OKRs: Learn From Google On How to Set Goals Using OKRs

July 2, 2013 - 5 minute read - Posted by

I recently watched Rick Klau’s workshop on How Google Sets Goals and was impressed at how Google creates strategic alignment among all its employees. Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) have proven to be effective at Google since its introduction by John Doerr. Organizational objectives are clearly communicated to all levels of the company so that employees have a clear line of sight of what they are working towards. Employees are encouraged to come up with their own objectives and to create their key results which they are held accountable for. OKRs are conducted depending on the nature of the business. Some are project-specific and others are time-specific such as quarterly and annual objectives. OKRs are also great opportunities for managers and their teams to brainstorm ideas and suggestions on how to achieve the organizational goals.

Below are the main points that spoke to me from Rick Klau’s workshop.

  • You do not need to contribute to every single organizational objective. Klau used the example of the NFL 49ers team. General managers set the organizational objectives to  (1) win the superbowl and (2) fill the stands by at least 80%. The head coach’s main focus is to win the superbowl and does not bother with filling the stands, whereas PR looks into finding innovative way to attract fans. Educate your employees to find the objectives that they can make the biggest impact and to focus on them.

  • More than 50% of organizational objectives need to come from bottom-up. Managers want to drive the employee engagement by giving them accountability on their contributions. You don’t want to tell them exactly what to do. Your employees have different unique perspectives on what your business needs as they are in constant contact with the company’s stakeholders. Give them the power to change the organization into something more effective. The process of selecting objectives on all levels need to be about giving and taking.

  • OKRs need to be measurable. Make your objectives and the key results clear so that you can grade them if needed. Always have goals that are uncomfortable to push you to achieve more. If you know for 100% you are going to achieve your objectives, challenge yourself more. Your OKRs also need to be public. It is critical for your organization to have transparency on what each member did and what they are doing now. Setting OKRs is a process with a clarifying effect. Your organization knows what you and your team members are contributing to.

  • Do not take on too many objectives. You do not want to spread yourself thin. Some OKRs do not ultimately show up in the organization objectives, but remember that with strategic alignment of the organization, all objectives are somehow connected and interdependent. For example, the head coach of the 49ers focuses on winning more games to make it to the Superbowl. Winning more will attract more fans to watch the game, filling up the stadium. Therefore, the head coach indirectly contributes to the PR team’s objective.

  • OKRs offer many benefits to the organization as a whole, but also to the employees specifically. The process encourages discipline: you set challenging goals, and you need to have some form of discipline to achieve your objectives with a deadline. OKRs help you focus your effort and attention. You know what you have set for yourself, do not get distracted with tasks that are not contributing to the overall goals.

  • As a manager, use your 1-on-1 coaching sessions as a platform to develop and negotiate key results. Monitor your employees’ progress and open the discussion on finding the best combination of what your employees want to do, and what the company wants them to do.

I have been using OKRs for couple of months now and I can vouch for its effectiveness. It brings a higher level of engagement as I can see clearly how my goals are contributing to my company’s overall objectives. The best is definitely being recognized by my co-workers on achieving my objectives as they receive live feed on my progress. Companies should start implementing social tools where OKRs can be shared with all employees as the ultimate goal is to have a strategically aligned team who is working towards making your organization successful.

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