Setting the right, high-quality objectives can be an intimidating task to undertake. Ensuring you’re capturing the highest priorities of your company and translating them into quality objectives is a skill that needs to be developed. Looking at OKR examples and reading up on the best ways to write your Quality OKRs can help you develop this skill.
Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.
In this article, we’ve laid out some guiding questions that you can ask yourself before setting up and solidifying your objectives.
1. Is the Objective Inspiring?
Companies often make the mistake of choosing Objectives that are just marginal improvements to their existing KPIs.
KPIs are measurable metrics typically used to monitor a company’s or a team’s progress. For example, some common KPIs include EBITDA, Operational Cash Flow, Cost Per Lead, etc. Even though they differ from industry to industry, they are widely understood and used by most companies.
OKRs, on the other hand, are actionable statements (Objectives) broken down into specific, actionable goals (Key Results).
If your Objectives are just to improve your existing KPIs, then you won’t be effective. For example:
- Improve Operational Cash flow by 10% this quarter.
- Improve Average-Order-Value by 20%.
Your teams are already working on these KPI improvements. Hence, if you set attainable and relatively easy Objectives, that might not help your company make considerable leaps in growth and innovation.
Your objectives must be inspirational. Large and successful companies choose inspirational and ambitious OKRs for their teams. Ambitious objectives encourage companies to stretch their abilities to reach targets they previously thought were unattainable. Also, reaching those objectives means that the company has experienced considerable, tangible growth that meaningfully contributes to the business, their customers, or society-at-large.
When setting ambitious quality objectives, you must find a balance between stretch goals and unattainable goals. If an objective is unreasonable, your team might get discouraged and potentially lose interest in that objective. It could also lead to employee burnout and can drastically affect morale.
To strike the right balance, choose objectives with at least a 70% chance of attainment for that quarter.
2. Is the Objective Simple and Specific?
Your objective must be specific and straightforward. Your employees and other stakeholders should easily and quickly understand what you are trying to achieve.
Specific objectives encourage your team to come up with the right strategy and action to help achieve them. It also allows them to choose the right key results and the right departments & team members for hitting those KRs.
Here are a few examples of clear-cut and simple objectives:
- Customer Success: Create a high-performing customer success team”.
- Client Success: “Launch a coaching program for clients”
- Sales:“Strengthen Pre-Sales Process”.
- Marketing:“Establish Active Resellers Channel”.
- Marketing:“Improve Domain Authority”.
As you can see from these above examples, the objectives focus on a specific problem or outcome. All team members within a department can quickly grasp what they need to focus on and help develop the right key results. Anyone outside the department or company also can easily understand what that team is focusing on.
3. Is There Alignment Between and Within Teams?
Setting up OKRs should never be a one-person mission. It also is not merely up to the Leadership to set up the objectives and then cascade them down to the team. That’s another common challenge we notice in companies when they first set OKR. The Leader is enthused about a specific goal, sets it up as an objective– and then forwards it to the Department Heads to enforce. Unfortunately, this approach causes unwanted tension and can also risk the objective being ignored as the weeks go by.
Alignment is hence a critical element of setting up successful objectives.
Here’s an illustration. Let’s say the Marketing Department sets an Objective “Create a Robust Lead Generation System”. The Marketing Department is usually made up of individual teams or sub-departments:
- Paid Search team
- Social media team
- Content Marketing team
- PR team, etc.
Each of these teams and their team members are responsible for helping the Marketing Department set up a lead generation system.
Each department might have a specific objective that ties into the department’s objective:
- Social Media Team Objective: Grow social media presence..
- Email Marketing Team Objective: Create email campaigns to generate leads.
- Content Team Objective: Create Bottom-of-the-Funnel Content to drive lead acquisition.
Each of these Team Objectives then has corresponding Key Results. The attainment of these key results helps that team reach their objective. When all the Team Objectives are being worked on together — that finally allows the department to achieve its objective.
Hence, there must be alignment between departments, teams, and individual contributors. We recommend that you continually brainstorm with team members before you finalize your objective.
- Additional Reading How do I align with other OKRs?
- Additional Reading Top-down and bottom-up alignment
- Additional Reading Simple approaches to alignment
4. Is the Objective Time-Bound?
According to Tech Entrepreneur and Shark Tank Investor Robert Herjavec, “Any goal without a deadline is just a dream”.
As mentioned earlier, there is nothing wrong with setting up an audacious vision. Big goals have a motivating effect on employees. Most of your team members want to be challenged; they want to participate in a collective vision that motivates them to get out of bed each day and come to work.
However, if your goals or objectives do not have a set timeline — it will cause a significant breakdown in the process. Without a clear timeline for that objective, it affects the planning and the necessary action you must take.
Most OKRs are hence set quarterly or annually. There is also nothing wrong with setting up multi-year OKRs. Regardless of the timeline, having a precise end-date helps your team formulate the right plan and set up the exact key results required.
Let’s look at some of the Department OKR examples from before:
- Sales: “Establish Active Resellers Channel”.
- Marketing: “Improve On-page SEO”.
- Marketing: “Improve Domain Authority”.
To increase the odds of attaining them, ensure that you have chosen the right timeline, and then set up the Key Results to aid these Objectives.
There are chances that you might not reach your Objective for that quarter or period. But that’s okay. Even if you reach 70% of your Objective, you would have made tremendous progress.
5. Does the Objective Stretch the Team?
Have you heard the expression “under-promise and over-deliver”? There’s a term in management to indicate when this happens a lot — it’s called “sandbagging”. It is when teams set up attainable goals so they will undoubtedly reach them, or exceed them.
It looks good from the outside when you notice a team or company always attaining its goals. However, there are both short-term and long-term consequences for sandbagging.
It will decrease overall morale when you create an environment that is not challenging. It will also hurt the company’s competitiveness in the marketplace when everyone else races to develop and market superior products.
One of the key elements of OKRs is the concept of “Stretching”
You must set goals and objectives that are, of course aspirational, yet slightly beyond reach. It will allow your team to grow and not be complacent. It also helps your employees and your entire company to expand your comfort zone.
Ensuring that you have written quality Objectives as well as quality Key Results is the first step in achieving these aspirational goals and reaching your full potential as a team and a company.