The Simple Way to Implement OKRs in Your Scaleup

What are OKRs

OKRs stand for “Objectives and Key results’, Google’s collaborative goal setting system which is now used by companies across all industries. The tool helps teams and individuals set ambitious goals with measurable results and track progress towards them.

John Doerr’s OKR formula is the following:

I will (Objective) as measured by (set of Key Results).

Why are OKRs useful

Organizations using the OKR framework benefit from its impact on business performance and company culture. OKRs create focus, accountability, transparency and alignment. With a top-down/bottom-up approach, they tap into the wisdom of employees, encourage collaboration, and help them understand exactly how their actions contribute to the company’s long-term vision. Giving people the autonomy to set their own goals improves engagement and productivity.

What’s important to consider

OKRs do not replace KPIs (critical numbers that measure performance of departments and individuals). OKRs and KPIs are two completely different “buckets” that require separate execution time and reporting (meetings).

  • OKRs — strategic, important, working ON the company (senior leadership should be doing lots of this)

OKR Examples

Company Objective

Improve company culture

  • Key Result: Employee on-boarding process and new starter guide / employee handbook
  • Key Result: Update policies (holiday, etc.) — structured HR / staff benefits
  • Key Result: Clarity on people’s roles — create responsibility Scorecards
  • Key Result: Quarterly staff event
  • Key Result: Implement NPS and keep score above 8

Marketing objective

Increase brand awareness

  • Key Result: Increase social media following by 10x
  • Key Result: Recruit and onboard 1,000 community members

Setting OKRs with your executive team

Session 1 — Setting the foundation

Two hours with the executive team (this can also be part of your quarterly Strategy Day)

  • Update AORs (department responsibilities) and responsibility Scorecards (for executives) and clarify reporting lines (Org structure).
  • Identifying or update 2–3 critical numbers (KPIs) for each department (= critical numbers / KPIs for executive Scorecards)
  • Mine for top issues / opportunities as a team (executives identify top three issues / opportunities and provide suggested solutions for each of them. Write them down and share around the table. Make a list of everything. This is unstructured brainstorming)

Session 2 — OKR session

Two hours with the executive team (again, this can also be part of your quarterly Strategy Day)

  • Set 3–5 quarterly OKRs for each department (based on quarterly company OKRs plus 1–2 “local OKRs” — objectives relevant to the department but not reflected in company objectives).
  • Prioritize monthly objectives for each departments (simply highlight which objectives will be addressed in the first month)
  • Individuals prioritize monthly objectives (individuals)

Session 3 — OKR execution and accountability

Two hours with the executive team (again, this can also be part of your quarterly Strategy Day)

  • Schedule weekly team OKR meetings (this is a 60–90 min strategic meeting that addresses progress on OKRs, collective issue resolution, and important team discussions). Review and update the OKR tracker with weekly actions (sheet, doc, software, in this meeting). Managers have TWO of these per week (one with their peers, and one with their teams). Don’t worry, this meeting will help eliminate lot’s of ad-hoc communication throughout the week.
  • Schedule weekly 1–2–1s with direct reports — these 30 min meetings are both operational and strategic. Direct reports give updates on their OKR progress, as well as tactical to-dos, any issues they encounter, and feedback. This meeting focuses on the individual, their goals, development, and engagement. Find out more about why that’s so important.
  • Executives help their teams set individual quarterly OKRs (based on quarterly department OKRs plus 1–2 “local OKRs” — objectives relevant to the individual but not reflected in department objectives).
  • Individuals prioritize monthly objectives (individuals) then
  • Implement weekly team meetings and 121s, schedule OKR time into your calendar and help your team do the same.

I coach tech CEOs at Series A and beyond.