Understanding Key Objectives and Results (OKR)

Key Objectives and Results (OKR) is a goal-setting framework that individuals, teams, and organizations use to define measurable objectives and track their results. The development of OKR is generally attributed to Andrew Grove, who introduced the approach of setting ambitious and challenging goals with measurable results. OKRs are the way to track progress, create alignment, and encourage participation around measurable goals. When an objective can last a long time, extend for a year or more, the key results evolve as the work progresses.

Goals should not only be meaningful, concrete and clearly defined, but they must also inspire the person, team, or organization working to achieve them. The key results should be measurable (count, dollar amount, or percentage) so that planners and decision makers can use to determine if the people involved in working toward the key outcome have been successful. Organizations should be careful when designing their OKRs in a way that does not represent business as usual, since those goals, by definition, are not action-oriented or inspirational. Google's scoring method provides the highest level of detail, using a percentage scale (0.0 - 1.0) to give each key result a numerical score at the end of the cycle.

The objective defines what the employee wants to achieve and the key results describe how the employee will achieve the goal within a specific time frame. When a workplace uses OKR, employees are encouraged to set very high goals and should document progress toward successful completion of key results with backup data. Some think that OKRs are simply a more agile version of Peter Drucker's goal-based management (MBO) process, which requires objectives to be INTELLIGENT (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound). However, an important difference is that OKR objectives must be very aggressive, and 100% completion of key results is not as important as moving towards completion.

From my point of view (CPB), the OKR system serves to analyze the key results of an individual performing, but there is no definite path to achieve this. Health metrics are monitored and are important to track, but unlike key outcomes, they are not the focus of short-term improvement and the only way to learn OKRs is to do OKRs.