Ally.io
July 23, 2020

How to write OKRs

Marilyn Napier
Content Marketing Manager at Ally.io
OKR

The objectives and key results (OKRs) framework helps teams align, prioritize and measure the impact of their work. It’s a crucial process for companies who want to accomplish their mission and achieve their vision.

It’s the steel thread, connecting what leadership believes will move the needle to the everyday outputs of the teams they lead.

But how do you write clear, effective OKRs, even if your whole team is bought in?

Download our guide to running an interactive team workshop for writing OKRs

Whether this is your first time OKR writing, or your 20th, we want to give you some guidance to make the process a little easier.

Breaking down how to write OKRs

The OKR system is a simple—yet powerful—goal management methodology utilized by high-output organizations to create alignment and engagement around measurable goals.‍

Here is the framework for writing OKRs, plus an example.

OKR structure

Your OKR writing should be: 

Ambitious 

By setting stretch goals, you push boundaries and accomplish more. 

Measurable

OKRs are all about metrics—by setting measurable key results, companies can more easily assess progress of initiatives, and understand whether they achieved their goal.  

Transparent

The OKR framework is more than goal-setting, it’s a framework that requires a cultural shift to tear down traditional silos and business walls—and instead, foster a culture of transparency, where all goals are open, and progress is viewable by everyone.

Controllable

When you create a new objective, it is with the understanding you possess the means to realize it. OKRs can generate cross-functional coordination, but your objectives should primarily be within your control.

Scored 

By grading OKRs at the end of every quarter, contributors and teams can understand how well they did at achieving their goal. This process also opens healthy conversation on what could have been done differently, and what they can do better next time.

These conversations are learnings, and should never be taken negatively—but instead, as ways to review progress, and grow as a team and company.

Learn how WORKSOFT is building a high-performance culture with Ally.io.

Getting started with OKR writing

1. Start with your team’s purpose. This should come from and align to the corporate goals (business priorities) for the designated time period.

2. Choose which type of  objective you want to create

  • Committed: A goal that will be achieved. Resources and schedules should be adjusted to make sure they get done.
  • Aspirational: An ambitious goal with no clear path to get there. They may roll over from quarter to quarter, or year to year, and sometimes even be reassigned to different teams.

3. Define your key results. 

  • After creating an objective, you need to define three to five key results that you will use to measure whether you accomplished the objective or not. Key results should be quantitative, aspirational, specific and progress based.

There are two types of key results:

  • Metric-based (most common): Track quantitative outcomes designed to gauge success on an objective
  • Milestone-based: Used to convert a binary outcome into a key result

When possible, use this formula: Verb + what you’re going to measure + from “x to y.” For example: “Increase attendance from 350 to 500 people”

Want to know the difference between SMART goals and OKRs? Check out our breakdown here.

Common mistakes when writing OKR objectives

Great OKRs take practice. Here are some common mistakes individuals and organizations run into when putting together OKRs.

  • Objectives are not challenging enough. These kinds of objectives don’t challenge your team to perform above the level they are performing today.
  • Key results aren’t quantifiable. This means that you can’t measure progress and understand how outputs are relating to outcomes.
  • Creating too many objectives or key results. If you have too many priorities, you have none.
  • Creating a list of tasks. Your OKRS shouldn’t be a to-do list. They should be focused around impact.
  • Writing OKRs that don’t have an impact. Speaking of impact…are you sure you are focusing on the objectives that mean the most to your business?

Validate writing great OKRs through the necessary and sufficient test

When looking at your objective and its key results, ask yourself “Are all these key results necessary to achieve my objective?”

  • If yes, then they pass the necessary test. If the answer is no, spend more time refining the OKRs to be more relevant and measurable.

Next, ask yourself “If I accomplish all of my key results, would I have achieved my objective?”

  • If the answer is yes, then they pass the sufficient test. If the answer is no, you need to spend more time defining stronger key results.

The biggest mistake you can make when getting started writing OKRs is not starting the process in the first place. Patience and iteration is key and few, if any, organizations get it perfect on the first try.

Ally.io makes rolling out, implementing, and managing OKRs a scalable process that creates real momentum for your business. Try our OKR software free for 14 days.

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