Google frequently uses the OKRs system — “Objectives and Key Results” (OKRs), creating an ambtious goals for developers to reach.
OKRs — brief description.
- The goals are really ambitious and may be a bit uncomfortable
- Key results are measurable and should easily be estimated by a number.(Google uses scale from 0 to 1.0)
- OKR makes everybody knows what others are doing
- “Reaching the goal” is completing about 60–70%. If you have completed the task fully it may be a reason to reconsider your goals and, possibly, set a more ambitious ones.
- OKR is neither a synonim of employees assessment nor collective list of cases.
In practise, OKR is different from the other systems of setting goals because the goals are REALLY ambitious! Thus, the teams will be more concentrated on completing original cases, reaching the impossible and leaving the comfort zone
OKRs — short story.
There are to questions to answer to make OKR system work stable:
- Where I want to go? objective
- How to estimate the results of my movement? key results
John Doerr on of the first Google investors learnt OKR from Andy Grove, while he was working in Intel. By the Doerr’s words the company (Intel) was ready to produce the processors (Earlier Intel has produced the memory)and there was a brilliant way to make a transition with OKR. In early 2000-s Doerr has shown the OKR to Google’s top managers and for now, it is widely spread in the whole company!
OKRs and “stretch goals”.
Google’s goals are quite hard to reach. It is really important to create the atmosphere of full commitment besides teams. It also important and hard to create such an impossible or “stretch” goal, which, in case of being so hard to reach, prepares the developers for failure.
From another hand, cases like that attract specialists of top class and even if the mission has not been accomplished, the process of solution development becomes really helpful for the company.
How to use OKRs in your company?
Main thing about OKR system is transparency. In that case, it is very important to make people know about Objectives and Key Results and to make them believe in it.
Consistency. Staying in coherence is very important for people. They do know which tasks are the most important and how to match their own goals with the company’s ones.
Discipline. Saying “No!” to a good idea is very hard. It is the right way to self-destruction as a specialist, especcially when you do not know which goals are important and which are not. As soon as all the people decide which ideas, projects e.t.c are important for the company wealth saying “No!” becomes easier because you have a reference points. Saying this bad word becomes less amotional and more rational which is good!
Communication. Everyone in the company should be informated about it’s Objectives and Key Results. In an interview, Dick Costolo, former Googler and former CEO of Twitter, was asked “What did you learn from Google that you applied to Twitter?” and shared (11:50):
“ The thing that I saw at Google that I definitely have applied at Twitter are OKRs — Objectives and Key Results. Those are a great way to help everyone in the company understand what’s important and how you’re going to measure what’s important. It’s essentially a great way to communicate strategy and how you’re going to measure strategy. And that’s how we try to use them. As you grow a company, the single hardest thing to scale is communication. It’s remarkably difficult. OKRs are a great way to make sure everyone understands how you’re going to measure success and strategy.”.
Set objectives and develop key results
When setting objectives, Google often starts with the organizational OKRs and aligns priorities using three to five objectives with about three key results for each objective. Successful OKRs can often come from a mix of top-down and bottom-up suggestions, allowing individuals from all over the organization to voice what they believe is worth their time and how they can best apply their efforts.
Tips for setting objectives:
- Pick no more than 3–5 objectives. If you will it can lead to over-extended teams and a diffusion of effort.
- Try both to avoid expressions that don’t push for new achievements, (“keep hiring,” “maintain market position,”…) and use expressions that convey endpoints and states. (“climb the mountain,” “eat 5 pies,”…)
- Use tangible, objective, and unambiguous terms. It should be obvious to an observer whether or not an objective has been achieved.
Tips for developing key results:
- Determine around three key results per objective.
- Key results express measurable milestones which, if achieved, will directly advance the objective.
- Describe outcomes, not activities.
- Key results should not include words like “consult,” “help,” “analyze,” “participate,” they’re describing activities.
Instead, describe the impact of these activities, e.g., “publish customer service satisfaction levels by March 7th” rather than “assess customer service satisfaction.”
No OKRs mistakes
Developing OKRs that set clear goals, measured by agreed upon results, can push teams to achieve great things and keep an focused on the most important. Poorly written OKRs can create confusing strategy. When developing OKRs, try to avoid these traps:
- Miscommunicating stretch goal OKRs — Setting stretch goals requires careful communication between different teams. If your project depends on another team’s objectives make sure you understand their goal-setting philosophy. If they are using stretch goals you should expect them to deliver on about 70% of their stated OKRs.
- Sandbagging — Teams who can meet all of their OKRs without needing all of their team’s bandwidth may either be hoarding resources, not pushing their teams, or both.
- Low-value objectives — OKRs should promise clear business value — otherwise, there’s no reason to expend resources doing them. “Low-value objectives,” even if fully achieved, won’t make much of a difference to the organization. Ask, could the OKR get a 1.0 under reasonable circumstances without providing direct organizational benefit? If so, reword the OKR to focus on the tangible benefit.
- Insufficient key results for objectives — If the key results for a given objective don’t represent all that is needed to fully achieve that objective, an unexpected miss on that OKR can happen. That can cause delays of both the discovery of the resource requirements as well as the discovery that the objective will not be completed on schedule.
Develop team OKRs
Although approaches will vary, it can be helpful to commit first to organizational objectives, so that teams and individuals can set their own objectives in service of those larger goals. This can help to create alignment throughout an org. The next decision is how many levels of “team” OKRs work for the organization — does each department, function, and sub-group need OKRs?
For team-level goals, recognize that not every organizational OKR needs to be reflected in every team OKR. It’s possible that a team’s OKRs will focus on just one of the organizational OKRs. But there should be some connection between team OKRs and at least one of the organizational OKRs.
One way to set these team OKRs is to have all of the team leaders meet to set goals. At Google, team leaders sometimes list priorities for the upcoming quarter in the context of the company OKRs. When creating these priorities, it is helpful to pay attention to the organizational OKRs and check:
- Do the team priorities connect to any of the organizational key results?
- Do the team priorities make it more likely that the organization will successfully achieve the organizational OKRs?
- Are there things missing that others think this team should be working on?
- Are there more than three priorities?
One thing OKRs are not is a checklist. They are not intended to be a master task list of all the things the teams will work on in a quarter. If a team treats this as a shared to-do list it may result in getting overly prescriptive about what the team wants done, rather than what the team wants to achieve. Use OKRs to define the impact the team wants to see, and let the teams come up with the methods of achieving that impact.