How to successfully write effective OKRs

This article provides a step-by-step approach on how to write OKRs, used by certified OKR practitioners to help businesses adopt and implement OKRs.

16 October 2022

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The importance of Strategy: setting the scene

Defining business objectives is an important step in setting the direction for your business.

It can help with decision-making, as well as establish the roles and responsibilities that will be key to business success.

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are a popular structure for setting strategies for businesses and organisations.

The principles are simple: set out your intentions through objectives, and set timely, measurable milestones to help you meet the objectives.

Writing effective OKRs can help your business thrive. Learn more about how to write OKRs and improve the way your business sets its goals.

What are OKRs?

OKR (Objectives and Key Results) is a goal-setting framework for creating, communicating, constantly validating and adapting corporate strategy.

What’s great about OKRs is that they help you focus on actions that will serve your business strategy better.

They are transparent and specific, which can help you set a clearer direction for your company and its work.

The OKR Method is a great resource to help you get to grips with OKRs to help you implement their use within your own business or organisation.

This guide also provides insight into how to write OKRs and how to structure them around your existing business model.

Aren’t OKRs just KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)?

Although OKRs and KPIs can work together, this doesn’t mean they’re the same. Adobe helpfully describes the difference as:

“OKR is a goal-setting framework. For each OKR, there is an objective to be achieved, along with a set of metrics that will measure the achievement of that objective, called key results.

KPIs determine factors needed to achieve success in an organisation.”

It’s the key results that will encompass your KPIs. If you have an objective to increase your social media followers by 10,000 in the next 6 months, reaching 10,000 will be your key result, while your KPI is the number of social media followers.

Using both elements can help you strengthen your business strategy and help you use your time and resources more effectively.

Writing effective OKRs

While OKRs can feel alien when you first approach them, but with practice, it will become easier.

Below provides some guidance on how to write OKRs (specifically high-level OKRs) that will help your company focus on the bigger picture.

How to write OKRs: Define your objectives

The first step is to define clear objectives. These can be time-based or contribute to wider company goals. Objectives can help you:

  • Create - Build or implement something new.
  • Improve - Find ways to improve an existing product or service. 
  • Innovate - Reinvent an existing product or service.

Whichever form your objective takes, it should drive some form of growth for your business.

One example of an objective could be to Grow your social media presence to the levels of your main competitors.

When objectives are set, they should be clear to individuals, helping them to see how the work they do meets the company’s overall goals.

Clear objectives can help individuals understand and adopt OKRs, avoiding one of the reasons why OKRs fail.

A good way to create an effective OKR is to use a predefined structure/template. We suggest you structure your objective like the example below:

A good way to create an effective OKR

How to write OKRs: Set your key results

Your key results are there to measure your outputs, defining results that are clear and really matter to your company.

The key results will help confirm your objective, providing you with some clear actions that need to happen in order to achieve the objective.

A key result should contain a metric that you can measure along the way.

To use the social media example again, if the objective is to:

'Grow your social media presence to the levels of your main competitors, and a key result is to increase your social media followers by 10,000 in the next 6 months'

then you have a key result that can easily be measured through having a starting figure (your current number of followers) that can continue to be measured until the deadline of six months, and may even be reached before then.

Setting key results can be more difficult without benchmarks, and you may need to re-examine your objectives if you can’t establish key results to meet them.

Similarly to the objective, we recommend utilising a predefined template to structure your key results, as per the example below:


How to write OKRs: Lay out how you’ll achieve your key results

With your company OKRs in place, you can then get to work on how you will achieve your key results.

These can be in the form of projects and tasks, setting the direction of your work.

These elements can be changed and adapted if they don’t seem to have an impact on your key results.

In the social media example, you may want to break up your key result into tasks such as:

  • Create a channel strategy for each social platform designed around increasing followers.
  • Create content that helps attract new followers, such as giveaways and interactive content.
  • Establish a paid advertising schedule to help raise awareness of the platforms and encourage new followers.

And so on. By devising projects and tasks to help you achieve your key results, you can set clear work for employees that will help them understand how the work they do fits within the company’s overall goals.

Writing OKRs is a relatively new practice for many businesses and organisations, but is one that could help you steer your business towards success.

Try using the pre-defined structures we recommended above that demonstrate how to write OKRs.

At 1ovmany, we help transform businesses and organisations by implementing OKRs.

We provide OKR advice and training, giving our clients the confidence to use OKRs to drive their work.

If you’re interested in exploring how we can help your business get to grips with OKRs successfully, contact 1ovmany today.

1ovmany Communications Team

About the author

1ovmany Communications Team

We help organisations reach their full potential through continuous and sustainable transformation in customer delivery and product excellence

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