How-google-uses-OKRs-to-get-results consistently

Category: OKR University.

If you’re learning about OKRs, you might have heard that many industry-leading companies have used this goal-setting framework to achieve more in their business and become the success stories they are today. One of the most famous examples is Google.

Google adopted the OKRs way back in 1999, just over a year after its foundation. The company still uses this methodology today. Google uses OKRs to communicate, measure, and achieve the ambitious goals they set for themselves.

Larry Page Quote

Always deliver more than expected.

Larry Page, co-founder of Google

OKRs, to Google, are a demonstration of the well-thought-out, informed choices that the employees make about how they utilize their time and efforts. All of this is to achieve the collective goals that all individuals and teams of Google are working towards.

Google uses OKRs to plan what people are going to work on, track its progress in relation to the plan, and exchange notes about priorities and accomplishments between people and teams. Prioritizing OKRs also helps employees stay focused on the important goals, and not goals that might seem important but are not, even if they are urgent.

OKRs are big and lofty that are hard to achieve; if they aren’t, it means they are not challenging enough.


Why does Google use OKRs?

Google attributes much of its success to the use of OKRs. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons OKRs are a great management and implementation system for companies:

1. OKRs bring Clarity

Sometimes employees don’t know what is needed or expected of them. At times, teams can even be unclear about what their goals are!

That is why organizations need OKRs to ensure there is no ambiguity when it comes to setting and achieving their goals. The OKR framework clearly outlines the measurements required for each key result that helps achieve the corresponding objective.

2. OKRs Require Focus and Alignment

In the OKR framework, individual and team OKRs can be aligned with the overall company OKRs. Therefore, there is focus and alignment throughout the entire organization, as all priorities can be traced to overarching company objectives. Google leaders make sure that when OKRs are created, they use both top-down and bottom-up alignment to connect individual goals to the bigger picture.

3. OKRs Promote Continuous Goal-Setting & Management

The OKR framework is an ongoing cycle of iteration and execution. When one quarter ends, another set of OKRs are put in place. Lessons learned from previous OKRs are taken into consideration when creating new OKRs. This helps users build on their progress and achieve more. When this continuous cycle of learning is integrated into the culture of a company, it can lead to extraordinary results.

4. OKRs Follow a Standard Formula

The implementation of OKRs is straightforward and follows the same pattern regardless of the OKR levels you are using. Because of this, there is very little room for ambiguity or chaos in the implementation process. This is what helps Google and other companies that use OKRs stay on track and be successful from quarter to quarter.

How does Google grade their OKRs?

There are, of course, many reasons for Google’s success. However, being consistent with OKRs has played a large role in Google’s success.

Google team members grade their key result completion on a scale of 0-1. This is done at the end of each quarter. As mentioned earlier in this article, OKRs are ‘lofty’ and ambitious, therefore, getting a 1 on each key result is not expected (and if the key result does get a 1, then it was probably not ambitious enough). However, getting a .6-.7 on a key result is a good indication that the target set was appropriately ambitious. Grading OKR progress only takes a few minutes at the end of the quarter, and can help individuals learn what they are capable of within a given quarter, and how they should set stretch goals in the next OKR cycle.

In Conclusion

Google sets OKRs every year, defining overarching objectives that can be tweaked based on what happens over the course of the year. In addition to the ‘big OKRs’, they also set about four to six OKRs each quarter. Google encourages its team to aim high by asking them to set ambitious, stretch OKRs on a quarterly basis.

OKRs are transparent. Every Google employee can see another employee’s OKRs and scores. This transparency regarding objectives and key results helps Google stay focused and aim for a common goal.

Google has been using the OKR framework to drive progress in the organization from their earliest days as a start-up, all the way to the present day. However, an organization doesn’t have to be an industry-leader like Google to benefit from OKRs. In fact, Google’s story only serves to demonstrate that at any stage of its development, a business can rely on OKRs to help them reach their ambitious goals.


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