The Objectives & Key Results (OKR) process is one of the most popular goal-setting methodologies around today. OKR software is becoming increasingly popular, and even though OKRs have been around since the 1990's, their popularity has been significantly boosted of late by adoption at tech giants such as Google, Spotify, and Intel.
The OKR process is centered on the principle of setting ambitious goals (Objectives) then breaking those Objectives down into Key Results (KRs) which are highly measurable. Underneath each Key Result will be a list of tasks (ToDos) which are the actual things you will do to deliver your Key Results.
The results of those elements are graded once per quarter, at which point decisions are made about retiring completed OKRs and creating new ones.
A successful system needs only to answer two questions: Where do I want to go? How will I pace myself to see if I’m getting there? Objectives and Key Results answer these questions.
Andy Grove, Intel CEO
The Benefits of OKRs
The reason why so many tech giants and other successful organizations love OKRs can be summarized in the following 5 benefits:
- They force an organization to be ambitious but clear with their goals.
- It requires measurement and are therefore tangible.
- They help employees understand how their actions help the organization to achieve its ambitions.
- They're open and transparent, encouraging better collaboration and communication throughout the organization.
- They provide a framework for rapid failure which leads to accelerated success. (As the goals are set quarterly, you know quickly what's achievable and what's likely to fail, allowing you to make plans accordingly.)
At Google, their general approach to goal setting is to create goals which are just out of reach. Things like creating a self-driving car, for example, would have seemed fanciful 10 years ago, but by breaking that objective into a series of smaller results, Google are able to make headway on lofty goals without getting caught up in the 'impossibility' of their end result.
An Example of an OKR
Let's say you want to focus on improving customer satisfaction. You might have a set of OKRs that looks like this:
Objective: Understand and Improve Upon our Customer Satisfaction Levels
KR1: Conduct 50 research focus groups with our customers
- ToDo:Engage a third party research agency
- ToDo:Hire a venue
- ToDo:Design focus group questions
KR2: Deliver a consistent Net Promoter Score (NPS) of above 80%
- ToDo:Implement an NPS system via email
- ToDo:Perform quality audit on current NPS responses
KR3: Reduce customer attrition due to product dissatisfaction to less than 0.5%
- ToDo:Increase attrition reporting frequency to daily
- ToDo:Reduce wait-time for contact center to less than 2 mins
How to Measure OKRs
Ok, so now that we understand the basic structure of an OKR, we need to address the critical aspect of OKR measurement. There are no hard and fast rules about exactly how to measure OKRs, other than you must measure them quantifiably.
The way that you measure your Objectives differs from how you measure your Key Results, which differs from how you measure your ToDos. For reasons that will become obvious, here's how to measure each in reverse order:
The simplest way of measuring your ToDos is as simple 'Done' or 'Not Done' statuses. Todos in the OKR framework are akin to tasks, and should be tracked as a task would in a task management system. In reality, you might need to break some of your ToDos down into a few different tasks for it to make sense with this level of simplicity.
Measuring Key Results
The most common way of measuring Key Results in the world of OKRs is on a scale of 0 (being not started) to 1 (being completed), with increments of 0.1 in between.
Even if your Key Result already has a measurable outcome (such as Deliver Revenue of $1m) people would often still convert this to an 0 - 1 scale, to make measuring the Objective easier as you will have a consistent scale between Key Results.
One of the benefits of using OKR software (including Cascade) is that you don't need to create this 0 to 1 scale for all your Key Results, as the software can do the job of auto-tracking your Key Results to calculate the progress of your Objective.
That means you can leave your Key Results with their original unit of measurements (so $0 to $1,000,000 in our example above). This will make looking at the Key Result's data more meaningful than if it's converted to a generic scale.
Objectives should not be tracked in themselves - but rather the progress of your Objectives should be tracked as a direct calculation from the progress of your Key Results. For example, if you have 3 Key Results under an Objective as follows:
Average of the 3 Key Results = 0.76. Therefore the success of the Objective would sit at 0.76 out of 1 (76%). You can use Cascade's auto-tracking system to calculate this for you, or your OKR software will likely have something similar that you can use.
Setting Up Cascade as your OKR Software
Cascade is the perfect fit for use as your OKR software. The flexibility of the system means that you can get everything set up for your OKR deployment in about 5 minutes. If you haven't already created a Cascade account, click here to try out the platform free of charge. Once you're into your Cascade account, here are the steps you'll want to follow:
1. Set your OKR terminology
Navigate to the Strategy > Plan page and click the "Define Framework" button. Then head to the "Labels" tab, and set your Labels up as follows:
Vision -> (Leave this unchanged)
Values -> (Leave this unchanged)
Focus Areas -> (Leave this unchanged)
Organizational Goals -> Objectives
Goals -> Key Results
Tasks -> ToDos*
2. Create your Focus Areas
Even though you're using the OKR methodology, we still recommend having a layer between your Vision and your Objectives - this being your Focus Areas. We've seen the greatest success in our client base when OKRs are introduced directly underneath Focus Areas.
3. Create your Objectives
We would suggest creating 2 or 3 Objectives for each of your Focus Areas. Simply click on the Add Objective button in the menu on the left and create your Objective as you would any other goal in Cascade. The only thing you'll do differently, is on the tab where you configure the tracking information, you'll set the target as 1 and the initial as 0. Once you've created the Objective you'll want to go into the Goal Hub and set the tracking type to 'Key Result Average'.
4. Create your Key Results
Start adding in Key Results for each of your Objectives. Unlike with other OKR software, you can set the targets for your goals in their true unit of measurement (i.e. $, people, units, etc) - rather than converting them to a 0 to 1 scale. The auto-tracking that you've setup for the Objective will take care of converting them into OKR metrics.
5. Add your ToDos
Once you've finished adding your Key Results into the system, go into each Key Result and start adding ToDos. Add as many ToDos as you need to ensure the Key Result will be delivered. You can assign the ToDos to different people in the organization if you need to.
6. Create OKR Dashboards
For each of your focus areas, create an OKR dashboard. Add Objectives to your dashboard, and ensure that each widget on the dashboard is set to Bar Chart. Share the OKR dashboards with your team so that everyone stays on the same page, and even encourage them to use dashboards to track their own work. You can use your OKR dashboards to run your quarterly OKR grading sessions.
7. Setup OKR Software Quarterly Reminders
Navigate to Settings - Reminders and create a reminder that will send quarterly to all users reminding them to ensure their Key Results are up to date.
8. Use OKR Software Dashboards to Facilitate your Quarterly Reviews
Give your people a few days to update their Key Results, then use the new dashboards you created in step 6 to facilitate your quarterly OKR meetings.
If you need a hand setting up Cascade as your OKR software, just contact our friendly support team via the live chat widget.
*You'll need to contact our support team to have "Tasks" re-labelled to "ToDos" (or anything else that you'd prefer), they'll be happy to help!\