How to define OKRs

Toodday
6 min readJun 23, 2021

A large number of studies have been conducted, showing that the definition of objectives and goals, not only increases the productivity, efficiency and effectiveness of people, but also increases their motivation and the success-failure relationship of each of their undertakings, large or small.

In the same way that it increases motivation, being clear about the objectives, as well as structuring them clearly increases personal commitment to carry out the process to achieve the established goal.

What is the difference between simply defining objectives to generate OKR (Objective Key Results), is that the definition of a goal may seem unattainable or unstructured.

On the other hand, an OKR is a way of defining an objective, simple, ambitious or simply an idea, and knowing what are the results we want to obtain with that objective, which makes an idea that can generate fear, become a series steps, which by definition is a plan.

Large companies in the world have implemented this type of goal generation, with the idea that they are a benefit for people, as well as for companies.

A recurring theme to increase assertiveness and commitment is to publish the objectives, that is to say that each part of an OKR is public knowledge, which generates a greater commitment to complete it.

History of OKRs

The creation and early uses of OKRs are attributed to Andy Grove, who was Intel’s president and CEO for part of its early years and generated great momentum in the way of managing and leading teams.

In terms of goal creation, Andy Grove summed up his creation by answering two basic questions:

  1. Where do I want to go? The answer to this provides the goal.
  2. How am I going to measure myself to make sure I get there? The answer provides the milestones and key results.

A student of Andy Grove’s methods, John Doerr, who was one of Google’s first investors and board members, experienced firsthand at Intel the benefits of the system focused on objectives and key results.

During Intel’s growth era and the explosion of the microprocessor industry, OKRs gave the management team key tools to convey company-wide priorities, align efforts, and succeed in a competitive market.

In the 2000s, Doerr introduced the idea of ​​OKRs to Google, when it was still a growing company, where they are used to measure annual and quarterly goals.

With his book, “Measure What Matters”, John Doerr explains the use of OKRs and their benefits, generating momentum among many companies in and outside the world of technology.

Errors when defining an OKR

  • Being unambitious when defining the objective.
  • A goal has to exist for us to seek to be better people in any way than we were when we set the goal.
  • If we consistently achieve 100% of our OKRs, this can be good at first, but if it is constantly it can be a reflection that when we create our goals we are not creating a challenge for ourselves.
  • Being too ambitious in our goals.
  • On the other spectrum of OKRs, it is setting goals that are almost impossible to achieve.
  • This will certainly increase the amount of effort we put into them, but not consistently reaching our goals can be demoralizing.

The correct way to create an OKR

Referring to the previous point, before we go specifically into the creation of OKRs, the personal success rate in an objective should be between 70% and 80%.

That is to say, that of 100% of our objectives, tasks, we are reaching those percentages, leaving 20% ​​or 30%, as an area of ​​growth, ambition and showing that there are plans on which to envision.

The keyword when creating a goal is focus, and knowing exactly what you want to achieve.

The reason why OKRs exist is to be able to define what is important, even urgent in our life, to focus, define, plan and above all execute.

Taking into account that the success rate that we seek in the objectives and key results, plans and goals should be defined that are a little further than what we consider possible.

Originally these goals were known as “stretch goals” or elastic goals, which we can understand as a little beyond what we achieve today.

Setting unattainable but realistic goals is a metric that improves over time, where even those goals that are not met, the result is a substantial improvement than the current situation.

As time goes by, the acceptance of these results, the process of establishing these objectives and the cycle of continuous improvement, is refined until a you become a machine of productivity and success.

Communication and understanding of the reason for these “stretch goals” is key to achieving them, defining an acceptance criterion, which must be between 70% and 80% of the completed goal.

There are other types of goals, also known as “moon shots”, derived from the term “point to the moon.”

These types of goals are OKRs that go beyond what we can achieve right now, however in a certain time we believe we are capable of achieving something extraordinary, the point is to understand why and make a plan about it.

When creating OKRs, the amount is always a factor to consider, since we may be tempted to create 20 OKRs from the beginning, however, in the same way as its feasibility, the amount is key to knowing how to achieve them.

It is recommended to create between 3 to 5 OKRs, each one focused on different aspects that we would like to cover.

For this, remember that OKRs are the accumulation of a large number of objectives and milestones, so do not feel demoralized, the OKR is the final objective, along the way there can be a large number of successes.

Objectives: You must avoid vague phrases, such as “Begin to improve”, “Maintain …”, “Continue doing”, use key points and quantities, “Finish X Course”, “Run 10 km”, it is important to look for the tangible rather than the intangible, the quantifiable over the qualifiable.

Key Results: An acceptable amount is to have at least 3 key results for each objective.

Each of these deliverables must have a measure and an established completion date.

It is important to remember that a deliverable is an endpoint, not an activity itself, it is the direct result of a series of activities aimed at a goal.

Challenges when creating an OKR system

Managing change, be it personal or even of a work team, is always a challenge, because when something is different, regardless of whether it is for better or for worse, it tends to generate resistance.

Saying no to a change is a practically human response, so we have to be aware of what we want to achieve, follow the process and above all be intentional about our objectives.

To say that we must be intentional, is that our objectives must reflect what we really want to achieve with our activities, so that from these objectives activities arise that we can gladly carry out.

In order to carry out each of the planned activities, it is key to keep two words in mind, discipline and prioritization.

Discipline enables us to review our objectives on a daily basis, to see the projects that arise from those objectives and to prioritize our time and energy to carry out what is necessary to get where we want to go.

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Toodday

I strongly believe that project management is key in life as it is in business. It help us achieve our goals and maintain a balanced life.