Regardless of the size of your business, using Google’s processes (yep, just like OKRs!) to influence your own is always a smart move.
Today, we look to the tech giant – and pretty much every other huge company on the planet – to understand how they reach their goals using a renowned goal-setting system.
This is the same system that helped Google scale revenue from $220,000 to $961 million in just four years. That got your attention! 👀
Most importantly, implementing this system puts the wheels in motion towards creating a team of A-listers that can run your business for you, allowing you to unplug and eventually exit to the tune of 6 or 7 figures.
Why does this matter?
Well, keeping everybody focused on the same goal can be a challenge when running your business. In particular, it can be an ENORMOUS challenge for growing businesses.
You have to:
- Manage all the moving parts
- Detail and refine processes
- Address an endless stream of problems
Enter, the Whole Founder to save you from all that stress with three simple letters: OKRs.
By utilizing OKRs – or Objectives and Key Results – you can have your business running like a well-oiled machine. ⚙️
What are OKRs?
As mentioned above, OKRs stands for Objectives and Key Results.
It’s a method for setting and achieving ambitious goals in an organization. This framework mobilizes and synchronizes every person in your organization.
The result is a business that communicates well – and gets things done.
Why should you implement OKRs into your business? Because companies like Google and Amazon attribute their success to this three-letter acronym.
In fact, here’s a list of just some of the top companies using OKRs to set goals:
If it works for these guys, then it can certainly be effective for your business!
How to Write Great OKRs
As the name suggests, writing your OKRs involves two pieces: the objectives and the key results.
Your objectives are the intentions and goals of your organization that define the impact you strive to make on your customers and the world. When thinking about your objectives in a big-picture sense, ask yourself, what are you trying to accomplish?
Your key results are the time-constrained and measurable milestones that you will use to track and measure your progress. These could be revenue goals, precision metrics, and more.
Your organization should have a maximum of 5 objectives, with 4 to 6 key results assigned to each objective.
Objectives should be a single sentence. This should be short, specific, inspiring, and motivating. Ideally, there should be no question about what your objectives are, or if your company is acting in pursuit of those objectives.
If your objective is the destination on your map, the key results are your navigation instructions. Just like the objectives, your key results should fit on a single line and encapsulate one whole idea each.
I believe that a good set of OKRs should make you feel a little queasy! 🤢
They should raise the question, “Can we even do that?”
You want your OKRs to make you uncomfortable because that means they are ambitious. It’s also important to note that your benchmark for success should not be set at 100%.
Google, for example, considers success to be achieving 70% of an objective. The company considers anything beyond that “impressive performance.”
The Characteristics of Successful OKRs
OKRs are unique and work well because they strike a perfect balance between ambition and reality. The system promotes transparency and responsibility at all levels, including in teams and individuals.
- Your objectives should be challenging. A challenging target has the effect of inspiring individuals at all levels of your business to think bigger.
- Your key results should have a measurable endpoint. Setting goals with defined endpoints means you can assess how far they have come and hold people accountable.
- Your objectives should be qualitative, and your key results should be quantitative.
- Your objectives should be able to be achieved in 6-18 months; your key results in 90 days.
- Your OKRs should be transparent. The ability to measure and track progress is crucial. That also means being able to hold people accountable, as mentioned. Ensuring your OKRs are visible will foster accountability, and keep teams informed so that they can make informed decisions.
- When it comes to specific goals, there is no “one size fits all”. Every company is going to have OKRs that look and function in a way that is unique for them.
Good OKRs vs. Bad OKRs: Examples
Now we know what makes a good OKR, let’s look at an example to see what makes a good (and not-so-good) OKR:
Bad Objective: Get more leads.
Good Objective: Grow our website into a quality, lead-generating machine.
Now, under that good objective we can have three key results:
Bad Key Result: Hire a copywriter
Good Key Result: Increase monthly traffic to blog from 5,000 unique monthly viewers to 10,000 UMV over the next 90 days.
Bad Key Result: Rank better on Google
Good Key Result: Increase our current SEO ranking score of 21 to 50 in the next 90 days.
Bad Key Result: Get more calls booked through our website.
Good Key Result: Increase our inbound calls coming from the website from 5 to 20 calls weekly.
Can you see how implementing the above advice can result in OKRs that are more aspirational and accountable?
The Beauty of OKRs: Helping YOU Build Your Dream Team
One of the most beneficial parts of implementing OKRs is that, over time, you can begin to figure out who in the company is performing and who is not.
You see, a good OKR system will usually attribute a key result to an individual. If this key result isn’t achieved within the timeframe, or isn’t completed as planned, then you will know who isn’t pulling their weight.
You will therefore know who needs to be replaced, and who will continue to help you crush your business goals and drive the growth of your company. It’s that easy! 🤯
Luckily, it is no secret to those B and C players – they will already KNOW they are not performing, because this a collaborative process.
They’ll KNOW they’re not keeping up with everyone else, and they won’t be surprised if you let them go, because basically they fired themselves.
Obviously, we don’t want to operate out of fear, but from my experience with this framework, having a weekly review and accountability system actually motivates the underperformers to perform better and start achieving their objectives.
Why? Because their pile of dirty laundry (i.e., uncompleted tasks) is out there in front of the whole team to see every single week for the entire year. Who wants to be embarrassed by their own underperformance on a weekly basis?
Meanwhile, if they are underperforming, they get the chance to discuss what they’re having trouble with, so you can help. This allows you to be the problem solver rather than the dictator.
You get to be perceived as on their side rather than the boss pointing out their underperformance.
The system does that for you.
Tips to Help Implement Your OKRs
Focus on employee participation
I’ve touched upon this, but engagement from your team is important. Sure, you can’t have every person involved in every step, but you do want everyone engaged.
Employees must be aware of who is responsible for setting and tracking OKRs at each level. Make it clear which projects and metrics they should prioritize, why goals are changing in the first place, and how their work serves the bigger objectives.
Train your team
It’s a sad reality that “goal setting” isn’t a basic high school class. On the surface, it seems simple enough. But setting good, functional goals is a little more complicated than it appears.
So take the time to train and educate your team on what makes good OKRs before you engage them in the process. How you do so is up to you, but nothing beats a good workshop!
We highly recommend making sure every person in your organization understands OKRs and how they work. Not only will it help them set great goals, it will help them recognize bad ones. Sometimes it’s not so obvious, and the more trained eyes you have on the process, the better.
Managing Your Objectives and Key Results
Grading is the process of evaluating the performance of your OKRs. Each objective has its key results, and each key result is assigned a grade.
The grade is calculated based on the percentage of the key result that was achieved.
Counterintuitively, if you are consistently obtaining flawless scores on your OKRs, then it’s not actually a good thing! It means you played it way too safe at the start. It’s time to start setting more ambitious goals!
On the other end, if you’re failing in one area over and over again, then take a closer look. Is there a problem with your employees? The department? Or is there a problem with the OKR itself?
Measuring your progress
It’s important to have regular meetings to review progress over time. These meetings should review specific periods of time, called cycles. Most commonly they will happen once every quarter.
Invite everyone to discuss how they performed on the OKRs during the previous cycle. This can happen as one big team meeting, depending on the size of your company.
However, you shouldn’t limit it to a group session. It can often be helpful to make time for one-on-one meetings as well. Give your employees the chance to discuss OKRs in private and you may get information that you wouldn’t from a group meeting.
Contextual by reflecting
Grading is the numbers, and reasoning is the context. Now that you have OKRs that are measurable and trackable, it’s time to put them to work.
Look at your results over time and see what you can learn from them.
- What’s working well?
- What isn’t working at all?
- Which results are surprising, and which ones are predictable?
OKRs should be evaluated frequently, but each cycle should be capped by a more in-depth discussion of what went well, what didn’t go well, and what lessons may be applied to the following cycle.
Using the OKRs framework enables you to systematically measure and define all business activity, inspire your team, hold people accountable, and build a team that can run your business for you.
Some final quick suggestions for implementing OKRs within your business:
- Maintain the flexibility of your OKRs. Don’t get too caught up in the alignment of the levels.
- Use the lessons learned from previous OKRs to iterate and construct new OKRs.
- OKRs should be set regularly – ideally quarterly, but at the very least every six months.
- Use technologies that make tracking OKRs easier and more prominent in your mind (we like to use ClickUp).
Implementing OKRs is one of the quickest ways you can improve your goal setting and execution. If you need more help in developing OKRs for your business, then please reach out for a free strategy call! You can find me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.