Complex problems defy easy solutions. It is hard to predict the outcome of our actions, so it is vital to measure our actions and adapt to the situation based on the feedback. To keep our goals in pace, they have to be quantitative first. To do that in the business environment, I normally use the OKR approach. This time, I would like to use it for my personal goals as well.
The OKR – what is it?
OKR is an acronym for Objectives and Key Results. It is a goal management method used originally for implementing and executing strategy within companies. It was created in Intel, and currently, it is wildly used by other top global companies, i.e. in Google, Adobe, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook…
The most known element of OKR is its format to write goals. It is composed of:
- objectives that we would like to reach
- and Key Results, which describes operation level, to track progress against our goal.
Objectives in OKR on their own should be qualitative (so they don’t have to be measurable), so they should describe:
- a state which we are trying to achieve;
- or a change which we are trying to perform.
Achieving any goal should be an exciting and specific trial. It should be easy to grasp its value and memorize it. Thus, building goals and linking them with measurable key results is a perfect way to build strategies for organisations and our own personal growth.
In OKR, each objective should have three to five key results. Based on their performance, we can tell if our objective is in good condition or requires more attention. Each key result describes a single and independent measurement. You should review each key result periodically to know each objective’s completion level in shorter time intervals. This allows for taking appropriate actions around the direction of work, which affects the relevant measure.
An optional element of the key result is its weight against an objective: Each key result may have different impact on the objective. You should calculate and track them accordingly to their weight. If all key results have the same weight, you can skip this element when setting OKRs.
My personal OKRs
As an experiment, I have added my OKRs for 2021 on this page. I did it to motivate myself and encourage others to keep their new-years resolutions and try to change something in your life.
I decided to review my OKRs weekly and review complete progress quarterly because this is quite easy.
To easily review my progress against my OKRs, I uploaded them as a spreadsheet on GoogleDocs. You can find it here.
Key characteristics of the OKR method
The OKR are an effective way to describe goals because thanks to them, you will be able to:
- Set priorities – thanks to the connection between objective and key results, you can describe exactly, how you understand the objective and which parts of it are important for you to track. Objectives can be too big to handle without such prioritization and trying to focus on a finite list of measures helps in planning our next actions;
- Focus on value – it is quite easy to be busy at work and at home. Thanks to building your actions based on prepared OKR, you can separate valuable actions from time-eaters without any value;
- Communicate effectively – I can give purpose to my actions, thanks to OKRs. It is also easier to communicate with the outside world and explain why something is important for me. Maybe thanks to that, they will be willing to contribute to them?
- Pace – OKRs should be reviewed frequently to see, which objective is more important at the moment and which ones require more effort. Updating key results at a stable pace is also helpful in finding patterns and other structures around us. It is difficult to observe a system if you are part of it. To do so, you need to have data (check my article about system thinking: A Great Example Of Systems Thinking – Covid-19 Case).
- Autonomy and responsibility – OKRs should be built by those who are affected by them. It helps build autonomy and accountability around them. There is nothing more powerful than an engaged group of people working together on a common goal. Thanks to key results, they can have a common goal.
- Transparency – in the OKR method, all objectives and key results should be transparent. Of course, it is more important for organisations and groups because it builds trust, but it is also a vital point for setting personal goals – it is just harder to forget about them if they are public. Thanks to that, they can also be shared with my family and friends. We can support each other to achieve these goals.
I barely touched the OKRs. You can explore it further by readings below books and articles
- Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs – by John Doerr
- In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives – by Steven Levy
- Objectives and Key Results for Teams – by Atlassian
- 6 things I learnt about OKRs @ Microsoft – by Sandeep Chadda
- Personal OKRs for Success – by Mohit Khare
- Setting up personal OKR – by Pravendra Singh