Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)

I’m in love.

It’s true – I am. Object Key Results are awesome. As a tool for keeping my often scattered thoughts on track they are terrific. Firstly, some background:

There are a number of great books published on this, but the one that caught my attention was “Measure What Matters” by John Doerr – you can find out about this book here: https://www.whatmatters.com/ and it’s available from a variety of online retailers. It’s touted as “a handbook for for setting and achieving audacious goals” (from the aforementioned webpage). I heard about this first on a podcast – Recode|Decode with Kara Swisher where she interviewed Mr Doerr about the book and his life. Here is the link to the page explaining it: https://www.recode.net/2018/5/14/17350538/john-doerr-measure-what-matters-book-kleiner-perkins-okrs-kara-swisher-teddy-schleifer-podcast. It’s worth a listen and a look at this page.

The basics of the OKR is simple. Think of it as “I will ___________ as measured by ___________ ” (from http://felipecastro.com/en/okr/what-is-okr/).

Or as Doerr puts it:

I will (Objective) as measured by (this set of Key Results).

Two elements then – Object and set of Key Results. A third element is time – OKRs are designed to work over a longer period of time than a day or a week. I’ve been working with them for a while and the shortest objective timeframe I have is 1 month. Most of them are quarterly, half-year or yearly.

So there are three elements then to consider when setting an OKR:

  1. the Objective
  2. the set of Key Results
  3. the time frame

As an example, I have neglected my writing and blogging severely over the last few years and I really want to work on this again. So therefore, my objective is to build up this blog to something valuable to my readers. How do I do that and what results do I need to achieve for that? There are obviously things that make a blog valuable – a number of quality posts, an audience and monetising it (though this isn’t necessarily a goal). I can’t control the audience – but I can get some good posts out there. I’m going to try for 100, then for 1000 posts. But not just here – I have a series of blog posts on another site to finish from my trip to the Simpson Desert from 2017. So I now have a couple of key results.

Here’s the thing about Key Results though – they have to have a quality component about them. There’s no point setting tick and flick sets – they are meaningless. So how about this as Key Results:

  • Write 1000 good quality blog posts and publish them
  • Complete the 2017 Simpson Desert series in a cogent manner

Ideally we want 3 to 5 key results (but no more) and while we’re on that – no more than 3-5 objectives per time frame you’re working to. So another Key Result would be good. Perhaps an eBook to practise my story telling, writing and composition skills. A revised and published eBook as Key Result 3.

And given that I want to write no more than one blog post per day, 1000 posts is a 3 year objective. It’s a long time, so I’ll pull it back to 100 posts – 3 months or a quarter year, which fits my initial time frame. Can I complete all of this within 3 months? Probably not, but I can get a good start on it all and review it at the 3 months phase. An aspect of OKRs is that they are flexible and should be reviewed to ensure they are still related to the activities and objectives hoped for. So my end OKR might look like:

Objective

Build a valuable blog site for my readers

Key Results

  • Post 100 quality blog posts      3/100
  • Finish the 2017 Simpson Desert Series   4/14
  • Write an eBook    0/1

Beside each key result is a measure – what I am actually looking at. I have already written and posted 3 blog posts (including this one) since starting this objective on the 6th of November 2018. I already have 4 of the 14 posts I want to write about the 2017 Simpson Desert series written and ready for posting. The eBook one I’ll have to think about a bit more.

In fact, the eBook could be it’s own OKR:

Objective

Write an eBook and publish it.

Key Results

  • Develop core idea    0/1
  • Write 10 chapters    0/10
  • Have it reviewed by 3 trusted advisors    0/3
  • Publish eBook somewhere    0/1

Extrapolate this out to an organisation – the top level team sets the company Objectives and Key Results and then the teams supporting them build their own – creating a comprehensive and cohesive set of results and objectives for the organisation to move in the same direction. It could be applied to a sporting team or club, a small business or even at home.

If you’re interested in reading more about this, I recommend John Doerr’s book – it’s an easy read, fascinating stories and insights into using OKRs to achieve things. It’s also worth nothing that OKRs should *not* be attached to KPIs – they are not a to do list, nor are they reflective of performance necessarily – they are a guide to achievement. Enjoy!

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