Does your organization set goals? Track them? Measure progress toward them? And hold team members accountable for their success or failure in reaching them?
If so, you might already use objectives and key results, or OKRs, at least informally. An OKR (more often pluralized) is a framework that encompasses a named objective and several specific “key results” through which the goal setters can track progress toward the objective.
OKRs are used widely for goal-setting and -tracking within organizations, usually at the team level. They’re not universally beloved. Some human resources and process efficiency experts believe they’re counterproductive, while others simply argue for other goal-setting and motivational tactics that they believe are more effective.
But OKRs do work for many organizations and teams. If you haven’t yet rolled them out in your own context, consider these arguments for doing so.
1. They Assign Ownership to Specific Goals
Although the OKR framework is best used to manage team-level goals, individual OKRs enable managers and strategists to assign ownership of and accountability for specific goals to individual stakeholders. This helps OKR users identify weak points (both in terms of process and personnel) within the organization and act on that information quickly.
2. They’re Easy to Implement in a CRM
OKRs are especially effective when generated from and implemented through CRMs like Salesforce, says Kris Duggan, a serial entrepreneur and productivity expert. CRMs produce a wealth of data points to identify and measure relevant OKRs, “such as bookings revenue, pipeline creation revenue, top targets, number of meetings target, and progress in a quarterly program,” notes Duggan.
3. They’re Fantastic Motivation for Teams
UX expert Jeff Gothelf advises organizations to set OKR goals at the team level rather than the individual level. He describes the OKR framework as “an effective mechanism for aligning top-down strategy with bottom-up, team-level commitments to intermediate goals” with an explicit focus on “de-emphasizing specific tasks and instead emphasizing the value that those tasks deliver.”
That last sentence is an almost verbatim recitation of modern best practices for team-level management in professional services organizations. And that’s probably no accident.
4. They Help Measure Employee Performance Without Influencing Compensation
OKRs are useful in a more tactical and practical way as well. While OKR progress and outcomes shouldn’t directly influence compensation (i.e., by tying bonuses to reaching OKR milestones), they can and should provide robust data and insight around day-to-day and month-to-month employee performance measurement.
5. They Can Be the Starting Point for Annual Performance Reviews
In that vein, OKRs can be a basis — if not the basis — for annual performance reviews. This is true even if OKR outcomes aren’t tied to compensation, as they’re likely to be an important factor in personnel decisions regardless.
Set Goals That Really Work
OKRs can’t work miracles, but it’s clear that they have real benefits for teams and organizations. Relative to the status quo — no organized framework for setting and tracking goals — they’re far superior.
But what if you’ve tried OKRs and found that they don’t work for your teams? That’s fine too. The important thing is to set and track objectives in a way that makes sense for you and the people who work for you. After all, it’s not the goals themselves that matter. It’s reaching them.