📘 “Leaders must get across the why as well as the what. Their people need more than milestones for motivation. They are thirsting for meaning, to understand how their goals relate to the mission.”
― John Doerr in “Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs”
Setting top-level goals may seem easy, but organizations often struggle to show employees how their work supports the company’s vision. But there’s a way to achieve more goals and create organizational alignment: breaking objectives down into bite-sized, digestible chunks that can trickle down to all company levels and departments. This is the objectives and key results (OKRs) goal-setting system.
📥 Access your free Google Sheets OKR template and get started with objectives and key results!
What are OKRs?
OKR is a goal-setting system that stands for objectives and key results. The OKR method can help guide and focus your efforts, create more impact, build alignment, and bring all players behind the same vision.
🎯 “We must realize — and act on the realization — that if we try to focus on everything, we focus on nothing.”
— John Doerr
The essence of OKRs is simple: to break down ambitious objectives into clear, manageable, and measurable results. OKRs lay out a path to success that boosts employee engagement. And you should take employee engagement seriously: research shows that highly engaged employees deliver better results, attract more customers, keep customers more satisfied, and “are more likely to remain with the organization than those who are less engaged.”
Andy Grove, Intel’s third employee and former CEO, is the creator of the OKRs framework. In 1983, Grove laid out the term in the book “High Output Management.” Another Intel veteran, successful venture capitalist John Doerr gave OKRs visibility over decades — but it wasn’t until recent years that this framework gained traction. OKRs have now evolved as the leading goal-setting method used by companies of all shapes and sizes — from Google, Spotify, and Netflix to SMBs and startups with a handful of employees.
🚀 Manage your OKRs better & increase impact
Leapsome’s OKR software makes it easy to track and collaborate on all goals across your company
Find out more
The OKR formula
🎯 We’ll make progress in pursuit of [OBJECTIVE] by achieving [KEY RESULTS]
This is the basic structure to set OKRs. Now let’s dive into the components of this formula. 🔬
What are the components of an OKR?
Objectives are goals that support your company’s overarching mission, building transparency and alignment as they spread the idea of working towards the same purpose across organizations.
Objectives are qualitative and have the power of uniting team members. They’re concise and straightforward. They’re also ambitious — but not unrealistic.
Keep in mind: Objectives shouldn’t be a simple expansion of something you’ve already mastered — they should be groundbreaking.
2. Key Results
Key results are the milestones you’ll pass along the way as you approach your objective: they represent how you’ll achieve your goal.
We can also think of key results as pieces of the bigger picture. They show us how to reach goals and allow us to track progress and measure success — so they must be measurable.
Keep in mind: Key results should be meaningful enough to be celebrated if achieved.
📥 Ready to bring OKRs into your organization? Download our best-practice OKR template to start your strategic planning and reach ambitious goals!
5 steps to get started with OKRs
🧘 There’s an art to writing OKRs, but once you’ve followed the steps below and used our free OKR template, their rollout will be smoother than you think!
1. Define long-term business priorities
Start with the overall strategy and vision of your business. Where do you want to be three to five years from now? What are your long-term goals and business priorities?
Note: “Long-term” may mean different time frames for different industries.
⭐️ Pro tip: Here at Leapsome, our mission is to make work fulfilling for everyone, and our vision is to be the top market-leading solution for people enablement in Europe and North America by 2025.
This vision guides our goals and is sustained by our company’s values. If you haven’t figured out your company’s mission, vision, and values, spend some time on that — it will help you make the most of the OKR method.
2. Translate business priorities into annual OKRs (strategic goals)
Pick three or four business priorities that support your vision, then focus on these priorities to define your annual strategic OKRs. This will put you in the right direction!
3. Break down annual OKRs into quarterly OKRs (tactical goals)
When broken down into smaller bits, big goals seem less daunting. So now it’s time to break down your annual OKRs into quarterly objectives and key results.
Cycles with a quarterly cadence are easily divisible into 13 weeks. You can aim to progress by 10% each week, plus a 2–3 week grace period to get started or overcome setbacks.
4. Convert company OKRs into team & individual OKRs
Enable and guide teams/departments in formulating quarterly OKRs that support the company’s OKRs.
Empower individuals to take ownership of specific key results or an entire OKR and to set their own performance goals. Focusing on goals should become part of daily work; this helps people prioritize and gives everyone the most value for their efforts.
5. Track — tweak — praise — repeat
Regularly tracking and tweaking OKRs will ensure that you move forward in the right direction and undertake relevant initiatives.
Celebrating success at work and giving constructive feedback helps teams learn and grow. The result is enhanced performance and engagement — the pillars of thriving organizations.
⭐️ Pro tip: Encourage all departments to run regular OKR check-in meetings to stay on top of key initiatives and achieve more.
We’ve prepared a step-by-step guide to running OKR check-in meetings to support you.
How to use the free OKR template
Once you download your free-to-use OKR template (created with best practices and tips from experts), follow the steps below to make the most of this goal-setting framework.
📥 Download our free best-practice OKR template, then make a personal copy. Open the template and click on File > Make a Copy to create your copy. Easy!
Step 1: The basics
This step will guide all of your OKR cycles — you just need to adapt the cycle each time, and it will help you keep your company’s vision in mind at all times!
- Head over to the Company OKRs tab
- Add your company’s name
- Write down your company’s vision
- Enter the current OKR cycle
Step 2: Define strategy objectives
The OKR framework allows you to narrow down your strategy and focus on impactful initiatives. So don’t try to do too much at once. Three to five objectives is a realistic amount, per OKR period, to keep teams stimulated without feeling overwhelmed.
Your selection of core initiatives should be ambitious but carefully considered — make sure to meet with your leadership team to work on company objectives together. The same applies to department and team goals: To keep alignment, OKRs shouldn’t be a top-down decision. Involve your whole team and listen to their ideas!
- Add 3–5 objectives
- The same goes for team objectives — only you’d be using the Team OKRs tab
- Use aspirational, qualitative statements (e.g., “Become the #1 producer of gourmet marmalades)
Step 3: Select key results to track success
As with your objectives, you should focus on just a few key results. These key results should enable you to achieve the associated objectives.
Here, you should be specific and don’t fear numbers — this will help you track progress and know when to realign your strategy or aim for stretch goals.
- Add 3–5 key results per objective
- Remember that key results must be measurable
Step 4: Decide how to measure key results
What will be your metric for your measurable outcomes? Will it be a Yes/No measure for project completion (e.g., Relaunching Mars Marmalades brand)? A percentage (e.g., increasing sales by 27%)? A numeric measure (e.g., achieve 896 businesses in the distribution network)? Or would you prefer to set it in currency (e.g., reach USD 4,000 ARR per distributor)?
- Define how to measure each key result by selecting one of the options in column C
Step 5: Assign values to key results
Now that you know the best metric for each key result, it’s time to enter it into your OKR template.
Always consider that the ideal OKRs should be bold, yet not easy to reach — nor impossible. For example, achieving 80% is a good indicator of a high-impact key result, while quickly reaching 100% shows that a key result was unambitious.
- For each key result: insert a start value (column D)
- For each key result: add a target value (column E)
- For each key result: include a current value (column F)
Step 6: Assign a lead or owner
Encouraging your people to take ownership isn’t just about ensuring things get done: it’s also about showing everyone that their work is valuable and helps push the company’s vision forward. When everyone feels involved, your company will accomplish so much more!
- Assign a lead/owner per objective
- If multiple people contribute to an objective, assign a lead/owner per key result
Step 7: Enter a deadline
As mentioned, we recommend quarterly cycles for your OKRs.
- Set a deadline on objective and/or key result level.
⭐️ Pro tip: To dive deeper into goal-setting and create impactful OKRs, make sure to read these pieces:
💡 “What Are OKRs?” A Guide to Setting the Right Objectives and Key Results [with Infographic]
📖 People Ops Playbook: How to Implement OKRs (Objectives & Key Results)
The smartest way to set up & track OKRs
You can track, align, and collaborate on goals and OKRs at all levels (i.e., company-wide, department/team-specific, and individual goals) with the Leapsome platform.
💬 There is a smarter way to set up OKRs and reach more goals! Find out how to save time, build more alignment and engagement, and have all your data in one place by having a chat with one of our product experts.
Learn more about Leapsome’s OKR software below.
Measure goal progress with automated dashboards
Our automated dashboards give people at all levels of your organization a clear overview of progress and make it easier to spot roadblocks and know what needs to be adjusted — or which goals and initiatives may need an extra push.
Visualize goals across your organization
With Leapsome, understanding how goals relate to one another is simple — and easy to visualize! With our Goal Tree, you can see how team and individual goals support company-wide goals, boosting organizational alignment and purpose.
Make OKRs part of daily work
The Leapsome platform goes many steps further by connecting various processes (like meetings, performance review software, learning, and continuous feedback) in a continuous cycle of personalized development that boosts your company’s engagement and success. With Leapsome, you can seamlessly integrate OKRs into your everyday routine, so that you focus on what matters most every single day.
Motivate all stakeholders
Now you know that OKRs are crucial for company alignment and employee engagement. When someone knows that their work has a positive impact, they’re more likely to deliver outstanding results! And an essential part of it is having ownership of key initiatives. With Leapsome, your team can easily track and measure the goals they’re involved with, having a clear overview of results and staying motivated to accomplish even more.
How to make OKRs visually appealing?
Set and track them with a goal-setting platform like Leapsome, equipped with goal dashboards, progress timelines, goal trees, and analytics that are thorough but easy to visualize.
What is the purpose of OKRs?
OKRs help build alignment throughout the organization, create transparency across all levels, and establish accountability between teams and individuals.
The OKR framework will help you maximize growth and equip your team with enthusiasm to overcome obstacles and stay motivated.
Should startups use the OKR system?
Yes! This framework is beneficial for organizations of every size — from a one-person company to an enterprise. OKRs are a crucial guide and motivator as companies scale up, expand their goals, and start exercising their vision.
What to do if we’re not moving forward with an OKR or specific key results?
Look for roadblocks and think of solutions as a team. If needed, schedule a deep-dive session to consider further actions. And don’t beat yourself up. It’s up to you to turn a perceived failure into a meaningful learning experience. It’s OK to recalibrate and figure out where to better allocate your team’s time and efforts.
What happens if we don’t meet the key results set?
The first step is to have a conversation about those targets: Do they need adjusting? What were the roadblocks? Are these OKRs still aligned with your overall vision? Will they help you get there?
The outcomes of this conversation will help you determine if you should take unmet OKRs to a new cycle or leave them behind as learning opportunities.