Objective key result OKR goals
Kingsley Seale No Comments

Goal setting and aligning teams around achieving Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is a proven business tool for improving performance, collaboration and driving growth.

A 2020 report by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) found that most business leaders see “purpose” as essential to reputation, growth and recruitment.

However, only 24 percent of those leaders saw purpose as embedded in their business to the point of influencing innovation, operations, and their engagement with society.

The report states that “the fundamental strategic business challenge is to activate purpose programs that permeate the entire organisation and effectively reach their customer communities.”

That is reflected in Asana’s 2021 Anatomy of Work Index which found that less than half of people understand their organisation’s mission and how their day-to-day work contributes to broader goals.

To help, Asana developed the Pyramid of Clarity, a framework for connecting the work people are doing to strategic objectives and the company’s mission and purpose.

A key factor of this clarity is in goal-setting. If teams are working towards a goal, and they understand the reasons behind it and how they can achieve it, then it helps unify everyone for success.

The power of this was immortalised by Intel executive Andy Grove in 1979 when he developed a powerful goal-setting model based on the idea that teams perform better by focusing on outcomes, not procedures.

Asana Pyramid of Clarity
Click on the image for a larger version. Source: Asana

That model is known today as Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and is used globally by successful businesses such as Netflix, Google and The Gates Foundation.

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) Goal Setting Model:

Simply put, OKRs provide clarity around common goals so participants can more easily manage and prioritise their to-do list around what will have the most meaningful impact.

In the OKR goal setting model, the “Objective” is your goal and the “Key Result” is the metric of measurement, similar to a key performance indicator (KPI).

However Key Results and KPIs are different in that KPIs may not be specifically attached to an objective or goal, or it might not be your objective or goal, both of which will undermine the communication and activation of the “purpose”.

However, for OKRs to be effective, it is important to set appropriate Objectives and Key Results that resonate with teams, help achieve desired outcomes and align with the purpose.

Objectives represent “meaningful change, improvement and growth”. They are NOT business as usual, according to one of OKRs founding fathers and author of Measure What Matters, Brian Boerr.

Setting Objectives:

When setting Objectives consider what are the most important things that your team needs to achieve in the next 30 to 90 days.

To be effective, an Objective should be specific and tangible. Your Objective should also be aspirational enough that it represents meaningful change, but generally not so aspirational that it is unachievable. It should also be clear and concise, easy to remember and inspiring.

Effective Objectives:

  • Represent meaningful change. Aspirational, yet realistic.
  • Specific – vague goals are weak goals.
  • Clear and concise
  • Inspiring

Your objectives will become guiding stars for you and your team to inform decisions and actions, so they are essential to get right.

Setting Key Results

Key results are the markers used to measure progress toward the Objective. Typically, there are a minimum of three and maximum of five Key Results per Objective.

Like SMART Goals, Key Results should be Specific, Measurable, Realistic (yet also aspirational – like the Objective) and Timebound.

Effective Key Results:

  • Minimum of three. Maximum of five.
  • Outline what needs to occur, and when.
  • Aspirational, yet realistic.
  • Measurable with clear criteria for success.
  • Are indicators that an Objective is on track.

If you could achieve your Objective without completing your Key Results, or if you could achieve your Key Results and not meet your Objective, then you should refine your Key Results.

Why OKRs and Goal Setting in Business Helps:

  • Drives the connection between “What We Do” and “Why We Do It” – the purpose.
  • Workers prioritise the work that helps drive progress toward their Objectives.
  • Engages workers and drives collaboration on tracking and achieving OKRs.

Boerr used the OKR goal setting model in his business and personal life and provides the below example of the latter:

Objective: Have more quality family time as measured by:

Key Results:

  • Getting home for dinner by 6 pm, 20 nights a month.
  • Being present by turning off the internet router to eliminate distractions.

Other OKR examples and more detailed guidelines for creating OKRs are provided on the What Matters website.

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