What are OKRs and how do I write them?

OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. The Objective is a qualitative description of what you want to accomplish. Key Results are quantitative; they clarify how you'll know if the Objective has been achieved. OKRs provide focus, unite teams behind a unified strategy and transform all goals into stretch goals. Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) originated at Intel in the late 1990s and have been adopted by many of the worlds most successful organizations, including Google, Oracle, Twitter, LinkedIn, Accenture, and Adobe.

OKRs are designed to get your organization executing like never before.

Objectives are...

Qualitative and Inspirational: A great Objective should pull you out of bed in the morning. While some people are excited by metrics and numbers, many people (especially millennials) get excited by a sense of meaning and purpose. Use the language of your team. If they want to 'kill it' or 'own it', use that wording.

Significant for the organization: A good Objective should be aligned with and supported by organization and team goals. OKRs provide focus. They tell everyone what you're aiming for and -- just as important in a world fully of 'shiny objects' -- what you're not aiming for.

Time-bound: A great Objective is often doable in a month or a quarter (this is a loose guideline, not a fundamental rule).

Examples of some good Objectives:

  • Launch an awesome MVP
  • Explode the number of high-quality inbound leads
  • Create a mind-blowing customer experience for new customers

Key Results are...

Quantitative and Measurable: Key Results take the inspirational language and quantify it. To write them, ask yourself a simple question: "how would we know if we met this objective?" Good Key Results tell everyone how you plan to measure success. Key Results make the Objective concrete.

Limited in number: Typically you should have 2 to 4 key results per Objective. If you find yourself with more Key Results, you might ask yourself whether you're tracking tasks (which definitely isn't the point).

Often Key Results will be based on metrics around growth, engagement, revenue, performance or quality.

For example, the Key Results for "Launch an awesome MVP" might be:

  • 40% of users come back 2x in one week
  • Net Promoter Score of 50+
  • 10% or more trial-to-pay conversion rate

Dreams and Measurements; Not Projects and Tasks

OKRs are...

  • Reminders of why you do what you do every day, regardless of your role
  • Aspirational and challenge you to be creative, to innovate and be your best self
  • Built to help anyone understand how you're contributing to the organization's strategy and priorities
  • Aligned with organizational values and goals

OKRs are not...

  • Generic goals with a task list
  • Boring and monotonous
  • So specific that they become constraining
  • A one-size fits all model

A few examples...

  • Objective: Blow up our social media engagement
    • KR1: Identify & engage 30 Instagram influencers in our industry
    • KR2: Increase number of followers on Facebook & Twitter by 50%
  • Objective: Accelerate recurring revenue growth this quarter
    • KR1: Deliver $2M in subscription revenues
    • KR2: Increase monthly revenue per subscriber to $65
    • KR3: Hire 3 new inside sales people

For more inspiration in creating OKRs, check out  Sample OKRs by Function.