If you have been in a high growth company, you will know a key challenge is keeping everybody aligned and focused on the right priorities. When companies grow fast so does the number of customer requests, the company appetite for new things that will foster growth even further and the number of new people joining the organization. It is common for organizations going through that process to get confused and messy, get people working on different and sometimes even conflicting priotities and not aligning new people joining the company to achieve a common goal.
Objective and Key Results (OKRs) is a simple business framework for alignment and prioritization. It was invented at Intel and it is used by many companies big and small accross industries. We are talking about companies like Google, Linkedin, Accenture or GoPro.
Priorities are defined as ambitious, inspirational, qualitative Objectives. Some examples: “Release V2 of Product X that Customers Love”, “Become the Most Popular Music Band” or “Deliver the Best Concierge Experience in France”.
If the objective was the only thing you communicated to your company, different people would understand it differently. Therefore, you need to define how you’ll measure success in achieving the objective. This is done through Key Results. Some examples: “Increase of 30% in time spent in application”, “Be the most listened band in Spotify in March 2016” or “Achieve 95% Customer Satisfaction”.
The company, each department, each team and each individual will have their own OKRs. OKRs at the different levels have to be aligned. The OKRs of individuals will be aligned with their team OKRs, which will in turn be aligned with the department OKRs and those will help meet the company OKRs.
OKRs are usually set quarterly because it gives enough time to achieve something meaningful without being so long that priorities may need to change and make the OKRs obsolete. That said, I also find it useful for companies that are growing and hence have found product market fit to define annual OKRs so that everybody in the company have longer term visibility on what you are trying to accomplish. This way you can make sure the quarterly OKRs are aligned to achieve a bolder objective.
You should be tracking the progress you are making against the OKRs regularly. Tracking them just at the end of the quarter is a recipe for disaster. When you start implementing OKRs, I would suggest that each team holds a meeting on Monday to define the tasks that each individual will be performing that will get you closer to meeting their OKRS. On Friday you celebrate what you have accomplished during the week. Depending on how it goes you may decide to reduce the frequency of those meetings later on.
While the framework is simple, putting it in practice requires a bit of time. At the beginning you will experience some difficulty defining the right objective and key results. Do not get discouraged since all organizations have to go through the same process. You will see that your organization will learn quickly and master the framework in a couple of quarters.
If you are intrigued by the OKR framework I suggest you watch this video recording from Google Ventures (it’s a bit long but totally worth it) and you read Radical Focus: Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objectives and Key Results