Get it Done – The Magic of OKRs

Reading time: 5 minutes

If like me, the hardest part of your running a business is getting sh!t done, then read on.  I want to share a revelation that has changed my life and that of several of the clients I support.

In my experience, it’s all too possible to create an inspiring vision (perhaps a 10x one) and even a brilliant strategy.   However the sticky part for me has been turning that into focused, decisive action.  Without that you have nothing more than some clever ideas and a lot of disappointment.

I’ve seen with my clients that bridging the gap between strategy and implementation is often their biggest challenge too.  Organisations can spin round in a great mess of doing “stuff” and go nowhere.  Great ideas can get lost in translation and disappear down the back of the proverbial sofa.  Brilliant individuals can embark on work with no relation to the end goal.  And whole teams can duplicate work or miss out on shared learning.

The big challenges for organisations from my experience are:

  1. Having clear priorities
  2. Devising the right targets / activities to deliver those priorities
  3. Creating accountability to deliver these targets / activities effectively
  4. Measuring progress and evaluating learning
  5. Communicating targets and progress to everyone

Thinking about these challenges and my own experience I spend a while looking for an answer.  I eventually stumbled on the brilliant book Measure What Matter by John Doerr.  This book tells the story of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) from helping Intel corner the market in processors in the 1970s through their pivotal role in growing Google to a global Titan.

Now they are widely used across the tech and start-up world and are often a benchmark for investors in evaluating businesses.

For me, the framework of OKRs have been game changing.  They’ve provided answers to all of these challenges and helped me get my business cranking.

What are OKRs?

I’ll give you a brief example to give an overview of the theory (there are lots of great resources that go into real depth and I’ll share links at the end).

OKR means Objectives and Key Results.  They are a tool designed to take strategy into action.

OKRs are made up of:

Objectives: An objective spells out what you plan to achieve and allows you to determine how close you are to getting there.

Key results: Key results spell out all the specific things that need to happen or targets you need to hit to reach your objective.  Ideally these key results are either quantifiable or allow evaluation of progress and completion.

For example – A.N. Other Enterprises

Objective: Grow revenue by 50% in the year to December 2019

Key Results:

Set up a new client offering by May 2019

Enrol 10 new clients to that offering by December 2019

On-sell new projects of at least £15k to 5 existing clients by December 2019

Because they were born out of the tech world, OKRs are expected to be aspirational and lean on the idea of 10x Thinking.  This can drive massive effort to achieve way more than anyone thought possible

The Magic of OKRs

When a company sets OKRs the Objectives clearly spell out it’s priorities (tick number 1).  The Key Results then spell out the right targets and activities to deliver (tick number 2).  They bring a sense of focus and clarity.

Often OKRs are then cascaded through an organisation so each team, department and sometimes individual has clear OKRs.  So a sales team in A.N. Other Enterprises may have an objective to enrol 10 new clients and set some key results to allow them to deliver this.  This allows everyone to be clear on what they are aiming at and who is accountable for delivering what (tick number 3).

Because they are inherently measurable, the methodology encourages regular scoring during the time period.  Google use a scale of 0.0 (no progress) to 1.0 (complete) to measure both Objectives and Key Results.  As they are aspirational, Google consider 0.7 as a par score for OKRs.  This evaluation allows insight into what is going well and where the roadblocks may be.  OKRs are agile so can be adapted to navigate problems and resources can be realigned.  So OKRs give a clear picture of progress (tick number 4).

The final magic of OKRs is that they are totally transparent and shared across the whole organisation.  Companies use everything from a whiteboard on the office wall to sophisticated software to make both the targets and scoring visible to all.  This allows everyone to see both the targets and progress (tick number 5 – full house!).

Getting started with OKRs

So, whether you’re a one man band or a global Titan, OKRs can make a huge difference.

The great news for you is that OKRs are very adaptable.  Due to their agile nature, it is possible to experiment with them, gain insight into what works and integrate them to fit with the your organisations’ needs.

If you’re intrigued, I’d suggest a great way to start is to take 10 minutes and think about these questions for your organisation:

What would be our 2 or 3 key objectives for the next 12 months?

For each objective what are the 2 to 4 pivotal key results that would enable us to get there?

Once you have answers, review them and check

Are all of your Objective and Key Results measurable? (imagine attempting to score progress and see how easy it would be)

Are all of your OKRs time bound?

If you completed all the Key Results, would you be pretty certain to achieve the Objective?

You could then experiment with sharing these with your core team (or self) and actually attempting to measure progress for a week or two.

If you’d like to seriously explore integrating OKRs into your business, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to start the conversation.

Next time I’ll also talk about how OKRs can be used to set personal targets and supercharge your productivity.

So there you have it!  Revelation revealed.  Magic uncorked.  Go forth and get sh!t done.

Leave a Reply