Luis Goncalves
Last updated on | Strategic Alignment

How to Set OKR: A Quick Guide

by Luís Gonçalves
how to set OKR

Do you wish to adopt OKRs the way Google does it? Do you want to be successful like them in implementing processes and empowering your team? If yes, feel free to read on.

Whenever they set objectives, Google usually starts with their organisational OKRs. These are the high-level objectives and key results that give everyone else in the company a clear goal of what the path Google wants to take. Under each objective are three to five key results.

Remember that successful OKRs (Objective and Key Results) are not one-sided. Suggestions can come from up and down the organisational chart, producing less hierarchy. This may feel a little uncomfortable for you if you an open line of communication between you and your subordinates hasn’t been opened or has been weak for the longest time. It’s a good kind of side effect that you must endure. Growth means moving from your comfort zone.

This also promotes collaboration among your team members. Everyone can freely give an opinion. They can talk about what they think are the best ways to reach the company OKRs and how they, within the boundaries of their roles, can contribute.

Important Tips When Setting Objectives

  • Limit your objectives to 3-5. Having too many objectives can cause confusion and diffusion of efforts.
  • Use aspirational expressions. Positivity goes a long way. Avoid expressions that don’t push for new achievements, such as “maintain our current market value”, “keeping hiring”, “continue implementing this…”
  • Use tangible terms for your objectives. Your OKRs should be clear and easy to comprehend. According to research, setting specific goals can lead to more chances of succeeding.

Essential Tips for Creating Key Results:

  • Write down 3-5 key results per objective.
  • The key results should be measurable. Once achieved, each of them will advance the objective.
  • KRs should describe outcomes, not the tasks. If your key results start with words like “participate”, “analyse”, or “consult”, they are mere activities or tasks, not measurable results. Each milestone should include some proof of completion, and it should be available.

OKRs that involve clear goals and measured properly can help your company achieve greater heights. At the same time, it can help you focus on what matters the most. Poorly written OKRs, on the other hand, can create confusion, poor strategies, and prevent your team from advancing. They also undermine the internal metrics and make your company goals harder to achieve.

Traps to Avoid When Using OKRs

When setting your OKRs, try to avoid these traps:

  • Poor cascading process for stretched goals.

OKRs allow your company to stretch goals. But these challenging goals require careful communication to avoid any confusion between your managers and teams, especially that in most cases, some teams depend on the work delivered by other teams to achieve their own OKRs too. If a big part of your OKRs is affected by another team, make sure you communicate properly and work hand in hand.

  • Creating “business as usual” OKRs that don’t make impact.

These types of OKRs are those that you can achieve without changing anything in your system or challenging the status quo. How do you know you’re making business-as-usual OKRs? A good way to check is to rank your team’s current work and the new projects you wish to create. If your OKRs require just the same amount of effort with your current team initiatives, then you’re doing it wrong. You have to drop low-priority efforts and change your OKRs. Sometimes, you will find that some of your objectives remain the same every quarter. That’s fine if that is always a high priority. However, your key results should evolve, so they push your teams to become more efficient and innovate.

  • Sandbagging

When your company is hitting the OKRs perfectly each time, your team is sandbagging it. It means you are not stretching your managers and entire teams, hoarding resources, or not going beyond your zones. Avoid low-value objectives. OKRs should deliver value to your business. Otherwise, there’s no point of spending efforts and resources on them. Even if you achieve them, they won’t make a significant impact to your company. Your OKR should focus on the tangible benefits that set the mark higher.

  • Insufficient key results

The success of achieving the objectives of your company lies in the key results. If the KRs of a given objective are insufficient to fully achieve the said objective, then it won’t work. This greatly causes a delay on both the allocating resources and completing your objectives on time.

Even though strategies differ from team to team (and even among individuals), it can be helpful to help your team familiarise with the organisational OKRs first, and then help them align their OKR with your company’s OKR. Next, you have to decide how many team OKRs will work for your company. For example, check if you need to create OKRs per department, function, and sub-group.

For team-level OKRs, take note they should not always reflect the company’s OKRs. Nonetheless, they should still be aligned and reflective of these high-level goals, or at least one or a few of them.

What’s the best way to set your team OKRs? A very good approach is to meet with all team leaders in goal setting. In Google, leaders gather together and list down their priorities for the coming quarter, within the context of the company.

When determining these goals for the coming quarter, you need to pay attention to your company OKRs and check whether your team priorities are connected to the key results of your company.

Furthermore, assess if your team priorities will likely help your company achieve its major goals, if there are some things missing that you think your team should be working on, and if there are more than three priorities.

Also, remember that OKRs are not a checklist. They aren’t designed to serve as a master list of the tasks that your team has to work on each quarter. If your team looks at their OKRs as a shared to-do list, they might get confused between what they want to do and what the entire team needs to achieve. Make use of OKRs to assess the impact you want to see and let them come up with ways or methods to achieve this goal and measure the impact.

Understanding how to set OKR should not be a complicated process. With this guideline, you should be able to effectively set your team OKRs in not time.

If you want to go deeper into the rabbit hole in optimising your team’s performance, we created an Organisational Mastery Quiz. This is composed of 30 questions that will reveal exactly where you have to work on aside from setting your company’s OKR. It’s not a set of long-winded questions so this should only take you five minutes the most.

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We have developed a free assessment in the form of a Scorecard to help you establish which areas of business you need to focus on to achieve your particular Organisational Mastery.

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If you liked this article, feel free to visit my company´s Products and Services pages. We provide Team CoachingAgile Training and Agile ConsultingOKR Training and OKR ConsultingInnovation Training and Innovation Consulting.

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Luís Gonçalves

About Luís Gonçalves

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+LuisGonçalves1979

Luis Gonçalves is an Entrepreneur, Author & International Keynote Speaker. He works with Senior Executives to implement his ‘Organisational Mastery’ system so they can greatly increase the effectiveness and efficiency of their organisations; enabling them to become recognised and highly rewarded Leaders.

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