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Writing Quality OKRs

How to Write Quality OKRs

  1. Understand the framework and definitions of Objectives and Key Results.
    • Objectives are desired outcomes that are aspirational, valuable, action-oriented and achievable. They must answer ‘What will I achieve?’
    • Key Results are measurable, specific, realistic, and time-bound metrics to inform the completion of the objectives. They must answer ‘How will I know when I’ve fulfilled my objective?’
  2. Develop OKRs that align with enterprise and/or team-level OKRs.
    • OKRs must not be created in a vacuum. Alignment of OKRs up through the organization demonstrates mobility and consistency around common goals. OKR owners must be able to articulate how their OKRs contribute to the organization’s goals.
  3. Confirm OKRs fit into the three phases required for successful execution.
    • Set and commit to priorities
    • Ensure cross-functional alignment
    • Track progress regularly
  4. Focus on creating 3-5 objectives and 3-5 key results for each objective that are aspirational in nature and provide significant value for the organization, without being unrealistic.
    • Optimal number of OKRs allows for clear prioritization of work and efficient use of resources while still providing significant value in achieving the organization’s goals.
  5. Remain persistent and focused when OKRs are deployed while understanding that adjustments can be made in-flight when necessary.

Tips & Traps

  • All OKRs should meet the following criteria:
    • Objectives: clear, concise, and compelling.
    • Key Result: measurable, unambiguous, and number-based.
  • OKRs should be outcome-based, not activity-based. Avoid the activity trap by making sure you are measuring delivery of value and not effort.
    • Outcomes: improvement gained, or value created, from doing something.
    • Activities: initiatives, projects, tasks to achieve outcomes.
  • Once in-flight, develop consistent check-ins for progress updates to ensure OKRs remain on track for completion. If an OKR is off-track, determine what must be done to get it back on track.
  • Allow for some flexibility: revisions, additions, or deletions can occur in some circumstances. If an OKR has been deemed obsolete due to unforeseen circumstances, it should be archived immediately.
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