"Vision without execution is hallucination."
It's hard to believe that this quote isn't by Jobs or Bezos. It was written almost 200 years ago by Thomas Edison and it holds just as true today.
Whether you're a scaling startup or a Fortune 100, goal setting is vital to the company's success. Goals should be set in a way that allow you and the team to strategically aim AND take actions towards success. Establishing OKRs does exactly that.
This deep-dive is broken down into 4 different parts.
- What are OKRs (Objective + Key Results)?
Used by Google, Twitter, the Gates Foundation and even some NFL teams, OKRs are a goal-setting system focused on achieving growth and measuring what matters.
The O, or objective, answers the question, "where do we want to go?"
The KR, or key results, answer the question, "how will we know we are getting there?"
- Why OKRs?
- Brands like Intel and Google experienced explosive growth using this methodology. In fact, Google started using OKR across the company when they were just a year old.
- Think about how your company currently sets goals and measures progress. If you are like most startups not using OKRs, you will find limitations in your current goal-setting system. Is everyone on the same page about the end goals of the company? If you walk to any team member, can they clearly and succinctly tell you the goals of your startup? Are there new ideas popping up at meetings that have nothing to do with reaching your goal? Is every campaign and project contributing to your goals? How do you know? Can you verify what you're measuring? If you struggled or cringed at some of these answers, it means you need OKRs.
- Implementing OKRs
In order to be effective, OKRs require three things from your startup culture - commitment, alignment and transparency.
For authentic and steady growth (instead of spikes and falls), the commitment to setting and achieving goals has to come from all sides: top down to the roots - from the executives and managers to team members at all levels. To see results, it has to be embedded in the organization's culture, their DNA, their everyday language. Show your commitment by assigning one person to educate your startup on OKRs, what they are, why they're important and what this change means for everyone in the company.
Have you ever worked with or seen a company whose priorities are scattered and constantly pivoting? A startup where every meeting brings a new vision and an incredible new idea but nothing sticks and not much gets done? Once the organization as a whole knows where it wants to go and how it will know it's getting there, it becomes significantly easier for individuals and teams to connect their projects with the organizational objectives. Once everyone agrees what the most important objectives are, it can be easier to prioritize from the flood of ideas. Saying no to an idea or a project changes from being personal or political and, instead, becomes a focused response to the organization's commitments.
An important part of OKRs is transparency. OKRs are written by everyone, on individual, team and company levels, AND everyone can see them. Transparency means people understand what the team lead asks them to do, what everyone else is doing and how it all fits together. Everyone understands where the startup is going at all times and adapts their goals accordingly. (Note: it takes about a quarter to get everything in sync.) As the former CEO of Twitter says, "As you grow a company, the single hardest thing to scale is communication. OKRs are a great way to make sure everyone understands how you’re going to measure success and strategy."
- How OKRs work
This page is being updated with new and relevant information.