Objectives and Key Results:
How OKRs Improve Business Performance

Today, many high velocity organizations use Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to move the organization forward fast. OKRs are a powerful method of driving real clarity, a higher sense of purpose, and aligning near-term actions to desired near-term business outcomes. While leaders want the organization to be more agile and accountable, they often lack an agile model for driving clarity, accountability and transparency — OKRs are an ideal solution.

OKRs work best when cascaded from the executive level in a series of rapid OKR development and alignment workshops. OKRs aren’t an end to themselves, they’re a tool for actively driving business results. Setting them is the beginning, not the end of the process — they’re only as good as your execution and focus.

OKRs: Objectives, Key Results, Actions and Insights

Goal & OKR Resources

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“There are apps that help you set goals, but with Workboard we live our goals.”

Jeff Sorenson
President and CEO, TeraRecon

Read the case study

How do OKRs work?

OKRs work best when they cascade down and coalesce back up. Typically, the process starts with an executive who defines 3-5 objectives for the organization, each with 4-6 key results. Each of the exec’s direct reports will then develop 3-5 of their own objectives with 4-6 key results that ladder up to the exec’s, and so on through the organization. A well-run process will not only cascade down, but will identify alignment gaps and operating elements that should be addressed or reflected higher in the organization’s OKRs.

Once OKRs are established, teams develop action plans aligned with their KRs. These identify the work needed and ensure the focus on key results over the quarter. Teams and organizations achieve better results with weekly OKR-centered conversations. As any sales person can attest, 12 weeks will fly by – defocusing for just 3 weeks wastes 25% of the time a team has to achieve the great results.

Objectives and Key Results

Establish and align objectives and key results for next 100 days

  • Workshop on OKRs with exec and directs
  • OKR workshops for team leaders and their directs
  • All OKRs and related workstreams in app during workshops > ready to roll
Aligned Execution

Focus on executing to achieve objectives and key results

  • Action plan in place for KRs
  • Leaders actively manage by their OKRs, have tool + transparency
  • Managers and team members use app to stay aligned and focused
Achievement & Insights

Assess outcomes, reset OKRs and improve operational discipline

  • Anticipate and assess results — Right objectives? Right results? Right focus? What can be improved?
  • Do next quarter OKRs
  • Retrospectives within teams identify best practices, reinforce results-focus and excellence
Objectives and Key Results

Establish and align objectives and key results for next 100 days

  • Workshop on OKRs with exec and directs
  • OKR workshops for team leaders and their directs
  • All OKRs and related workstreams in app during workshops > ready to roll
Aligned Execution

Focus on executing to achieve objectives and key results

  • Action plan in place for KRs
  • Leaders actively manage by their OKRs, have tool + transparency
  • Managers and team members use app to stay aligned and focused
Achievement & Insights

Assess outcomes, reset OKRs and improve operational discipline

  • Anticipate and assess results — Right objectives? Right results? Right focus? What can be improved?
  • Do next quarter OKRs
  • Retrospectives within teams identify best practices, reinforce results-focus and excellence

At the end of the quarter, a retrospective that looks candidly and clinically at outcomes is the key to excellence. Assess whether you had the right objectives, set the right key results and had the right focus. Rather than lay blame, take ownership of what was learned and reset for the next quarter.

See how OKRs can help your team

Learn how OKRs help companies like Google, Credit Karma, IBM and others achieve fast, great results.

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What goes wrong with OKRs?

OKRs aren’t a fit for every organization and team, and there are many flavors and implementations. And even in organization where they’re a good fit, it’s a learning process. The leadership team and employees need to build new muscle – like all new things, it takes time, effort and commitment and it won’t be perfect in the first quarter.

Having said that, here are 5 pitfalls you can avoid:

  1. Set and forget.
    Although people adopt OKRs because they want to more aggressively drive to better results, some set and forget their OKRs at the start of each quarter – and don’t actively drive toward those OKRs week to week. The process takes time but produces no value for the organization (and may be negative quarter end to see how much was forgotten and unachieved).
  2. Check the box.
    Similar to set-and-forget, some teams focus on getting OKRs “done” rather than defining great results to drive with. Everyone has OKRs but no one cares.
  3. No validation.
    OKRs should be a clean handshake between team leads and team members and between team leads and upline executives to ensure the whole is not only the sum of the parts, but has the potential to be greater than the sum. Once validated, teams should be able to confidently execute on their OKRs knowing they’re creating huge value that will be recognized by the organization. Finding a disconnect mid or end of quarter wastes both time and good will.
  4. Confusing actions with results of actions.
    While executives, particularly finance and sales executives naturally think in terms of metrics and results, front line teams and those in other functions may not have experience defining results and outcomes of their work. Quantifying results isn’t a natural exercise, and it often requires facilitation the first and second quarter – you may need the equivalent of a yoga teacher. Once the organization has the experience to define and drive results, it will do amazing things.
  5. Burying OKRs.
    You and your OKRs need to be present to win. If no one can see their OKRs and can’t find them among hundreds of google docs, they’re not focused on them. More importantly, to actively drive toward OKRs, you’ll need to see progress on them weekly or at least monthly to drive decisions, mitigate risk and achieve the best possible results in the quarter. In large organizations, seeing the OKR ladder, dependencies and progress across teams is crucial to success. Results-driven companies like IBM, VMWare, Credit Karma, TeraRecon, and others use Workboard to actively lead with their OKRs.

What is the best OKR tracking tool?

With its app and OKR development services, Workboard makes it easy to define and align OKRs, then focus actions and execution on achieving the best results. Add OKRs and actions needed to achieve them on group and 1on1 meeting agendas to address risks and progress results; run the business for results with Web and mobile dashboards.

Align Goals and OKRs to Execution with Workboard
Vince DiMascio, CIO, BAL Global
BAL Global

“Workboard helped us translate my strategy into fully aligned OKRs across the organization in a week; we’re executing beautifully against them thanks to the Workboard app.”

Vince DiMascio
CIO, BAL Global

Read the case study

Results-driven companies large and small use Workboard

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