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OKR 101: Everything you need to know about OKRs

OKR 101: Everything you need to know about OKRs

Learn about this goal setting methodology used by companies like Google and Intel.

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How to get started with OKRs

If this is your first time setting up a goal system, the following process should start roughly six weeks before the beginning of a new year or quarter.

OKR Visualization

1) Identify Company Objectives and Key Results

The management team identifies the 3-5 core company objectives for the coming year or quarter. These objectives should originate from the company's high-level mission/vision, but can range from the bottom line (increase sales by 200%) to company values (only use renewable energy to operate the business). After deciding the objectives, the team should identify the measurable results needed to accomplish these objectives. For example, if the team wants to increase sales by 200% than a key result might be hiring 5 Account Executives. These key results will help guide the Objectives for the next tier of the organization (teams).

2) Decide on a system for organizing OKRs

For companies of all sizes, tracking OKRs can be a challenging process -- companies like Google have built internal tools, some use ad hoc methods like spreadsheets, and a growing number of companies are using dedicated goal tracking software (try Lattice!). Regardless of the tools you decide on for tracking OKRs, make sure you have a defined process before rolling out OKRs at your company or it will get very messy and your organization won’t realize the value that comes with correctly implementing OKRs.

3) Collaborate with Team Leads to draft Departmental Objectives

Set up a meeting with middle management - heads of your different teams/departments - to start rolling out OKRs at the company. In this meeting, cover the following topics:

  • OKR Overview: What are OKRs and why are they important? Why does the management team want to use them?
  • OKR 101: How do OKRs work in-practice? What’s a good OKR and what’s a bad OKR?
  • Company OKR Negotiation: Explain how the management team is thinking about the company OKRs and have an open planning conversation with team leaders. In this conversation, management collaborates with team leaders on the company objectives that the management team is proposing. Importantly, this is a two way conversation where team leaders are able to provide feedback on the draft OKRs.

At the end of this step, middle management should have a clear understanding of company OKRs and also have draft Objectives and Key Results for their respective departments.

4) Explain OKRs to the Entire Company

Now that you have your team leads onboard, it’s time to rollout OKRs to the entire company at an all hands meeting. Just like the conversation with team leads, make sure to provide context around why OKRs are important and how they will work at the company, so employees have proper expectations around how to interact with the OKR system.

5) Managers work with Individual Contributors to Draft OKRs

After the all hands meeting, managers meet with individual contributors to kickoff the individual OKR writing process. This is a two way conversation where you start by outlining -- What the individual wants to work on vs. What the manager wants the individual to work.

This conversation is a negotiation. Individuals want to work on the most important things -- as it will help advance their career -- so their objectives should directly align with what the manager wants the individual to work on. However, as the people closest to the day-to-day work, individuals often times have different POVs on the work that will make the greatest impact on the company’s future and their career. The POV of individual contributors are extremely valuable in the OKR setting process; in fact, 60% of company objectives should originate from the bottom up.

At the end of this conversation, you should end up somewhere in the middle of what the employee wants to work on and what the company wants the employee to work on. By having this collaborative conversation four times every year, individual contributors are empowered to make decisions about their career and day-to-day work.

6) Calibrate and Present

After having conversations with employees across the company, it’s important for team leads and management to take a step back and see how the POV of the individual contributors might have changed any of the team or high-level company OKRs. After management feels good about the OKRs for the year/quarter, it’s time to present the OKRs at a company-wide meeting and finalize the direction for the coming year/quarter.

7) Managers Monitor Individual OKRs

Throughout the next quarter (and year), manager should continually monitor the progression of individual OKRs to make sure the company is moving towards the company goals.