Top 3 fake news about OKRs to avoid at all cost

Feb 22, 2020 | Blog

Objectives and Key Results is a popular goal management framework. Google adopted it in the early 2000s, and John Doer later popularized them in his book “Measure What Matters.” Since then, OKRs are growing in popularity. According to Google Trends, searches for “OKR” increased 4x during the last 4 years.
That’s no wonder, since when implemented right, OKRs challenge and motivate the team to achieve extraordinary results.

Myth #1: You should have many Objectives or Key Results

It’s a common myth that you should have 5 Objectives with 3-5 Key Results each. Usually, it involves 2 mistakes – not prioritizing and including To-do tasks as Key Results.
OKRs are about focus. When everything is a priority, nothing is. You cannot focus on everything at the same time. It’s much more effective to select a narrow field you’ll work on now, and say “NO!” to most of the other activities. 1-2 Objectives with 2-3 Key Results each per team per period is a much better approach.
Also, don’t try to include To-do tasks or daily activities in your Key Results. Track them in another project management tool or as initiatives in Plai. Key Results should measure the outcome, the positive difference in your key metric, not the number of tasks/activities you managed to complete.
Do more with less, the fewer OKRs, the better focus, and productivity.

Myth #2: All OKRs should be ambitious moonshot goals

Google usually gives examples of OKRs from the R&D and product teams. They claim that OKR should be an ambitious moonshot, push the teams above what they feel is achievable to seek creative solutions. And it’s considered a success if OKRs are achieved by 70%.
However, it doesn’t work for most of the domains and teams. More often, your OKRs would be roofshots, not moonshots.
Roofshots are the same OKRs, but a bit less ambitious and the team target to achieve 100% of them. You wouldn’t want to reach only 70% of your revenue targets and go bankrupt, right?
Roofshots are especially crucial for the teams that only start implementing OKRs. Going all-in into the moonshots might demotivate and discourage the team. Or they might accept the rule “70 is the new 100”, and settle for it, artificially boosting all numbers and planning for the 70% from the very beginning.
Starting from the roofshots is usually much more effective. In a few cycles adding more and more moonshot, OKRs will significantly increase the chances of your team successfully implementing OKRs. Check out the article “Moonshot with roofshot” for more details.

Myth #3: Follow all examples from the internet

John Doer wrote an excellent book on OKRs, “Measure What Matters.” The theory is brilliant; you should check it out. However, the examples in the book are not so good. In many places, his examples don’t live up to his standards. J. Doer included a lot of activities in his cases, and it spread quickly through the internet. Here are just a few examples of the Key Results from the book:

  • “Focus on hiring A player managers” – it’s not even hiring, what does it mean?
  • “Ensure ongoing mentoring opportunities” – how can you measure it?
  • “Develop and publish five benchmarks” – so what? It’s an activity, not a result.

Unfortunately, inspired by the book, most examples on the internet are like that. You should be very cautious before using any of them.

The ideal formula for Key Results is: “Increase/Decrease metric A from X to Y.” For example:

  • Increase the sign-up to trial Conversion Rate from 15% to 30%
  • Increase the crash-free ratio from 96% to 99% for the new release
  • Reduce monthly churn rate from 2.5% to 1%

In the real world, it’s not always possible to measure everything, you’ll still need to perform some activities as well. However, it would be best if you targeted your OKRs to be mostly metrics and add To-do tasks only when it’s necessary.
Here are some quality curated examples for Product, Sales, Marking, Engineering, Finance, HR/PO teams that we prepared for you for inspiration.

Summary

Objectives and Key Results help companies align and perform better. When implemented correctly, OKRs motivate the team to achieve bold, ambitious goals. Avoid these common myths, and your team would achieve breakthrough results by successfully implementing OKRs!

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