Last week we talked all about how to turn those dreams into goals – now here’s a great way to turn those goals into reality. Have you heard of OKRs? The acronym stands for Objectives and Key Results – a method I was introduced to through John Doerr’s book, “Measure What Matters”. This simple, clear, effective method utilizing OKRs has skyrocketed the success of many companies like Google and Amazon – and it can do the same for you no matter what size team you oversee.
First, you start with your Objectives. Objectives are the big picture goals that you have, more of the “dreams” we talked about in last week’s blog. These are generally qualitative and might be goals that you work on for a long time.
To start, create 3-5 objectives for each quarter and get those written down. No less than three objectives and no more than five objectives, seriously. Less than three and you aren’t being ambitious enough, more than five and you’re setting yourself up for overwhelm and failure.
Be ambitious and make sure that your objectives align with the overall vision of your company (or life!). Ask yourself, what is really going to move the needle? What is really relevant to reaching the vision of your company? For example, one of my objectives in the past has been to launch a certain service or event.
Next, you move on to your Key Results. Key Results are the measurable actions you will take to move closer to your Objectives. These need to be in your SMART goal format – more on that here.
Your key results need to be quantitative, measurable, and specific. They need to be achievable within your quarter. Your goal is to not carry your key results on from quarter to quarter, like you would a large objective. Same format here – you want to create 3-5 key results for each of your objectives, no more, no less.
Be realistic with these key results. Write them in a way that you can measure your progress each and every week. What actions are attainable AND will move the needle to bring you closer to reaching your overarching objectives? For example, when I was launching The Leadership Project, one of my key results was to create and publish the sales page for the program by a certain date.
Tools & Resources
One of the things I love the most about OKRs is that you are required to PUBLISH and SHARE your goals with your teams. There must be transparency for OKRs to be implemented effectively. Each and every person on your team creates their own OKRs and then you share them with each other. Once they’ve been shared as a team, you work together to create your team OKRs based on the work you’re doing. The team gives input to each others’ OKRs to ensure everyone is aligned to the bigger picture team objectives. By every team member creating their own OKRs first before sharing with the team you ensure that you are building ownership and consensus from the bottom up.
Back in the old days companies like Google would print and hang each team member’s OKRs from their cubicle so they were literally visible to everyone. You can do that, but there are also electronic tools like Weekdone.com, Perdoo, Week Plan, Betterworks, and more to share OKRs amongst your team.
I personally utilize Weekdone.com after doing some research on what would work best for me and my teams. I first did a full quarter on my own to work out the kinks (which is free), and then moved into implementation with the rest of my teams (I believe it costs about $9 per user, per month).
Now, I don’t invest financially like this unless I really think a tool is worthwhile – and it is. We all create and link our objectives and key results, each team member inserts their own weekly plans (which is basically their to-do list). The best part of those weekly plans is that you have to link those weekly to-dos to at least one objective. This makes you assess in the moment if you’re doing things that actually move the needle.
We’re able to see each others’ weekly plans, we’re able to report problems, ask for help, message one another, and at the end of the week the program automatically sends a weekly report to the whole team with everyone’s progress. The accountability and transparency helps us all to better help one another, never get off track with one another, and bring better understanding to what each person is doing on a regular basis to move the needle.
I personally bring my teams together, in-person, each quarter for a half-day to review our last quarter’s OKRs and create our new quarter’s OKRs – individually and as a team. Doing this as a team brings us closer together, brings the brainpower and ideas of a team rather than just one of us, and helps us to align our work to understand how we all are contributing to the larger goals of our team.
So, what now?
Okay, last thing(s). First, try this on your own for a quarter to make sure it works for you and you’re willing to hold others accountable to this process. The worst thing you can do as a leader is to bring in a new process and then not follow through yourself. Lost respect, immediately.
Second, know that you’ve succeeded if you get through about 70% of your OKRs for a quarter. That allows you to be really ambitious but also not beat yourself up if you don’t quite make it all the way there.
Share with us in the comments one of your Objectives and one of your Key Results for this first quarter of 2020!