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Yesterday, I attended an OKR workshop put on by software development leader Kemal Balioglu. The workshop reaffirmed that OKRs are how we should define success with any business venture. I think this science fiction excerpt sums up why pretty well. 

“… plans are all well and good in the Summer, but in the Winter it’s wise to simply have an objective.’

‘I thought we were meant to make a plan and stick to it?’

‘Events move fast,’ he said, ‘and you need on-the-hoof flexibility to ensure the plan doesn’t get in the way of the goal.’”

― Jasper Fforde, Early Riser

As Fforde eloquently puts, many people get caught up trying to stick to a plan, even when it no longer is helping them reach their objective. OKRs help business leaders focus on the goal instead of the method. This mindset gives your departments more flexibility in their approach and a better focus on getting results. Here are a few things I learned from the OKR workshop.

Include both aspirational and committed objectives

When we think of business objectives, it’s easy to get stuck on what we need to complete 100%. But, this is a dangerous mindset as it can limit your organization’s potential and desire to push the industry forward. So create OKRs based on two types of objectives: aspirational and committed. 

Aspirational objectives are goals that aren’t immediately attainable and might even seem like a dream. They are goals your team would be happy with a 40%+ completion rate. 

Committed objectives are the opposite of aspirational and need a very high completion rate for success, maybe even 100%. These could be related to client work or even goals that will help your business stay viable and continue growing. 

When you combine both aspirational and committed objectives, your team has the focus and vision it needs to lead the industry. 

Key results aren’t KPIs

Saying key results aren’t KPIs might shock you, but let me explain. Let’s say your objective is to become the leading software development firm in Minneapolis. In this case, key results might look like this:

  • Earn 27 new clients in the Minneapolis area
  • Raise revenue by 41% year over year
  • Have a full sales pipeline at the end of the year

These are the results that your team needs to achieve to help you reach your overall objective. They are outcome-based and not necessarily metrics you will use to measure each of these activities. For example, a KPI, in this case, might be new lead acquisition. But, as you can see, this would be one of the many KPIs you’d be using to measure success. 

Key results help your team roll with the punches and adapt their tactics to reach the objective. 

OKRs help you define “how” you’ll reach your goals

 A big difference between OKRs and previous methods of setting business objectives like MBOs (management by objectives)  is that they define how you’ll reach your goals. In the software development example, we saw the key results define how they would become the leading software development firm. This clarity empowers your departments to better measure success and gives department leaders a clear path forward. 

Do you want confusion about what success looks like in your company? Of course not. OKRs are a great tool for any business leader who wants to put their goals in a format that is attainable and measurable. 

Every company has marketing objectives, but they don’t always understand which key results will help reach them. We show companies how to connect content with their objectives to create an impact. Contact me today to learn more.