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Objectives and Key Results: The Beginner's Guide to OKRs

An introduction to OKRs - what Objectives and Key Results are, why they matter and how to implement them.

Objectives and Key Results are the backbone of a successful business. This guest post from David Mizne shows how to implement OKRs successfully across your teams.

Ed. Note: Before we begin, now is the appropriate time to invoke the immortal question once asked by Talking Heads's frontman, David Byrne. 

And you may ask yourself: "Well ... how did I get here?"

Enjoy David's article. - The Ambition Team

A Beginner's Guide to Objectives and Key Results

"Where do I want to go?" "How will I know I’m getting there?" Asking these questions helps you clarify your company’s mission and vision. They aid you with keeping focussed on the tasks at hand, and with the further off goals.

track OKRs

Pictured: How ChowNow Tracks OKRs with Live Salesforce Data on Ambition

When used in tandem with frequent performance appraisals to check in with staff, you will achieve professional authenticity, employee loyalty, and better growth for your business.

The Ethos of OKRs: Achieve Results One Step At a Time

Effective objectives and key results (OKRs) keep the business and your team on track and moving in the same direction. While this is great for getting results, it is also helpful for learning what went well and what was less productive.

Follow these steps for effective OKRs:

  • Set 3 - 5 objectives per year.
  • Set 3 - 5 objectives per quarter. 
  • Correspond each quarterly objective to a yearly objective.
  • Have each team set 3 – 5 goals.
  • Correspend each team goal support a company goal.
  • Collaborate with reps to set 3 – 5 individual goals.
  • Ensure individual goals align with team and company objectives.

Gain agreement between staff and managers on set OKRs that are less easy to achieve and aren’t linked to annual performance reviews. These stretch goals help your staff to develop further and gain new skills.

All OKRs should be transparent so everyone can see the big picture, and they can hold each other responsible for their parts in that picture.

visualize objectives and key results

Pictured: National Business Capital uses Ambition TV to publicize OKR leaderboards.

Employees should score their key results every quarter, and the stretch OKRs agreed between managers and staff should usually reach 60 – 70% success. If it’s higher than that, they weren’t hard enough to push individual growth.

The Truth about OKRs

OKRs should improve performance by giving individuals and teams a clear target to aim for and motivation to grow and develop. To avoid people feeling overwhelmed by hard-to-reach targets and gain the most from the OKR system of employee engagement and business focus, you’ll need to stick to a few OKR rules:

  • Keep the key results to an absolute maximum of six.
  • Have managers check-in regularly with teams and reps.
  • Ask quality questions. 
    • ‘What challenges are you facing this week?’
    • ‘How can I support you to achieve your key results?’
  • Break down targets into daily, weekly and monthly objectives.
  • Remember success is achieved one step at a time.

Emphasize with staff that the key results of the agreed stretch OKRs don’t impact performance reviews or remuneration. Explain that they are there to challenge employees and help them grow professionally.

It is each leader’s job to connect company purpose with action and initiatives. They should also be regularly checking in with their teams to makes sure that they are engaged and inspired so that the company’s mission and philosophy lives in their actions.

Set and Track Employee OKRs

Pictured: Ambition lets managers set check-ins and see live progress to OKRs. 

Company mission and vision set direction; OKRs provide the structure required to help people perform at their best. Combine them with culture-based conversations and you have a sure formula for success.

About the Author

David Mizne is the chief contributor and editor of the award winning 15Five Blog. David often writes about performance and culture management there and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Track and Visualize Sales Team OKRs in Real-Time

Ambition is a sales performance management platform endorsed by Harvard Business Review and AA-ISP (the Global Inside Sales Organization). Fortune 1000 sales organizations like UPS, Aerotek and Wayfair use Ambition to enhance sales OKR clarity and drive their teams using real-time scorecards, dashboards, alerts, contests, and TV leaderboards. 

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Contact us to schedule a demo of Ambition for your sales force today.

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About Ambition
Sales Leaders, HR Professionals, and C-Level Executives use Ambition to recognize, motivate, and develop employees into more engaged and productive versions of themselves. Funded by Google, used by the Fortune 500, endorsed by the Harvard Business Review.

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