Want to know how companies like Google can accomplish so much? It’s simple. Discipline. Google’s secret sauce to discipline is a methodology called Objectives and Key Results or OKRs.
During Google’s first year in business, investor John Doerr pitched the idea of using this system for goal setting, and it’s been an important element to Google’s corporate culture ever since. The OKR system is an effective way of setting and communicating goals within an organization by connecting company, team and personal objectives to measurable results.
In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share former Google employee and software company founder Karl Sun’s experience in incorporating OKRs into business.
First, let’s define OKRs. It’s a management methodology that connects the work of employees to the company’s overall strategic plan. Objectives are what you want to accomplish. They should be aligned and supported by the organization, and be aspirational. Key Results explain how you’ll get there. They should be measurable, limited in number and have a deadline.
Benefits Of OKRs:
Set stretch goals. According to Sun, OKRs establish a clear and simple pattern for setting goals within your company at the individual, team and organization levels. When you write an OKR, you solidify a goal and draw a line in the sand. At the end of the day, you can measure yourself against this line to define your success. OKRs should be written aggressively and designed to push you rather than make you look good.
Promote accountability. Another advantage of OKRs is the ability to be accountable for your progress. Sun says that Google promoted accountability by making OKRs public to everyone in the organization. This transparency drives progress when there are others (sometimes hundreds to thousands of others) also holding you accountable.
At Google, OKRs are graded quarterly on a 0 to 1 scale. Sun says if you’re consistently reaching top scores, then you haven’t created stretch goals. It’s good to see how you score, and adjust along the way.
Align the organization. Most important, OKRs enable you to determine where to focus your efforts to assist the company as a whole. They are a simple way to ensure everyone is working towards the same result.
Getting Started With OKRs:
- First, set annual company OKRs that serve as big-umbrella ideas for the year, but also set OKRs each quarter. Annual OKRs may evolve as the year progresses, but quarterly OKRs do not change.
- Next, have departments use those to set team OKRs.
- Personal OKRs are then set by each employee based on the company and team OKRs.
How to write an OKR:
- Set an objective. An objective is a goal, and it tells you where to go. Aim for a maximum of five objectives each quarter so you don’t spread yourself too thin.
- Set key results for each objective. Key results indicate how you will meet your objective. Key results must be measurable—in other words, they should be quantifiable, and specific targets should be stated up front. Try to have a maximum of four key results for each objective.
- Store your OKRs in a public space, such as a shared folder on your company server so everyone can access.
- Hold one-to-one meetings to review OKR progress as the quarter progresses. Hold a quarterly company-wide meeting to review company and team OKRs.
- At the start of each quarter, grade the previous quarter’s OKRs. Key results are graded individually, and an objective’s grade is the average of its key results. Don’t use OKR grading for employee evaluation.
Try this methodology to drive quarterly progress in your organization that is aligned by individuals, departments and the company.
Source: Karl Sun spent several years as an executive at Google before co-founding Lucid Software in 2010. During his time at Google, he started the company’s patent department and led investments in advanced wind and battery technologies. He also led Google’s business development efforts in China, including helping to open the Beijing office.