OKR’s : a Learning Framework

How to set goals for successful teamwork?

For years, I have worked with very talented teams and they have chosen the right objectives and the wrong objectives. Many have succeeded, others have failed. Today I am going to share with you what really is the difference between successful and not so successful teams.

Some of you may know him. He is Andy Grove — Former CEO of Intel.

He always said “Ideas are precious, but they are relatively easy. Execution is what matters the most”. So he introduced OKR’s at Intel in 1968 and that helped their teams to do

F A C T S — Focus, Align, Commit, Track and Stretch

and then every other company followed. All the successful companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Linkedin, Oracle, Netflix, Adobe are in amazing relationships with OKRs. Some have achieved 10x improvements like Google where youtube set one of their objectives to 10x their viewing hours to an astonishing 1billion hours of watch time per day. Some credit their very survival to OKRs like intel who won the microprocessor war against Motorola.

But many of us are setting goals wrong and some of us are not setting up goals at all. A lot of organisations ship their sales, introduce new products, meet their numbers, but they lack a sense of purpose to inspire their teams.

So how do you set these goals the right way? Here comes the OKR.

What is an OKR?

I hope many of you will know…

Objective Key Results

One objective can have multiple KR and there can be multiple objectives for a team.

Lets look at this OKR from RCB (Cricket Team in Indian Premier league)

In 2008, Sundar Pichai was a middle manager at Google. He had set an objective — to build the next generation client platform for the future of web applications (a browser). He was very thoughtful about how he chose his objective

How do you measure a browser? It could be engagement/ad clicks/revenue.

However, he chose # of active users

1st Year — Goal was 20M, achieved 10M

2nd Year — Goal was 50M, achieved 37M

3rd Year — Goal was 100M, achieved 111M

He carefully chose the right objective and stuck to it year after year. Now lets try to understand objectives.

What is an Objective?

Objective is the Direction or the Outcome. It is significant, concrete, action oriented and inspirational

What are Key results?

Key results are the best Levers to reach your objective. These should be specific & time bound, aggressive yet realistic, measurable & verifiable.

How do you score?

Scoring should be from 0 to 1.0

Stretch is required to hit 1.0. Stretch means everything needs to go right and you need to fundamentally challenge yourself to do things differently.

Anything under 0.7 is red and anything above 0.7 is green

Scoring 1.0 consistently is terrible. Why?

If the team is scoring 1.0 consistently, it means that either the objectives are not ambitious/stretched enough or the key results are not the right measure.

Stay Focused

Less is more! Fight the temptation to make everything an OKR

Limit yourself to 5 or less OKRs if you’re running a large organization

Have between 3–5 KRs. Publish scores often with the team.

What are the benefits of OKR?

Clearly articulate company strategy

Removes Ambiguity

SMART — Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely

Outcome oriented

Keep Teams Focused

Not everything at company, department or team level can be an OKR

Forces teams to prioritise whats most important

No substitute for Comms

You still need to communicate the context; why is this the strategy, what’s your vision and mission. The net result is a deeper level of alignment within the team.

There’s a lot of thought, discussion and collaboration required to create an OKR. At first this might feel wasteful but hold on to that feeling and later we’ll talk about how that buys you velocity later.

Use a Score key

Score keys are a great way to further remove ambiguity and create deeper alignment on the goal. Especially useful, if there are multiple teams that have dependencies and you want to reduce ambiguity and increase chances of success. Score keys are also a good way to deal with binary outcomes by introducing another dimension.

OKR should not be tied to performance evaluation, bonuses or promotions. They are used for a higher purpose. i.e. to get a collective commitment to truly stretched goals. There is a company mission and strategy which is prepared with inputs from all the teams. However, each team has to write their OKR in alignment with the strategy so it becomes a feedback loop.

This process can take time. It can get heated. It can cause tough conversations and there can be opposing points of view. Sometimes teams get frustrated here. Sometimes you might hear a comment that says something like “We spend so much time just setting our goals, we could be using that to make progress”.

Learn & Act

We’ve seen tremendous change, in our lives, business, customers, products, markets & competitors. This rate of change is accelerating exponentially. Therefore, the most important ability you can foster in your teams is the ability to learn fast.

OKRs are a learning framework. OKRs are not used to rate anyone during performance reviews. OKRs are not punitive. It’s OK to be red (< 0.7 score) as long as we learn and act.

We focus on always learn why we scored what we did. By this I mean really deeply understand why we didn’t get to a 0.7 score as we expected we would when we first set our OKR. Deeply understand the whys and whats. It’s only through deep understanding that you can do something about it.

OKR can go beyond businesses. We can take them to our personal projects, non-profits, schools etc.

Give it a try to improve your strategy execution with OKRs and let me know how it works for you.

Rahul Malik


#okr #objectives #goals #objectiveskeyresults #teamwork #strategy #productmanagement #productmanager #product #collaboration #businessimpact #customerexperience #customerobsession #engineering #design #marketing #adobe #microsoft #oracle #servicenow #alphabet #salesforce #google #intel #amazon #oracle #netflix

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Leading products @Atlassian, Ola Cabs, Co Founder-Egully, AMD, IIT, ISB-https://www.linkedin.com/in/malikrahul/

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