How do we set goals? How do we break those goals up to SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, TIMEBOUND, smaller actions? How do we assess whether we've met our goals and, if we fail to meet them, if we moved in the right direction and made progress? Enter the OKR.
Objectives & Key Results (OKR) is a process for setting goals & breaking those goals up. An objective is just another word for a goal. Key Results are actions to move toward the goal. Key Results need to be timebound, and whether they were completed or not MUST be a yes or no answer.
To add to this process, organizations need a way to assess progress. Enter KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators. The feed into key results and objectives and provide information as to whether we are moving toward our key results and--more importantly--objectives.
This system comes from Andy Grove and Measure What Matters
. His clarity and effectiveness at management ended up creating this system.
Coming from this system is the importance of how managers, leaders, and CEOs refine, revise, or replace existing routines and habits. While efficiency at tasks is important, we're ultimately getting better or getting worse. Objectives, then, need to be achieved with action--with change--not goals that would be achieved by continuing to do the same things the same way.
Another key aspect of OKRs is the timeframe. It must not be too long nor too short. A week, for example, is not enough time to make large changes and too often to make these large evaluations of processes and routines. 5 years or 10 years, however, is so long that it deflates any sense of urgency and too many unknowns exist: there will be unforeseen opportunities that not only do you not foresee but you cannot foresee.
Crucially, saying yes to certain objectives means saying NO to others. Not everything can be a priority, and too many objectives decreases the chance of getting any of them done. Difficult decisions must be made regarding what is essential versus important versus nice-to-have. Fewer objectives also helps employees know what the objectives are: employees should be able to cite key objectives. Key results need to be specific not only regarding what will occur but by whom - an individual needs to have his or her name next to the key result. This provides ownership.
Another note on setting objectives is that aggressiveness--audacity--should not be discouraged. If an employee establishes audacious goals but works hard to meet them and fails while advancing the company and providing value to the company, ultimately it's a win. It's a balancing act setting objectives and key results. Too many people set objectives that are too easy. A smaller group goes the other direction and sets unrealistic goals. Ultimately, managers and subordinates need to discuss objectives and refine them over time. Good employees and organizations will fail to meet objectives sometimes.
Another element of OKRs is specificity. Wishy-washy thinking and inability to prioritize will prevent progress and limit the organizations effectiveness. Ultimately, it's all about output: what have you accomplished? Business and hard work are great, but if you have nothing to show for it then processes and time management need to be evaluated.
Finally, this applies to all organizations and individuals: government and military organizations, couples and families, individuals and employees can go through this process and better direct themselves to pursuing and achieving the things they want to accomplish.
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