Examples of how teams developed their OKRs
OKRs may seem simple, but writing good OKRs isn’t easy. Which is why we put together useful examples for how different teams came about their OKRs. Hopefully it will inspire you to write your own OKRs.
Our sister site has a list of OKR examples for even more teams, however it doesn’t show the step by step process of how the teams came about these OKRs as these examples below do.
- Financial Team OKR example – how to align with the Company Objectives
- Marketing Team OKR example – focusing on a KPI that is falling behind
- CS Team OKR example – an explosive KPI growth target
- OKR example – alignment with the Company Objectives
Financial Team OKR example – how to align with the Company OKR
Finance Teams are usually focused on business-as-usual regular operations, and they might struggle with writing improvement-focused Objectives and measurable Key Results. Let’s look at how to write OKRs for a Finance Team with this step-by-step example.
Company A has an overarching Objective to improve cross-team collaboration. Let’s explore an example for the finance team that is writing an OKR to align with the company goal.
- Step 1: Team discussion
- Step 2: Writing an Objective
- Step 3: Writing Key Results
- Step 4: Alignment & linking
Step 1: Team discussion
What should the finance department focus on to help move the company forward? In order to determine the answer to that question, the team has to put their heads together and have a discussion that could go like this:
Question: What problems are we facing?
Answer: We have a lot of overdue payments (causing contractual penalties) and late financial reports although we are always busy and always in a rush.
Q: Why is this happening?
A1: Team managers are not sending primary documentation (receipts, bills, invoices) to us on time and submit their payment requests too close to the payment deadline causing issues with unexpected fines and going over the planned budget.
A2: Also, it takes a very long time for us to determine a type of expense to enter it correctly into the ERP system. The reason is a non-descriptive expense name in the invoices. If team managers specify what the payment is actually for, it will save a lot of time for us in preparing reports.
A3: According to feedback from team managers, the payment request application is too complicated, as there are too many people who need to confirm the application before it comes to the finance department.
Q: How can we change this?
A1: We need to explain how financial reporting should work to reduce overhead for the team managers and make sure that we can process all documents on time.
A2: We should create a straightforward manual to categorize all invoices by the type of expenses they represent. This way, when team managers submit payment requests, they can specify the expense type for us, and we wouldn’t need to spend extra time researching the background of every single document.
A3: We should organize a payment confirmation process that requires no more than 3 parties involved.
Step 2: Writing the Objective
In the team discussion, it became obvious that team managers are struggling when submitting payment requests to the financial department, and it’s not clear to them how invoices and receipts should be handled.
This is causing issues with outstanding payments being delayed, and one way to change the situation is to improve the procedure that team managers are following to submit their payment requests.
Based on this step-by-step analysis and the answers that the team has discovered, they can write an Objective that would solve the problem.
For example, Simplify internal procedures and make financial reporting more transparent.
This Objective directly contributes to the overarching company goal (“Improve cross-team collaboration“) because achieving it should mean a huge improvement in the internal processes and mutual understanding.
But how will the team know if the Objective is achieved? In other words, what needs to change specifically so that everyone would agree that the internal procedures are simplified and financial reporting is finally more transparent?
With these 2 questions, the team should approach writing the Key Results for their Objective.
Step 3: Writing Key Results
Key Result 1
First of all, the team has discovered that it takes a very long time for them to determine a type of expense to enter it correctly into the system. Often they need to check if the contractor is already in the system, and reach out to the team managers to ask what kind of service the third party has provided. This is why they are always swamped with tons of documents to process. All due to a non-descriptive expense name in the invoices. If team managers specify what the payment is for and if there was a prior purchase from this contractor, it would save a lot of time for the financial department.
The go-to solution would be to categorize expenses in the payment request so that team managers could provide all of the necessary information from the beginning. So the first Key Result must indicate the change in categorizing expenses as a part of the new payment request procedure:
KR1: >80% of invoices are categorized by expense type before they come to the finance department
This would mean that the finance department needs to create a list of expense types, categorize them, and explain the new payment request form to the team managers. And only if the team managers understand and adopt the new process, this Key Result could be achieved.
Key Result 2
Secondly, the finance team needs to make sure that team managers are capable of delivering primary documentation on time. Here’s how to measure this change:
KR2: Reduce the number of primary documentation reported late to the financial department by 20%
To move the needle on this Key Result, the team might create a presentation about handling receipts, bills, invoices, and similar forms of primary documentation, to make sure that everyone else understands the process.
Only if everyone understands the process, the team would consider that they have achieved a new level of transparency in the organization. It could be even a good idea to create a leaderboard for team managers who bring documents on time!
Key Result 3
Third of all, the finance team would want to focus on making the payment confirmation process easier so that applications can reach the finance department faster from the moment when team managers submit them.
But making the process easier might not be the only issue that needs to be solved to improve the processing time. Even if you are confident in the solution, don’t assume that it’s the best one. There might be better ways to solve the problem or there might be other factors you haven’t considered.
What if the procedure is simplified but the processing time hasn’t changed? Treat your solution as a hypothesis, and keep in mind that it’s absolutely important to determine the real change the team wants to see in the future, and not just the first good hypothesis that comes to mind.
You should never forget the problem you are trying to solve. (Learn more examples in this article)
In our current example, the problem is that the payment confirmation process needs to go faster (from making a request to making the transaction). Making the payment confirmation process easier is one possible solution. But if fixing the application procedure does not solve the problem, the team will have to keep thinking about other solutions.
Focusing on outcomes (as opposed to to-do lists) is a productivity lifehack and the greatest advantage of the OKR methodology.
So here is a measurable outcome the finance team would need to deliver:
KR3: Speed up payment processing time from “application” to “paid” from 16h to 8h
Alignment and linking
When the team OKR is agreed upon, drafted, and aligned with the company Objective, here is what it looks like:
For the finance department to reach their Objective, they will have to develop better internal procedures for team managers to understand and adopt. Delivering results on this OKR will definitely create stronger ties between departments and better collaboration in the company. Thus, directly impacting the Company level overarching goal.
With OKRs acting as your teams’ north stars, you can say no to low-priority and low-value plans, or think about outsourcing and automating them.
Marketing Team OKR example – focusing on a KPI that is falling behind
Data-driven decision making is very important for Marketing Teams, and that is often why marketers confuse OKRs with business metrics and targets. Let’s look at how to approach writing actionable OKRs.
Let’s say your marketing team KPI is to bring 2000 qualified leads to your website per month, and now they are falling behind on this number. Your first impulse might be to create an Objective: Increase the number of high-quality leads, with the first Key Result being: increase the number of qualified leads from 1500 to 2000.
Reiterating your KPI targets in your Key Results will not help you achieve them. So consider a closer look into the reasons behind the KPI changes and maybe there’s a different approach or a better path you could take.
A KPI simply lets you know that there is an issue, but Key Results should be measuring the success or failure of your Objective. So if the Objective is really to Increase the number of qualified leads, what outcomes would you like to deliver, and what Key Results should you consider?
Perhaps 50% of the new leads were coming from a free ebook. However, this ebook is now 5 years old and over the years the percentage of leads has been going down regularly.
You may want to write a Key Result to focus on updating the ebook and generating downloads of the new edition.
Other Key Results may be about diversifying your communication channels and nurturing leads for them to reach your qualification criteria.
Check out more Marketing OKR examples.
CS Team OKR example – an explosive KPI growth target
Customer Success Teams are often writing their KPI targets as Key Results. But this is not the best practice. It’s important for Key Results to pinpoint specific outcomes related to the Objective and for the team to know exactly how they are going to deliver these results. Learn more from this example.
Let’s say Company A’s Customer Success team has a KPI target of 100 meetings per quarter. They realize that to onboard more customers and increase customer lifetime value, they need to have more meetings. So they decide to pursue a much higher KPI target of 300 meetings per quarter. This is an explosive KPI growth target.
Step 1: Clarify the KPI target
The regular KPI target is 100 meetings per quarter.
The new target is to achieve 300 meetings in the next 3 months.
What exactly do they need to focus on to deliver on this KPI target?
Step 2: Identify the most impactful improvement area
Some ideas are more impactful than others, and you should start with the ones that are the more promising in terms of delivering actual change.
So what exactly does the team need to focus on to deliver on this KPI target?
- Will they focus on new customers or the ones who subscribed in the past 6 months?
- When are the customers more likely to book a meeting? What has to be true for them to have interest?
- How will the Team approach this: through email communication, in-product notifications, or a landing page?
- Where in the sales funnel the changes should happen: early on when potential customers are still learning about the service or somewhere in the middle when they discover its value hands-on?
- Would it be more impactful to focus on long-term customers and engage them more often?
- How many meetings per customer is enough to make sure continuous usage and engagement?
- If customers are not booking follow-ups, is it because of the bad first impression? Should the Team consider improving the sales pitch and demo approach?
So… what does it mean exactly “to increase the number of meetings” and why is that important?
In the reasoning process and in team discussions, it will become clear that some areas are more impactful than others, and you have more faith and confidence in some ideas for delivering actual change.
Place your bid on the highest impact idea and define how you will measure success of achieving this Objective. These measurable outcomes will be your Key Results.
Tip! You can use this spreadsheet to keep a record of the ideas for Team OKRs: download free template. Some OKRs might be impossible to deliver in the current quarter, so you can always mark them for the next one. That is if they are still relevant by then.
So we’ve established that Key Results should be narrowly focused to pinpoint what outcomes you need to achieve to reach the Objective.
To continue with our example, let’s imagine that the Customer Success team decided to focus on the customers who subscribed in the past 3 months and increase engagement with them. The team will apply different tactics to deliver on the desirable outcomes. But which outcomes are desirable here?
Step 3: Finalize Objectives and Key Results
Remember, you should have at least 2-3 and no more than 5 Key Results per Objective.
Focusing on outcomes helps the team to choose the right plans to work on, and not to waste their time on pursuing everything that comes to mind.
Usually companies think that the KPI should be one of the Key Results under the Objective, but this isn’t the best practice.
Instead of writing “increase the number of meetings from 100 to 300” (which is just reiterating the KPI target), try to identify an outcome that the team can influence on an ongoing basis. Something that they can track every week and take action when the progress is at risk, for example: “increase the number of follow-up meetings booked [a specific type of a meeting] from 7 to 21 per week [measurable on a weekly basis]”.
Remember, you should have at least 2-3 and no more than 5 Key Results per Objective. Let’s look at what other outcomes will the team try to deliver.
For OKRs to work, you need to define the Objective so clearly that it would shape the thought process and prioritization framework for the entire quarter. Knowing the actual outcomes helps the team to choose the right tasks to work on, and not to waste their time on pursuing everything that comes to mind. Everyone should stay focused.
Both Key Results and Key Performance Indicators are measurable and both reflect a team’s performance. What’s different, however, is what exactly you measure and how you come up with those measurements.
KPIs reflect performance but don’t tell you what needs to change or improve to drive growth of those numbers. They are high level business metrics that you analyze with precise frequency (yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, etc.).
When you see the numbers dropping below target, you should go deep into analysis, identify bottlenecks and constraints, determine what needs to be changed, fixed or improved.
And once you’ve decided on which area needs improvement, you write an Objective focused on that area and Key Results to measure how close you’re getting to this Objective. So Key Results are specific to a particular focus area represented by an Objective.
There are always a million things a team could do to improve a KPI number, and that is why the Objective of your Team OKR has to be specifically focused on a valuable improvement area.
If everything is a priority, nothing is. So choose wisely and direct your team’s attention towards specific outcomes.
OKR example – alignment with the Company OKRs
The first step of the OKR goal-setting process is to determine an overarching goal for the company. Based on this goal, different teams should write their OKRs to move the company forward. Check the example to learn how to set an Objective on a Company level and lead the teams in a unified direction.
According to best practices in implementing OKRs, the goal-setting process should begin at the Company level. Top management decides on the strategic direction and an overarching goal for three months. This focus area is a specific problem to be solved or an opportunity to pursue.
What kind of problems could you identify in your current situation? By looking at your health metrics (KPI numbers), you should be able to spot specific areas that you could work on in a given quarter.
For example, if your sales team’s KPI target is to close 50 new paying customers per month, and now they are only bringing 30. To get to the root cause of the problem, you should continuously ask “why” something is happening:
- Why are we not getting enough new paying customers?
- Because we are not closing enough deals.
- Why aren’t we closing enough deals?
- Because we have a competitor who is taking all our customers.
- Why are the customers choosing our competitor and what can we do to improve our product/service?
If you have discovered that the issue is indeed in customers choosing another offering, this is not only the sales team’s issue, and it has to be approached from different angles by different teams. In this case, you should ask your teams to suggest their OKRs to increase the competitive strength of your product (Company level Objective).
The focus area for different teams could be on 1) improving certain aspects of your product/service, 2) marketing activities that could attract more potential buyers, 3) sales process, 4) communication channels or something else.
Teams write Objectives and Key Results based on their knowledge and expertise and align their OKRs with the overarching Company goal. How can the team contribute to the overarching Company Objective? This is the starting point of a meaningful conversation.
Team Objectives should be ambitious, inspiring, qualitative and quarterly based.
Under each Objective, the team defines 3-5 Key Results – measurable outcomes that indicate success or failure of an Objective. Key Results should be clear, quantifiable, and hypothetically achievable. But keep in mind that Key Results are about pushing to be better and should not be easy.
Here’s an example of what Team level OKRs might look like.
Product Team Objective:
Increase engagement in our product
KR1: Increase average session duration from 10 min to 25 min.
KR2: Analyse competitor’s offering and implement top 3 improvement ideas.
KR3: Increase average daily activity per user by 12%.
- Compare our product with the competitor and brainstorm ideas for improvement.
- Reach out to loyal customers and ask for feedback.
- Design and launch a “wow” feature to ignite discussions and trigger customer engagement.
Marketing Team Objective:
Leverage “social proof” to increase credibility and improve the reputation
KR1: Get at least 15,000 views on our testimonials page.
KR2: Reach an average click-through rate of 20%.
KR3: Increase the number of shares on Linkedin from 30 to 1000.
- Partner up with thought leaders to promote our product.
- Reach out to power users and ask them to share their success stories in video format.
- Brainstorm ideas for LinkedIn marketing.
Sales Team Objective:
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.
- Update the customer journey map to improve the nurturing process.
- Take a course on best practice email approaches and consult with the Marketing team.
- Create different offers for different use cases, review the sales pitch.
Writing OKRs is deciding what exactly you need to improve in your business and, based on that, how you will spend your time and resources in the next 3 months.
Success is not a single leap from zero to hero. It’s a process of fixing weaknesses and strengthening your best features. So if this quarter’s OKR didn’t impact your business the way you wanted it to, you can analyze what worked and what didn’t, and come up with a better approach, and a better team OKR for the next quarter.
OKR is a learning path, and it takes a few quarters to learn how to leverage your strengths and find your weaknesses. By analyzing your OKR progress in retrospect (in OKR review meetings), you are figuring out and documenting exactly HOW you are most likely to improve your business and achieve your ambitious KPI targets.