OKR Planning

OKRs are seen as the new miracle cure in the context of goal and strategy definition. Can it live up to this claim and what does this mean in concrete terms?

What are Objectives and Key Results OKR?

Objective and Key Results are a goal-setting method. In 1999, John Doerr introduced OKRs as a goal-setting method at Google after gaining initial experience with it at Intel. OKRs is a simple process that reconciles alignment and commitment. Objectives and key results are part of the problem space; they are not activities or tasks that belong to the solution space. This means in concrete terms:
The objective formulates an ambitious goal and the key results describe in measurable criteria how the goal can be achieved.
  • Objective: What is to be achieved?
  • Key Result: How should it be achieved?
An objective should be concise, short and ambitious. It is recommended to formulate 2-5 key results per objective, these should be quantitative as well as measurable. It is recommended to choose John Doerr's goal formula as the basis: "I will __ as measured by__."  Usually you set OKRs for a certain period, e.g. for a month or a quarter.
What OKRs are not
OKRs differ significantly from Management by Objectives by Peter Drucker, as OKRs are both a top-down and a bottom-up method. Felipe Castro recommends 60% bottom up and 40% top down in order to achieve a high acceptance in the teams. Furthermore, they also differ from Doran's KPI's (Key Performance Indicators), as they are much more than measurable variables. Furthermore, OKRs are not backlog entries, parts of a todo list or even tasks.

Why OKRs and agility complement each other perfectly

Many companies are already successfully using agile methods; focus and alignment are important prerequisites for teams to generate real value. In this context, OKRs help to achieve more focus and alignment across all organizational levels. Used properly, they can establish a new culture of dialogue, feedback and recognition and are an essential leadership tool in agile organizations. Performance reviews were yesterday.
In order to address the current challenges of complexity and rapid change cycles, companies and especially HR departments need alternative models.
Consistent transparency and alignment, instead of cascading, can thus become a central catalyst for the development of an agile corporate culture - in this respect agility and OKRs are the perfect complement and combination.
  • Agility provides the mindset to work together at eye level - OKRs make the mindset feasible.
  • OKRs and agility combine essential attributes such as focus, alignment, transparency, collaboration, self-organization, short cycles, commitment, to name but a few.
  • Agility requires transparency for it to work. OKRs create transparency and thus represent an essential factor for changing a culture. OKRs are public for all organization members, which means maximum transparency, just as agility in the form of Kanban or Scrum Boards lives.
  • Negotiation instead of cascading, alignment and autonomy, accountability are important drivers in agility and are translated into concrete activities with OKRs. For example, the OKR process provides for many artifacts that we know from agility. OKRs are defined in a planning, a review is held to share the results, one meets for refinement before the planning starts and after each iteration a retrospective takes place to learn.

Are OKRs the new miracle cure in the context of goal and strategy definition?

Discuss this question with us and define the answer specifically for your company.

Improuv has been a strong partner for years in agile implementation through to agile transition at all organizational levels. Objectives and Key Results are a logical part of agile organizational development - for us, OKRs belong in an agile organization.