Objectives and Key Results: What's the Difference?

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are a strategic framework used to measure progress towards a goal. An objective is a description of the work that a team does to influence the key outcome, while key results are metrics with an initial value and a target value to measure progress. OKRs provide much-needed direction and context, and can be thought of as “KPIs with a soul”. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are measures that exist within an OKR framework.

They are measurable, and can generate great key results. It is possible for an organization's KPIs to be the same as the key results used in an OKR framework. An organization will usually have three to five high-level objectives and three to five key outcomes per objective. An objective usually has between 2 and 3 key results, for the same reasons that a GPS needs 2 to 3 satellites to locate your location precisely.

When setting KPIs, you define the key areas of your business and use a metric (as well as a target value) to indicate the performance of that key area. For example, if your website is down half the time and “fixing your website” is an objective, one of your key results could include increasing or stabilizing your uptime. OKRs and KPIs are complementary, but there can be some gray areas where a shift in nomenclature can turn a key result into a KPI (or vice versa). It is important to remember that objectives provide direction towards your ultimate goal, while key results show how close you are to the finish line.