OKR Planning Software
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are a goal-setting framework for organizations that value output from employees and individual contributors aligned with their overall goals. Popularized by John Doerr in his book, ‘Measure What Matters,’ OKRs are a transparent, aggressive, and inspirational way of structuring effort from the bottom-up.
What is OKR Framework?
OKR (Objectives and Key Results) is a goal-setting system designed to align individual goals with corporate objectives and engage employees in achieving measurable and ambitious results. The OKR framework is now being used in such companies as Google, Facebook, Airbnb.
Part of Google’s approach involves setting, tracking, and evaluating objectives every three months. Quarterly OKR reviews support an agile environment where objectives can pivot as markets change. The guiding principles for an OKR framework are creating objectives and results that conform to the following:
- Objectives are the “What” and should be significant, concrete, action-oriented, and ideally inspirational.
- Key Results, then, should be written as the “How” and be specific, time-bound, aggressive (yet realistic), measurable, and verifiable. KRs almost always include a number.
Importantly, objectives and key results align with each objective with 3-5 key results. OKRs nest in a clear hierarchy where key results become team and individual objectives that, in turn, have their own key results.
What is an OKR Cycle?
OKR planning makes it possible to start a new year with a clear set of objectives that are evaluated quarterly. While developing OKRs can take time, using OKR planning templates can give companies and employees tools to make the process move faster.
Before teams and employees can develop individual goals, org-level OKRs have to be defined. A typical schedule looks like this:
- Two to six weeks before the start of a new OKR cycle, companies hold brainstorming meetings to determine corporate-wide OKRs.
- Two weeks before the start of the cycle, businesses communicate the corporate OKRs.
Brainstorming template agendas can give participants a chance to look at ideas before group sessions. People do not have to wait until the next meeting to discuss the concepts. They can come prepared to expand on the ideas.
From the time the corporate OKRs are communicated, individuals begin to create their OKRs. One week after the start of the period, they share their OKRs.
Using OKR planning templates can help employees focus their thoughts. Having a place to start is what employees need to create more meaningful objectives and develop key results. Frequently, people spend too much time trying to get something on paper that they don’t have sufficient time to evaluate their OKRs.
Teams should track progress towards meeting OKRs throughout the period. They may be weekly or biweekly meetings, using stand-up or virtual check-ins. These meetings help with accountability and ensure that individual efforts stay on track.
Reflect and Score OKRs
As the end of the OKR cycle nears, individual and corporate OKRs should be reviewed and scored to determine how successful the company and individuals were at meeting objectives.
Cadence refers to the length of a cycle. Although Google used a three-month cadence, that is not always the best cycle length. For more strategic objectives, a rhythm of six months to a year is more appropriate. The key results can then form the basis for tactical objectives with a shorter time to completion.
How to Write Effective Key Results (KRs)
Successful tracking begins with well-crafted key results. Another way to describe the alignment of Key Results to OKRs is by using the format, “If we do [Key Results], we will accomplish [Objective].”
When results focus on the inputs, outputs, and outcomes, it is easier to determine the state of the objective. How can the right type of key result be determined?
An input KR focuses on things that can be controlled. For example, to increase awareness of the new product line, 30,000 promotional emails will be sent. The group owns the number, content, and timing of the emails. Companies that focus on inputs assume that the desired outputs or outcomes will result from well-crafted inputs.
Outputs come from inputs. An example of a KR output would be: to increase awareness of the new product line, increase new product page views by 30%. The output approach assumes inputs such as promotional emails or social media posts, although they may not be specified. Some companies prefer outputs because they are clear markers of achievement.
Outcomes differ from outputs because they have a before and after. They are complex key results that may take more thought to develop. However, a well-written outcome draws attention to the unspoken challenge that is being addressed.
Take, for example, the objective of increasing the value of customer service. How can a company determine how much customers value service? Let’s assume the metric being used is the rate of service contract renewals and develop key results for inputs, outputs, and outcomes.
- Input. Deliver two marketing campaigns to increase renewal rates by 20%.
- Output. Increase renewal rates by 50%.
- Outcome. Improve renewal rates from 20% to 50%.
The underlying assumption for input and output KRs is that the rate of service contract renewals needs to improve. With an outcome KR, the assumption is clearly defined. The renewal rate must improve by 30%. A clear, articulated key result makes it easier to track progress.
No one doubts the benefits of an OKR approach to management; however, receiving maximum benefit takes practice. It takes practice to create great objectives and key results that deliver the desired improvements. If KRs are not written to show improvement, tracking progress will fail. That’s why finding OKR software that provides structure to the process and merges seamlessly with check-in meeting templates makes the process less disruptive and more productive.
Why Use an OKR Planning Template?
No matter how experienced companies are at OKR, they can always use a little help in setting up and keeping track of OKRs. For those new to the OKR framework, planning templates can help get over that initial phase and move the process along. Using OKR software can help every share their ideas much faster.
Developing useful objectives and key results is not as easy as it sounds. Why not try creating quality objectives and key results using this brief OKR guide and free OKR software.?
Create Objectives Faster
Objectives can be strategic or tactical. Corporate-level objectives are typically more strategic. For example, delivering best-of-class customer experiences would be a strategic objective. It complies with the general rules for a well-written objective.
- It is short.
- It is memorable.
- It is challenging.
Strategic objectives set the direction for more short-term goals.
Tactical objectives are goals that can be achieved in a three-month cycle. They support strategic objectives. Again, the objective should be short, memorable, and ambitious. Developing challenging objectives is part of OKR. An example of a tactical objective might be: Create a drop-the-mic online checkout experience. Goals don’t have to use “corporate speak.” They can, and should, reflect the shared company culture.
Share Key Results Easily
It’s easy to turn key results into tasks that may or may not provide value. For example, improving the checkout experience could be nothing more than a list of website improvements. For example,
- Change the colors on the checkout page.
- Remove the Later button.
- Add space for promotional code.
These key results are a checklist of things to do. The purpose of key results is improvement. For example, changing a key result to — Reduce cart abandonment by 50% — shows an improvement goal that can be measured, not a lengthy To-do list.
Having the right tools to create and manage the OKR process is crucial to its success. From developing objectives and key results to managing weekly check-ins, the best OKR software delivers both. Standardize formats simplify the process, and OKR software is one way to ensure compliance. If new to the process, look for OKR software for startups to guide you through the process.
How is OKR Progress Tracked?
The primary tracking method during an OKR cycle is check-ins. These check-ins may occur weekly or biweekly. These are not extensive meetings but rather short updates on where an individual or group stands. Check-ins may be as simple as 15-minute stand-up meetings but should never be more than 30- to 40-minutes.
OKR check-ins should be about improving the process and not about listing excuses for failing to meet objectives. That means check-ins should assess progress in terms of:
- Confidence level that the OKRs will be met
- Roadblocks to achieving key results
- Ways to improve results
In other words, check-in for cart abandonment would establish a confidence level that a 50% reduction is possible. If the confidence level is low, what is standing in the way? Maybe, several team members were off work because of illness or emergencies, reducing the number of available work hours.
What can be done to increase the confidence level? For example, are other resources available? Is the team willing to work extra hours? Weekly check-ins enable organizations to be more agile. Instead of waiting until the end of a cycle, adjustments can be made earlier to ensure positive results.
OKR tracking has a set methodology that identifies the percentage of progress in achieving a key result. Formats may vary, but the basic requirements are the same. Finding the right OKR tracking template that can be used by all participants can expedite the weekly check-ins. It can also provide a uniform way of tracking progress. OKR scores can be calculated at any point in the OKR cycle.
At its core, OKR progress is a series of yes and no questions. Either the team achieved the result (yes), or they did not (no); however, assigning a numerical score to the yes (1.0) and no (0.0) makes it possible to assign a value to each result and then average the values to achieve a score for the overall objective.
Each result receives a score from 0.0 to 1.0, where
- 0.7 to 1.0 = Delivered
- 0.4 to 0.6 = Did not complete, but showed progress
- 0.0 to 0.3 = Failed to show progress
After grading each key result, the values are averaged to produce an overall score for the OKR.