Mission Impossible – OKR Method for Setting Goals

Everyone sets goals. But success is measured on the ability to achieve them. The OKR planning method is all about defining your goals, focusing on the most important by each part of the team, and then following through. Check the blog post to learn more about the basics of this method and the details you need to start putting this into practice.


OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. It was first developed in the 1970s at Intel by Andy Gove, who wanted to answer two questions: 1. Where do we want to go? 2. How will we know that we’re actually getting there?

The OKR approach has been used at Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Zynga, and among many successful Silicon Valley companies. At one time Google suggested that employees should achieve about 70% of their OKRs each quarter.

The form of OKR has been more or less standardized. The Objective is qualitative and the KR is quantitative. They are used to focus a team or an individual around a big goal. The objective sets a goal for a period of time, usually a quarter. The key results show you if the objective has been met by the end of that time. Nowadays this method has often been used for annual planning.

OKRs are set at the company, team, and individual level. Let’s describe an example.

Company OKR (IT company):

Objective: Get into the top 3 most downloaded iOS apps in its category.

Key results:

  • Increase the number of users by 50%;
  • Increase the app’s rating up to 4,5 stars;
  • Get 100 positive reviews by Dec 31;
  • Release 3 new functions.

Team OKR (Mobile dev department):

Objective: Increase customer satisfaction by 30%.

Key results:

  • Conduct a survey of 1000 users and find out the main complaints about app’s functionality;
  • Conduct 10 user tests to identify UX issues;
  • Fix at least 90% of all the complaints received during the survey;
  • Release 3 new functions.

Individual OKR (iOS developer):

Objective: Show at least 80% improvement in satisfaction with UX.

Key results:

  • Release new interface;
  • Get at least 50 reviews about the new interface by Sep 30;
  • Fix all bugs during the quarter.

So company OKRs focus on big-picture goals, team OKRs define priorities for each department, and individual OKRs show what an individual will be working on. You’ll have multiple OKRs at each level, but no more than 5 objectives with 4 key results. Although OKRs are created at different levels, they should all connect and support each other: the individual’s goals should reflect the team goals, the team’s goals should reflect the company goals.

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It’s important to mention that OKRs are not set for annual review purposes or for evaluating employee performance. They’re very ambitious, this is meant to push employees and the company forward. If you set an aggressive goal and don’t meet it, you shouldn’t be punished for that, nor are bonuses given for meeting OKRs. All of this method is created for building a culture where employees should think outside the box and can take risks without fearing consequences.

OKRs must be:

1. Ambitious.

Your OKRs should take you out of your comfort zone so you’re not entirely confident you’ll be able to meet them. Think big, act better. Remember, these aren’t goals that are held for evaluation or promotion purposes. These are the goals that should move you forward and grow the company.

2. Measurable.

Almost every key result should have a number attached to it. “Fix at least 90% of all complaints”, not “Fix as much complaints as you can”.

3. Public.

The entire company and its employees should be able to see your OKRs, not just team leads or executives. Visibility promotes collaboration and team work between employees and departments, since everyone knows what everyone else is working on and towards.

4. Graded.

At the end of a quarter or a year, give yourself a grade for each key result, from “0” to “10”. “0” – didn’t even come close and “10” – met or exceeded every aspect.

The main benefits of the OKR method are:

  • It promotes disciplined, focused thinking. All steps are made with asking yourself “Will this get us closer to the goal or not?”;
  • It establishes clear standards for measuring progress. Since everything is based on numbers, you can understand how far you’ve come towards reaching your objective;
  • It brings more accurate communication as OKRs are public and everyone understands the specifics of what others are working on;
  • Efforts are more centralized and collaborative. Everyone knows what the top goals are and how their work influences it.

So, with the OKR method you’re essentially understand on what you need to focus in order to achieve goals and to excel at your job.

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