What is a “good objective”? Any good objective should help point you in the direction toward measurable and achievable outcomes. But first, you need a good understanding of what needs to be fixed, created or improved upon, and why this matters right now.
In the business environment, we talk about strategic goals, or objectives. In our case at Weekdone, we believe in (and run on) the OKR methodology.
OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results, it’s a goal management framework used to tackle challenges or go after new opportunities bringing companies and teams closer to growth and success quarter after quarter. Objectives and Key Results are most successful when the company sets one overarching Objective for the quarter, and then teams create their own more focused OKRs with that big picture goal in mind.
So let’s break it down.
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How to write good Objectives and Key Results
An Objective is an inspirational statement, or ambitious and strategic goal that gives you, your teams and company clear direction and focus.
First focus on understanding what your team needs to achieve. Try to write it out as descriptive as possible. Once you are clear about the focus area, you can phrase your Objective as a short inspirational statement.
Pro Tip: While writing and drafting your team OKRs, consider starting these statements with action verbs, words like: improve, gain, expand, and develop.
4 Questions to Ask When Writing Good Objectives
Think of the potential focus areas for the quarter and discuss with your team the following questions:
- What problems or challenges do we need to solve? How do we solve them?
- What is stopping us? How can we overcome it?
- What could be changed for us to have better results as a team?
- What could we achieve in one quarter?
Remember, Objectives are not projects – those are Initiatives 😊
This means that not everything you do in your organization will be directed towards achieving an Objective. On average, teams spent only 20-40% of their time working towards ambitious Objectives. The rest of the time they need to deal with business-as-usual, recurring tasks and things that just need to get done.
Business-as-usual keeps us where we are, but OKRs are meant to drive the company forward.
In order to keep focus and see progress, you need to be able to commit to certain tasks. This means the optimal number of Objectives per team will be 1 per quarter. More than that and you may quickly lose focus and people won’t see the benefits of OKRs. Air on the side of “less is more”.
For teams working collectively in a department, it’s possible you’ll have more than one objective – but this depends on your company structure.
Need assistance in learning the Objectives and Key Results methodology? Weekdone’s OKR coaches are here to help you in your journey from the ideation and drafting phase, down to implementation and tracking.Learn more about Weekdone OKR consulting
4 Must-Know Tips for Writing Objectives
After you have picked the focus areas for the quarter, you can move on to phrasing and writing an inspirational Objective for your team.
1. Objectives should be inspirational and easy to remember
If people do not know or can’t remember the Objectives or team has, it’s also quite hard to make sure that they are working towards achieving them.
When you are writing an Objective, remember those action verbs! Do not just write “customer loyalty”. Instead, start with improve, create, increase, maximize, grow, build, leverage, etc.
Frame an Objective in positive language. For example, do “more” of something beneficial rather than cutting back on something negative. It’s human psychology to aspire to growth rather than cutting back on something.
Bad Objective example:
“Reduce the production costs to earn more profit”.
Good Objective example:
“Maximize company profit earnings through sustainable efforts across all teams”
The second example already gives readers an understanding of what you want to achieve, “more profit earnings”. Not only this, but it gives some insight into the problems the company is having, they’re not working efficiently in their current efforts – so this quarter will be about optimizing processes to improve profit earnings.
2. Objectives should be qualitative
When writing Objectives, yes – you need to consider how you’ll achieve them, but there is no number in this visionary statement.
If you put the number into your Objective, people might start listing outputs and activities as the relative Key Results. This guides individuals to think in the wrong direction. All the measurements and values belong to Key Results. Or sometimes, as KPIs.
Exception to the qualitative rule: “Become the number one SaaS company in Germany”
3. Objectives should be actionable and achievable in a quarter
Sounds easy but it’s far too common to set goals that are too broad – making it difficult to process or generate innovative ideas.
Let’s take the example of: “Reducing churn”
This might be an important goal for a Sales Team but it is not a good quarterly Objective – it lacks specificity and it’s not actionable.
First, it’s almost impossible to make such a big impact in just one quarter.
Second, churn is a summary of many contributing factors. It’s the question of marketing bringing in enough quality leads, it’s about the product being in demand and keeping customers satisfied and it is also about the current economic situation affecting the business.
The sales team plays its own role in reducing churn and they should write an objective appropriate for what their team can actually improve and influence with their skilled efforts.
4. Objectives should provide business value
Objectives focus on problems to solve, areas to improve or new opportunities to take. If an Objective is achieved, it should bring positive business value.
Let’s look at the example of a Marketing Objective: “Develop a new marketing plan”
This is not an Objective because it is not connected to real business value. Instead, if you think a new marketing plan is crucial for the quarter, start from the questions:
- Why did we need a new plan in the first place?
- What will this new plan help us achieve?
These questions help you dive further to find the real value by specifying a statement that meets the organization’s needs.
A good objective for this marketing team could be to “Improve our brand awareness by sharing our solution with more customers”.
- This brings more people to your product and more value to the business.
In short, do not confuse what you do (initiatives and weekly plans) with where you want to go (objectives)
3 Ways to Avoid Writing Bad Objectives
1. Objectives should not be too easy
If you are just starting out with OKRs, achieving 100% of your Objective in 3 months is pretty common. This will help to support team morale and motivate people to set more ambitious goals next quarter.
If an Objective is achieved well before the end of the quarter you weren’t thinking big enough. And if you don’t reach anywhere near that, you may have set an annual goal instead.
Once you become more comfortable with setting Objectives and Key Results, you will want to make them more ambitious. When you hit 65-70% of an ambitious goal, it is still quite an accomplishment! Don’t become discouraged if you’re only achieving two-thirds of your Objective in one quarter – objectives are stretch goals – or in Weekdone, we call them “moonshot” goals.
That being said, you want to make sure that 75% doesn’t become the new 100% for your team! Everyone should always aim to achieve 100% of their Objective by coming up with new ways to produce better results.
Read more about aspirational vs. committed goals
2. Objectives are not projects with sub-tasks
Objectives are aspirational goals. They are not one-off activities that would be considered as tasks or plans.
So if we wanted to write an Objective for a sales team to increase the revenue in Q3, a good focus area could be to:
Increase product reach in Germany
This Objective works, since it’s aspirational, time-bound (Q3), and helps move the sales team forward.
An example of a bad Objective would be:
Write a product marketing plan for Germany
We would consider this a bad Objective since it doesn’t give us any insight into what we’re trying to achieve with the new product marketing plan. It also fails to share the actual business value the plan will bring. So, when you are writing objectives – think about the reason and desired value that achieving different outcomes will bring.
3. Objectives are not your business-as-usual targets
A bad objective would be:
Achieve $2 million in revenue
When writing your objective statements, you need to set a clear path – for either the business or teams – and this example doesn’t do that.
We all want to make money, of course! Those monetary targets are important but they are KPIs, not OKRs. There’s no point in setting quarterly goals that are just your KPIs rephrased as OKRs – carrying over quarter after quarter without any new outcomes or improvement.
Looking for more OKR examples to inspire your teams? Check out 30+ OKR examples + the thought process behind each.
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