Objectives and Key Results (OKR)
What is an Objectives and Key Results (OKR) workshop?
This workshop creates radical focus for your team by agreeing on an objective and actively measuring progress towards it.
The problem with most goals is that distractions get in the way of achieving them. The OKR framework is designed to give you 'radical focus' on achieving an objective. It can be used personally, within a team, or at an organisational level.
How to run an OKR workshop
1. Before the meeting, invite everyone to submit their top objective for the team to achieve in the next quarter. An objective is a qualitative and aspirational “end-state”. Check out Sailboat or Newspaper Headline to help your team create an objective.
For example, 'launch the best possible version of Workshop Tactics beta'.
2. Put each objective on a sticky note, put them up on a wall and then Theme Sort.
3. Debate and use Blind Vote to determine your primary objective. Having two objectives defeats the purpose of 'radical focus'.
4. List as many metrics as you can in 10 minutes. They should show you’re closer to achieving the objective.
For example: Number of pre-orders, proof-reading rounds, positive feedback received.
6. Turn your three metrics into Key Results by setting specific, quantitative targets.
For example: 'Get x pre-orders a month, proof-read by x different people'.
7. Agree on specific numbers for each Key Result. You should feel like you have a fifty-fifty chance of achieving each one in the next quarter.
For example, 'Get 40 pre-orders a month (5/10)'.
Origin: Andy Groves, 1983
How do you set a good OKR?
A good OKR expresses a clear hypothesis and uses precise language to powerfully steer your daily activities.
Keep the OKR session small and focused.
Start with a big, open objective and then add enough detail so it’s completely clear what you want and how you’ll get there.
Use this checklist to determine if you are on the right track:
- Is the Objective big and aspirational (is it worth getting out of bed for)?
- Do the Key Results indicate progress towards the objective?
- Are the Key Results clear and unambiguous?
- Are the Key Results easy to measure?
- Are they actually results and not just “tasks to do”?
- Are they tough and inspiring?
- Are you happy to measure your team’s success this quarter based on reaching 70-90% of this goal, and nothing else.?
Tips on running a good OKR meeting
Set aside 4 hours to run the session.
If you really focus, you can do it in two hours but it’s important not to feel rushed. Find a quiet room with plenty of wall space.
One tip from the Radical Focus book is to book two 2-hour sessions. At the start of the first session, set a goal to work so efficiently that you cancel the second and get two hours of your day back!
Disagreement is okay.
Healthy debate allows your team to make aligned decisions. Encourage the group to really listen to the viewpoints of others. In the event of a consensus not being reached. Use Jeff Bezos’ approach:
“Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?”
Test your metric
Test your OKR metric by pretending you’re mid-way through the next quarter. Does this metric help you decide what to do this week? Or does it feel irrelevant in the context of your “real” goals? If you don’t think it would feel important to talk about this every week, pick something else.
Your Key Results have to be challenging.
Find a number that feels scary, but kick-starts creative thinking for how the target can be met. Don’t choose an easy number but don’t make it impossible with something unrealistic.
Get feedback from other teams and stakeholders.
You might discover that you need to tweak some of the language or the targets themselves. You may have missed something major or included something which another part of your organisation didn’t expect or is already doing.
How to create and use the OKR template board
The OKR Board is the magic sauce that makes your team’s objectives work. It is a weekly conversation tool to check into your objectives, check team health and manage priorities and upcoming tasks.
Use the board as a stand-up meeting every Monday, and briefly go over each quadrant. Fridays should be used to celebrate what the team has achieved toward the objective. For OKRs to be successful, this regular rhythm of checking in is vital. Without it, focus and alignment is lost. Have your OKR Board clearly visible to make this as easy as possible.
You don't have to determine what goes in these quadrants in the OKR workshop, but if you have time - it is worth establishing Health Metrics. "What aren't we measuring that, if we don't keep an eye on, could be detrimental to our team health?"
Health metrics are the things you want to make sure your team is not letting slip. These are the things critical to the survival of the team and the product. For example, code quality or team morale. Check in to the health metrics and determine if there are any changes (red, amber, green). If there are, learn why they’ve changed and work out how to improve them.
Only priority activities that help you achieve your objective should be here. Discuss and remove anything that is a distraction. Prioritise based on impact and urgency.
Next 4 weeks
Overview of things in the pipeline. This should be big high level stuff only and serves the purpose of being aware of future activity or deadlines.
Check in to your confidence levels of achieving the key results in the quarter (they starts at 5/10). Discuss if they’ve gone up or down since last week and why. Measure confidence, not progress. Progress doesn’t tell you how the team is feeling or how effective you have been so far.