What are OKRs (Objectives and key results)?

A framework to create alignment, engagement and results through iterative work on setting and following-up on ambitious (and measurable) goals.

It’s really not harder than that 🙂 Of all the frameworks, models and theories out there, OKRs might be one of the most straight forward. It’s about creating objectives, describe what key results needs to be fullfilled for these objectives to be complete and then create a structure för followup on these.

The objectives should describe direction in inspiring and qualitative terms – ‘where do we want to go?’ and each objective is followed by measurable key results that define what metrics need to move and how much to achieve this objective.

On a strategic level, an OKR could look something like this:

Objective: International expansion through establishment in Germany during this year.

Key Result 1: €2M sales on the german market

Key Result 2: 5 new key accounts in Germany with total value of more than €200k each

An OKR for a marketing team in the same company could look something like this,

Objective: Increased visibility on the German market in Q1

Key Result 1: 100k organic german views on LinkedIn content

Key Result 2: 200 leads from tradeshows in Germany

Key Result 3: 20% brand recognition in target demography in Germany at end of quarter

A common setup is for there to be 3-5 strategic OKRs in an organiation and 2-4 OKRs for each team. We don’t deal with tasks and todos in OKRs –  this is management by objectives, we set goals and leave it up to the teams to define the tasks to achieve them. Sometimes a task is obvious to derive from a key result (collect leads from trade shows) but the best key results leave it open to the team to define the activities (how to achieve 20% brand recognition?).

While straightforward on the surface, OKRs hide a lot of power. When teams start discussing goals of this kind, a lot of interesting things start to happen. Working out team OKRs based in the organisations strategic goals creates strategic alignment, focusing on results instead of tasks changes the mindset from activities to outcomes and the limited number of OKRs to set force discussions on focus and timelines.

Most of the time, the OKR journey begins here, in what is important for the organisation overall and what the team or individuals role is in this. Then we pick up speed, when priorities are set towards the same goals in the entire organisation and these goals are continously followed up on, execution starts to be more targeted and drive more measurable results. In this phase, the goal setting and framework for implementation that comes with OKRs are the skeletton that keeps it all together and ensures focused execution.

As a leader, OKRs help in turning strategy and mission to action while simultaneously giving you tools to track results over time. As a member of a team, you get the chance to participate in goal setting while ending up with a clearer and more focused expectation on your own performance. For the organisation overall, it gives higher tempo and better utilisation of resources. For the team it creates engagement, purpose and lowers stress connected to unclear anticipations on performance.

In all of these, OKRs have strong scientific support – goal setting theory is one of the fields of management research where there have truly been repeatable and significant correlation between goal setup and outcomes.

Learn OKRs

9 short steps

Learn OKRs from the bottom up with these 9 articles.