What is the OKR Framework about?

Popularized in 2013 by Rick Klau, Partner at Google Ventures Startup Lab, in renowned video Startup Lab workshop: How Google sets goals: OKRs, the OKR Framework (OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results) was initially designed by Silicon Valley legend Andy Grove, successful CEO of Intel Corporation from 1987 to 1998. Then, it was passed to Google’s founders through a former Intel’s employee who then became venture capitalist, John Doerr.

Widely inspired by the Management By Objectives system introduced by Peter Drucker, Andy Grove brought some modifications in order to answer two fundamental questions:

  1. Where do you want to go? (the objective)
  2. How will you pace ourselves to measure if you are getting there? (the key result)

As defined by Paul R. Niven and Ben Lamorte in the insightful book “Objectives and Key Results: Driving Focus, Alignment, and Engagement with OKRs,” “OKRs is a critical thinking framework and ongoing discipline that seeks to ensure employees work together, focusing their efforts to make measurable contributions that drive the company forward.” To put it shorter: OKRs is a way of making goals visible and measurable.

An objective is a statement that describes a broad qualitative goal. Always related to an objective, a key result is a statement that enables the measurement of the completion of a given objective. In general, 2 to 5 measurable key results are associated with an objective. The framework is usually cadenced in a 3-month cycle. At the end of every quarter, the achievement of past objectives is discussed, and new objectives and key results are decided.

Context of OKR Framework.

Context for OKRs

Behind the OKR Framework, there is a radical new way of managing people called “Management by intent”. Instead of telling people how to achieve, you just tell them what to achieve and let them find the right way on their own.

How to roll out the OKR Framework in your organization successfully?

To construct an effective objective, you should meet a certain number of criteria. A powerful objective should be:

Example of OKR Framework.

Like objectives, key results should meet some criteria to be effective. They should be:

For scoring objectives, the OKR Framework suggests using a 0-1 scale:

Some tips from Itamar Gilad, ex-Google PM & Author

In an ebook recently published, OKRs Done Right, Itamar lists five OKR antipatterns that, of course, you should try to avoid:

  1. Using OKRs to express a plan (Output OKRs): As stated above, OKRs’ purpose is to favor management by intent. Goals are benefits you expect, not specific actions or features. Remember that you should let the team define the most relevant initiatives to attain those goals.
  2. Non-SMART Key Results: As a reminder, SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Ambitious, Realistic, and Time-Bound. Here, the risk is to state too vague or unrealistic goals.
  3. Too Many OKRs: When it comes to OKRs, less is more. Running after too many goals inexorably reduces the team’s ability to focus on what matters the most. For a specific quarter, the recommended limits are three objectives and no more than five key results by objective.
  4. Top-Down OKRs With No Bottom-Up: Of course, top-down goals are less likely to get buy-in from the team. In addition to that, managers often lack the perspective, knowledge, and insight of the team members doing the work.
  5. Using OKR for performance evaluation: Although it may a priori appear to be a good idea, doing so can often trigger unexpected and unethical behaviors in a team, which can be highly damageable in the long run.
Itamar Gilad portrait
Itamar Gilad Product management coach, speaker and author, Ex-Google & Microsoft PM (itamargilad.com)

Suggested resources to become a master of the OKR Framework