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Most, if not all, would define OKR as a goal-setting framework. And, they’re not wrong. OKR is made popular because of its function to set Objectives and track its outcomes.
But, to think that OKR is limited only to set goals — that’d be wrong.
Our experience in coaching and practicing OKR showed us that while the foundation of OKR can stay the same (i.e. goal-setting framework), there are many subtleties from its original function that can be expanded into something more; a stand-alone function that requires specific context for it to be understood.
Our invitation is to look at OKR as a multifaceted framework: it can bring other values depending on the implementation. Specifically in this context, we’d like you to see and understand OKR as an organizational habit, one that can assist you in accomplishing your goals.
Let’s dive in.
At its core, OKR is a goal-setting framework. It provides a template for you to structure your thoughts and come up with your Objectives and outcomes.
Intel and Google are among the first companies to adopt the OKR practice. The OKR boom in recent years is often credited to the book Measure What Matters, written by John Doerr — one of Google’s investors.
“OKRs have helped lead us to 10x growth, many times over. They’ve helped make our crazily bold mission of “organizing the world’s information” perhaps even achievable. They’ve kept me and the rest of the company on time and on track when it mattered the most.” – Larry Page, Google co-founder
As the name suggests, there are 2 components of OKR: Objective and Key Results.
Objective is the space to communicate the aspiration, motivation, or the big picture behind the targets we’d like to achieve. Thus, Objective can be seen as a short narrative, one that’s inspiring.
On the other hand, a Key Result provides room for clarity, specifically on how we’d achieve our Objectives. Key Results take all the inspiring elements of an Objective and transform it into something more measurable.
Together, Objective and Key Results give structure to formulate goals that paint a clear picture of where the team or company is heading and how to get there.
While we have covered many aspects of OKR in our articles, we’d recommend that you start from the beginning.
Formulating goals with OKR is only the beginning.
Now, the focus shifts to how you would accomplish your goals. Depending on the scope and complexity of your goals, most likely you’ll need a repeated action — instead of a one-off — to accomplish it.
This understanding has 2 subtleties we can explore.
First, it implies that the OKR practice must be continued. Continue, as in, as in, it’s not enough for you to set your goals at the beginning of the period. You also need to review it consistently, whether on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis. This process is also known as OKR cadence.
The OKR cadence focuses on progress, specifically what we have accomplished so far and what we need to do to get one step closer to achieving our goals. Thus, when reviewing our OKR, we’re also encouraged to take specific action for improvement.
Not once or twice. But, consistently.
Second, when individuals are disciplined in attending the cadence (which includes writing down their OKR and reviewing them), they have adopted OKR as part of their habit. When this trickles upwards to teams, then OKR cadence becomes a team habit; a ritual they practice to keep making progress towards their goals.
And, when every team in the company runs OKR consistently, we expect a shift to happen.
OKR might have started as a goal-setting framework. In the process, however, the practice has transformed into a habit.
An organizational habit.
When it comes to habit-building, you might not know where to begin. How does habit-building work? Should we measure the habit itself? And, what to do when starting a new habit feels daunting for you? The articles below are our attempts to answer those questions and more.
Adopting OKR comes with responsibility. Everyone – including the Leadership Team – is responsible for supporting and ensuring a successful OKR implementation. As such, OKR provides ample opportunities for you and your team to exercise your leadership and managerial skills.
Furthermore, implementing OKR throughout the company allows it to evolve into a way of working: it allows the company to have a shared language in planning and execution.
If you're curious about OKR but want more information before making a decision, then we can help. We'll send you a series of advice and thoughts over the next few weeks through email. Here’s one example. They are intended to be a helpful tool in determining whether OKR is a good fit for your organization. Click here to subscribe.