OKR, which stands for Objectives and Key Results, is a modern and agile management method to set goals for a company. Although it has already created in the 1970s by Andy Grove, it only became popular due to John Doerr. The purpose of OKR is to tightly align all activities and tasks within an organization to the overall vision of the company. In doing so, every single activity can be measured and prioritized according to the extent that which it supports the company´s goals. Nowadays, OKRs are used by many large and successful companies, such as Google, Microsoft, Spotify, and Amazon.
Steps to Use OKR
1. Clarify and write down the organization´s core purpose – usually the vision. It should include the “purpose of existence”, the “overall purpose of the organization”, and what the company “really stands for”. This is usually done by the top management.
2. Discuss how the identified purpose can be achieved. Here, the departments or individual teams brainstorm to identify how the department or team as a whole can support the overall organization´s purpose – always from their standpoint. The ideas are jointly discussed, and the result becomes the list of objectives of the department or team.
3. Determine the Key Results that help the department or team to achieve the identified objectives. The better the Key Results support the determined objectives and the higher the probability that they can be achieved, the better the Key Results are. Key Results should be ambitious, flexible, transparent, and measurable. In the end, the final list of the best Key Results is taken and published, so that every member can always refer to them and check whether his or her activities are aligned with them.
Usually, OKRs are revised and improved every quarter based on the results of the period.
Benefits of Using OKR
1. OKRs focus on what should be achieved, not on the activity itself. Objectives describe the “what”, and Key Results describe the “why”. With this, they ensure that unnecessary activities are detected and eliminated
2. OKRs are very ambitious. They focus on the vision, not on achieving intermediary results
3. OKRs are transparent and publicly available within the company
4. As OKRs are the same for a whole team or a whole department, they can easily be used to prioritize activities – based on how much they support the defined OKR
5. OKRs´ impact can be tracked and measured, as they are stringently defined, starting with the vision and resulting in individual team objectives
If you want to learn more about the topic, I highly recommend the TED talk that John Doerr gave in Vancouver in 2018.