OKRs: How To Set Winning Objectives And Key Results?

by Chandler Barr Sep 26,2021

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

When it comes to setting goals and being successful, the one organization that comes to our mind is Google. Google’s OKRs are legendary and a lot of the company’s success is due to it.

As a result, it’s no secret that everyone wants to emulate Google’s goal setting method and perhaps their meteoric success as well.

But when you use OKRs without realizing their purpose or objective, it makes them feel complex or unusable.

Also Read: Top 5 Employee Goals And Objectives For 2021

However, it is possible for organizations to use OKRs, just like Google, and also achieve some measure of success if you break down the process of goal setting and understand every aspect of it.

Understand And Define Your High-Level Goals

This is the first thing that an organization needs to identify. High-level goals tie into the mission and vision of the organization. Use your organization’s values to establish what you would like the organization-level goals to be. Remember, everybody else’s goals will be linked to these goals. And your metrics, too, will depend on these goals.

To give you an idea of what high-level goals are, here is an example.

“Become the market leader in the medical software field.”

This is a lofty and high-level goal, and by itself, it seems very impossible. However, it is necessary for you to figure out what your other goals will be. Do not fall into the trap of setting too many high-level goals. Instead, focus on setting 3 or 4 (or a maximum of 5) quality high-level goals. Keep refining them until you think they encapsulate what you want to achieve for the year.

Also Read: The Essential Guide To OKRs: Your Ultimate Tool To Setting Winning Goals

Break The High-Level Goals Into OKRs

This is the next step you need to follow after setting your high-level goals. By breaking them down, you can figure out how you place to achieve them. Using the example from earlier on, let us break down the goal to its objectives and key results. 

High-level goal: “Become the market leader in the medical software field.”

This is your objective. In order to achieve this objective, you need key results that can help you measure success.

Key Result 1: Gain 150 clients

Key Result 2: Increase sales team by 10 members

Key Result 3: Gain profit of $200k or more

Also Read: What Are Objectives And Key Results?

As you can see, these three key results seem disparate, but they all tie into the higher-level organization goal. Achieving these key results will help you achieve your main objective.  

When setting key results, clarity of purpose is really important. These key results are what you will measure to estimate if you have achieved your goal or not. If your key results are vague (or your main goal is vague as well), then the goal-setting process will become muddled as well.

Pro Tip: If your key result does not have a number, it’s not a key result!

The success of a goal being achieved hinges on how easily it can be measured. If it cannot be measured, there’s no way to know if you achieved the goal or not.

goal setting guide

Set Flexible Goals

When goals become rigid, they can create a binding situation with no room to move. When creating goals, do so with the mindset that the end result could change. Flexibility and fluidity are important for goals because it gives employees the leeway to accomplish a goal in different ways. It also allows you to account for outliers or abnormalities that you would not have considered beforehand. After all, it is always possible for circumstances to take an unexpected turn.

Also Read: Know How To Tackle OKR Challenges

Don’t Set Goals Which Are Easily Achievable

There’s a sweet spot between wildly ambitious and too easy, and it is up to you to find it. Oftentimes, when setting goals, we get carried away and set a number of goals that seem very easy to accomplish at the outset. 

Goals should challenge you, that is for certain. However, they should not derail your work or even consume most of your energy, so much so that it is not possible to focus anywhere else. Goals which consume an inordinate amount of time and energy and do not contribute to the main goal in an impactful way are wasteful goals. They are causing you to spend time, energy and manpower and still not netting you the results you need.

Track The Progress Of Your Goals

This is one of the most important aspects of goal setting: tracking goals. It is vital to track goal progress not just to see how far along you have come, but mainly to take stock of the situation. Tracking goals and reviewing them tells you where you stand and what you need to do next. Maybe you have been working really hard on accomplishing one goal and are close to completing it. Tracking that goal tells you that you can now afford to devote less time to it.

Or conversely, you are tracking a goal and notice you have not been able to accomplish much. By taking stock of the situation, you understand that accomplishing the goal will require more resources and an adjustment to the end result.

By tracking goals regularly, you can make quick changes if necessary, rather than slogging away at the same goal with nothing to show for it.

Also Read: 10 Best Tools For Setting And Tracking Goals

And perhaps, the biggest difference with tracking goals is the way Google and Intel approached this. Goals weren’t personal secrets (though, of course, every employee can have personal goals if they want to), rather, they were visible to everyone in the organization. Think about it this way. In the end, success for an organization is not defined by a single person’s work. Rather, it is the cumulative effort of many people working together to achieve something. When one employee knows what the other is working on, it can help them collaborate. Because ultimately, they both share the same end goal. Everyone in an organization deserves to know how their work helps the organization succeed.

Goal Alignment And Cascading

Goals should trickle down through the organization. And all employees’ goals should connect back to the overarching main goals of the organization. This ensures that everyone is on the same page, and more importantly, is working towards the same objective. Cascading goals also ensure that another important aspect of goals is covered: goal alignment.

Goal alignment ensures clarity of purpose for employees because they can now see how their work ties into the overall scheme of things. It also ensures that employees are invested in the work they are doing, since they are working with the knowledge that their work has a larger purpose and makes significant contributions.

Celebrate Small Wins

It is really important to celebrate important milestones on the path to accomplishing goals. Do not wait to hit 100% on a goal’s progress and then celebrate. It might be too late to celebrate by then or you might not get to celebrate at all. This also invalidates all the effort that is put towards accomplishing a goal. Set quarterly milestones (or monthly, depending on the cadence at your organization) and when you reach those significant milestones, be sure to celebrate all the work that has gone towards the goal. This way, employees will still be enthusiastic about working towards the goal, rather than wondering if it is ever going to end at all.

Also Read: Employee Rewards And Recognition For An Engaged Workforce

Use Current Goals As Benchmark For Future Goals

Once a year passes, review the goals you have set, what you have accomplished, what you couldn’t accomplish, etc. These evaluations can help you figure out what you need to keep doing, what you should stop and where you need to course correct, if necessary.

And when setting new goals for the next year, use the past to guide the future. Just because you weren’t able to accomplish something last year, it does not mean you should focus on your goals for next year. Think carefully about the goals you will focus on. Because the entire organization will be focusing on them, not just a single person.

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Chandler Barr
VP of Sales

Chandler Barr is the VP of Sales at Engagedly and is focused on driving a culture of progress over perfection in a no-fault environment where employees are secure and encouraged to think creatively to solve problems. Chandler is a seasoned leader that has scaled sales teams for SaaS startups and multibillion-dollar publicly traded tech companies, as well as, led Marines to accomplish the mission during hardships overseas.

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