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The ultimate guide to OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) [+ planning tool and video]

The ultimate guide to OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) [+ planning tool and video]

by Grape
8th March, 2020

Objectives and key results are an amazing method to give your team the most decision power without the loss of oversight or coordination. The principle of Andy Grove works as follows:

Ambitious Goals (Objectives) meet measurable success (Key Results).
- OKRs

Objectives 

Objectives can't be measured in numbers. They are high-aiming guidelines you would like to see achieved within a quarter. Our "Growth-Team" (in charge of getting us new customers) aims to have "Lighting-fast websites" as one of its quarterly goals at Grape.io, for example. Every team has between 3 and 5 such Objectives and can freely direct all measures to achieve them.

An Objective can't be measures (like "50 new customers"), it's merely a headline for the metrics you would like to see – a war cry you can hear roaring for a full quarter. Some possible Objectives:

  • Bugless Core Product
  • Efficient Customer Support Hotline, that everyone loves
  • Strong company presentation that sticks
  • Celebrated by the Press in the Netherlands

Key Results

But what does "lightning-fast website" mean exactly? Way to often we set goals that a team can not rally behind, because everyone has a different view on what a successful outcome would be. Setting task lists on the other hand is too interfering for the individual teams (Project management commandment #1: "Thou shall not micromanage") – in a well organised company, management doesn't need to see the specific actions that lead to a positive outcome. That's why you need impartial numbers that describe the progress of a project. Introducing Key results.

Every Objective should be measured by 3 to 5 key results, which define the stage of completion in clear numbers. You could measure "lighting-fast website" for example with results of a third-party speed test, like  Google Pagespeed Insights

So imagine your team at the beginning of a quarter, discussing what would mean an "amazing success" for a page speed test. No matter where you'd put that improvement you need to be aware of an important OKR rule: An Objective with 70% of all Key Results reached is counted as an amazing success.

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Background: Why 70%

OKRs are set so a team can work focused for three months with a clear influence on the company's success. You don't want a team to require readjustment after a month because they reached all goals ahead of time. That's why your goals should aim a bit higher than what's reachable within a quarter.

Setting goals together

  1. Preparation
  2. OKR discussion
  3. Documentation
  4. Automation


1.) Preparation

At Grape we plan our OKRs with Airtable. This tool allows you to create intelligent spreadsheets with pre-defined fields. Further, you can automate a lot directly within Airtable, which is extremely important later on in your projects, as the growing complexity needs regular reminders and summaries to stay on top of your processes without needing more meetings.

Click here to download our Airtable. (You have to create an account and click "Copy Base" in the top-right corner)


1
Goals

On the first page you can find the goals from our Napkin Plan, readily defined and assigned to different teams.

2
Teams

On the second page we describe our teams and define team leads.

3
Objectives

Page three defined Objectives for each team. The cool thing about Airtable is, that you can create multiple views for one Table, so you can filter out fields that management wouldn't need or – in our case – hide Objectives from the next and previous quarters.

Additionally, we can create different views for individual teams, allowing them to prioritise and sort in different ways.

4
Key Results

On the last page we dive into the Key Results. By using the grouping feature you can easily hide teams and objectives to focus on the current task at hand. 

By defining Goal Numbers we can calculate the percentage of completion for each Key Result. If a goal is for example "25% more revenue" and we reach 20% (which your team has to enter in the Status Number field) we can automatically calculate that you reached 80%.

Before planning the OKRs with the individual teams, you should pre-define a few to have a better starting point, as it allows for an easier explanation of what the OKR system is really for. It is important that both management and team leads agree on all OKRs, but a few examples turned out to be quite helpful for our internal discussions. 


2.) OKR discussion

As OKRs are long-lasting planning tools, you can and should invest more time in defining them. After discussing them with your team leads, plan in a few days for them to discuss the OKRs internally and come back to you with a revised version. The key point in our definitions was the 70%-rule – if you don't bring that point across, the Key Result discussion might be hovering too long around the "but we can't reach that goal" argument. This is natural for the first discussions – after all, people don't like to deliver under 100%.

A possible reply to that topic: "We don't want to reach 100%, otherwise we would have to change our OKRs during the quarter. But I want you do have the least amount of disruption to your work for the next months, so you can achieve the best possible results.

Once you've agreed on the OKRs, you can enter them together in the OKR-Tool of your choice.


3.) Document

The team should enter current numbers for their Key Results every week. That way you can calculate the current progress, without constantly requesting Updates from your colleagues. 

The natural enemy of status meetings is tool-based reporting
- - Grape

It's best to have the team leads update the current status data of all Key Results (Hint: You also pay per user at Airtable, so you can cut costs by just have team leads participate). While some Key Results need to be entered manually, you can – depending on the technology – connect available databases and analytics tools to automatically manage some updates in your Key Result reporting.

Some examples:

  • Marketingtools like Google Analytics
  • Sales-Systems like Hubspot or Salesforce
  • and project management tools like Jira


4.) Automation (Advanced)

This topic needs its own article. We recommend that you first focus on the manual part and – once you have defined the first quarter with your team – start planning your automation.

Learn how you can automate your OKR management


Done!

You should now – from tools to general knowledge have everything you need to execute OKRs with your team. We wish you the best of success and love to hear from your experiences regarding #OKRs and Grape :)

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