How to write effective OKRs: what you need to know
OKRs—also called objectives and key results—are a powerful, collaborative framework for managing and realizing goals. But their effectiveness depends entirely upon how well they're written.
This guide will teach you how to create OKRs that stick. You’ll learn the core components of OKRs, the best practices for writing OKRs, and how to track them.
OKR is an acronym for Objectives and Key Results. It’s a goal-management framework that helps companies set better goals and execute strategies more effectively.
Unlike other frameworks, OKRs bind your people and tasks to common goals. They’re presented in a system of three parts.
Objectives are concise statements of your goals and intents—what you're hoping to achieve with your efforts. They should be aspirational and meaningful to your entire organization.
Key Results are measurable milestones that you aim to achieve within a certain period. They should contribute directly to your Objective.
And finally, Initiatives are the tasks that help you achieve your Key Results.
Here’s an example of an OKR, broken down:
Objective: Put a man on the moon
Key result: Complete a lunar module design by December 1967
Teams that use OKRs tend to have more cross-team alignment and transparency, and can better focus on results that matter. All it takes to get started are three steps:
Write down your goal.
Set a time frame.
Assign three to five key results or measurable tasks that you can track.
When implemented well, OKRs help you, your team, and your entire organization become more unified in the pursuit of your shared goals. But you’ve got to write them down first!
Here are some best practices for writing OKRs that foster discipline and alignment.
Objectives should be inspiring but achievable. They should be practical accomplishments, but described in a way that motivates teams to tackle them.
The ideal number of objectives varies, but ideally should be no more than three.
Because they are meant to be achievable, objectives should be gradable. At the end of the given period (a month, a quarter, or a year), you’ll have a clear idea of how you performed.
Key results should be specific, time bound, and measurable. (That framework is called SMART goals) A great way to think about them is that they're itemized outcomes, not task lists.
The ideal number of Key Results can vary depending on things like team size–start with 3-5 and work from there!
Key results are trackable outcomes, so you should assign them numeric values, like “increase video viewership by 150%” or “launch 12 new features.”
Here are a few unique OKR examples:
Objective: Build a great corporate culture
Achieve Employee Satisfaction Score of >8 in all weekly pulse surveys
Organize monthly company outings
Hold bi-monthly "buddy" dates where pairs of employees have lunch together
Recognize at least 2 "wins" for each department in every All Hands meeting
Increase employee retention to 80%
Objective: Increase social-media audience
Increase the number of followers on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook by 10,000
Create a social media strategy and calendar for the the 3 months of August, September, and October
Run a social-media contest in coordination with the Community team
Customer success OKR
Objective: Create a world-class customer-support function
Decrease average response time from 2hrs to <45mins
Improve NPS score to 65+
Decrease churn rate from 18% to <10%
Create a new customer feedback form and implement it as a bi-yearly survey
Your Key Results are where you’ll devote most of your attention during an OKR period. If the Key Results you've chosen are measurable and tied to a meaningful Objective, tracking your OKRs is just a matter of process and setup.
Here's how you do it: hold regular team check-ins, where team members determine how confident they are they’ll hit a key result (it can be helpful to convey this through a percentage like 50% or 100%). Tracking goal confidence levels with OKR management tools is a common practice that keeps everyone aligned on which areas to focus.
Here are a few examples:
Project Management OKR Example
Objective: Launch a new product
Conduct 20 user testing sessions on existing customers
Conduct 15 user testing sessions on non-customers
Increase the sign-up to trial Conversion Rate from 12% to 25%
Get over 1,000 new sign-ups
Conduct 50 phone interviews with key sales prospects for feedback
Engineering OKR Example
Objective: Improve the quality of the product
Reduce page loadtime on all pages to 2 seconds or less
Reduce the average number of new bugs reported from 50 per month to 30 per month
Maintain 99.95% site uptime
Sales OKR Example
Objective: Hit quarterly revenue target of $1M
Achieve 100% renewal rate for customers up for renewal
Make 200 new connections per sales rep
Increase the conversion rate from SQL to Opportunity to 15%
Decrease the average sales cycle from 50 days to 35 days
Not all Objectives will have the same number of Key Results—and that's okay! It's better to have fewer Key Results than to try to add more for more’s sake.
Using OKRs to track your company’s goals can bring clarity and confidence to everyone using them.
And Airtable makes OKR management…well…manageable. It's perfectly designed to maximize visibility across your team, simplify your task management, and track your data. Planning your next batch of OKRs is simple: get started with our OKR tracking template today.
Browse all in Product Management