OKRs: Objectives and Key Results

An OKR is a popular management strategy that defines objectives and tracks results. It helps create alignment and engagement around measurable goals. First iIntroduced and popularised in the 1970’s at Intel, it has since spread throughout technology companies as a simple framework that helps everyone in a company focus their efforts on the same important issue throughout the organisation.

Ideas are easy. Execution is everything. It takes a team to win.

John Doerr – the ‘father’ of OKRs (2017)

So what do we mean by Objectives and Key Results?

ObjectiveKey result
What do I want to achieve?How will I get there?

Companies around the world use OKRs to manage an adaptive strategy that allows them to respond to changing external events, drive innovation, and align teams to a common purpose.

OKRs begun in objective setting theory of the 1950s before being adopted and implemented by Andy Grove (former CEO of Intel). OKRs came to prominence at Google in the 2000s.

1950sManagement by Objectives (MBO)
Peter Drucker release his book “The Practice of Management” in 1954. It calls for an objective setting framework across an organisation coupled with performance incentives.
1970 & 80sOKRs are born
Andy Grove, the Carter of OKRs introduces the framework to Intel. Intel use the OKR framework to win the microprocessor war with Motorola.

Andy Grove goes on to win Time Magazine’s man of the year in 1997.
2000sOKRs implemented at Google
John Doerr, an apprentice of Grove at Intel and now a venture capitalist, invests in Google.

Doerr introduces OKRs to Larry Page & Sergy Brin. They credit OKRS with propelling Google to market cap.
2010OKRs go mainstream
Twitter, Uber, Zynga, Amazon and many more follow in their footsteps.
A short history of OKRs


Objectives are a what a company or team are prioritising for the next OKR planning period. They are ambitious statements that will stretch teams and encourage innovation.

They are memorable, qualitative descriptions of what you want to achieve. Objectives should be short, inspirational, and engaging. An objective should motivate and challenge the team.

When setting objectives, the following can be used as a guide:

3 – 5To maintain focus, make it clear what you are doing and limit to a small number of objectives.
Bottom up~50% of your objectives should come from team. Source ideas and encourage commitment.
Make it realUse tangible terms that are clearly aligned to the organisations mission. How will this objective add value?
Reach for amazingA complete objective should feel monumental. By creating challenging goals, your team will be encouraged to think innovatively to find a solution

YouTube example:
Reach 1 billion hours of watch time per day by 2016
YouTube’s Objectives set in November 2012

Key Results

Key results are how a company or team will demonstrate progress towards an objective. KRs are the measurable checkpoints on the path to achieving an objective.

They are a set of metrics that measure your progress towards the objective. For each objective, you should have a set of two to five key results. More than that and no one will remember them.

For each Objective, the following guide will help to set Key Results:

3 to 4To maintain focus, each objective should have between 3 and 4 Key Results. Each of the KRs must have a named owner. 
MeasurableEach KR must have a start point and end point that can be measured. The measure must be ambitious.
Move us forwardThe completion of a KR must move the objective forward in a tangible way.
Outcome focusedKRs should not be a list of tasks or activities. They should describe the impact of your activities in the form of a measurable change.

YouTube example:
1. Grow engagement of gaming watch time from X watch hours a day to Y hours a day
2. Launch YouTube VR experience and grow VR catalogue from X to Y videos

What do OKRs give us?

OKRs can drive 5 critical behaviours through an organisation:

OKRs help everyone understand what they should be doing (and importantly) what they are not doing
Every OKR is transparent. It encourages people to work together to achieve a common goal
OKRs are time bound and owned by an individual
OKRs are measurable and are tracked week to week using real data
Completing 70% of OKRs should be considered a success. Any higher and they are too easy

OKRs are not…

The only solution to setting a good strategy.

OKRs still require:

  • Sound Judgement
  • Strong leadership
  • Creative workplace culture
  • Trust

Further reading