The OKR building blocks

What is an objective and a key result? An objective is an ambitious and inspiring goal that provides direction and is clearly linked to either the company’s overall goals/objectives or its vision. It is preferably qualitative (without numbers). Here are some examples of objectives:

– Strong growth with maintained profitability (Organizational level)

– Strengthen customer relationships through events (in a marketing team)

– Surprisingly fast case handling (in a support team)

Key results are the results that need to be achieved for the objective they are connected to to be fulfilled. They should be interconnected and complete, ensuring that achieving all expected results leads to reaching the connected objective.

Key results are measurable, clear, and time-bound to the same time period as their attached objective.

One can describe it as an objective describing where one wants to end up, and key results answer the question “how do we know that we are there?”

Looking at the examples above, achieving sales alone would not be sufficient for our organizational goal ‘strong growth with maintained profitability’, we would also want to see a measure of profitability. Key results for the above objectives could look like this:

Objective: Strong growth with maintained profitability

Key result: 35% sales growth compared to the previous year

Key result: 10% profitability

Objective: Strengthen customer relationships through events

Key result: 300 participants at internal events

Key result: 80% rate our internal events as good or excellent

Objective: Surprisingly fast case handling

Key result: Average time to first contact less than 2 hours

Key result: 200 cases receive a response within five minutes

Key result: Time from first contact to case closure is on average less than 16 hours

Some guidelines here are that each objective should not have more than 2-4 key results (remember, it’s about focus!) and ensuring that what you want to measure is measurable without too much effort. Note that we do not mention any activities in our OKRs – we focus entirely on outcomes and impact, and it is up to those working on them to develop plans and activities to achieve the desired results.

OKRs are not intended to capture all the work performed in an organization. Just as they do not include results like reading all your emails or turning on the computer every day, the recommendation is that they do not encompass activities that are “business as usual” unless it constitutes a significant part of the workweek. OKRs are for measuring success in achieving change.

In cases where ongoing tasks make up the majority of a team’s work, it may be worth capturing and creating an OKR around it to provide a more accurate picture of the team’s focus. However, the ambition is for the OKRs to capture the results necessary for the organization to move forward. Therefore, OKRs can encompass everything a team does for one team, while another team may only dedicate a few percent of their time to drive their OKRs (while the rest of the time is spent on ongoing processes).

Learn OKRs

9 short steps

Learn OKRs from the bottom up with these 9 articles.