OKR – Objectives and Key Results

By: Jim Bruce
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We began the 2015 Tuesday Readings with a series of readings focused on being intentional.  A week later, we focused on being intentional about developing new practices to strengthen our leadership.  We next focused on the art of saying “NO,” about being intentional in adding to your deliverables.  And then, last week, we focused on your calendar and being intentional about how you use your time.  Today, I want to focus on being intentional about getting the most out of every interaction on your calendar.  To do that, we’ll use a small portion of a tool called OKR – Objectives and Key Results.

In the early 1970s when Intel was transitioning from being a manufacturer of memory chips to manufacturing microprocessors, Andy Grove, then director of engineering (and, later Chairman and CEO) and the management team needed employees to focus on a set of priorities to make the transition in the company’s focus successful.  The result of their work to devise a management process was OKR.  In its fullest form, OKR is a technique for setting and communicating objectives and results throughout the entirety of an organization.  Its goal is to connect the objectives and expected results of an entire organization in a way that the organization can more effectively move together in the planned direction.  Its value is in making sure that every individual knows what results are expected of them.  Since all OKRs are public within the organization, everyone can know what their colleagues are working on, creating visibility for the work and accountability.  (If you are interested in learning more about the technique, take a look at the two references below.)

John Doerr, who had worked with Grove at Intel, eventually left Intel, became a venture capitalist, and was an initial investor in Google.  Early in Google’s history, he urged the company to adopt OKRs as a way to create structure for organization, teams, and individuals.  The OKR he had for his presentation to all the employees and management of the company, early in the company’s first year and meeting around a Ping-Pong table, was:

OBJECTIVE:  To develop a workable model for planning as measured by:

KEY RESULTS:

1.  Finishing the presentation on time

2.  Completing a sample set of 3 month objectives and key results

3.  Having management agree to institute a trial system for a 3-month period.

Doerr’s use of an OKR to ensure that the meeting had a clear objective and that he had identified specific, measurable key results for the meeting made a lot of sense to me as a practice.  Of course, sometimes we do some part of this in a meeting agenda.  Yet the OKR, at least to me, gives greater clarity to what I want from the meeting.  And, thus the idea to attach an OKR to every entry on my calendar came to mind.  The OKR for producing this Tuesday Reading looks like this:

OBJECTIVE:  Write and post Tuesday Reading on OKR for February 3

KEY RESULTS:

1.  Review development and use of OKRs

2.  Write text, review, and edit 

3.  Post to mail-handler and test.

I try to follow my advice of last week to be “embarrassingly simple” in writing To Dos when I write key results.  I want to eliminate any doubt about what I had in mind when I come back later to do the actual work.

So, my challenge to you for the week is to begin to construct OKRs for every entry on your calendar.  I’ve found it helpful in keeping me on track in meetings and in my work and think that you will as well.

Have a great week.  .  .  .     jim

References:

1.   Kris Duggan, “Keys to OKR Success:  A Q&A with the Man Who Introduced OKR’s to Google, John Doerr.”
2.  Jay Yarrow, “This is the Internal Grading System Google Uses for its Employees.”

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