on your map, or get blocked by a mountain while using a compass, you know you might have to take a longer route to get to your friend’s house.
This will affect your tasks and initiatives - in this case, walking, or reaching Friend B’s house in the expected time, or maybe taking the initiative to call and inform Friend B that you’re running late.
There is a simple formula for writing OKRs, but it doesn’t mean much if your understanding of OKRs is not yet clear. However, if you’re feeling confident, grab these formulas and begin crafting:
OKR = (Objective = “What is your destination”) + 5 x (Key Results = ”How will you track progress towards it”)
Action word + what you would like to achieve + in order to/so that + business value/value
Action word + metric to measure + from + X to Y
The easiest way to go about this is to write effective OKRs with Fitbot’s Writing Assistant.
While crafting, there are a few things you should keep in mind that help you create healthy, precise and well-written OKRs. The difference between low to standard OKRs versus high-quality OKRs can be the revenue you make (or lose) in a business quarter.
OKRs, by nature, are meant to make teams and companies stretch to reach their goals. Your OKRs should be aspirational and challenging, but not impossible to achieve. Keeping your goals aspirational is how you will push your limits, get creative, remain ambitious, and also learn along the way.
While OKRs can be used to achieve all kinds of goals, they were made popular by businesses like Intel and Google who used them for rapid scaling and fast-paced growth. Since OKRs are a collaborative, transparent, and team-aligning framework, it is always a good idea to take the inputs of all Team members and make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to goal-setting and motivation.
Your OKRs should be crafted in a way that makes them achievable within an OKR cycle, usually a quarter. If it will take longer than a quarter to achieve your goal, then break it down into smaller OKRs (also called Child OKRs). In case you are unable to achieve your OKR within a quarter even after two attempts, it is definitely a sign to review them for either being too ambitious, low on priority index or maybe even misaligned. Of course, having one or two super-ambitious destinations is also a part of the framework. These super-ambitious OKRs are called moonshot OKRs.
OKRs are all about building focus by prioritizing and measuring what matters. It is recommended that teams and organizations follow this rule while setting OKRs to ensure that they are not stretched too thin. This applies to each OKR cycle, usually a quarter -
No more than 3 objectives, and no more than 5 Key Results per objective.
Think about your goals, intentions, and desired destination. Your objective should be written as a single sentence that inspires. Anyone should be able to look at your objective and understand what you want to achieve, without any other context. This means your objective should have a clear direction for you to move in. It should also align with other objectives (for example, team objectives should align with other teams and the company OKRs). Objectives should be concrete and not fuzzy or vague. Last but not least, the objective should have some weight or impact. Imagine if you have achieved the objective - would it make a difference to your long-term goals?
Key Results should have metrics to measure the progress towards your Objectives. The best way to measure progress is by using numerical values. KRs should only measure what matters, meaning that KRs should describe outcomes, not activities. Rather than focusing on the tasks, they should describe what are the ideal outcomes that will help move the needle on the Objective.
There it is, this covers everything you needed to know about crafting OKRs. One should always remember (especially when starting out) that understanding the principles of OKRs is relatively easy. Writing and executing OKRs is much harder as it is a skill that comes with practice. The best way to improve your skill with OKRs is to keep writing, trying and testing until you’ve gained the experience to confidently craft high-quality OKRs. Some things can only be mastered through experience, and we believe OKRs are one of them.
But perhaps you don’t really have the time to devote years into becoming an OKR Guru. Don’t worry, we are to help you craft top-notch OKRs right away! Just get onto this video guide and write effective OKRs using the Fitbot’s OKR Assistant, the quick and easy way.
Before we sign off, we recommend that you practice writing high quality OKRs using some real examples or simply fill in some templates before getting down to the real grind of the process. Click here to find over 100+ free OKR templates to help you get started.
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