How to Leverage the OKR Framework for Efficient Goal Setting in Agile Teams

During his Google era, Larry Page – former CEO at the company – took two days each quarter to scrutinize each team’s goals. Page acknowledges the importance of efficient goal setting and tracking: it is a powerful way to keep your coworkers aligned on the most problems to solve. At the same time, it is a powerful motivational ally: every time you mark something as “done”, there’s a sense of achievement, and having a framework helps to communicate that across your organization.

Google was one of the first SaaS businesses to explore a model now very common in SaaS: Objectives and Key Results, or just OKRs. Created by Andy Grove, former CEO at Intel, that framework came to life to address a problem he saw in the industry: “there are so many people working so hard and achieving so little“. Does that sound familiar? Here are a few tips about Grove’s framework.

OKRs are measurable, ambitious, and impactful

Let’s say that you’re drafting our product OKRs for the next quarter. Based on the company’s mission, north stars, or even company-level OKRs, you can set up a session with your team (Atlassian has an interesting blog post with a step by step) and come up with:

  • Objectives: what you’re trying to achieve.
  • Key Results for each objective: how you can measure success.
  • Scores: grade (usually based on ranges) what red (0.0-0.3), yellow (0.3-0.7), and green (>0.7) mean. Usually, 0.7 is a success, and 1.0 is your stretch target.

The idea of making 1.0 the stretch target comes back to Grove’s mindset around ambition: your goals need to be achievable, but aggressive, so even if you miss it, you will still have achieved something amazing. 0.7 works as a success “check”, something more achievable.

Remember to drive those via outcome and not output. A bad KR would be “feature X was released“, whereas a good one would be “increase number of leads to Y“. Your OKRs shouldn’t dictate the tactic to accomplish your goals: instead, provide flexibility.

OKRs align with North Stars

North Stars are the metrics that matter: they capture the core value your product or team delivers to customers. If your business aims at “democratizing user feedback for any internet-based company“, for instance:

  • Your objective for the next quarter could be “simplify the way a user can submit feedback“.
  • The key results could be “increase the number of feedback entries across all customers from 10 to 200 by end of quarter” and/or “increase the number of compatible CMS systems from 1 to 5 by end of quarter“.
  • The grades: for the first key result above, 0.0 would mean the status quo (10), 0.3 around 50 entries (for instance), 0.7 being 150, and 1.0 the stretch target (200).

Tracking is everything

Every one or two weeks, gather your teammates and revisit the status of those OKRs. Are you track? Are you way behind? Is there anything that could be done today that could help the team achieve the goals?

Grove claims it is okay to drop OKRs during a quarter or year, as long as it doesn’t happen constantly. Tactics should be completely flexible and could change even from one day to another: at the end of the day, if better ideas pop up and make that goal more achievable, they should be prioritized instead.

What are you waiting for?

With all that said, bring your team together and start planning those out if you care about your coworkers and their motivation, as well as the success of your team and organization. Engagedly has some great examples for team OKRs in engineering.

Don't forget to use Teamworki to get async updates from your team.
Don’t forget to use Teamworki to get async updates from your team.

With your goals set, don’t forget to track your coworkers morale and run retrospectives to gauge how your team feels about it all. Teamworki has all of that and more in a free agile toolkit. Sign up below and be the best agile coach/scrum master/team lead your coworkers ever had!