• September 28, 2016

A Guide to OKRs and Crushing Business Goals

A Guide to OKRs and Crushing Business Goals

Smart businesses that are moving and growing fast know (or should know) a little something about goal setting and OKRs. First invented by the growing team at Intel in the 70’s, OKRs were leveraged and promoted by John Doerr when KPCB invested in Google and introduced them to that team.

That sentence alone should demonstrate the truth: OKRs work. They’re a great way to manage and motivate teams to set and meet goals at all levels of a company. OKRs are designed to be aggressive and hard to reach, bringing an entire company together while keeping teams and individuals accountable – a great model for high-growth businesses.

How to crush business goals with OKRs

What is an OKR exactly? According to many sources (such as Wikipedia), OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. It’s a method of defining and tracking objectives and their outcomes. The main goal of OKRs is to connect company, team and personal objectives to measurable results, making people move together in the right direction.

You can learn a lot about the process by watching how Google set goals with OKRs. Here are the top take-aways from Rick Klau, a partner at Google Ventures:

  • Objectives are ambitious, and should feel somewhat uncomfortable
  • Key Results are measurable; they should be easy to grade with a number (at Google we use a 0–1.0 scale to grade each key result at the end of a quarter)
  • OKRs are public; everyone in the company should be able to see what everyone else is working on (and how they did in the past)
  • The “sweet spot” for an OKR grade is .6 — .7; if someone consistently gets 1.0, their OKRs aren’t ambitious enough. Low grades shouldn’t be punished; see them as data to help refine the next quarter’s OKRs.

Also, our friends at Atiim laid the structure of OKRs out, just how John Doerr intended:

I will (OBJECTIVE name) as measured by (a set of KEY RESULTS)

Therefore, the OBJECTIVE is a qualitative title or a headline of a group or cluster of KEY RESULTS:


  • What you want to achieve
  • It is a name which is qualitative (i.e. think of it as a headline or a title naming a theme for a set of KRs)

KEY RESULTS (1-3 KPIs to measure the achievement Objective)

  • Shows progress or tells us how we know if we are achieving our Objective
  • It can be a qualitative “Milestone” or a quantified “Metric” type of measurement

Why should you use OKRs?

Obviously, this is a personal preference that should come down from the leadership team. What works for one company, might not be as effective for another. But, essentially, if you have an overarching goal, and strategies and tactics to help you achieve that goal, you are already pretty close to following the OKR model. The final step is to implement measurement strategies to see how close those tactics and strategies are getting you to the goal.

OKRs parlay nicely into further data-driven and quant-based decision making. For instance, quant-based marketing, as outlined by Noah Kagan, works backwards by looking at data to find the KRs that will drive the Os.

When should you use OKRs?

Again, it depends on the business, but there is no bad time to get organized. The very first employees at VentureApp were aware of their individual and team OKRs almost immediately upon joining. It works for us, keeping us accountable as our team grows and morphs over time.

If you feel as if your team’s actions are unorganized and chaotic, refreshing your known objectives and bundling them with key results can provide the order your team needs to be actionable. As mentioned above, you might just need to visualize and organize your existing goals and strategies to realize a small operational shift to OKRs. There is certainly no harm in putting together a goal-setting mechanism for your company. If you find some of the reporting to be overkill, you can scale back as you see fit. From our perspective, the earlier you get organized, the earlier you start to learn by tracing actions and monitoring and reporting on results.

What are good marketing OKR examples?

This is the fun part. Of course these can be as detailed or broad as you want. It all depends on your marketing goals and team structure, but here are a few to start with:

  • Objective: Increase quality blog traffic
  • Key Results:
    • Increase inbound blog links and syndication by 8% every month
    • Increase time on page by 5% every month with quality content
    • Drive newsletter signups by 5% every month
  • Objective: Drive more product signups via the blog
  • Key Results:
    • Grow blog visitors by 10% every month
    • Increase signup conversion by 7% every month
  • Objective: Increase brand awareness
  • Key Results:
    • Attend 4-5 industry events
    • Submit for 2-3 awards
    • Hold 5 press briefings
    • Contribute 3 thought leadership bylines to industry publications

What are some good sales OKRs?

  • Objective: Hit revenue goals
  • Key Results:
    • Drive X amount of new bookings pipeline
    • Enable each sales team member to hit their individual number
    • Hire additional AEs
  • Objective: Sign X amount of accounts at Y size
  • Key Results:
    • Cold outreach to X amount of correct size companies
    • Expand to new territories
    • Create 2 case studies of correct size companies

How should you set OKRs for your team?

Take a look at the main goals you’re trying to achieve over the course of a quarter or month, and work backwards. No goal is too large as you can always take small steps to get there. The whole point is to make those big goals more reachable by breaking them down into small, feasible actions that one or more people can be accountable for, own, and accomplish.

What are some tools to help me with OKRs?

There are more than a few to decide on: 7Geese, Cove, Atiim, Perdoo, BetterWorks, and more. Sign up with VentureApp – we’ll find the best OKR solution for your team & budget.

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