How to write OKRs: Proven guide and trailblazing tips from experts

October 01, 2021

Tips for writing OKR's

If you’re reading this post, chances are you’ve realized that OKRs (objectives and key results) are a great way to push your company toward the biggest goals. 

Companies like Adobe, Google, Netflix, Atlassian, and Samsung are using OKRs for goal-setting, and for a good reason. This strategy works, and it can help you as a leader to align your employees to the company’s vision. 

And, before we start, if you don’t have a clear difference between marketing KPIs and OKRs, the most simple explanation is that OKRs are aimed at creating sustainable change, and KPIs are an assessment of how effectively those changes are being supported.

How to write OKRs and leverage their power for the growth of your company

This post is here to teach you how to write OKRs and guide you through the process of writing. By the time you’re done reading, you should be able to set effective objectives and make a difference for your company.

Learn the elements of OKR

Every OKR is a combination of four elements – one Objective (O) and three Key Results (KR1, KR2, and KR3). The objective is basically broken down into three smaller ones, which makes the implementation process more organized and focused:

O = KR1 + KR2 + KR3. 

It’s important to remember that the Objective is your comprehensive, ambitious goal, whereas Key Results are basically for measuring how well you accomplished it. 

Make quantifiable OKRs

As mentioned, you need to make the OKRs quantifiable to have a means of monitoring your performance. While it might not be possible to express the Objective in figures, every key result must be measurable. Here’s an example of how to do it:

O: Improve Customer Satisfaction with our Support Team

KR1: Have at least two customer support training sessions/workshops per month

KR2: Increase the customer support team job satisfaction to 90 percent

KR3: Reduce the average ticket resolution time to 2 minutes. 

Limit your KRs to two sentences. If you’re having trouble keeping the text concise and simple, consult with writing tools like Grammarly or TopEssayWriting. They help with writing easy-to-understand and impactful goal statements and other OKR-related documentation to share with employees.

7 experts sharing how to write OKRs and set realistic goals for your business

Often, it is assumed that the manager knows it all and should be the one to formulate objectives, conceptualize the expected results, and even come up with KPIs. But, the truth is many of them struggled when writing OKRs for the first time. Fortunately, by asking for help or learning from their mistakes they all find their most effective way to do it.

And, since advice from personal experience is most valuable, we’ve asked experts to share their best tips on how to write OKRs for your business. Keep reading and you will find your way as well.

Make sure that the key result is measurable

I first recommend that your OKR is set up with defined objectives and key results, ensuring that the key result is measurable. Then, create a timeline to track your initiatives. Using this information, create weekly status reports to share with your team. This helps guide decisions that can be made quickly and allow for increased visibility and transparency among your team.

Kevin Miller, Digital marketing expert at KevinMiller.com

OKRs should be specific

I know the common wisdom is that in a broad sense, OKRs should be more open from the top-down, but I find it’s best to make them specific regardless of the level. Specificity gets things done and gets goals met.

You can set your team up for ambitious outcomes all you want, but if you aren’t specific about what they’re meant to achieve, you’re hindering your ability to meet those goals.

Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love

Make OKRs for clients and company benefits

Every time I make OKRs, I look for the company’s goals for its people and client since believe that OKR is data of proof about success, we create the ORK that can guarantee the people in the company to be more engaged with the responsibilities to get the target or expected result. To make it short, I make OKR for people/client and company benefits.

Monique Gesmundo, SEO Outreach Specialist at Growth Rocket

Set OKRs on the base of ‘moonshot’ targets

After several years of setting OKRs, I’ve realized that there is a way to leverage them as a tool to really inspire and motivate your team. At Spacer, we’ve started setting OKRs on the base of what we call ‘moonshot’ targets.

Each team lead has their own ‘moonshot’ target – a seemingly ambitious and even ludicrous goal at first glance. Setting these lofty targets really encourages team members to not limit themselves to solely tried and tested ideas, and instead gives them permission to go big and out of the box with their initiatives.

As a high-growth startup, this really brings about the type of growth and mindset we need. The aim of the moonshot is not for people to necessarily meet the goal itself but to ‘shoot for the moon and land amongst the stars as they say. 

Michael Rosenbaum, CEO, and co-founder at Spacer

Understand and address your priorities as a business

I typically break OKRs down starting with the overall business objectives, then creating distinct OKRs for each department or functional area, that drive impact and help achieve the main objectives as a company.

This is an incredibly fundamental part of setting OKRs as it helps to not only create and double-down on the buy-in across the organization, but it helps with overall accountability and transparency across the organization.

Once the OKRs are created, you’ll want to then create a set of key results for each of the objectives that allow you to continue better understanding and tracking performance along the way. Each key result in itself should and will have its own set of metrics used to measure performance.

To sum it up, my one best tip for creating powerful OKRs would be this: if you have a team, create them collectively as a team to make sure you are creating OKRs that drive the most impact as well as to ensure that all hands are on deck, so to speak.

Kristian Borghesan, Director of Marketing at FutureVault

Doing it wrong is helpful

Setting OKRs isn’t like setting other goals. The objectives should be qualitative and aspirational. Each team should be able to contribute with their own KRs. The KRs can be quantitative.

For example, raising your average lead value per month by 10%. But you can easily fall into the trap of setting a numerical objective and checking it off. That doesn’t accomplish the goal of reorienting teams’ focus.

What was most helpful when writing OKRs was doing it wrong. Failure to create team orientation and cohesion was the acid of truth that allowed us to see how to do them correctly. 

We created quantitative objectives and matching key results. Then checked them off, or didn’t. It was meaningless. So the solution was to change the objectives to be meaningful to all teams and stakeholders, even if not in a numerical way.

Darya Jandossova Troncoso, Chief Editor at MarketSplash

Tie OKRs to revenue and employee engagement goals

OKRs has been a framework that has worked well for our business in the past few years. We’ve found that the best way to write company-wide OKRs is to tie them to revenue and employee engagement goals. These are the two key metrics for every emerging business.

The one tip that I’ve found works the best for drafting OKRs is to have 3 Key Results for every Objective. The key results should be measurable, time-bound, and realistic milestones that describe “how” the objective can be achieved.

Kanav Abrol, Co-Founder of HarmonizeHQ

Make OKRs challenging

The very reason why you’re trying OKRs is to achieve better company performance. That’s why key results should be difficult enough. This way, you avoid underperformance and challenge your employees to do more

If you’re not sure which goals or objectives are too challenging or not challenging enough, always consult with your employees or investors. Being involved in the goal-setting process will also increase their motivation and engagement.

Bonus tip: Use OKR software to track objectives

One effective way many companies track objectives is with OKR software. It makes the process visual, e.g., you can track your organizational/team/individual OKRs in a single dashboard. For managers, it could be of great help since it gives a bird-eye view of the OKR implementation and allows them to manage everything.

Besides, using OKR software eliminates a lot of paperwork and makes tracking performance much easier. Everything is customizable and sharable, so other stakeholders at your company can provide their input, updates, and feedback.

Conclusion

OKRs are powerful. If you learn how to write OKRs the right way, you can push your company toward any kind of goal. Hopefully, this guide has been a nice introduction to writing effective OKRs and provides you helpful tips to use today.

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