Jan 5, 2023

4 Benefits of OKRs

4 Benefits of OKRs

4 Benefits of OKRs

Nathan King

The wrong growth focus for a business leader: organizational growth comes from an ingenious marketing campaign, an innovative change to its services, or a top-shelf client. To really unlock growth, clarify goals and measure progress instead.

Exciting? Not really. Transformational? Definitely.

Most organizational cultures struggle to set and stick to goals. To get anything done, they depend on the energy and discipline of a small handful of leaders who labor intensely to move the company forward. The rest of employees, lacking either the experience, fortitude, or obsession to drive them, experience anxiety, doubt, and frustration from a lack of real direction. They struggle with thoughts that cause cortisol levels to rise:

Am I working on the right thing?

I have too much to do and don't know what I can say no to.

Without organizational goals, individuals can’t contribute to their full potential.

Organizations need a method to clarify goals and measure progress. A methodology that accomplishes this is OKRs. The promise of this method is its simplicity. Its popularity comes mostly from its straightfoward applicability but also from its use in some massively successful organizations like Google and Intel.

OKR = Objective Key Result

It stands for Objectives Key Results, and encourages a definition of what the team is doing along with how it is going to do it.

This simple heuristic compels a team to define a set of objectives. It also requires that for every objective, a small number of Key Results be defined. John Doerr, an OKR evangelist (and early investor in Google), puts it like this:

if it doesn't have a number, it isn't a key result.

Benefits of OKRs

A few distinct benefits of OKRs:

1. Clarity of what the team is working on.

To create OKRs, a team has to sit down and talk about what they need to do. You could do only that once a quarter and still get value. For everyone to know where the organization is going is massively empowering. Because the reality is that most managers are moving so fast they don't bring people along with them.

2. Accountability for each individual team member.

All team members define OKRs for themselves. Consequently, it's easy to know whether they achieve their goals or don't. The OKR methodology also requires scoring of each KR numerically, and making the scores public. It's amazing how differently you look at your work when you know there's a score that other people will see.

3. Alignment across the team about what really matters.

Another benefit from making OKRs public is the visibility people have into what is important to others. This helps people work more collaboratively with each other. Also, the process of creating OKRs involves the entire team, not just managers handing down objectives.

4. Focus by reducing the allowed number of objectives and key results.

Organizations all too commonly neglect making choices about what's important. The result is too many goals, which lowers the probability that any will be achieved. The rule of thumb with OKRs is that a maximum of 5 objectives can exist for the company, a department, or an individual at any one time. And for each objective, no more that five key results should be defined.

Implementing OKRs Starts with a Mindset

For OKRs to succeed, they must empower others to contribute. The leader who creates objectives and measures for his team is not going to find the process of managing OKRs worth it. The leader who states a high level objective and allows lower level people the autonomy to define their own objective that supports theirs are going to see magic happen.

2 Best Practices for Succeeding with OKRs

  1. Start slowly. Take a single team or department, and set OKRs for a single department and for a single quarter.

  2. Build OKRs with the team. Meet with the team, explain the concept, and spend 2 hours (or more, depending on number of team members) defining OKRs for the team.

Resources to Help with OKRs




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