OKR, short for Objectives and Key Results, is an agile management system that focuses specifically on goal achievement. Companies such as Google and Amazon use the method and justify a large part of their success with it. But what do Objectives and Key Results mean and what is so much more goal-oriented about this method than others? We’ll take a closer look at the popular method in the following article.
OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. It summarizes the focus on goals and their fulfillment. The O in OKR stands for those Objectives and means the qualitative goals that the entire team can orient itself to. Objectives are, so to speak, the overarching goals. The KR stands for Key Results. These key results are measurable, i.e. quantitative goals, or key figures. They show what teams still have to do to complete the project and what they already achieved.
In principle, the OKR method provides that a company, or individual teams of a company in the quarter 5 goals (Objectives) with no more than 4 key figures (Key Results) each undertake.
Recognizing your goals
What may sound simple can often become a challenge for companies and entrepreneurs. It takes a lot of focus and oversight to not lose sight of your goals.
The first step in setting goals is always the corporate vision. Only when you have determined this vision you can draft clear goals. In most cases, founders and/or the management level write the company vision in order to derive the missions for the individual departments from it. Together with department heads, the individual teams can then define the objectives.
The next step is to determine the right goals, the objectives. What do you want to achieve in the coming year? Of course, you cannot lose sight of the corporate vision! Since the individual teams have a say in the objectives and have more insight into the workflow, these objectives are often closer to reality. I.e. those that are handed down by the management level. With this objective you ask yourself the question: Where do I want to go?
The Key Results represent the individual items that the team needs to work on in order to achieve the Objectives. These key results are measurable and are the answers to the question: What do I have to do to achieve my goals (and how can I measure this)?
Everyone can overlook the OKRs
The cornerstone of the framework is transparency. All objectives and key results are visible to all members. Which goals have been completed? What do we have to do to achieve the key results? Who is working on which Objective? The OKR’s are always updated and available for everyone to view. Either digitally or physically in the team working on them.
Just as with many other agile methods, such as SCRUM, openness and transparency should help to maintain an overview and not serve as a control tool.
In addition, OKR’s address intrinsic motivation. The teams define their goals and their metrics themselves in their own meetings and can draw more motivation from this.
OKR as a framework
Objectives and Key Results is a framework and not a strict method with fixed rules. OKRs can be adapted to the structures of each company and enjoys great popularity not least because of this flexibility. Nevertheless, Objectives and Key Results has guidelines that can and should be followed to achieve the best possible outcome from the method.
With OKR, a 70 to 90 percent achievement of objectives is already defined as success. However, this also leaves room for improvement and thus room for an even better outcome.
The History of Objectives and Keyresults
OKR was developed in the 1970s by Intel co-founder Andrew Grove for his company. Later, it was also introduced at Google in the 90s. As a result, OKR became known worldwide and was adopted by more and more companies that wanted to work in an agile manner. Today, the business network LinkedIn, or the game manufacturer Zynga, as well as the online store Zalando also rely on the agile framework.
The events of OKR
Similar to other agile methods, for example Scrum, OKR has regular events, i.e. meetings that are to be adhered to.
The OKR Planning
In Planning (not to be confused with Scrum Sprint Planning) the OKR are defined. This usually happens once a quarter (if you work according to this rhythm).
The Weekly OKR
The Weekly OKR is a weekly update in which the team discusses the current status of the OKR.
The OKR Review is a meeting at the end of each quarter (if you work according to this rhythm) to discuss and take stock of the last cycle.
The Retrospective serves as a meeting for improvement. Here, too, the last cycle is discussed and suggestions for optimization are made. Negative target results are not sanctioned, but serve as impulses for improvement possibilities. Here great similarities with the SCRUM method emerge!
OKR brings clarity
OKR, like all agile methods, is experiencing a major upswing – not least because of great role models such as Google. The classic project management methods are gradually giving way. Nevertheless, frameworks like OKR also have their disadvantages. Often, implementing a new agile method is a challenge. Teams and employees must be able to understand the decision and see the sense in it, so that there is no rejection. Also, too much focus on documentation in software, etc can lead to loss of efficiency.
One of the biggest advantages of the method is the clarity and focus on the people`s or company’s goals and their achievement. The cycles of mostly 3 months help not to lose concentration. Communication in the company and team spirit are promoted.
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