Objectives and key results (OKR) is a popular goal management framework that evolved over time. It is used to set goals, oversee them and track employee progress.

OKRs have become an important part of performance management  in most organizations; many HR managers are adopting them for employee goal setting. How did objectives and key results come into existence? Here’s a timeline of how OKRs evolved over time.

(1954) Peter Drucker’s Management By Objectives – MBOs

In 1954, Peter Drucker, a renowned American author and a consultant in the field of organizational development and management, introduced the concept of Management By Objectives (MBO). Management By Objectives were also known as Management By Results (MBR).

MBO is an approach where the objectives of an organization are agreed upon and decided between the management and the employees so that the employees understand what exactly is expected of them and set their individual goals.

(1968) Andrew Grove’s Objectives and Key Results – OKRs

Objectives and Key Results were invented and promoted by Andrew Grove, one of the founders and the former CEO of Intel, in 1968. Andrew Grove was the first one to implement OKRs in an organization; he appended keyresults to Goals.

According to Andrew Grove’s book, High Output Management (1), there are two questions that need to be answered to set up a system of OKRs in an organization.

  1. Where do I want to go? – The answer to this question defines the objective
  2. How do I pace myself to see if I am getting there? – The answer to this question helps you add measurable key results to the objective.

Andrew Grove’s OKRs gained popularity over the later years and spread across many tech companies.

(1974) John Doerr Joins Intel

A venture capitalist named John Doerr joined Intel in 1974, as an engineer and marketing manager for micro-computers. He learnt about OKRs during his time at Intel.

In 1980 he joined Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, who were major investors in Google, and sponsored numerous investments (Compaq, Cypress, Intuit, Macromedia, Lotus, Netscape, Sun Microsystems, Symantec) that created over 30,000 jobs.

(1999) John Doerr Introduces OKRs To Google

In 1999, John Doerr who learnt about OKRs from Andrew Grove in Intel, introduced OKRs to Google which was just a year old startup  back then (2). Google made sure that everybody’s OKRs were public. There was nothing hidden or secret about OKRs. The OKRs had to be challenging and measurable.

(1999 – 2000) Popularity Of Google’s OKRs

The implementation of Objectives and Key Results changed the way things worked at Google. Goals were more open, easily understood and measurable. This use of OKRs set off a precedent and as a result, OKRs are utilized even today at Google. Except, it’s no longer a start-up today. It’s a multinational tech giant which is poised to become the first company valued at a trillion dollars by 2020.

Google shortened the OKR cycle process and made it quarterly where objectives and key results were overseen and set every quarter. Today, Google sets annual and quarterly OKRs and holds company-wide meetings quarterly to share and grade OKRs.


References:

(1) High Output Management By Andrew Grove, 1983

(2) Keys to OKR Success: A Q&A with the Man Who Introduced OKRs to Google, John Doerr, by Kris Duggan.

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