Did you have a stellar first quarter? Great evaluations? Great sales? Great engagement? While it's a time to look back, it's also a time to look ahead and decide what you want to achieve in the coming months. And what better way to go about it than OKR? The planning technique that's fuelled Google, Uber, Zynga and Intel's exponential growth and success.
What is OKR?
OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. They include not only the aggressive goals you will pursue in say a quarter, but the definable, quantifiable steps you will take to reach them. They can be used for both quarterly and annual planning, and can be set at the organisational, team and individual level. Let's see what they look like.
Objective: Raise brand awareness
Key result 1: Increase Facebook engagement by 30 percent
Key result 2: Launch customer engagement campaign by March 10
Key result 3: Increase social media reach to one new target market
Key result 4: Introduce thought leadership programme by placing guest articles on three related sites
Digital team OKR
Objective: Increase social media engagement by 40 percent
Key result 1: Identify two most popular social media sites and one new target audience and engage strategy by March 5
Key result 2: Partake in five Twitter chats involving industry leaders
Key result 3: Respond to new Facebook comments within two hours
Key result 4: Increase followers on social media sites by 20 percent
Team member OKR
Objective: Increase social media connections by 20 percent
Key result 1: Multiply posting frequency on Facebook by three times
Key result 2: Establish presence on LinkedIn and Instagram
Key result 3: Join 10 LinkedIn groups with at least 2,500 members each and leave comments on the 10 most popular discussions
Key result 4: Gain 100 followers on Quora by posting 10 answers and 2 questions every week
Don't crazy with goal-setting and wear yourself thin. There should be no more than five objectives and four key results at each level. Team member goals should reflect team goals, team goals should reflect department goals, and department goals should reflect organisational goals. They are not for evaluating performance—they're to push forward the whole organisation.
The OKR checklist
1. Ambitious. OKRs are supposed to make you nervous. If you're always meeting or outdoing your goals, you're not setting the bar high enough.
2. Measurable. Attach numeric values to your goals—percentages, monetary amounts, or a due date. Vague terms like “More customers” are a no-no.
3. Public. OKRs have to be visible throughout the entire organisation, regardless of the level at which it was made. This fosters collaboration, transparency, and accountability.
4. Graded. At the end of the set period, grade how you did on all of your key results—0 being “Didn't come close” and 1 “Aced it.”
Grading your results
If your objective is to increase social media connections by 20 percent and you managed to increase it 10 percent, give yourself a score of 0.5. Average key result scores for an objective score, and average your objective scores for an overall quarter/yearly grade. If you're always scoring full points, start setting more challenging goals. Aim high and feel good if you're hitting at least a 0.6 or 0.7.
Google says it's better to miss your goal than to overachieve. A low score isn't a sign of failure—it means you might not to re-focus your efforts or change your approach. An article on Wrike says scores benefit everyone by showing you what not to do, what to do differently, and what to continue doing more of.
How to set OKRs
What sets OKRs apart from other planning techniques is the fact that around 60 percent of organisational objectives are bottom-up. Each employee is asked to submit OKRs they think the department should prioritise. Meetings with the managers help develop team goals and align them with company goals.
Employees then set individual OKRs that support the larger goals and meet with their managers to decide and negotiate what they want to work on in the coming months.
Mid-period team check-ups are held to share progress and make necessary adjustments. Goals aren't set in stone—if assumptions you made last year aren't accurate, make changes. At the end-of-quarter wrap-up, share your grades, explain your outputs, and outline what modifications will be made for next time. Reflect and start setting OKRs for the new quarter.
OKRs are useful as references for individuals because they'll always have a detailed breakdown of what they've achieved in the past based on data that quantifies their contributions to the organisation. Nurture a culture where employees can shoot for the moon, be bold without fearing repercussions, and don't have to play it safe for short-term incentives.
The writer is In-charge of the career publication of The Daily Star