At Weekdone, we’ve been in the OKR software market for over 10 years. We’ve developed a goal management solution to empower your teams to work toward the right business metrics through the OKR methodology.
Our ultimate guide will provide you with the OKR basics and beyond, so you can move forward with growing your business with confidence.
What are OKRs?
OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. It is a goal-setting framework that consists of two basic components:
is qualitative and reminds you of what you set to improve.
The Key Results
are quantitative, measurable outcomes you need to deliver to help achieve the Objective.
In summary, your Objectives are measured by progress made on Key Results.
Getting Started with OKRs
Step 1. Decide
Your leadership team should understand that the OKR methodology is more than a goal-setting process. It’s a cultural shift in your organization.
Having annual goals on the company level is important, but breaking the goals down into smaller focus areas keeps them agile. This drastic shift toward agile goals may be challenging and time-consuming since it requires changes in culture and performance management, as 59% of professionals have reported.
Step 2. Implement
Once you’ve decided to take the leap into OKRs, consider who will be the first ones to help you implement the methodology successfully? Some options we recommend for beginners at Weekdone are:
- Pilot team (OKR champions)
- Team leaders only
Read more about these options in our OKR roll-out guide
Step 3. Set OKRs
The OKR goal-setting process starts when the leadership defines overarching Objectives for the company – inspiring and aspirational focus areas that need improvement.
Once the Company level Objective is agreed on and communicated to everyone in the organization – functional teams and/or departments will write their team-specific Objectives and Key Results that best contribute to the overarching Objectives.
This is the best way to ensure that teams align with the company direction. They set their focus for the quarter with team OKRs that help move the needle forward on the company big picture goal.
Having a clear outcome-driven focus for the whole team helps individuals in that team prioritize their day-to-day activities and understand how their work contributes to the bigger picture.
If a team is writing good outcome-focused Objectives and Key Results, they would never need (or be able to deliver on) more than 3 Objectives per quarter.
Step 4. Track OKRs and set Initiatives
As the quarter moves on, individuals should be keeping track and measuring Key Results progress each week with their team through discussions and weekly check-ins.
Now that you’ve set your OKRs and understand how you’ll measure their success – you’ll need to set Initiatives to help you with the execution phase of the quarter. What are the actionable long-term projects you can work on during the quarter that will help your Key Results move forward?
👉 Read more about OKR weekly check-in and how to track progress within the team.
History of OKRs
The Objectives and Key Results framework didn’t appear all of a sudden, and other goal management techniques had been used before such as MBOs, SMART goals, and KPIs.
Things changed in the 1970s when Andy Grove, CEO at Intel, took the idea of Objectives and merged them with Key Results to create what we now know as OKRs. Within the next few years, John Doerr learned the methodology from Andy Grove and introduced OKRs to Google. Here is Doerr’s simplified formula:
As an outcome-driven framework, OKR management famously helped Larry Page and Sergey Brin to take Google to new heights, and thousands of companies have learned to leverage the principles of the OKR method ever since. Larry Page, a co-founder of Google, credited OKRs:
OKRs have helped lead us to 10x growth, many times over. They’ve helped make our crazily bold mission of ‘organizing the world’s information’ perhaps even achievable. They’ve kept me and the rest of the company on time and on track when it mattered the most.
Today, leaders in LinkedIn, Twitter, Slack, Spotify, Uber, and Microsoft use the methodology to communicate improvement priorities across the company and align the teams to move in the right direction.
Writing Good OKRs
Writing good Objectives and their driving Key Results takes time, experience, and critical thinking. 📝 Take notes as you read some best practices as these will guide you in the right direction!
How to write Company Objectives
A Company Objective should be a high-level improvement area that several teams can contribute to through their daily work and longer term projects. It should be broad in the sense that teams can brainstorm impactful team OKRs, yet specific enough to provide a clear direction for the quarter.
Before finalizing high-level objectives, leadership should ask for feedback from the teams and clarify expectations.
How to write Team Objectives
Team Objectives are inspirational goals aligned with the overarching company direction. They should give the team purpose, a sense of urgency, and focus. Team Objectives are not projects, they are problems to solve or the most impactful improvement opportunities to pursue within a quarter.
A team (as a group of people working towards the same outcomes) should be responsible for writing their collaborative OKRs. Starting with writing a good objective, a team would need to answer the questions:
- What is our role in driving the Company Objectives forward?
- What can we create (innovate), fix (resolve), or improve (change) in order to be more successful?
- What is stopping us?
How to write Key Results to an Objective
Key Results are the measurable outcomes that represent a valuable change in the business – indicating how close to reaching the objective you are.
Under each Objective, a team would set 3-5 Key Results. Note that Key Results are not activities you complete. They are the outcomes of those activities.
So if you, for example, complete 3 bigger projects, what kind of real-life impact are you expecting to see during that quarter? That would be the desired outcome.
Examples of good Key Results, (how to measure business values as outcomes):
- Customer acquisition outcomes – daily active users, registrations, participants, number of sales meetings, onboarded clients, calls, interviews with partners.
- Interaction outcomes – unique views or reads, website conversion, completion of onboarding steps, number of clients using a new feature, click-through rate, open rate, success rate, bounce rate, new traffic.
- Outgoing communication outcomes – pre-orders, leads, new deals closed, new hires.
- Financial outcomes – ROI, cost efficiency, LTV, deal size, average transaction value.
- Efficiency outcomes – page loading speed, number of bugs-related customer support tickets, average response speed, customer satisfaction score.
💡Pro Tip: If you set an Objective and you can’t think of any ideas to help you achieve it, then it is not actionable. While writing your OKRs, try to also discuss what could be done to drive the Key Results forward. This way you will see if this goal even makes sense.
Common OKR Mistakes
- Always start by defining an Objective for a quarter
- Write at least 3 and no more (!) than 5 Key Results per Objective
- Make them ambitious but not impossible
- a KR is not an activity, it is the desired outcome of a series of activities
- Make sure it is time bound (usually quarterly) and you have ideas on how to drive it (Initiatives)
- KR is not any regular business-as-usual KPI (business metric), it should define the success of your Objective
- A team’s actions should have a clear impact on Key Results during the quarter
- If you look at a Key Result and have no initiatives or action plans for driving it, it’s a bad Key Result
👉 Read more: OKR best practices and tips
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According to our best practices at Weekdone, we recommend setting only Objectives on the company level and both Objectives and Key Results on the team level.
This encourages a more bottom-up approach to goal setting, by giving teams ownership of the Company Key Results, they’ll contribute to the Company Objective as they make progress on their own OKRs during the quarter.
It doesn’t matter if the entire company has bought into the system or not – individual teams can try these OKR examples today:
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Improve promotional channels to generate more Marketing Qualified Leads
KR1: Increase email marketing MQLs from 100 to 150
KR2: Increase AdWords MQLs from 70 to 100
KR3: Increase organic search MQLs from 45 to 50
Research and map signups’ first product entry expectations and needs to improve areas that actually matter
KR1: Analyze learnings from at least 100 Inspectlet recordings
KR2: Analyze learnings from at least 30 interviews with early-stage customers
KR3: Analyze signup funnel and figure out at least 5 main reasons for the drop-off
Personalize sales approach and nurture new potential customers better
KR1: Improve conversion % from “trial” to “paid” from 20% to 35%
KR2: Increase follow up email open rate from 14% to 45%
KR3: Reach 8/10 average score on customer satisfaction survey with at least 100 responses
Plan, Track, Review OKRs
As you’re now familiar with the OKR method and how to write good OKRs for your team, it’s time to execute your goals.
Good OKRs are the heart of the framework but without the right process, they can quickly become just like any other goal setting technique – abandoned due to unrealistic expectations.
The OKR Process
At the beginning of a quarter, not only will you evaluate the achievability of your objective as measured by key results, you will plan your OKRs.
How do I start an OKR plan?
There’s a specific planning and checking process behind a successful quarter with the methodology.
An OKR system like Weekdone offers two great features to support the planning process:
- Initiatives – Sometimes referred to as: projects, activities, or the ideas planned by a team in order to move the needle forward on quarterly OKRs.
- Weekly Plans – Setting your immediate tasks that allow team members to focus on the most impactful plans during a week, while keeping their long term goals (OKRs) in mind. Setting plans, sharing progress, and reporting challenges during a week’s time.
While OKRs are set on the team level and all of the team members will work towards achieving these results, executing plans happens on the individual level. This is how individuals contribute to the team goals: everybody is working on their weekly plans, ultimately contributing to the progress of the whole team.
In Weekdone you can use the single Objective Details Page that gives you a bird’s eye view of a particular Objective. Edit and view progress, and see any plans or initiatives associated with the particular OKR.
👉 View and manage Objectives, Key Results, and Weekly items together in Weekdone.
How do I track OKRs?
The core value of the OKR methodology comes from the success stories and lessons learned as you track OKRs along the way.
For the OKR process to bring results we at Weekdone recommend the following:
- Hold OKR weekly check-ins
- Organize a quarterly OKR review at the end of the OKR cycle
Team level OKR weekly check-in
Your check-ins happen each week, it’s a quick 15-20 minute meeting where everyone reflects on the progress of Team OKRs and sets new priorities for the upcoming week
Teams make sure that progress is happening by look at the following:
- accomplished plans
- the results of these plans
- the lessons learned when moving forward.
This keeps your OKRs at the top of mind and sets a weekly flow.
Once a month, or at least at the end of the quarter, the whole company should run a retrospective meeting to analyze learnings.
🎯 Free Download: Use our Retrospectives Miro Board Template to help facilitate a more engaged team during your quarterly review!
The OKR review process is rather simple, just remember to:
- have an open and honest but respectful culture
- share constructive feedback
- ask the right questions
- have valuable discussions to complement the answers.
Questions to ask in your next review
How do we view progress towards our set goals?
Besides developing new processes to support your goals – you need a place to write, visualize, update and measure your impact.
Here you have a few helpful options:
- If you are a small team with up to 10 people, you can start with OKR spreadsheets to first focus using OKRs and self educating;
- With more than 10 people, OKR spreadsheets might become complicated to maintain and update during the quarter. In this case, consider using leading OKR software like Weekdone.
OKR software offers a variety of features for teams and team leaders such as:
- Hierarchical view
- Visual dashboards for simple tracking
- Linking and assigning Objectives, Key Results, Initiatives, and Weekly Plans
Here is an example of the aligned Objectives visualization (‘Tree View’ in Weekdone).
👉 Read 5 tips for OKR visualization to make the most out of your goal management tool.
Benefits of OKRs
With the OKR framework, you are creating a more results-oriented and data-driven management style, rather than an output-focused, command-and-control approach.
Here are 5 reasons why OKR is your “go-to” goal management solution:
1. Stay focused on what’s important
By connecting Company and Team Objectives, employees are more in-tune with where priorities lie. Aligning daily tasks to Team Objectives helps everyone understand the quarterly focus of your team and how it satisfies the company vision.
All the team members understand how their Key Results contribute to the Company Objective, which makes it easier for that Key Result to remain top of mind during the OKR quarter.
With Weekdone OKR software you can easily set up connections between Company and Team Objectives and add Key Results that indicate if you’ve achieved your goals.
Free 14-day trial & no credit card required.
2. Connect and align across the organization
It is not enough to write down a company’s goals and teams’ OKRs in a shared digital workspace and expect everyone to be on the same page. Proper alignment requires two-way communication: top-down and bottom-up.
Leadership should explain and clarify the company-level direction so that the teams have enough input to write their OKRs for a quarter.
Once the OKR drafts are ready, each team should present them to the rest of the company and answer the questions that might come up.
Before finalizing the OKRs for a quarter, teams should also figure out dependencies with each other. Once everyone is clear on the priorities, teams can move on to execution.
👉 Read more on goal alignment
3. Prioritize your weekly plans
Individuals in a team can work on weekly execution toward goals with the Plans, Progress and Problems methodology.
- set 3-5 of the upcoming week’s most important plans,
- move plans to progress once finished,
- move plans to problems when stuck.
Once teams set their clear Objectives and the Key Results, individual team members will decide how to achieve their OKRs.
Determine whether a plan will drive an Objective forward by visualizing it with the linking feature in Weekdone. If it doesn’t ultimately move the needle forward – is it the most necessary focus? Probably not!
Link your weekly plans with your Team OKRs from the Weekly Check-ins page to make sure that what you do each week is relevant to your long-term success.
4. Track for accountability and transparency
Company OKRs are improvement goals, and obviously, achieving some of them will require collaboration from teams in different functional areas.
Each team works towards their own OKRs as a group, and get together on a weekly basis for a quick team OKR check-in meeting to make sure their OKRs stay on track. Normally, a check-in takes around 15 minutes and it could be a part of your regular team meeting.
Apart from the regular progress update and staying in sync, the point of these meetings is to ensure regular exchange of information that will improve mutual understanding, and build trust.
5. Drive improvement with actionable goals
OKRs are all about continuous improvement and growth.
You can choose how bold your goals would be: committed goals or aspirational ones.
Those your team knows how to achieve so they fully commit to attaining 100% on the progress bar.
May not be achieved 100% but they are important for growth and ongoing improvement.
Quarterly Objectives on the company level should be broad enough so that several functional teams can approach them from their different angles, but also specific enough so that there is a common direction.
Three months is enough time for a team to deliver valuable outcomes. During this time they will learn what works best and adjust their focus areas for the next quarterly cycle.
On a quarterly cycle, teams have four chances per year to respond to real world changes. Unlike with annual reviews where teams realize they’ve been on the wrong path for a year.
Read about annual vs. quarterly OKRs
OKRs vs KPIs
Many people ask us: what’s the difference between OKRs and KPIs? Let’s start with the basics:
KPI stands for Key Performance Indicators. KPIs are a unit of measure that companies use to track business metrics that reflect performance.
OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results – it’s a goal management methodology that encourages businesses to define improvement areas and drive changes.
KPIs don’t tell you what needs to be changed or improved to drive the growth of your business metrics whereas OKRs help you clearly see how your business metrics relate to your daily work.
That isn’t to say your company can’t use KPIs. In fact, many companies use KPIs and OKRs together. OKRs are set alongside KPIs to help measure the impact of your performance metrics.
In Weekdone, you can report KPIs – let KPIs coexist with OKRs!
👉 Don’t miss our OKRs and KPIs comparison article – learn how to apply them both in your business.
Put your new knowledge to the test with our OKR Quiz
Best OKR Software
An OKR solution should suit some of the most common needs:
- Ease of use
- Progress tracking
- Reporting & analytics
- Teamwork capabilities
- Pricing and free trial options
- OKR coaching and support, etc.
There are a lot of different OKR systems to choose from. Below you’ll find the most popular ones and are free to start with.
Best OKR Software Solutions
Best for setting quarterly OKRs and alignment
Weekdone is your solution for status reporting, aligning team OKRs with company-level Objectives, and visualizing your weekly and quarterly progress. Additional features support cross-functional team engagement.
- OKR hierarchy view lets you and your team visualize your company’s OKRs and their alignment across the entire organization;
- Weekly Check-ins help you connect your weekly plans with team Objectives to make sure that what you do each week is relevant to team quarterly improvements;
- Integrations with Slack, Asana, Jira and Google Tasks to keep the entire company updated about your biggest priorities and progress while using your favorite project management tool;
- TV dashboard feature that offers a bird’s eye view of your organization’s OKRs in addition to regular reports that you can export in a PDF or Excel format.
Bonus feature: Weekdone subscribers can receive company-tailored unlimited OKR Coaching to speed up the OKR learning curve and gain helpful tips.
Best for 360-degree feedback and employee engagement
Koan’s free OKR software helps companies of all sizes achieve goals through simple, positive habits embraced from the bottom up. Koan allows easy setting of OKRs and their owners, and the weekly reflections feature is great for keeping the team engaged and aware of their progress.
- Negative feedback management to let team members fill up quick, weekly reflections and share their accomplishments, top priorities and potential concerns;
- Progress Tracking gives visibility across your teams, trackable progress and viewable insights
Best for connecting KPIs and OKRs
Perdoo’s software offers OKR-related views and focuses on the Objectives and Key Results only. It’s easy and intuitive to set up and update OKRs.
- Groups feature to create teams and assign responsibilities and enable clearer execution and exercise accountability;
- KPI Monitoring for tracking each team’s OKRs and KPIs alongside each other and 360-degree transparency across the business.
👉 Discover 20 top OKR software solutions
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How long is an OKR cycle?
Usually, the OKR cycle takes 3 months. If you are a small-to-medium company that is setting up OKRs for the first time and need a lot of flexibility, then you can set OKRs for a shorter period. In this case, instead of quarterly OKRs, try starting with 6 weeks at a time.
How many OKRs are in a quarter?
Depending on the size of your team, it might be enough to set 1-3 OKRs for a quarter for the whole organization. Later, once you get a hang of OKRs you can be setting 1-3 overarching Company Objectives and 1-3 team OKRs.
Read more about how many OKRs an organization should set
What are the types of OKRs?
We consider 2 types of OKRs – aspirational and committed. The way you phrase or write your OKRs will determine the type. Committed OKRs are those you expect to meet or deem successful at 100% value. Whereas, aspirational OKRs are those we call, “moonshot” or stretch goals – you can consider 70% as success!
How do I create OKRs for something that’s not measurable?
Having a North Star Metric can help with creating OKRs, especially OKRs for startups. A North Star Metric is a measurement of your company’s success. Whether it pertains to customer retention, value, or growing revenue – it should help you analyze your success.
How long will it take to successfully implement OKR?
While the OKR cycle itself can take up to 3 months, the OKR planning process (especially if it is your first time setting OKRs) might take some time as well.
It’s best to start planning OKRs 2-4 weeks ahead of the start of the quarter.
Additional time might be necessary for the quarterly OKR retrospective and adjusting learnings as you transition from one quarter to another. You might expect 2-3 quarters of altering this new goal process until you get to the really good OKRs.
Read our OKR implementation guide
Who should be in charge of my OKR program?
There are three options you could consider for the first-time OKR strategy roll-out:
- a pilot team,
- team leaders only,
- everyone involved.
You can also hire a dedicated OKR coach who’ll guide you on OKR best practices, train your teams and help your entire company implement the methodology.
For example, Weekdone offers OKR training along with the software purchase.
How to cascade OKR company to teams?
OKRs never cascade, they align. Cascading focuses on a top-down approach and is related to traditional forms of management. Whereas OKRs cultivate alignment by allowing teams to link their team’s OKRs to the Company Objective and be responsible for driving company goals independently.
What’s the difference between OKR and MBO?
OKRs are meant for teams and organizations to facilitate growth, improvement, and alignment while MBO (Management by Objectives) helps you track employees’ performance.
What’s the difference between OKR and SMART goals?
With SMART goals, there’s no Objective. In the OKR approach, the Objective is an aspirational statement that is supported by Key Results. SMART goals just stand on their own as quantitative results and are usually set for smaller projects. SMART goals don’t have any direct or established connection to higher-level goals.
Is OKR a performance management tool?
OKR is not a tool for performance management. When implementing the OKR goal-setting process, make sure that the progress on OKRs does not influence financial compensation or personal performance assessment of the employees.
Should OKRs be tied to compensation?
OKRs and performance management serve different purposes, and should not be tied tightly together. OKRs motivate teams to achieve ambitious goals, align, engage, and cultivate collaboration. Performance reviews help managers to evaluate team member performance individually and degrade the OKR benefits.
What are some good OKR templates to use?
OKR templates are free to use, easily customizable and can be shared among teams. Maybe you’re an OKR champion interested in rolling out the methodology with your company but first want to test it with your pilot team of leaders. Important templates for you will be: a drafting template to generate ideas, as well as a reporting template for tracking progress.
Review the free OKR template downloads available from Weekdone.
Recommended Reading: OKR articles
- OKRs and Project Management: OKRs vs Projects and OKRs for project managers to use
- OKR examples and OKR setting process: how to write OKRs for different teams and which OKRs to avoid
- The secret behind successfully implementing OKRs: knowledge, motivation and the right OKR tool
- A downloadable step-by-step guide to start using Objectives and Key Results in your company