<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=391751051703966&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
×
×
Try Flock today!

Book a Demo

The secret to making OKRs work for your business? Write good key results.

10-emoployee-engagement-stats.psdArtboard-1

For the uninitiated, Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is a system to create alignment and engagement around measurable goals in an organization. OKRs are public within the organization, so employees can see what everyone is working on and understand how close or how far they are from achieving their objectives. The likes of Google, Spotify, Walmart, ING Bank, and yours truly use OKRs to set and achieve goals.

John Doerr, the venture capitalist who introduced Google to OKRs, described them best: I will (Objective) as measured by (this set of Key Results).

At Flock, we use OKRs to create focus, alignment, measurability, and line of sight across functional groups within the organization. In our experience, one of the keys to success with OKRs is to write good Key Results. While an Objective defines where we want to go, a Key Result helps measure if we are actually getting there. Without a Key Result, an Objective stands as an inspirational but ambiguous statement.

Over time, and with lots of practice, we’ve developed a set of internal best practices for writing good Key Results. If you use OKRs in your organization, or if your team is just getting started with them, here are 6 rules to help you write good “Metric Key Results” for your organization.

So, what makes a good Key Result? 

A well-written Key Result must be:

  1. Measurable
  2. Progressive
  3. Ambitious
  4. Unambiguous
  5. Quality Controlled

The best way to learn how to write a good Metric Key Result is to start with a few poorly-written ones and iterate through them until we arrive at one that meets the qualities listed above.

Boost employee engagement in your org today. Download your free guide.

To illustrate this process, here are some poorly written Key Results for a hypothetical marketing team:

  • Grow blog page views
  • Grow Twitter followers
  • Grow leads generated through Google SEM
  • Increase conversion percentage of website visitors to signups

The above Key Results look more like indefinite items on a to-do list. They are not measurable, progressive, ambitious, unambiguous or quality controlled. Here’s how we make them better:

Measurability

A Key Result should be measurable, so it must contain a number. Our poorly written Key Results can be revised for measurability as follows:

  • Grow blog page views to 4,000
  • Grow Twitter followers to 50,000
  • Grow leads generated through Google SEM to 1,000
  • Increase conversion percentage of website visitors to signups to 15%

The first rule of writing good Metric Key Results: A Key Result must have a target value.

Going from A to B

Progressive

A Key Result must move the needle forward. Its purpose is to ensure that, by the end of the quarter, we make a meaningful improvement in the metric we are trying to measure. 

If you set a personal Key Result to run a marathon in 5 hours, I’d consider it an ambitious pursuit, right until I discovered that you ran a marathon in 4.5 hours last month. Suddenly the same Key Result seems like a step back.

This brings us to our second rule: A Key Result must contain a start value.

Here are our Key Results after applying this rule:

  • Grow blog page views from 2,000 to 4,000
  • Grow Twitter followers from 40,000 to 50,000
  • Grow leads generated through Google SEM from 750 to 1,000
  • Increase conversion percentage of website visitors to signups from 10% to 15%

However, simply adding start and end values does not make a Key Result progressive. You need to consider that most metrics have a steady-state growth rate. For example, organic traffic to your blog may be growing every quarter without any additional effort because your marketing team has already built a pipeline of content for the blog. Steady state growth does not constitute as moving the needle and hence needs to be factored in when writing a good Key Result.

Our third rule: A Key Result must account for steady-state growth.

At Flock, we record the steady-state growth values in brackets at the end of relevant Key Results. Here is how our revised Key Results look now:

  • Grow blog page views from 2,000 to 4,000 (Steady-state growth is 2,500)
  • Grow Twitter followers from 40,000 to 50,000 (Steady-state growth is 43,000)
  • Grow leads generated through Google SEM from 750 to 1,000
  • Increase conversion percentage of website visitors to signups from 10% to 15%

Now, we know that blog page views will increase to 2,500 even if we do nothing in this quarter. So we undertake specific initiatives to increase page views up from 2,000 to 4,000 and we will have truly moved the needle forward only if we achieve a number above 2,500. Note that steady-state growth values may not be relevant for all your KRs.

Ambitious

We believe in setting stretch goals at Flock. Since we use OKRs to determine if we are meeting our goals, it follows that our Key Results must be ambitious. But the word “ambitious” is subjective. To eliminate this subjectivity, we decided that “ambitious” means that we should be able to achieve 70% of all our Key Results without stretching ourselves. This leaves a 30% “stretch margin” that encourages us to get outside of our comfort zone, think creatively, and even get a little lucky.

Be ambitious, but eliminate subjectivity

Do not pay lip service to the notion of writing ambitious Key Results. Managers and team members must examine each Key Result and all of them together to determine that they truly have a 30% “stretch margin.” Low-balling your Key Results can sometimes be more harmful than not setting any at all. Inspect each Key Result to get to a reasonable degree of confidence that they are all indeed ambitious.

Our fourth rule: Objectively assess that each Key Result has a 30% “stretch margin.”

Unambiguous

Leave no room for ambiguity with the metrics you measure. Let’s take a look at two of our Key Results:

  • Grow leads generated through Google SEM from 750 to 1,000
  • Increase conversion percentage of website visitors to signups from 10% to 15%

When reading these Key Results, everyone in the team—and I would go so far as to say that everyone in the company—should have no ambiguity on what “Leads” or “Website Visitors” or “Signups” imply. If these are commonly used unambiguous terms within the company, then there is no problem. However, if this is not the case, you may wish to qualify them further, as follows:

  • Grow mid-market MQLs generated through Google SEM from 750 to 1,000
  • Increase conversion percentage of unique website visitors to team creators from 10% to 15%

This works for us better because we have clear definitions for the terms “mid-market MQLs” and “team creators” that are used across the company. “Mid-market MQLs” refers to companies with 50-500 employees that meet certain qualifying attributes while “team creators” are specifically users who create their first Flock team.

Our fifth rule: Qualify your metrics to ensure they are unambiguous.

Quality Controlled

Improving the quantity of a metric can, in many circumstances, cost you quality. For example, in order to grow our Twitter fan base to 50,000 followers, the marketing team might simply aim for low-quality followers that may or not be of relevance to our business. Or they might spend excessive amounts of money to grow our mid-market MQLs to 1,000.

Our sixth rule: For balance and quality control, pair qualitative and quantitative Key Results.

Here are our Key Results after applying this rule:

  • Grow blog page views from 2,000 to 4,000 (Steady-state growth is 2,500)
  • Grow Twitter followers from 40,000 to 50,000 while ensuring they align with your customer targets (Steady-state growth is 43,000)
  • Grow mid-market MQLs generated through Google SEM from 750 to 1,000 at $100 cost per lead
  • Increase conversion percentage of unique website visitors to team creators from 10% to 15%

Objectives and Key Results create focus, alignment, measurability, and line of sight across functional groups within your organization. But the key to making OKRs work for you is to write good Key Results. 

A well-written Key Result must be:

  1. Measurable
  2. Progressive
  3. Ambitious
  4. Unambiguous
  5. Quality Controlled

6 rules for writing good Key Results:

  1. A Key Result must have a target value
  2. A Key Result must contain a start value
  3. A Key Result must account for steady-state growth
  4. Objectively assess that each Key Result has a 30% “stretch margin”
  5. Qualify your metrics to ensure they are unambiguous
  6. For balance and quality control, pair qualitative and quantitative Key Results

Productivity, Leadership

Get More Done Take teamwork to the next level with Flock's Guide to Workplace Collaboration  Software