How to set Objectives and Key Results

November 24, 2021

How to set Objectives and Key Results

Write qualitative Objectives and quantitative Key Results.

When writing your Objectives, explain what you’re looking to improve in brief, descriptive language that identifies the qualities you want to achieve (e.g., “Launch a world-class event” or “Create a welcoming customer experience”), and use these descriptions to inform your Key Results. Key Results should be written in a quantitative, measurable language designed to deliver on the Objective.

How to come up with objectives

Each level of an organization (company, team, and individual) should have 3-5 objectives per organization level.

Objectives have an achievable, finite endpoint rather than an ongoing task.

1. Gather Your Priorities

What are the most important things that we need to get done?
What do we need to start doing or changing?
What does success look like?
Using the questions above, brainstorm a list of possible Objectives. If you write more than five, narrow it down to the most important three for now.

2. Check Your Work

Ok! Now that we’ve got some Objectives on paper, let’s just run them through a few checks to make sure that we’re starting off in the best position possible!

My Objective describes meaningful change from where we are now. Not quite there? Try stretching beyond “business as usual” for your team. An Objective should be audacious enough to push beyond what seems possible and should feel a tad uncomfortable. It should describe real growth without being totally unrealistic.

My Objective is concise and uses simple language. It will inspire my team. Not quite there? Try shedding some words and boiling down the sentence to the most essential parts. Memorable Objectives are inspiring Objectives!
Check your Objectives against the spot-checks above. Adjust them if they’re not passing the test.

Start Key Results now

Start by looking at each individual Objective and asking yourself, “What are the three to five biggest things that would have to change in the next 90 days in order to make this Objective a reality?”

Good sets of Key Results are more than simple metrics. Think of each Key Result as its own marker. Key Results should measure the progress you’re making week over week on the way to your Objective. What markers do you need to set to make sure you’re moving in the right direction?

Key results describe outcomes rather than activities (“publish conversion funnel report” instead of “analyze conversion funnel performance”). The best sets of Key Results also capture achievement. They’re specific about the types and amount of progress we’re making. Define for yourself what success is for each of your Key Results.

Oftentimes, this requires a bit of “intelligence” about your organization. There may be research involved in order to be able to define the best set of Key Results possible. In order to set benchmarks, you’ll need to know what you’re benchmarking against. This could be progress over your past output or even exceeding benchmarks set by your competitors.

The sum of those successes should also mean you successfully achieve your Objective.

For OKR examples check OKR examples