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Continuously Improve your Life and Company with OKRs

Friday 04 of December, 2020.
Reading Time: 6 minutes.
By Esteban Elizondo



What are OKRs? 

Objective and Key Results are one of several existing tools (such as SMART, BSQ, and others) that can be used to come up with meaningful and measurable goals. It’s a simple and effective framework that allows goals to be easily aligned and cascaded (more on this later) at a company level, providing employees with the autonomy to create their own goals while considering the context of how these objectives fit into the overall purpose of the organization.

OKRs were created by Intel in the 1970s, and are used by many companies today, such as Google and LinkedIn. More and more companies are recognizing and taking advantage of the benefits OKRs offer because it’s a simple and strong goal framework.

How do OKRs Work?

First of all, you need to choose your objective, the one major thing you want to accomplish. It may help to ask yourself “where do I want to go?” Once you come up with an answer, it is a good idea to set a timeframe. It can be 3 months or a year; it’s up to you and will depend on the task you want to achieve.

After your main objective has been defined, you need to come up with your key results. These are the measurable outcomes you should aim for while working towards your primary objective. To come up with your key results, you need to ask yourself “how will I know when I’m there?”

Each objective should have several key results (three to five). Don’t think of these as daily activities or a single task. Each key result should be a way to define your success and measure progress towards your objective.

Example

Let’s use a software company like Avantica as an example. To begin, you have to address the first question:

Where do I want to go? / What do I want to do?

The answer could be: ‘in the next quarter, I want to have a 15% increase in personnel.’

You now have your primary objective and can then decide what your key results will be in order to achieve it. You then address the second question:

How will I know when I’m there?

As an organization, you come to the decision that in order to accomplish this objective, you will do the following (this is just me doing the numbers! At a company level, these key results should be determined by a team and after analyzing the right data):

  • Increase the number of projects by 5%
  • Host 2 conferences or ‘tech days’, providing talks on technological topics, and aiming to have at least 100 participants during each event; 50% of attendees should be developers from outside the company
  • Recruitment will contact 20 developers per week, even if it’s just to hold proactive interviews

 

From there, you can start taking specific actions to achieve measurable numbers for the organization. 

OKRs and Cascading Objectives

The good thing about OKRs is that they're easily aligned and cascaded within an organization. This means everyone can align their goals and key results with the top-level goals of the company.

This is great because:

  • It increases ownership in company goals. Employees know what their final goal and purpose are, and while they see everyone else working on achieving their own goals, these all point in the same direction. 
  • It increases transparency within a company. It’s easy to see how different goals across the organization tie together to achieve the main mission (biggest goal).
  • Further augmenting workplace transparency, all employees can see the impact of their work.
  • It helps the company focus on priorities because OKRs have to connect to that top-level goal. This ensures everyone is focusing on the work that has the highest priority based on what the company is trying to accomplish. 

This method allows people to frequently update their goal progress and take on new goals if priorities suddenly change. 

Now, continuing with our previous example:

 

Objective

Key Results

In the next quarter, I want to have a 15% increase in personnel

  • Increase the number of projects by 5%
  • Host 2 conferences or ‘tech days’, providing talks on technological topics, and aiming to have at least 100 participants during each event; 50% of attendees should be developers from outside the company 
  • Recruitment will contact 20 developers per week, even if it’s just to hold proactive interviews

 

If we take a closer look at the key results, each of these can be undertaken by a different department. The sales team can aim to increase the percentage of projects; this can become their main objective and they can decide on key results of their own. Marketing can be in charge of the 2 conferences, creating their own key results as well and dividing the work among their team. Then this translates to each team member creating their own key results for each task they are assigned… and this goes on until, as you can see, from the bottom up, all key results are aligned to achieving the company’s main goal. This is cascading.

Applying OKRs in Your Personal Life

After these workplace explanations and examples, I think it’s pretty straightforward on how to apply OKRs in your personal life. Maybe you want to develop a reading habit or maybe you want to increase your cooking repertoire, or maybe you want to improve your relationship with your mom! OKRs can be really helpful in each case. 

Remember, this is a goal framework and you have goals - or should have goals - in all aspects of your life, not just in your professional career. I’ll give you an example of my own OKR.

 

Objective

Key Results

In the next semester, I want to improve myself as a person (well, maybe this is too broad but in six months I can tell you if I made it)

  • Read! Read at least 6 books in 6 months
  • Learn a new development language to expand my knowledge in my daily work
  • Take at least 4 digital courses and an Agile certification, taking my professional future into consideration

 

And Finally

The OKR method involves cycles, is agile, and can adapt to changes. Cycles mean that teams and their management can learn and respond to the achieved (or unachieved) results, learnings, and environmental changes.

The ideal goal is to accomplish everything, but some people say that if you manage to achieve 80% of your key results, you’re in good shape. This can then become a habit in your life.

In the future, I will be writing a second article about metrics, including metric types and the importance of feedback when working on your OKRs.

In the meantime, thanks for reading.

 

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  1. Objective and Key Results (OKRs) are a simple and effective framework for setting meaningful and measurable goals. They consist of an objective (the primary goal) and its key results (measurable outcomes).
  2. OKRs can be easily aligned and cascaded within an organization; this means employees can align their goals and key results with the top-level goals of the company.
  3. This goal framework can be applied to all aspects of life, not just to career-related activities.

 

About Avantica

If you are looking for a software partner who will work towards your business goals and success, then Avantica is your solution. We offer dedicated teams, team augmentation, and individual projects to our clients. We are constantly looking for the best methodologies in order to give you the best results.

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