Notes on Christina Wodtke’s The Art of the OKR

(from a post on Christina’s site eleganthack.com, link here. She just released a book about OKRs, Radical Focus: Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objectives and Key Results.)

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are huge in Silicon Valley–Google, LinkedIn etc use them

OKRs provide focus, unite teams around a single strategy, and create stretch goals

Objectives=qualitative

KRs=quantitative

First, make sure your company has a clear mission statement!

Setting Objectives

Qualitative and Inspirational

  • Set Objectives in the language of your team–they’ll be excited by a sense of meaning and purpose as stated in a way they understand and care about (it’s probably not going to be a 3% gain in conversion, for instance)
  • Time-bind Objectives–a month, a quarter, probably not a year (break that into smaller sub-Objectives)
  • Make them independently actionable by your team–own your Objectives and don’t let their success depend on outside dependencies
  • Examples of good Objectives
    • Own the direct-to-business coffee retail market in the south bay
    • Launch an awesome MVP
  • Examples of poor Objectives (they’re really key results)
    • Sales up 30%
    • Double number of users

Key Results

  • Key Results are created by asking “How will we know we’ve reached our objective?”
  • Typically you should have three Key Results such as
    • Growth
    • Performance
    • Revenue
    • Performance
    • Quality (can be tough to measure, but you can use things like NPS)
  • Create balance by having potentially opposing forces represented in the KRs
  • An MVP’s KRs might be:
    • 40% of users come back 2x per week
    • Recommendation score of 8
    • 15% conversion
  • Keeps KRs realistic but aggressive–genuinely feel your team has a 50/50 chance of achieving them

What Makes OKRs Work?

Much of OKRs’ value comes from the conversations they spur:

  • What really matters–selecting just-in-time goals
  • How success will be measured
  • How more “fuzzy” areas like customer service can form goals that move the business forward

OKRs should be formed on an individual basis also that support personal growth as well as company growth

  • Example: KR is “get great at sales.” A person might complete sales training with a high score, improve the conversion rate of her product etc
  • KRs can help manage difficult employees–they can correct problems as they arise and provide quantitative support if things don’t improve
  • Keep KRs central in folks’ minds by injecting them into weekly team meetings, weekly status updates etc. Adjust your confidence level every week–and discuss why it changes
  • Aim to achieve 1-2 of your 3 KRs in the bounded time period
  • Don’t change KRs during the period–just learn from complete failure or success to formulate more accurate KRs

About Christina (from her site): Christina Wodtke is coaching, advising, teaching and consulting, with the single goal of bringing great products into the world. As well, she is working on her new book, The Executioner’s Tale (working title) about using OKRS (Objectives and Key Results), predictive roadmaps, and a cadence of commitment and celebration to build higher performance teams. 

Most recently she led the creation of a social network/gaming platform as a General Manager of Zynga.com at Zynga, she was General Manager of Social at Myspace, Principal Product Manager at Linkedin and Sr Director of Design at Yahoo back when yahoo was pretty neat. 

As well, she likes founding things: she founded a startup where she developed the collaborative blogging tool PublicSquare, Boxes and Arrows, an online magazine of design, and co-founded the Information Architecture Institute. She may found again. 

Along the way she wrote the bestselling Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web, and has spoken on the topic of the human experience in information spaces at conferences worldwide. She writes still at eleganthack.com.

 

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