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You’re probably sitting right now at your desk with a task to write OKRs for yourself, your team, a department, or the entire company. It is the end of the current quarter or the start of a new one. And I bet you’re looking for a piece of easy, ready-to-implement advice that will help you with your task. If you can relate to the situation described, then this is a good piece for you.
If you know what the plans are for the team or the company, then I can assure you – this is easier than you think. It’s just a matter of expressing these plans and high-level goals as OKRs. It’s a skill like any other that you can master with practice. I’ll give you some tips you can apply right away on your OKR draft with a mix of some OKR- defining theory.
If you’re not sure in which direction the company or the team should go, then it is not an OKR issue. You should always start the work on OKRs when you have some vision in mind.
Let’s start with the theoretical part. As you may know, OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. The Objectives should be aspirational, descriptive, outcome-oriented goals you set for all levels of your company. Objectives at the company level are like a north star that guides everyone in the direction that is provided by the C-level team. After reading these objectives, everyone should know what is most important for the company and what they should achieve during this particular quarter or year. And the same is true for any other level below the company’s goals. The only unknown is how these goals should be achieved.
That’s where the key results come in. Key results of each objective tell you when the objective is achieved. They answer a question: What should happen in order for the objective to be true? The key results should be clear to track, well-defined and measurable. As hard as it sometimes is to find a measurable goal that is not a to-do item, it is worth it, believe me.
Let me show you an example. A good objective for a software company that develops a mobile app would be: Become a top-selling app in Apple App Store this year. That’s a clear vision. Our app is not among the top-selling apps right now, but it’s prospecting well. The management team wants it to grow enough so that the Apple App Store would categorize it as a top-selling app.
If you wanted to define key results for this objective, you’d need to think about what makes an app qualify as a top-selling app. What other top-selling apps have and what you lack? What would need to happen in the product and marketing areas in order for the app to achieve this objective? It doesn’t mean, however, that it’s 100% sure that your app will become a top-selling app if you meet all the expectations set by your KRs. It will usually be just a theory, but hopefully, one that’s based on solid research.
The key results for the Become a top-selling app in Apple App Store this year objective could be:
You know that the top-selling apps have about 5 000 MAU. You also know that it’s not possible to generate a significant amount of active customers within a year with the conversion rate you have now. So in order for you to grow this number of customers, you need to increase both the number of app downloads and the conversion rate. Moreover, your app doesn’t have as many 5-star reviews as the top-selling apps. It is likely that having more excellent reviews would create a snowball effect and set you right for success. You estimate that with these numbers going up, your app has a good chance of becoming a top-selling app. You don’t know for sure, but the benchmarks and the specialists you have in the company can confirm that. And that’s enough.
Hopefully, you get the nature of objectives and key results by now. Now it’s time for the quick OKR-writing tips I promised.
I hope that this mix of OKR theory with practical tips will help you write good OKRs reflecting the company’s needs and aiming it for growth. Remember that the OKRs should serve you and the company. Each quarter, there is a new chance to correct what was wrong the last time and to learn from the mistakes everyone made. This way, each quarter you’ll start off wiser and more experienced. No matter if you’re just before your first OKR launch or if you’re a few years into this process, there’s always something to improve.
Weronika Spaleniak Appfire