Category: OKR University.

Prioritizing Objectives

Albert Einstein once said, “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.” This approach is absolutely critical as understanding the problem and its causality is the first step to solving the problem.

In the journey towards solving a problem, objectives are directional posts and Key Results measure the progress along the journey. Prioritizing is critical to success and success rests heavily on identifying the right priorities. To have clarity on how to prioritize objectives and key results, let’s start with a list of your OKRs.

As a first step towards having a right list of OKRs you have to prioritize your Objectives first and then the Key Results within each objective.

There are five buckets in which your Objectives can fall into. Right at the outset, we’ll say this — although we have shown these circles as not overlapping between themselves to keep things simple, they could overlap in reality, and hence intersecting areas among these circles will get a higher priority.

#1 – Aligning OKRs
You prioritize Objectives by ensuring alignment with your corporate or higher-level department OKRs. You have to trust your bosses right? If you have misalignment concerns you have to find a way to discuss things with the appropriate people and ensure there is alignment. So, if there are objectives in your list that align well with your corporate or higher department level OKRs, you have to find a way to get them done. If you have too many of them, you need to figure out which ones are more important versus the others and go from there.

#2 – Dependent OKRs
Once the “aligning Objectives” are accounted for, you look at the non-aligning ones. You can debate how to prioritize this, but in the end, we want everyone to work towards achieving the company objectives. With that in mind, we should be helping other departments to achieve their OKRs that highly align with the Company OKRs.

#3 – Important & Urgent OKRs
Once aligned OKRs and dependent OKRs are taken care of, you focus on independent OKRs for your department and prioritize those using the standard importance Vs. urgency matrix.

As you can see from the Action Prioritization Matrix above, your Objectives can fall in 4 quadrants and we’ll prioritize Objectives that are in the Important & Urgent quadrant.

For manufacturing organizations, quality is an important objective. In many cases they would fall into the aligned or dependent categories, but assuming they didn’t, according to the quality first principle that many organizations practise, “Improve Quality” would be an important objective and urgent as well (as emphasized by the word “first” or “foremost” by many businesses.)

#4 – Important, but not Urgent Objectives
You know that you have to get a solid outbound marketing program going, but you still need to perfect your inbound marketing before focusing on outbound, because .. well, you are resource-constrained.

#5 – Urgent, but unimportant Objectives
You always need to keep some bandwidth for these ones. There are “things” that need to get done. And get done right away.

Prioritizing Key Results within an Objective

We’ve covered why you should prioritize key results in how to ensure that you have the right key results. Here we’ll talk about the process of prioritization.

As you can see from the Action Prioritization Matrix above, your key results can fall in 4 categories as represented by the four quadrants.

Incremental
As you can see from the Action Prioritization Matrix above, your key results can fall in 4 categories as represented by the four quadrants.

‘Adding a few more pages to the website’ is low effort and may not hit a huge impact. So, Mix them with Easy Wins and Big Bets.

Money Pits
A key result that drains a lot of your energy/effort, but may give you little in return. Prioritize low.

‘Conduct ad campaigns’ may turn to be a money pit when there is a resource crunch.

Easy Wins
A key result that takes very little effort, but gives you a big bang for the buck. Prioritize high.

‘Increase number of page visits to 500’ will be the result of a high-quality content strategy and serves as an example here. Efforts are low but impact will be high.

Big Bets
These key results take a lot of effort but are also highly impactful. ‘ increase number of leads to 500’ is a big bet towards increased revenue generation.

So, you might want to pick your key results like this:

  • As many “quick wins” as possible
  • A couple of “incrementals” per quarter
  • 1-2 “big bets” per quarter
  • And stay far away from the “money pits”

So, you should generally have 3-5 key results per objective.

Conclusion

OKRs are all about focus. To maximise focus, prioritization is important and knowing how to prioritize holds the key to success.

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