7 minute read – Posted by – August 9, 2013

OKRs: 7 Tips on How to Set your Objectives and Key Results

For many companies, it's the time of the month to set their quarterly objectives.

More organizations are adopting Google’s Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) methodology. The process starts with the executive team setting the organization’s objectives. They can be annual, quarterly or monthly goals depending on the company. Understanding what the company as a whole is trying to achieve, managers set their departments’ objectives making sure that the teams are aligned with the bigger picture. Employees are then asked to set and share their individual objectives that will contribute to their departments. Many employees struggle with the task of defining their objectives. Often, they know what the end results should be, but get overwhelmed setting an action plan on how to get there. Key results are what many managers hold the employees accountable for.

Recommended Reading List on Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)

Here are 7 tips on how to define your objectives in terms of key results.

1. Keep it simple

Focus on objectives that you know you can achieve in the given time frame. Many employees think that they need to contribute to every department objective and end up spreading themselves too thin. Prioritize your objectives according to what the business needs the most. There is no magic number for how many objectives you should have as it depends on many factors such as the complexity of the objectives, the time and resources available, and unexpected changes in the business.

2. Be specific

When you are setting up your objectives, brainstorm the different ways you can reach the end results. Draw your action plan out so that you are more specific on how to achieve your objective. For each of your key results, think about how your managers are going to evaluate your performance. The more specific you are, the clearer your expectations will be. You want to have concise objectives so that you know exactly what you need to do and how to complete your goals.

3. Cascade your objectives

Organization objectives may be overwhelming for some employees since they can not see how their jobs are contributing to the company’s success. For example, as a payroll clerk, how do I help my company reach 10,000 users? By cascading your objectives from the organization level to department level and then finally to an individual level, your employees have a clearer line of sight of the objectives they can set to contribute to the company’s success. Share higher level objectives so that all members of your organization are in alignment with your company’s vision.

4. Make it measurable

Your key results need to have a unit of measurement. Whether you need to write 10 blogs for the month or make $10,000 of revenues, being able to measure your key results will tell you when you have reached your goals. This step is harder for goals that are not quantifiable. In these cases, ask yourself “how will I know when I have achieved my objective?” Measurements for unquantified objectives are subjective. Have a 1-on-1 session with your manager to negotiate the measures that you will be held accountable for.

5. Do not worry about stretch goals

You want to have goals that are attainable and challenging at the same time. Many managers will set stretch goals for their teams as a way to motivate them. However, stretch goals need to be set very carefully. It becomes frustrating for employees when they keep missing the objectives because they are stretch goals. Some managers will use financial rewards such as bonuses to motivate their teams to reach the objectives. Rewarding your employees for the end results instead of their behaviors may have the opposite effect of what you want. Make sure that your goals are challenging enough but more important, they should be realistic.

6. Break your key results in small goals

Create mini goals within your key results. Knowing what you have to do to achieve your key results makes your objectives more specific. They help you focus on aligning your action plan with your key results for the objectives. Mini goals also help you set up milestones throughout your progress. They keep you right on track in terms of knowing what you have to do in order to achieve your key results. Mini goals can be action items you need to do. For example, your objective is to increase your sales revenues by 10% for this quarter and one of your key results is to get 5 new clients. Think about how you plan on attracting new clients – writing a blog post a week as inbound marketing can be one of your mini goals.

7. Celebrate and recognize

Reward and recognize yourself and others when a milestone has been reached. The more positive reinforcement you are receiving such as recognition and reward, the more likely you will keep displaying those behaviors. Use social platforms to share your achievements with your coworkers. Do not wait for the end of the objective to recognize the effort put in reaching the milestone. Reward yourself for the incremental progress you make because it reinforces that you are on the right track to achieve your goals.

Setting your OKRs is beneficial for each employee. It fosters discipline and determination to achieve your objectives. It also gives you a clear guideline of what you need to focus your effort on for that time frame. Encourage all your coworkers to share their OKRs publicly so that you can create a support system within your team. Help each other out to achieve their objectives and celebrate together when you have all reach your desired goals.

(Updated January 23, 2019)

Wendy Pat Fong

Wendy is Chief of Staff at 7Geese. She can be reached at wendy@7geese.com.