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Objectives and Key Results

Google uses Objectives Key Results (OKR) to set ambitious goals and track progress, according to Re:Work. Re:Work is a collection of practices, research, and ideas from Google and others to help you put people first.

OKR summarized

  • Objectives should be ambitious and make you feel somewhat uncomfortable

  • Key Results are measurable and possible to grade with a number. Google uses a scale of 1-10.

  • OKRs are public so that everyone in the organization can see what others work on and their progress (according to participants in our research, transparency is important in working Agile)

  • The “sweet spot” for an OKR grade is 60% – 70%; if OKRs are consistently fully attained, their OKRs aren’t ambitious enough and they need to think bigger.

  • Low grades should be viewed as data to help refine the next OKRs

  • OKRs are not synonymous with employees evaluation are a shared to do list (safety is also appointed as an important issue to improve by participants in our research)

OKR is different from other goal-setting techniques due to the high aim to set ambitious goals without achieving them all. It can enable teams to focus on the big bets and prioritize to accomplish more than thought was possible. In the current culture it is considered normal to achieve goals and KPI’s while not achieving them is associated with failure or not being in control. With OKR achieving all goals will be considered extraordinary performance and referred to as moonshots. This can certainly contribute to boosting performance and becoming Agile due to created enthusiasm, safety and transparency.

Once the organization knows what it’s focused on and how it will measure success, it can become easier for individuals to align and connect their projects with the organizational objectives.

In an interview, Dick Costolo, former Googler and former CEO of Twitter, was asked “What did you learn from Google that you applied to Twitter?” said the following:

okr, Objectives and key results

When setting objectives, start with organizational OKRs and align priorities using three to five objectives with approximately three key results for each objective. More can lead to over-extended teams and a diffusion of effort. Combine bottom-up with top-down initiatives and suggestion. This allows individuals from all over the organization to voice what they believe is worth their time and how they can best apply their efforts. Employees lower in the organizations are (when you are Agile) closer to the customer and have better insight in what matters. Obviously terms should be tangible, objective, and unambiguous. It should be obvious to an observer whether or not an objective has been achieved. Measurable milestones should include evidence of completion and this evidence should be available, credible, and easily discoverable.

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