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The 2023
OKR Guide
Best Practices for Adopting
Objectives and Key Results
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Contents Introduction to OKRs 3
The OKR basics 5
Getting started 12
Step 1: Understand why you want to adopt OKRs 14
Step 2: Get buy-in from leadership and teams 19
Step 3: Connect your mission to your OKRs 21
Step 4: Select an OKR pilot group 25
Step 5: Appoint OKR leadership 29
Step 6: Establish an OKR rollout strategy 33
Step 7: Set OKR rules of engagement 40
Step 8: Define company OKRs 46
Step 9: Define function and team OKRs 49
Step 10: Align and rollout OKRs 55
Step 11: Set OKR reviews and retrospectives 60
Step 12: Common OKR challenges and mistakes 63
Step 13: Choose OKR software 66
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Introduction to OKRs
Introduction to OKRs
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Introduction to OKRs
When implemented correctly, OKRs establish broad alignment and
accountability throughout your organization and help teams see how their
work contributes to your company’s objectives.
For your company to be successful with OKRs, you want to make sure OKRs
are implemented with intent at every step. In our experience, groups with
the most success have taken time to:
๫ Prepare and follow a detailed strategy
๫ Educate and empower their organization
๫ Build a rollout plan while following change management best practices
๫ Define OKRs in the correct sequence
๫ Manage and track OKR progress
With that being said, you may be reluctant to implement OKRs because
of uncertainty. We understand and empathize with this uncertainty,
but reading this guide is your first step in conquering it. Let’s start with
the basics of OKRs.
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The OKR basics
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If you’ve made it to the point of checking out our guide, you may already
have an idea of what OKRs can do for your organization.
However, establishing an understanding of OKRs is the preliminary step in
adopting and implementing them. After all, if your teams don’t understand
the methodology, can it really be successful?
What are OKRs?
OKRs are a framework for goal setting and management, created by Intel’s
Andy Grove. Venture capitalist John Doerr popularized the methodology in
his New York Times best-seller Measure What Matters.
From tech giants like Google and Adobe to worldwide enterprises, OKRs
continue accelerating growth and innovation by connecting teams to their
company’s greater objectives. By design, OKRs work cross-functionally to
create a standard of alignment for entire companies, making them giving a
connected purpose to teams and organizations.
The OKR basics
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OKRs stand for objectives and key results. An objective is what you want
to achieve, and a key result is how you plan to measure whether you have
achieved your objective.
The difference between an objective and key result is clear. “Boost organic
traffic” as an objective inspires numerous strategies for a marketing team.
A key result like “Increase top 5 keywords ranking by X positions” brings
“how” an objective is achieved into focus.
The OKR basics
Qualitative
Aspirational
Something you, your team, or
your organization aim to achieve
Quantitative
Measurable
Indicate if you achieved
your objective
Objectives Key results
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Who should own OKRs?
Company, functions, and teams will all have separate OKRs that connect and
align in unique ways. OKRs can be owned individuals, but we recommend
teams own the majority of OKRs. If you’re implementing OKRs for the first
time, team OKRs will simplify the implementation process.
How many objectives?
As a rule of thumb, both the company and each team should have up to
three objectives per quarterly planning period (we’ll get to this in a bit).
However, don’t feel pressure to create three objectives where one will
suffice. Less is more with OKRs.
The OKR basics
Your teams will quickly learn the value
of focus if OKRs aren't overcomplicated.
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Maintaining a minimal OKR process ensures you will not overwhelm the team
with learning a new process and full-blown planning at the same time.
How many key results?
In general, you’re not limited on the number of key results. However, we
want to maintain the theme of focus in OKRs — 3–5 is the sweet spot.
The OKR basics
5+ key results are hard to maintain,
but less than 3 won’t define success
clearly enough.
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Tips for writing OKRs
A good OKR is simple, clear, and actionable. Any person in any function of
your organization should be able to look at your OKR, understand what the
objective is trying to achieve, and how your key results will drive progress.
We use a time-tested formula for writing OKRs at Quantive:
With this formula in mind, here is a checklist to help you write top-quality
objectives and key results.
The OKR basics
We will (objective), as measured
by (these key results)
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Are there too many or too few?
Are they actionable?
What impact will they have?
Why should anyone care?
Can they be clearer or more concise?
Are there too many or too few?
Are your key results task or
outcome oriented?
Are they ambitious enough?
Are the targets realistic?
Who is accountable for each key result?
Objectives Key Results
Writing good OKRs
The OKR basics
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Getting started
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Launching the OKR process
Baymard conducts original large-scale research studies on all aspects.
While these OKR basics provide you a standard overview of OKRs, we highly
encourage you and your teams to check out our full introduction to OKRs if
you want more information on:
๫ OKR basics
๫ Breaking down the components of OKRs
๫ A more in-depth explanation on writing OKRs
๫ OKRs vs. KPIs
๫ Common mistakes when writing OKRs
๫ OKR examples
With the preliminary OKR knowledge established, you're ready to get
moving with your OKR process. So where do you start?
To ensure the process is seen as valuable from executives all the way down
to individual contributors, you need to use the right approach to OKRs.
Answering the question “why” is where all great OKR strategies begin.
Getting started
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Step 1: Understand why you want
to adopt OKRs
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Step 1: Understand why you want
to adopt OKRs
Your organization faces a unique set of strengths, challenges, and
environments. Whether you’re a global enterprise or a scrappy startup,
OKRs can boost business growth by enabling:
๫ Focus
๫ Accountability
๫ Alignment
๫ Transparency
๫ Engagement
But OKRs aren’t about gaining a laundry list of benefits — you want to drive
greater outcomes with this simple, but effective methodology. Let’s explore
how each core benefit translates to better results for your organization.
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Step 1: Understand why you want
to adopt OKRs
Focus
By helping hundreds of high-growth companies successfully implement
OKRs, we’ve learned organizational focus is the most desired
benefit of OKRs.
Productive, innovative teams often lack focus because in
today’s modern operating environment, “busy” is often
confused with “effective.”
While there’s always something new to be done, the OKR framework ensures
work focuses on priorities as opposed to unproductive or futile tasks.
Accountability
Even if your organization is the most focused, you won’t accomplish much
if your goals aren’t connected. OKRs are a system of public ownership,
assigning stakeholders for progress.
When supported by the right OKR platform, OKRs ensure you
and your team’s work contributes to overarching goals.
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The public format of OKRs builds a culture of trust and transparency,
increasing the consistency of your teams’ efforts and empowering them to
commit to your strategic objectives.
Alignment
Alignment eliminates time, energy, and resource waste.
OKRs foster alignment by removing silos and connecting
employees to company and function-level objectives.
As OKRs display your organization’s strategic direction — showcasing
top-down initiatives from each function — work funnels towards the same
objectives, increasing the potency and potential of everyone's contributions.
Transparency
While OKRs promote transparency, they also could not survive without it.
Knowing the purpose behind high-level decisions, the
company’s goals, and the projects your teams are working on
makes organizational efficiency easier to achieve.
Step 1: Understand why you want
to adopt OKRs
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Additionally, transparency is symbiotic with other OKR benefits. Visibility
into organizational processes improves your teams’ focus and promotes
accountability, making alignment and motivation a breeze.
Moreover, real-time progress transparency condenses feedback loops,
allowing you to adapt to changing conditions quickly and efficiently.
Engagement
OKRs empower individual contributors with the power of choice. By shifting
the focus of the organization to the “why” behind work, teams can establish
"how” their work is accomplished. This democratization of decision-making
motivates employees to go all-in on the OKR process.
As a result, team engagement improves, as employees better
understand how their work impacts progress at every level.
Step 1: Understand why you want
to adopt OKRs
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Step 2: Get buy-in from leadership
and teams
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Step 2: Get buy-in from leadership
and teams
You can spend all day planning out the perfect OKR implementation —
without organizational buy-in, it may be a waste of time. Conceptually, you
can’t roll out OKRs if stakeholders don’t support them.
After gaining leadership interest, you’re ready to focus on your teams. This
doesn’t mean going in heavy-handed to involve everyone during the initial
OKR rollout. Rather, get the initial support of a few colleagues who can
help set the rules and practices of OKR implementation in alignment with
leadership’s vision.
Getting buy-in early from your leadership and teams solidifies
two crucial elements of OKR success: transparency and
collaboration.
Your leadership must justify the effort
and resources to implement OKRs.
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Step 3: Connect your mission
to your OKRs
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Step 3: Connect your
mission to your OKRs
Answering the following goal-setting questions is a fundamental part of
creating your OKRs:
Thankfully, your company’s mission can guide your answers to these
questions, helping you kickstart your OKR journey effortlessly.
Mission informs strategy
Stemming from your company vision, your mission should reflect a singular,
time-bound, ambitious goal. Without a mission in place, your team may have
a hard time coming up with meaningful complementary objectives.
๫ What are you trying to achieve?
๫ Why do you want to achieve this?
๫ When do you want to achieve it?
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This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal,
before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon
and returning him safely to earth.
Consider John F. Kennedy’s mission statement for NASA before the space
race in the 1960s — see if you can spot the connection between missions
and OKRs:
If this mission sounds like a SMART goal, it’s because it is:
๫ Specific: land a man on the moon, return him safely
๫ Measurable: did the man land, did he return
๫ Achievable: for NASA, this was possible, but a stretch
๫ Relevant: NASA’s job is aeronautics and space focused
๫ Timely: there is a deadline, before the decade is out
Step 3: Connect your
mission to your OKRs
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While this isn’t the only way to frame your mission, OKRs and SMART
goals share many similarities. This SMART mission shares the specific,
aspirational, and timebound qualities of OKRs.
As the guiding light for your teams, company OKRs closely align with your
mission. Therefore, critical strategy questions sit between your company’s
mission and your company’s OKRs.
Finding strategic purpose
with company OKRs
The ultimate litmus test of creating company OKRs is the question of
“why” — this answer lies in your company’s mission. The mission provides
a clear direction for your company-level OKRs by indicating what’s
trying to be achieved and why (see: the goal-setting questions at the
beginning of the section).
Connecting company OKRs to the mission also ensures all stakeholders
involved — executives, investors, shareholders — support the change OKRs
will bring to your organization. By creating parallels between your mission’s
“why” and your OKRs’ “why”, you set the stage for alignment between your
strategy and OKRs at the company, team, and individual levels.
We cover how to create company OKRs in Step 8.
Step 3: Connect your
mission to your OKRs
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Step 4: Select an OKR pilot group
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Leadership
engagement
Is there leadership
buy-in with OKRs?
Broad
engagement
Do non-leadership employees
and individual contributors use
the methodology?
Conceptual fit
Do OKRs fit into your
organization’s culture and
working style?
Technology fit
Does your technology
enable people to focus on
their objectives? Does it
work for distributed teams
and hybrid work?
Scale and
growth
Do processes, logistics,
and technologies support
OKRs at scale?
Step 4: Select an OKR pilot group The purpose of your OKR pilot is to serve as proof of concept across a
small part of your organization. This builds OKR's credibility, showcasing its
effectiveness for your organization.
Outcomes of an OKR pilot
You can run an OKR pilot to test one of many aspects like:
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Step 4: Select an OKR pilot group
As large, sweeping initiatives often fail, you can use an OKR pilot to prove
OKRs can deliver desired outcomes with minimal risks.
Additionally, a pilot program can highlight the potential obstacles in your
change management process, allowing you to strengthen your OKR
implementation strategy before scaling it.
The success of your OKR pilot depends on six distinct processes:
๫ Onboarding: Can we get people started with OKRs?
๫ Activity: Do people engage with the process?
๫ Alignment: Are organizational goals aligned with OKRs?
๫ Transparency: Have OKRs reduced silos and improved collaboration?
๫ Focus: Are we prioritizing what’s important with OKRs?
๫ Attainment: Are OKRs helping us achieve our objectives?
As your OKR pilot group can make or break the success of your OKR
implementation, choosing the most suitable pilot group is essential.
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Choosing your OKR pilot group
You can choose your OKR pilot group in two ways: management-specific
(e.g., managers and executives) or function-specific (e.g., engineering).
While both approaches have their benefits, we strongly recommend the
function-specific pilot.
As OKRs can improve transparency, focus, and alignment in your
organization, they should be deployed to groups who can benefit from these
the most.
Your OKR pilot participants need to represent the day-to-day
dynamics of your organization — management is important for
operations but shouldn’t be the majority of your participants.
Using a function as a pilot group can allow you to see how the OKR process
works vertically, from the most junior to the most senior person in that
function. Additionally, other functions may be more eager to adopt OKRs if
they see them benefiting an adjacent function.
Regardless of how you choose your OKR pilot group, we recommend a
gradual approach in a controlled environment. In our experience, companies
that jump straight in spend 3-6 months trying to manage the process at an
unnecessarily large scale.
Step 4: Select an OKR pilot group
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Step 5: Appoint OKR leadership
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OKR champion
Execution-focused operator
OKR program
owner
Executive monitor for planning
and strategy
OKR sponsor
Strategy-focused OKR
support figure
Step 5: Appoint OKR leadership
As you wouldn’t expect long-term marketing success without
a CMO, or sales to excel without a CRO, OKRs need dedicated
leadership to be efficient.
Deciding on an OKR sponsor, champion, and program owner is important
for OKR planning and longevity. These key players undertake OKR
responsibilities such as decision making, motivating teams, and managing
operations. They’re especially vital when rolling out OKRs and scaling these
throughout your organization.
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Step 5: Appoint OKR leadership
OKR sponsor
Typically, the OKR sponsor works to establish OKR credibility and authority.
More focused on strategy and less focused on execution, they’re trusted
with defining OKR success, creating the communication strategy, and
supporting the rollout of OKRs.
Without an OKR sponsor, getting leadership and team buy-in is nearly
impossible. Having a support figure for OKRs ensures the methodology can
develop and flourish, as OKR sponsors maintain the efficacy of OKRs by
integrating them into the fabric of operational culture.
OKR champion
Complementing the OKR sponsor, the OKR champion is a highly operational
role. They establish a framework for OKR adoption, evangelizing the
methodology across the organization.
As part of this, OKR champions act as an internal expert on all things
OKRs, providing your organization with ad hoc OKR knowledge. This role
is particularly important as OKRs take a while to get used to, making
streamlining them a lengthy process.
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Step 5: Appoint OKR leadership
As the final decision maker in OKR-related matters, the champion covers the
who, what, when, how, and why of OKRs, pushing the process forward by
removing bottlenecks and making it as effective as possible.
OKR program owner
As an intermediary between the strategy-focused sponsor and the
execution-focused champion, the OKR program owner role is often filled by
the chief of staff, chief of strategy, chief operating officer, or another C-level
executive focused on supporting strategy through planning.
It’s the program owner’s responsibility to make the OKR strategy
actionable by fulfilling the communication strategy, overseeing
training activities, and monitoring program health.
Without a program owner, nobody is steering the proverbial OKR ship,
creating misalignment between the strategic vision and its execution.
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Step 6: Establish an OKR rollout strategy
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Step 6: Establish an OKR
rollout strategy
With leadership established, you’re ready to formalize your
OKR rollout strategy.
Operational rhythm
Understanding your OKRs’ operating rhythm is key to an effective rollout.
The program owner should share timelines and expectations for the OKR
cycle. While the first cycle is challenging, subsequent cycles establish OKRs
as a familiar routine.
Without clear expectations or an operational “flow,” OKRs can
feel forced or rushed.
Mapping out each step of the OKR process with desired outcomes in mind
will give you the best shot at successfully implementing OKRs. But how do
you communicate your OKRs and ensure visibility every step of the way?
While this overview gives you a base-level understanding of OKR cycles and
rollout strategies, our guide covers the step-by-step process of successful
OKR cycles and rollouts.
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Communication strategy
Effectively communicating your OKR rollout is essential to the OKR cycle.
Whether it’s at the start of the fiscal year or outside the annual planning
process, choosing when you communicate isn’t as important as how you
prepare for it.
For your communication strategy, you must consider:
๫ Kickoff activity: How OKRs are announced to your teams
๫ Months before implementation: OKR training, strategy,
and cycle management
๫ Weeks before implementation: Company OKRs, developing and aligning
team OKRs
๫ OKR execution: OKR deployment, adjustments, progress metrics, etc.
๫ Next implementation planning: Review quarterly results,
recalibrate, and continue
Step 6: Establish an OKR
rollout strategy
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Answer your team’s OKR questions
With the cadence and communication strategy established, the success
of your OKR implementation depends on buy-in from your teams.
If they have their hands full with complex daily operations, this may
require a little convincing.
Most teams have the same questions when it comes to using OKRs.
Anticipating and tending to questions can alleviate stress around
OKR rollouts. So, let’s look at how you can go about answering some
common OKR questions:
๫ What are we going to do?
๫ Why are we doing it? What’s in it for me?
๫ How do we do it? And how do we do it well?
๫ How can managers help make OKRs stick?
Asking teams to take on OKRs will only
succeed when there’s a “why.”
Step 6: Establish an OKR
rollout strategy
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What are we going to do?
“We’re rolling out OKRs so we can focus on the larger impact of your work
as opposed to isolated tasks. OKRs will also increase transparency and
alignment inside your team and across the organization, ensuring a better
understanding of overarching processes.”
As employees like to understand their work’s contributions, emphasizing
how OKRs unite teams for impactful work helps make efforts purpose-driven
and conducive to success.
Why are we doing it? What’s in it for me?
“Setting wider team and company goals will give you more autonomy in
shaping our company’s future. You’ll have the freedom and authority to
choose how you’ll deliver on those goals — and we’ll celebrate the wins we
see across all teams.”
As Dan Pink mentions in Drive, people need three things to be motivated:
autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Remind teams you trust them by
empowering specialized, autonomous work that fulfills motivation.
Step 6: Establish an OKR
rollout strategy
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How do we do it? And how do we do it well?
“We’re going to have weekly check-ins to reflect on progress and
confidence levels surrounding goals. Each team will be responsible for
pinpointing issues and figuring out a plan to overcome them.
Using tracked metrics and your professional intuition, you’ll assess how
likely you are to achieve your goals. Transparently stating your confidence in
goal attainment can help the rest of the organization stay aligned with your
progress and set additional goals to support your initiatives.”
When setting up teams for successful OKR adoption and attainment,
account for these three factors:
๫ Regular review cadences
๫ Transparency in goal progress and process
๫ Understanding how individual teams impact each other
Step 6: Establish an OKR
rollout strategy
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How can managers help make OKRs stick?
“Training your team on OKRs will reduce any knowledge gaps. Coaching
best practices will reinforce positive behaviors. Showing progress and
celebrating wins turns metric-tracking from a rote exercise into a vehicle
driving positive change.”
Team leads are the first ones to hear about teams’ discontentment.
Step 6: Establish an OKR
rollout strategy
Helping managers handle objections and
the process facilitates employee buy-in.
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Step 7: Set OKR rules of engagement
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Step 7: Set OKR rules of engagement
You will find many rules when it comes to OKRs. In practice, however,
everyone tweaks these to suit their needs. In our experience, adjustments
are great if everyone is aware of them. Below, we list some important OKR
rules everyone in your organization should be aware of.
Rules of engagement checklist:
Define your chosen OKRs planning cadence
Determine how frequently OKRs should be updated
Decide the maximum objectives a person or team can own
Decide the maximum key results attached to a single objective
Choose how often teams should meet to discuss OKR progress
Nominate who sets OKRs for teams and individuals
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Step 7: Set OKR rules of engagement
Set OKR rules of engagement
Cadence
What OKR cycle length will you be using? Typically, companies use quarterly
OKR cycles, but fast-paced organizations may opt for OKR cycles of four,
six, or eight weeks instead.
Check-ins
How often should OKR owners update key results? Generally, once a week —
on a specific, chosen day — is enough.
Maximum number of objectives
What is the maximum number of objectives a team or individual can own?
While we generally recommend three at most, we advise beginners to start
with one. This makes it easier to weed out distractions when choosing an
initial focus.
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Maximum number of key results
What is the maximum number of key results per objective? In our
experience, 3-5 key results are optimal. Too many key results complicate
OKRs, diminishing their focus. If an objective seems to require more than
five key results, try breaking it up into two objectives instead.
Retrospective meeting cadence
How often should teams meet to discuss OKR progress? To drive
performance and accountability, the OKR progress needs to be reviewed
regularly. Typically, this entails a short weekly or bi-weekly meeting,
depending on the size and needs of your organization.
Step 7: Set OKR rules of engagement
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How will OKRs be set?
OKRs can be set in three ways:
๫ Top-down: Fosters alignment, quick planning
๫ Bottom-up: Fosters engagement and motivation, requires little coordination
๫ Bidirectional: Middle ground between top-down and bottom-up
OKRs should strike a balance between the need for managers to drive
results and the need for individuals to own their journeys. Regardless of
which method you choose for setting OKRs, it is important to bear in mind
the core benefits of each approach.
Top-down
All objectives are set by a manager, supervisors, or executives. This
approach is best for companies that have sweeping projects or need
to completely realign.
Step 7: Set OKR rules of engagement
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Bottom-up
Employees set their own OKRs based on what they think should be
accomplished. To make this work, company and function OKRs should be
clearly defined. This approach gives your teams more influence on the goals
the company takes up as its main drivers. If there are no fires to put out, or if
you need more ground-level knowledge to uncover the company’s strategic
deficiencies, the bottom-up approach can help surface unseen gaps or
empower projects that teams are truly excited about working on.
Bidirectional
Managers and employees negotiate OKRs. Typically, the manager will frame
these OKRs with “We need to achieve X and Y in this quarter, how can you
help us?” Most companies develop a hybrid of the three approaches through
negotiation. Some teams may require more autonomy, while service-focused
functions may benefit more from a top-down approach.
Step 7: Set OKR rules of engagement
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Step 8: Define company OKRs
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Step 8: Define company OKRs Before setting individual and team objectives, you need clear company
objectives in place. These involve both annual and quarterly objectives,
where quarterly objectives ensure annual objectives are attained.
Annual objectives
Annual company objectives are the most important and ambitious. When
preparing these objectives, leadership can look at your organization’s
mission and vision for inspiration. Annual objectives are designed to help
your company achieve its mission with its vision in mind.
Here’s a thought exercise for annual objectives — if there
were only three things you could achieve this year, what
would they be?
Examples:
๫ Drive more upsells and cross-sells
๫ Become an industry thought leader
๫ Grow faster than competitors
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Step 8: Define company OKRs Depending on the size of your company, you may have more than three
annual objectives. Please keep in mind, though, OKRs are all about focus.
We highly advise having no more than 3-5 annual objectives.
Quarterly objectives
With your mission and vision-focused annual objectives in place, defining
your quarterly objectives should be straightforward. Quarterly company
OKRs inform functional, team, and individual level OKRs, aligning them with
annual objectives in a specific and tactical manner.
For example:
๫ Improve upsells of our entry-level customers (vs. Drive more upsells and
cross-sells)
๫ Get media coverage (vs. Become an industry thought leader)
๫ Deliver a new vertical solution (vs. Grow faster than competitors)
Essentially, quarterly objectives break down annual objectives into smaller,
focused avenues. If these objectives produce results, they’ll likely be carried
into the next quarter — if not, leadership can pivot to a new focus.
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Step 9: Define function and team OKRs
50
Step 9: Define function
and team OKRs
All the work you’ve done setting company OKRs pays off at the function
and team level. With company OKRs connected to the mission and vision,
function and team OKRs align as tactical pursuits.
Function OKRs describe what departments and large sectors of
the organization are trying to achieve, while team OKRs are the
rallying point for individual contributors.
The constructive challenge of team OKRs
At the function and team level, OKRs are separate enough from the
overarching strategy to become tactically focused — this presents both an
opportunity and a challenge.
The opportunity is in the outlook provided by management on how OKRs will
drive real results. The challenge is in the disconnection of teams and pursuit
of alignment.
By defining team OKRs, each team will have a unique perspective and
approach to the process. Some teams may be directly in line with the
strategic vision, while other teams may challenge that vision.
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Uncertainty in the team OKR process is normal — you should
encourage teams to take risks here, as not all team OKRs must align
at the company level.
Why not individual OKRs?
While we at Quantive once recommended individual OKRs, the methodology
continues to mature and evolve. Getting too granular at the individual level
creates unnecessary risk from a performance management perspective —
it’s no longer our recommended best practice for writing OKRs.
OKRs are meant to push teams. Without the freedom to fail, risk-tasking is
discouraged and OKRs lose their aspirational aspect. Maintaining focus on
how team OKRs drive company goal progress mitigates this risk.
Step 9: Define function
and team OKRs
Tying an individual’s performance
directly to OKRs is a red flag.
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Creating your own OKRs from scratch is intimidating and time-consuming.
Get inspired by our OKR examples before defining your company, function,
and team OKRs.
Company OKR example
Objective: Become growth-obsessed
Key result 1: Decrease avg. net MRR churn by 25%
Key result 3: 2,000 Customers
Key result 2: Compound MoM MRR growth of 15%
Step 9: Define function
and team OKRs OKR examples
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Function OKR example — sales
Objective: Generate new bookings pipeline
Key result 1: Generate of $10M in ‘Land’ pipeline
Key result 3: Average 6 product demos per week per sales rep
Key result 2: Generate $2.5M in ‘Expand’ pipeline
Step 9: Define function
and team OKRs
54
Team OKR example — content (via marketing)
Objective: Bring in new visitors with our bi-weekly newsletter
Key result 1: Double the number of subscribers from 1,500
to 3,000
Key result 4: Increase the CTR to >8%
Key result 3: Create the content strategy and the topics for the
next 3 months
Key result 2: Increase the open rate of the newsletter from
20% to 35%
Step 9: Define function
and team OKRs
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Step 10: Align and rollout OKRs
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Step 10: Align and rollout OKRs With company, function, and team OKRs set, it’s time for organizational
alignment and the official rollout. As a rule of thumb, don’t expect every
objective to neatly cascade from one level to the other.
Align function and team OKRs
to company OKRs
While cascading isn’t the goal, alignment is, but not every goal must align
with company OKRs — your HR team’s goal might not align with revenue. But
your company goals should represent top priorities and each team should
contribute where they can.
Think of your objectives as a graph or web — even if some elements are
detached from the whole, they should align across peer teams and towards
the company’s goals. The alignment phase is also your last review of OKRs.
This is the opportunity to stress test each function and team’s OKRs, while
ensuring the company OKRs are a solid foundation. Ideally, each function
contributes to a key result(s) in a company OKR, balancing accountability for
results across teams.
The alignment phase ensures each key result has a contributor and
connects team goals before they’re finalized.
57
Rollout OKRs
Once team goals are set, they should be shared publicly. Teams can then
revise their goals to ensure cross-functional alignment when needed.
This makes all OKRs more meaningful and cohesive, uniting teams and
individuals through a common purpose.
Leadership shouldn’t dictate every detail in the rollout. Front-line initiative
is an indicator of a healthy, empowered culture — employees with autonomy
in their goal setting have a stronger sense of ownership and work harder to
accomplish their goals.
OKR rollout checklist:
2 weeks before next quarter: Every team publishes their goals
1 week before next quarter: Teams collaborate and review each other’s OKRs to ensure
alignment and adjust goals
Days before next quarter: Teams publish and commit to their shared OKRs
Step 10: Align and rollout OKRs
58
Create action plans
Creating OKRs is not the same as the action plan. Planning helps anticipate
obstacles and keeps the team on track.
Your plan for achieving your OKRs should include planned initiatives,
tasks needed to be done, and benchmarks with deadlines. This should be
tracked separately from your OKRs so the process doesn’t distract from the
outcomes.
Step 10: Align and rollout OKRs
Align and rollout OKRs
An action plan, enhanced with tasks,
boosts productivity and focus.
59
Action plans are outputs, OKRs are outcomes
Identify leads and contributors responsible for KRs
Establish a weekly check-in schedule to evaluate progress
Link your action plan documentation to your OKRs
Schedule monthly reviews and quarterly retrospectives
Action plans checklist:
Step 10: Align and rollout OKRs
60
Step 11: Set OKR reviews and retrospectives
61
Step 11: Set OKR reviews and
retrospectives
To drive performance and accountability, OKR progress should be reviewed
regularly. These should not be all-hands meetings, but rather short, weekly
meetings to discuss progress against objectives and to set priorities for the
next week. The goal is to make these team-specific.
For retrospectives, it’s important to review the previous OKR cycle and
make necessary adjustments. This is a great time to look at OKR progress,
determine which company OKR changes need to be made, and incorporate
lessons learned into the planning cycle ahead.
The all-hands review of the past OKRs session is important for
several reasons:
๫ It demonstrates how serious a company is about OKRs — if things get done
and no one notices, it doesn’t matter
๫ It is a chance to give credit to people who excelled at their OKRs
๫ It is a learning opportunity for people and the company to see where things
didn’t go well and how they could be improved
62
Step 11: Set OKR reviews and
retrospectives
๫ How was the progress in our first round of OKRs?
๫ Were they well aligned?
๫ What went well?
๫ Where could we improve?
๫ Have company-level OKRs changed?
๫ Has anything changed with other teams we share dependencies with?
No one gets OKRs right the first time, so focus on learning and improving.
Some OKRs just need recalibration from one quarter to the next, while
others will end and new ones will be created.
Common questions to help guide the quarterly review process:
63
Step 12: Common OKR challenges and mistakes
64
Step 12: Common OKR challenges
and mistakes
When trying to implement OKRs correctly and effectively, you’ll face some
challenges along the way. At a broad level, OKR implementations fail for
many reasons — here are three major OKR stumbling blocks:
“Set and forget” OKRs
This is the number one-way implementations fail. OKRs are not a passive
methodology threy require consistent time and effort. The more your teams
engage with their OKRs and provide updates, the better your chances of
driving real results.
To counter this mistake, it’s important to establish a cadence of regular
checkpoints to examine progress.
No accountability
In this scenario, teams are usually given OKRs to pursue but have no input in
defining them. No accountability stems from poor engagement (no choice in
goals), leading to the disconnected work silos OKRs are meant to prevent.
To counter this mistake, you need a process where teams are empowered to
create their OKRs. Each function then must challenge the other to focus on
65
Step 12: Common OKR challenges
and mistakes
the right priorities. This encourages accountability through inspired creative
thinking and informed risk-taking, all pushing the business forward.
Focus on deliverables, not outcomes
For some teams, OKRs turn into a data-driven, output-focused task list. This
won’t ensure the desired outcome from OKRs — this is simply conducting
business as usual.
To counter this mistake, emphasize the outcomes you want to achieve
without over-specifying the projects required to achieve them. A watertight
plan at the start of the process will choke out creativity and innovation as
new information becomes available down the line.
Without a focus on outcomes, you’re
ensuring mediocrity at best.
66
Step 13: Choose OKR software
67
Advantages of OKR software
Using purpose-built software to support an OKR implementation creates
significant advantages, like:
Greater visibility and
better focus
Team members have easy access
to strategic objectives and OKRs
across the business, focusing
teams on what’s important
to highlight, what’s working,
and what’s not.
Out-of-the-box
best practices
OKR software incorporates best
practices that support teams at
critical junctures throughout the
cycle.
Deliver outcomes,
not tasks
Teams use the OKR software
to stay focused on measurable
progress, make course
corrections, and celebrate wins.
Improved team
engagement
Team members and managers
give and receive direct feedback
on OKRs, increasing engagement
and ensuring consistent
collaboration.
Reduced meetings
and process
Streamlined and automated OKR
updates eliminate status-check
emails and reduce unnecessary
meetings. Slack and email
notifications keep the team
informed the way they want.
Less stressed, more
enjoyable work
Platforms help teams raise
concerns and catch issues
before fires start, reducing
employee stress and wasted
efforts through better
alignment and focus.
Step 13: Choose OKR software
68
Step 13: Choose OKR software
Your ideal OKR software will build and reinforce great practices while fitting
in seamlessly with the way your team already works.
Software like Quantive prioritizes OKR best practices and
cross-functional collaboration which is crucial to the success of
OKR implementation at scale.
Through Quantive, OKRs are
easy-to-use, trackable, flexible,
and scalable.
69
© Quantive. All rights reserved.
Quantive is your bridge between strategy and execution. Founded on the
objectives and key results (OKR) methodology, our Strategy Execution
Platform is where businesses plan successful strategy, focus and align
teams to it, and stay on the leading edge of progress.
As your company looks to achieve the best possible results, you need
a modern approach to run your business and change your business.
The Modern Operating Model brings strategy, teams, and data together
to help make decisions faster, optimize operations, and drive better
business outcomes.
Whether you’re a large enterprise facing competitive disruption or a small
business leading the innovative charge, Quantive helps gets you where you
want to go.
Use for free Book a demo

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The 2023 OKRs Guide (Quantive, 2022).pdf

  • 1. 1 The 2023 OKR Guide Best Practices for Adopting Objectives and Key Results
  • 2. 2 Contents Introduction to OKRs 3 The OKR basics 5 Getting started 12 Step 1: Understand why you want to adopt OKRs 14 Step 2: Get buy-in from leadership and teams 19 Step 3: Connect your mission to your OKRs 21 Step 4: Select an OKR pilot group 25 Step 5: Appoint OKR leadership 29 Step 6: Establish an OKR rollout strategy 33 Step 7: Set OKR rules of engagement 40 Step 8: Define company OKRs 46 Step 9: Define function and team OKRs 49 Step 10: Align and rollout OKRs 55 Step 11: Set OKR reviews and retrospectives 60 Step 12: Common OKR challenges and mistakes 63 Step 13: Choose OKR software 66
  • 4. 4 Introduction to OKRs When implemented correctly, OKRs establish broad alignment and accountability throughout your organization and help teams see how their work contributes to your company’s objectives. For your company to be successful with OKRs, you want to make sure OKRs are implemented with intent at every step. In our experience, groups with the most success have taken time to: ๫ Prepare and follow a detailed strategy ๫ Educate and empower their organization ๫ Build a rollout plan while following change management best practices ๫ Define OKRs in the correct sequence ๫ Manage and track OKR progress With that being said, you may be reluctant to implement OKRs because of uncertainty. We understand and empathize with this uncertainty, but reading this guide is your first step in conquering it. Let’s start with the basics of OKRs.
  • 6. 6 If you’ve made it to the point of checking out our guide, you may already have an idea of what OKRs can do for your organization. However, establishing an understanding of OKRs is the preliminary step in adopting and implementing them. After all, if your teams don’t understand the methodology, can it really be successful? What are OKRs? OKRs are a framework for goal setting and management, created by Intel’s Andy Grove. Venture capitalist John Doerr popularized the methodology in his New York Times best-seller Measure What Matters. From tech giants like Google and Adobe to worldwide enterprises, OKRs continue accelerating growth and innovation by connecting teams to their company’s greater objectives. By design, OKRs work cross-functionally to create a standard of alignment for entire companies, making them giving a connected purpose to teams and organizations. The OKR basics
  • 7. 7 OKRs stand for objectives and key results. An objective is what you want to achieve, and a key result is how you plan to measure whether you have achieved your objective. The difference between an objective and key result is clear. “Boost organic traffic” as an objective inspires numerous strategies for a marketing team. A key result like “Increase top 5 keywords ranking by X positions” brings “how” an objective is achieved into focus. The OKR basics Qualitative Aspirational Something you, your team, or your organization aim to achieve Quantitative Measurable Indicate if you achieved your objective Objectives Key results
  • 8. 8 Who should own OKRs? Company, functions, and teams will all have separate OKRs that connect and align in unique ways. OKRs can be owned individuals, but we recommend teams own the majority of OKRs. If you’re implementing OKRs for the first time, team OKRs will simplify the implementation process. How many objectives? As a rule of thumb, both the company and each team should have up to three objectives per quarterly planning period (we’ll get to this in a bit). However, don’t feel pressure to create three objectives where one will suffice. Less is more with OKRs. The OKR basics Your teams will quickly learn the value of focus if OKRs aren't overcomplicated.
  • 9. 9 Maintaining a minimal OKR process ensures you will not overwhelm the team with learning a new process and full-blown planning at the same time. How many key results? In general, you’re not limited on the number of key results. However, we want to maintain the theme of focus in OKRs — 3–5 is the sweet spot. The OKR basics 5+ key results are hard to maintain, but less than 3 won’t define success clearly enough.
  • 10. 10 Tips for writing OKRs A good OKR is simple, clear, and actionable. Any person in any function of your organization should be able to look at your OKR, understand what the objective is trying to achieve, and how your key results will drive progress. We use a time-tested formula for writing OKRs at Quantive: With this formula in mind, here is a checklist to help you write top-quality objectives and key results. The OKR basics We will (objective), as measured by (these key results)
  • 11. 11 Are there too many or too few? Are they actionable? What impact will they have? Why should anyone care? Can they be clearer or more concise? Are there too many or too few? Are your key results task or outcome oriented? Are they ambitious enough? Are the targets realistic? Who is accountable for each key result? Objectives Key Results Writing good OKRs The OKR basics
  • 13. 13 Launching the OKR process Baymard conducts original large-scale research studies on all aspects. While these OKR basics provide you a standard overview of OKRs, we highly encourage you and your teams to check out our full introduction to OKRs if you want more information on: ๫ OKR basics ๫ Breaking down the components of OKRs ๫ A more in-depth explanation on writing OKRs ๫ OKRs vs. KPIs ๫ Common mistakes when writing OKRs ๫ OKR examples With the preliminary OKR knowledge established, you're ready to get moving with your OKR process. So where do you start? To ensure the process is seen as valuable from executives all the way down to individual contributors, you need to use the right approach to OKRs. Answering the question “why” is where all great OKR strategies begin. Getting started
  • 14. 14 Step 1: Understand why you want to adopt OKRs
  • 15. 15 Step 1: Understand why you want to adopt OKRs Your organization faces a unique set of strengths, challenges, and environments. Whether you’re a global enterprise or a scrappy startup, OKRs can boost business growth by enabling: ๫ Focus ๫ Accountability ๫ Alignment ๫ Transparency ๫ Engagement But OKRs aren’t about gaining a laundry list of benefits — you want to drive greater outcomes with this simple, but effective methodology. Let’s explore how each core benefit translates to better results for your organization.
  • 16. 16 Step 1: Understand why you want to adopt OKRs Focus By helping hundreds of high-growth companies successfully implement OKRs, we’ve learned organizational focus is the most desired benefit of OKRs. Productive, innovative teams often lack focus because in today’s modern operating environment, “busy” is often confused with “effective.” While there’s always something new to be done, the OKR framework ensures work focuses on priorities as opposed to unproductive or futile tasks. Accountability Even if your organization is the most focused, you won’t accomplish much if your goals aren’t connected. OKRs are a system of public ownership, assigning stakeholders for progress. When supported by the right OKR platform, OKRs ensure you and your team’s work contributes to overarching goals.
  • 17. 17 The public format of OKRs builds a culture of trust and transparency, increasing the consistency of your teams’ efforts and empowering them to commit to your strategic objectives. Alignment Alignment eliminates time, energy, and resource waste. OKRs foster alignment by removing silos and connecting employees to company and function-level objectives. As OKRs display your organization’s strategic direction — showcasing top-down initiatives from each function — work funnels towards the same objectives, increasing the potency and potential of everyone's contributions. Transparency While OKRs promote transparency, they also could not survive without it. Knowing the purpose behind high-level decisions, the company’s goals, and the projects your teams are working on makes organizational efficiency easier to achieve. Step 1: Understand why you want to adopt OKRs
  • 18. 18 Additionally, transparency is symbiotic with other OKR benefits. Visibility into organizational processes improves your teams’ focus and promotes accountability, making alignment and motivation a breeze. Moreover, real-time progress transparency condenses feedback loops, allowing you to adapt to changing conditions quickly and efficiently. Engagement OKRs empower individual contributors with the power of choice. By shifting the focus of the organization to the “why” behind work, teams can establish "how” their work is accomplished. This democratization of decision-making motivates employees to go all-in on the OKR process. As a result, team engagement improves, as employees better understand how their work impacts progress at every level. Step 1: Understand why you want to adopt OKRs
  • 19. 19 Step 2: Get buy-in from leadership and teams
  • 20. 20 Step 2: Get buy-in from leadership and teams You can spend all day planning out the perfect OKR implementation — without organizational buy-in, it may be a waste of time. Conceptually, you can’t roll out OKRs if stakeholders don’t support them. After gaining leadership interest, you’re ready to focus on your teams. This doesn’t mean going in heavy-handed to involve everyone during the initial OKR rollout. Rather, get the initial support of a few colleagues who can help set the rules and practices of OKR implementation in alignment with leadership’s vision. Getting buy-in early from your leadership and teams solidifies two crucial elements of OKR success: transparency and collaboration. Your leadership must justify the effort and resources to implement OKRs.
  • 21. 21 Step 3: Connect your mission to your OKRs
  • 22. 22 Step 3: Connect your mission to your OKRs Answering the following goal-setting questions is a fundamental part of creating your OKRs: Thankfully, your company’s mission can guide your answers to these questions, helping you kickstart your OKR journey effortlessly. Mission informs strategy Stemming from your company vision, your mission should reflect a singular, time-bound, ambitious goal. Without a mission in place, your team may have a hard time coming up with meaningful complementary objectives. ๫ What are you trying to achieve? ๫ Why do you want to achieve this? ๫ When do you want to achieve it?
  • 23. 23 This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth. Consider John F. Kennedy’s mission statement for NASA before the space race in the 1960s — see if you can spot the connection between missions and OKRs: If this mission sounds like a SMART goal, it’s because it is: ๫ Specific: land a man on the moon, return him safely ๫ Measurable: did the man land, did he return ๫ Achievable: for NASA, this was possible, but a stretch ๫ Relevant: NASA’s job is aeronautics and space focused ๫ Timely: there is a deadline, before the decade is out Step 3: Connect your mission to your OKRs
  • 24. 24 While this isn’t the only way to frame your mission, OKRs and SMART goals share many similarities. This SMART mission shares the specific, aspirational, and timebound qualities of OKRs. As the guiding light for your teams, company OKRs closely align with your mission. Therefore, critical strategy questions sit between your company’s mission and your company’s OKRs. Finding strategic purpose with company OKRs The ultimate litmus test of creating company OKRs is the question of “why” — this answer lies in your company’s mission. The mission provides a clear direction for your company-level OKRs by indicating what’s trying to be achieved and why (see: the goal-setting questions at the beginning of the section). Connecting company OKRs to the mission also ensures all stakeholders involved — executives, investors, shareholders — support the change OKRs will bring to your organization. By creating parallels between your mission’s “why” and your OKRs’ “why”, you set the stage for alignment between your strategy and OKRs at the company, team, and individual levels. We cover how to create company OKRs in Step 8. Step 3: Connect your mission to your OKRs
  • 25. 25 Step 4: Select an OKR pilot group
  • 26. 26 Leadership engagement Is there leadership buy-in with OKRs? Broad engagement Do non-leadership employees and individual contributors use the methodology? Conceptual fit Do OKRs fit into your organization’s culture and working style? Technology fit Does your technology enable people to focus on their objectives? Does it work for distributed teams and hybrid work? Scale and growth Do processes, logistics, and technologies support OKRs at scale? Step 4: Select an OKR pilot group The purpose of your OKR pilot is to serve as proof of concept across a small part of your organization. This builds OKR's credibility, showcasing its effectiveness for your organization. Outcomes of an OKR pilot You can run an OKR pilot to test one of many aspects like:
  • 27. 27 Step 4: Select an OKR pilot group As large, sweeping initiatives often fail, you can use an OKR pilot to prove OKRs can deliver desired outcomes with minimal risks. Additionally, a pilot program can highlight the potential obstacles in your change management process, allowing you to strengthen your OKR implementation strategy before scaling it. The success of your OKR pilot depends on six distinct processes: ๫ Onboarding: Can we get people started with OKRs? ๫ Activity: Do people engage with the process? ๫ Alignment: Are organizational goals aligned with OKRs? ๫ Transparency: Have OKRs reduced silos and improved collaboration? ๫ Focus: Are we prioritizing what’s important with OKRs? ๫ Attainment: Are OKRs helping us achieve our objectives? As your OKR pilot group can make or break the success of your OKR implementation, choosing the most suitable pilot group is essential.
  • 28. 28 Choosing your OKR pilot group You can choose your OKR pilot group in two ways: management-specific (e.g., managers and executives) or function-specific (e.g., engineering). While both approaches have their benefits, we strongly recommend the function-specific pilot. As OKRs can improve transparency, focus, and alignment in your organization, they should be deployed to groups who can benefit from these the most. Your OKR pilot participants need to represent the day-to-day dynamics of your organization — management is important for operations but shouldn’t be the majority of your participants. Using a function as a pilot group can allow you to see how the OKR process works vertically, from the most junior to the most senior person in that function. Additionally, other functions may be more eager to adopt OKRs if they see them benefiting an adjacent function. Regardless of how you choose your OKR pilot group, we recommend a gradual approach in a controlled environment. In our experience, companies that jump straight in spend 3-6 months trying to manage the process at an unnecessarily large scale. Step 4: Select an OKR pilot group
  • 29. 29 Step 5: Appoint OKR leadership
  • 30. 30 OKR champion Execution-focused operator OKR program owner Executive monitor for planning and strategy OKR sponsor Strategy-focused OKR support figure Step 5: Appoint OKR leadership As you wouldn’t expect long-term marketing success without a CMO, or sales to excel without a CRO, OKRs need dedicated leadership to be efficient. Deciding on an OKR sponsor, champion, and program owner is important for OKR planning and longevity. These key players undertake OKR responsibilities such as decision making, motivating teams, and managing operations. They’re especially vital when rolling out OKRs and scaling these throughout your organization.
  • 31. 31 Step 5: Appoint OKR leadership OKR sponsor Typically, the OKR sponsor works to establish OKR credibility and authority. More focused on strategy and less focused on execution, they’re trusted with defining OKR success, creating the communication strategy, and supporting the rollout of OKRs. Without an OKR sponsor, getting leadership and team buy-in is nearly impossible. Having a support figure for OKRs ensures the methodology can develop and flourish, as OKR sponsors maintain the efficacy of OKRs by integrating them into the fabric of operational culture. OKR champion Complementing the OKR sponsor, the OKR champion is a highly operational role. They establish a framework for OKR adoption, evangelizing the methodology across the organization. As part of this, OKR champions act as an internal expert on all things OKRs, providing your organization with ad hoc OKR knowledge. This role is particularly important as OKRs take a while to get used to, making streamlining them a lengthy process.
  • 32. 32 Step 5: Appoint OKR leadership As the final decision maker in OKR-related matters, the champion covers the who, what, when, how, and why of OKRs, pushing the process forward by removing bottlenecks and making it as effective as possible. OKR program owner As an intermediary between the strategy-focused sponsor and the execution-focused champion, the OKR program owner role is often filled by the chief of staff, chief of strategy, chief operating officer, or another C-level executive focused on supporting strategy through planning. It’s the program owner’s responsibility to make the OKR strategy actionable by fulfilling the communication strategy, overseeing training activities, and monitoring program health. Without a program owner, nobody is steering the proverbial OKR ship, creating misalignment between the strategic vision and its execution.
  • 33. 33 Step 6: Establish an OKR rollout strategy
  • 34. 34 Step 6: Establish an OKR rollout strategy With leadership established, you’re ready to formalize your OKR rollout strategy. Operational rhythm Understanding your OKRs’ operating rhythm is key to an effective rollout. The program owner should share timelines and expectations for the OKR cycle. While the first cycle is challenging, subsequent cycles establish OKRs as a familiar routine. Without clear expectations or an operational “flow,” OKRs can feel forced or rushed. Mapping out each step of the OKR process with desired outcomes in mind will give you the best shot at successfully implementing OKRs. But how do you communicate your OKRs and ensure visibility every step of the way? While this overview gives you a base-level understanding of OKR cycles and rollout strategies, our guide covers the step-by-step process of successful OKR cycles and rollouts.
  • 35. 35 Communication strategy Effectively communicating your OKR rollout is essential to the OKR cycle. Whether it’s at the start of the fiscal year or outside the annual planning process, choosing when you communicate isn’t as important as how you prepare for it. For your communication strategy, you must consider: ๫ Kickoff activity: How OKRs are announced to your teams ๫ Months before implementation: OKR training, strategy, and cycle management ๫ Weeks before implementation: Company OKRs, developing and aligning team OKRs ๫ OKR execution: OKR deployment, adjustments, progress metrics, etc. ๫ Next implementation planning: Review quarterly results, recalibrate, and continue Step 6: Establish an OKR rollout strategy
  • 36. 36 Answer your team’s OKR questions With the cadence and communication strategy established, the success of your OKR implementation depends on buy-in from your teams. If they have their hands full with complex daily operations, this may require a little convincing. Most teams have the same questions when it comes to using OKRs. Anticipating and tending to questions can alleviate stress around OKR rollouts. So, let’s look at how you can go about answering some common OKR questions: ๫ What are we going to do? ๫ Why are we doing it? What’s in it for me? ๫ How do we do it? And how do we do it well? ๫ How can managers help make OKRs stick? Asking teams to take on OKRs will only succeed when there’s a “why.” Step 6: Establish an OKR rollout strategy
  • 37. 37 What are we going to do? “We’re rolling out OKRs so we can focus on the larger impact of your work as opposed to isolated tasks. OKRs will also increase transparency and alignment inside your team and across the organization, ensuring a better understanding of overarching processes.” As employees like to understand their work’s contributions, emphasizing how OKRs unite teams for impactful work helps make efforts purpose-driven and conducive to success. Why are we doing it? What’s in it for me? “Setting wider team and company goals will give you more autonomy in shaping our company’s future. You’ll have the freedom and authority to choose how you’ll deliver on those goals — and we’ll celebrate the wins we see across all teams.” As Dan Pink mentions in Drive, people need three things to be motivated: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Remind teams you trust them by empowering specialized, autonomous work that fulfills motivation. Step 6: Establish an OKR rollout strategy
  • 38. 38 How do we do it? And how do we do it well? “We’re going to have weekly check-ins to reflect on progress and confidence levels surrounding goals. Each team will be responsible for pinpointing issues and figuring out a plan to overcome them. Using tracked metrics and your professional intuition, you’ll assess how likely you are to achieve your goals. Transparently stating your confidence in goal attainment can help the rest of the organization stay aligned with your progress and set additional goals to support your initiatives.” When setting up teams for successful OKR adoption and attainment, account for these three factors: ๫ Regular review cadences ๫ Transparency in goal progress and process ๫ Understanding how individual teams impact each other Step 6: Establish an OKR rollout strategy
  • 39. 39 How can managers help make OKRs stick? “Training your team on OKRs will reduce any knowledge gaps. Coaching best practices will reinforce positive behaviors. Showing progress and celebrating wins turns metric-tracking from a rote exercise into a vehicle driving positive change.” Team leads are the first ones to hear about teams’ discontentment. Step 6: Establish an OKR rollout strategy Helping managers handle objections and the process facilitates employee buy-in.
  • 40. 40 Step 7: Set OKR rules of engagement
  • 41. 41 Step 7: Set OKR rules of engagement You will find many rules when it comes to OKRs. In practice, however, everyone tweaks these to suit their needs. In our experience, adjustments are great if everyone is aware of them. Below, we list some important OKR rules everyone in your organization should be aware of. Rules of engagement checklist: Define your chosen OKRs planning cadence Determine how frequently OKRs should be updated Decide the maximum objectives a person or team can own Decide the maximum key results attached to a single objective Choose how often teams should meet to discuss OKR progress Nominate who sets OKRs for teams and individuals
  • 42. 42 Step 7: Set OKR rules of engagement Set OKR rules of engagement Cadence What OKR cycle length will you be using? Typically, companies use quarterly OKR cycles, but fast-paced organizations may opt for OKR cycles of four, six, or eight weeks instead. Check-ins How often should OKR owners update key results? Generally, once a week — on a specific, chosen day — is enough. Maximum number of objectives What is the maximum number of objectives a team or individual can own? While we generally recommend three at most, we advise beginners to start with one. This makes it easier to weed out distractions when choosing an initial focus.
  • 43. 43 Maximum number of key results What is the maximum number of key results per objective? In our experience, 3-5 key results are optimal. Too many key results complicate OKRs, diminishing their focus. If an objective seems to require more than five key results, try breaking it up into two objectives instead. Retrospective meeting cadence How often should teams meet to discuss OKR progress? To drive performance and accountability, the OKR progress needs to be reviewed regularly. Typically, this entails a short weekly or bi-weekly meeting, depending on the size and needs of your organization. Step 7: Set OKR rules of engagement
  • 44. 44 How will OKRs be set? OKRs can be set in three ways: ๫ Top-down: Fosters alignment, quick planning ๫ Bottom-up: Fosters engagement and motivation, requires little coordination ๫ Bidirectional: Middle ground between top-down and bottom-up OKRs should strike a balance between the need for managers to drive results and the need for individuals to own their journeys. Regardless of which method you choose for setting OKRs, it is important to bear in mind the core benefits of each approach. Top-down All objectives are set by a manager, supervisors, or executives. This approach is best for companies that have sweeping projects or need to completely realign. Step 7: Set OKR rules of engagement
  • 45. 45 Bottom-up Employees set their own OKRs based on what they think should be accomplished. To make this work, company and function OKRs should be clearly defined. This approach gives your teams more influence on the goals the company takes up as its main drivers. If there are no fires to put out, or if you need more ground-level knowledge to uncover the company’s strategic deficiencies, the bottom-up approach can help surface unseen gaps or empower projects that teams are truly excited about working on. Bidirectional Managers and employees negotiate OKRs. Typically, the manager will frame these OKRs with “We need to achieve X and Y in this quarter, how can you help us?” Most companies develop a hybrid of the three approaches through negotiation. Some teams may require more autonomy, while service-focused functions may benefit more from a top-down approach. Step 7: Set OKR rules of engagement
  • 46. 46 Step 8: Define company OKRs
  • 47. 47 Step 8: Define company OKRs Before setting individual and team objectives, you need clear company objectives in place. These involve both annual and quarterly objectives, where quarterly objectives ensure annual objectives are attained. Annual objectives Annual company objectives are the most important and ambitious. When preparing these objectives, leadership can look at your organization’s mission and vision for inspiration. Annual objectives are designed to help your company achieve its mission with its vision in mind. Here’s a thought exercise for annual objectives — if there were only three things you could achieve this year, what would they be? Examples: ๫ Drive more upsells and cross-sells ๫ Become an industry thought leader ๫ Grow faster than competitors
  • 48. 48 Step 8: Define company OKRs Depending on the size of your company, you may have more than three annual objectives. Please keep in mind, though, OKRs are all about focus. We highly advise having no more than 3-5 annual objectives. Quarterly objectives With your mission and vision-focused annual objectives in place, defining your quarterly objectives should be straightforward. Quarterly company OKRs inform functional, team, and individual level OKRs, aligning them with annual objectives in a specific and tactical manner. For example: ๫ Improve upsells of our entry-level customers (vs. Drive more upsells and cross-sells) ๫ Get media coverage (vs. Become an industry thought leader) ๫ Deliver a new vertical solution (vs. Grow faster than competitors) Essentially, quarterly objectives break down annual objectives into smaller, focused avenues. If these objectives produce results, they’ll likely be carried into the next quarter — if not, leadership can pivot to a new focus.
  • 49. 49 Step 9: Define function and team OKRs
  • 50. 50 Step 9: Define function and team OKRs All the work you’ve done setting company OKRs pays off at the function and team level. With company OKRs connected to the mission and vision, function and team OKRs align as tactical pursuits. Function OKRs describe what departments and large sectors of the organization are trying to achieve, while team OKRs are the rallying point for individual contributors. The constructive challenge of team OKRs At the function and team level, OKRs are separate enough from the overarching strategy to become tactically focused — this presents both an opportunity and a challenge. The opportunity is in the outlook provided by management on how OKRs will drive real results. The challenge is in the disconnection of teams and pursuit of alignment. By defining team OKRs, each team will have a unique perspective and approach to the process. Some teams may be directly in line with the strategic vision, while other teams may challenge that vision.
  • 51. 51 Uncertainty in the team OKR process is normal — you should encourage teams to take risks here, as not all team OKRs must align at the company level. Why not individual OKRs? While we at Quantive once recommended individual OKRs, the methodology continues to mature and evolve. Getting too granular at the individual level creates unnecessary risk from a performance management perspective — it’s no longer our recommended best practice for writing OKRs. OKRs are meant to push teams. Without the freedom to fail, risk-tasking is discouraged and OKRs lose their aspirational aspect. Maintaining focus on how team OKRs drive company goal progress mitigates this risk. Step 9: Define function and team OKRs Tying an individual’s performance directly to OKRs is a red flag.
  • 52. 52 Creating your own OKRs from scratch is intimidating and time-consuming. Get inspired by our OKR examples before defining your company, function, and team OKRs. Company OKR example Objective: Become growth-obsessed Key result 1: Decrease avg. net MRR churn by 25% Key result 3: 2,000 Customers Key result 2: Compound MoM MRR growth of 15% Step 9: Define function and team OKRs OKR examples
  • 53. 53 Function OKR example — sales Objective: Generate new bookings pipeline Key result 1: Generate of $10M in ‘Land’ pipeline Key result 3: Average 6 product demos per week per sales rep Key result 2: Generate $2.5M in ‘Expand’ pipeline Step 9: Define function and team OKRs
  • 54. 54 Team OKR example — content (via marketing) Objective: Bring in new visitors with our bi-weekly newsletter Key result 1: Double the number of subscribers from 1,500 to 3,000 Key result 4: Increase the CTR to >8% Key result 3: Create the content strategy and the topics for the next 3 months Key result 2: Increase the open rate of the newsletter from 20% to 35% Step 9: Define function and team OKRs
  • 55. 55 Step 10: Align and rollout OKRs
  • 56. 56 Step 10: Align and rollout OKRs With company, function, and team OKRs set, it’s time for organizational alignment and the official rollout. As a rule of thumb, don’t expect every objective to neatly cascade from one level to the other. Align function and team OKRs to company OKRs While cascading isn’t the goal, alignment is, but not every goal must align with company OKRs — your HR team’s goal might not align with revenue. But your company goals should represent top priorities and each team should contribute where they can. Think of your objectives as a graph or web — even if some elements are detached from the whole, they should align across peer teams and towards the company’s goals. The alignment phase is also your last review of OKRs. This is the opportunity to stress test each function and team’s OKRs, while ensuring the company OKRs are a solid foundation. Ideally, each function contributes to a key result(s) in a company OKR, balancing accountability for results across teams. The alignment phase ensures each key result has a contributor and connects team goals before they’re finalized.
  • 57. 57 Rollout OKRs Once team goals are set, they should be shared publicly. Teams can then revise their goals to ensure cross-functional alignment when needed. This makes all OKRs more meaningful and cohesive, uniting teams and individuals through a common purpose. Leadership shouldn’t dictate every detail in the rollout. Front-line initiative is an indicator of a healthy, empowered culture — employees with autonomy in their goal setting have a stronger sense of ownership and work harder to accomplish their goals. OKR rollout checklist: 2 weeks before next quarter: Every team publishes their goals 1 week before next quarter: Teams collaborate and review each other’s OKRs to ensure alignment and adjust goals Days before next quarter: Teams publish and commit to their shared OKRs Step 10: Align and rollout OKRs
  • 58. 58 Create action plans Creating OKRs is not the same as the action plan. Planning helps anticipate obstacles and keeps the team on track. Your plan for achieving your OKRs should include planned initiatives, tasks needed to be done, and benchmarks with deadlines. This should be tracked separately from your OKRs so the process doesn’t distract from the outcomes. Step 10: Align and rollout OKRs Align and rollout OKRs An action plan, enhanced with tasks, boosts productivity and focus.
  • 59. 59 Action plans are outputs, OKRs are outcomes Identify leads and contributors responsible for KRs Establish a weekly check-in schedule to evaluate progress Link your action plan documentation to your OKRs Schedule monthly reviews and quarterly retrospectives Action plans checklist: Step 10: Align and rollout OKRs
  • 60. 60 Step 11: Set OKR reviews and retrospectives
  • 61. 61 Step 11: Set OKR reviews and retrospectives To drive performance and accountability, OKR progress should be reviewed regularly. These should not be all-hands meetings, but rather short, weekly meetings to discuss progress against objectives and to set priorities for the next week. The goal is to make these team-specific. For retrospectives, it’s important to review the previous OKR cycle and make necessary adjustments. This is a great time to look at OKR progress, determine which company OKR changes need to be made, and incorporate lessons learned into the planning cycle ahead. The all-hands review of the past OKRs session is important for several reasons: ๫ It demonstrates how serious a company is about OKRs — if things get done and no one notices, it doesn’t matter ๫ It is a chance to give credit to people who excelled at their OKRs ๫ It is a learning opportunity for people and the company to see where things didn’t go well and how they could be improved
  • 62. 62 Step 11: Set OKR reviews and retrospectives ๫ How was the progress in our first round of OKRs? ๫ Were they well aligned? ๫ What went well? ๫ Where could we improve? ๫ Have company-level OKRs changed? ๫ Has anything changed with other teams we share dependencies with? No one gets OKRs right the first time, so focus on learning and improving. Some OKRs just need recalibration from one quarter to the next, while others will end and new ones will be created. Common questions to help guide the quarterly review process:
  • 63. 63 Step 12: Common OKR challenges and mistakes
  • 64. 64 Step 12: Common OKR challenges and mistakes When trying to implement OKRs correctly and effectively, you’ll face some challenges along the way. At a broad level, OKR implementations fail for many reasons — here are three major OKR stumbling blocks: “Set and forget” OKRs This is the number one-way implementations fail. OKRs are not a passive methodology threy require consistent time and effort. The more your teams engage with their OKRs and provide updates, the better your chances of driving real results. To counter this mistake, it’s important to establish a cadence of regular checkpoints to examine progress. No accountability In this scenario, teams are usually given OKRs to pursue but have no input in defining them. No accountability stems from poor engagement (no choice in goals), leading to the disconnected work silos OKRs are meant to prevent. To counter this mistake, you need a process where teams are empowered to create their OKRs. Each function then must challenge the other to focus on
  • 65. 65 Step 12: Common OKR challenges and mistakes the right priorities. This encourages accountability through inspired creative thinking and informed risk-taking, all pushing the business forward. Focus on deliverables, not outcomes For some teams, OKRs turn into a data-driven, output-focused task list. This won’t ensure the desired outcome from OKRs — this is simply conducting business as usual. To counter this mistake, emphasize the outcomes you want to achieve without over-specifying the projects required to achieve them. A watertight plan at the start of the process will choke out creativity and innovation as new information becomes available down the line. Without a focus on outcomes, you’re ensuring mediocrity at best.
  • 66. 66 Step 13: Choose OKR software
  • 67. 67 Advantages of OKR software Using purpose-built software to support an OKR implementation creates significant advantages, like: Greater visibility and better focus Team members have easy access to strategic objectives and OKRs across the business, focusing teams on what’s important to highlight, what’s working, and what’s not. Out-of-the-box best practices OKR software incorporates best practices that support teams at critical junctures throughout the cycle. Deliver outcomes, not tasks Teams use the OKR software to stay focused on measurable progress, make course corrections, and celebrate wins. Improved team engagement Team members and managers give and receive direct feedback on OKRs, increasing engagement and ensuring consistent collaboration. Reduced meetings and process Streamlined and automated OKR updates eliminate status-check emails and reduce unnecessary meetings. Slack and email notifications keep the team informed the way they want. Less stressed, more enjoyable work Platforms help teams raise concerns and catch issues before fires start, reducing employee stress and wasted efforts through better alignment and focus. Step 13: Choose OKR software
  • 68. 68 Step 13: Choose OKR software Your ideal OKR software will build and reinforce great practices while fitting in seamlessly with the way your team already works. Software like Quantive prioritizes OKR best practices and cross-functional collaboration which is crucial to the success of OKR implementation at scale. Through Quantive, OKRs are easy-to-use, trackable, flexible, and scalable.
  • 69. 69 © Quantive. All rights reserved. Quantive is your bridge between strategy and execution. Founded on the objectives and key results (OKR) methodology, our Strategy Execution Platform is where businesses plan successful strategy, focus and align teams to it, and stay on the leading edge of progress. As your company looks to achieve the best possible results, you need a modern approach to run your business and change your business. The Modern Operating Model brings strategy, teams, and data together to help make decisions faster, optimize operations, and drive better business outcomes. Whether you’re a large enterprise facing competitive disruption or a small business leading the innovative charge, Quantive helps gets you where you want to go. Use for free Book a demo