OKR, or Objectives and Key Results, is a methodology by which companies and individuals alike create a structured plan toward reaching a specific objective, and the methodology by which entities manage their progress toward their goals. There is some confusion as to whether the OKR method is primarily a structure or a management tool — we will address this in further details below.
The practice of implementing your OKR entails identifying an attainable goal and a timeframe to reach it and identifying Key Results or ways in which the individual or team will work toward that goal.
The most crucial aspect of the success of the OKR method is to create goals and key results that are concrete, measurable and attainable. The effectiveness of your OKR relies on its ability to hold up to regular status and progress check-ins — so the milestones, key results, and objectives that you create must necessarily be ones that can be measured.
So is OKR just a way to provide a framework for your goals, or is it a way to manage your progress toward your goals?
The short answer: it’s both.
The longer answer: in the same way that a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square, so it is true that any goal
with a structure is an OKR, but not every OKR contains a plan for goal progress management.
Really any goal with one or more practical steps toward achieving it can be structured into an OKR. When you’re working with a team of individuals or a larger group, it becomes crucial to structure your objectives into something that facilitates clarity and a realistic timeframe, to engage the commitment of your staff and contributors. In this way, even though your objective may seem like it stands on its own without a structure, the OKR method serves an important purpose toward providing vital information to your teams through a clear and well-communicated structure.
But the OKR framework also serves as a powerful and effective tool for managing the progress of your teams toward the ultimate objective through the use of measurable key results. Especially for large-scale projects that involve the interaction and contribution of myriad teams, reaching your ultimate objective must necessarily involve a progress management method of some kind, and OKR has proven the most effective method to that end for decades.
You can use OKR for either or both purposes when planning your company’s next major or minor objectives. One of the benefits of OKR is that it is highly customizable to the needs of your company, your staff, your industry, and your teams. It’s designed to be flexible and transparent. How you choose to use OKR is entirely informed by your company’s unique needs.