The acronym OKR stands for Objective and Key Results. The Objec‐ tive is qualitative, and the Key Results (most often three) are quanti‐ tative. They are used to focus a group or individual on a bold goal. The Objective establishes a goal for a set period of time, usually a quarter. The Key Results indicate whether the Objective has been met by the end of the time.
Your Objective is a single sentence that is:
- Qualitative and inspirational: The Objective is designed to get people jumping out of bed in the morning with excitement. And while CEOs and VCs might jump out of bed in the morning with joy over a three percent‐ gain in conversion, most mere mortals get excited by a sense of meaning and progress. Use the language of your team. If they want to use slang and say “pwn it” or “kill it,” use that wording.
- Time-bound: For example, something that is achievable in a month or a quar‐ ter. You want it to be a clear sprint toward a goal. If it takes a year, your Objective might be a strategy or maybe even a mission.
- Actionable by the team independently: This is less a problem for startups, but bigger companies often struggle because of interdependence. Your Objective has to be truly yours, and you can’t have the excuse of “Marketing didn’t market it.”
- Don’t create objectives that rely on the input of other teams unless you’ve agreed with them that you share priorities.
- Don’t create objectives that will require people we haven’t hired yet!
- Be realistic about how much time you will have to achieve your goals.
Key Results take all that inspirational language and quantify it. You create them by asking a couple of simple questions:
How would we know if we met our Objective? What numbers would change?
This forces you to define what you mean by “awesome,” “kill it,” or “pwn.” Does “killing it” mean visitor growth? Revenue? Satisfaction? Or is it a combination of these things?
A company should have about three Key Results for an objective. Key Results can be based on anything you can measure.
Christine Wodtke: Introduction to OKRs