Setting goals and achieving them is not an easy job, but definitely a rewarding one. It can mean a struggle or changing existing patterns that are deep inside of us for many. No matter if you are an individual with personal goals, a business in the making, or already an established business, it is always a challenge to persistently follow the plan and achieve your goals. We believe a structured approach using a methodology like OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) is one of the most secure ways to work on the goals and systematically achieve the best results.
For that reason, we want to give you an in-depth guide on how you can implement OKRs in your daily business.
If you feel this is not enough you can check our full video course "Goal Setting for Success: How to Set, Track, and Achieve Any Goal with OKRs".
How to efficiently approach goal setting?
Every business owner has some idea where they want to bring the business in the next quarter, six months, a year. That's the easy part. The hardest part is breaking down these goals and make a plan of HOW you will achieve this.
The most efficient way to do this is to start breaking down this yearly goal into smaller chunks so that you can tackle them one by one. Having the goal in your mind and continue doing everything as you did until now does not mean that you will ever achieve it. Goals suppose to be challenging and should push you to put more focussed effort into reaching them; if not, you will stay at the same level as you are now.
In this article, we will not focus on long-term goals like your vision/mission, but we will dig deeper into setting your quarterly goals to reach your yearly (mid-term) goals, meaning steps that you have to do NOW to come closer to your long-term vision/mission.
When trying different ways of how to most efficiently achieve that, the implementation of OKRs turned out to be the most powerful and impactful when successfully achieving goals.
The fundamentals and history of OKRs
The methodology of OKRs goes way back to 1954 when Peter Drucker introduced MBO — Management by Objectives to help managers work on the long-term strategy of their business. The concept had some weaknesses, as it did not fully resolve the problem of defining the company's objectives clearly. Later on, in the 1970s, Intel's CEO, Andy Groove, adapted this methodology and upgraded it with Key Results to make the concept more efficient. And that's how the OKRs as we know today came to life.
The idea of OKRs was later on implemented in Google and became their core part of growth and strategy, and with that, OKRs became a widely known concept in the area of goal setting.
"OKRs have helped lead us to 10× growth, many times over. They've helped make our crazily bold mission of 'organizing the world's information' perhaps even achievable. They've kept the rest of the company and me on time and track when it mattered the most,"
Larry Page, co-founder of Google.
What's the core idea of OKRs? OKR is an abbreviation for Objective - a clearly defined and motivating goal and Key Results - specific and measurable results that collectively allow us to achieve the Objective. The main benefit of using this methodology when setting goals is to focus on the important goals, bring transparency, alignment from the vision to the daily task, and creating an easily measurable process and progress.
What are Objectives?
Objectives are among the key elements of the OKR methodology that we use to set up specific goals and track performance. An Objective is a short, inspirational, and achievable statement that describes what you want to achieve. They usually do not contain numbers.
Objectives show you the direction you want to go and on which areas you want to focus on and usually do not contain any numbers. Objectives are answering the question: What do you want to achieve?
Choosing your Objectives can be a confusing process, so make sure you think well and deeply when deciding for them. Have your vision and mission in your mind. A good selection and commitment to your goals are essential here.
Once this is outlined, choose a couple of them, let's say the three most important priorities (this part depends if you are an entrepreneur working on your business alone or if you have a team and you are setting the team OKRs).
When having your priorities chosen, break them down to quarterly milestones. Breaking down your goals like this will make your goals less discouraging and more comfortable to achieve. The recommended period for one OKR iteration is a quarter of a year. When committing to this, it means that you will go through four OKR iterations in a year.
Examples of motivating objectives
Objectives have to be clearly defined, motivating, and inspiring. Here is a couple of examples that will give you a better idea of how to come up with good quarterly objectives:
- Become a market leader in my Niche in Europe
- Launch a new Online Shop
- Optimize our customer acquisition funnel
- Build a targeted, organic, and recurring traffic source for my website
- Strengthen & develop habits for a more healthy and free life
- Become a Content Creation Machine
- Prepare everything to start my Digital Nomad Life
- Generate a Passive income Stream to ESCAPE the 9-5 WORLD!
- Grow yearly revenue from 6 to 7 digits
What are Key Results?
Key Results are specific and time-bound, ambitious but realistic, measurable actions, and combined; they will allow you to achieve your Objectives. They usually contain numbers for the sake of tracking.
Key Results focus on tracking the progress through milestones that support the objectives. They usually contain numbers and answer the question: How to achieve my Objectives?
When setting your OKRs for the first time, follow the principle less is more, so you do not spread yourself too thin, so better start with, let's say, 3-5 Key Results (better 3) per Objective. Again, it all depends on setting your OKRs for yourself or the whole team.
The most crucial point here is to make your Key Result measurable. You can measure the progress on a scale from 0–100%, or any numerical unit, e.g., $ amount, miles, items, pounds, etc. The target success rate for key results is about 70% (recommended). A 70% success rate encourages competitive goal making; on the other side, if 100% of the key results are consistently being met, key results should be reevaluated and improved. If you always reach your goals 100 %, you did not set them aspiring enough. Be honest with yourself and stop sandbagging; it will kill your progress. Did you give your best you have?
"Sandbagging is a strategy of lowering the expectations of a company or an individual's strengths and core competencies in order to produce relatively greater-than-anticipated results."
Examples of measurable key results (OKR examples)
If we pick some quarterly Objectives from the examples above, the Key Results could look like this.
O1 - Launch new Online Shop for Spices
- Key Result 1 - Find 3 strong suppliers with excellent products that also do the fulfillment
- Key Result 2 - Website with 5 Subpages, payment is ready to launch.
- Key Result 3 - Content for 2 weeks before and 4 weeks after launch ready
O2 - Strengthen & develop habits for a more healthy and free life
- Key Result 1 - Walk 900.000 Steps
- Key Result 2 - Track calories 5 times a week
- Key Result 3 - Meditate 7 days a week at least 10 minutes
O3 - Build a targeted, organic, and recurring traffic source for my website
- Key Result 1 - Write and publish 3 SEO optimized blogposts every week
- Key Result 2 - Prepare a content and publishing plan for the next 3 months
- Key Result 3 - Complete Online Course XY on SEO with a certificate
How to Break down your Key Results?
When Objectives and Key results are set, we need to ask ourselves the next question: How do we plan to achieve the Key Results?
Key Results are usually not a one-time task; that's why you will need to break them down and create a rough list of tasks to support the Key Result. You do not have to plan everything out in detail, you need to leave space to be flexible, but we need to know where we want to start and how we will come to the finish.
We call this initiative, and each initiative is an idea or rough plan that you make to come closer to achieving your key result. You can plan daily/weekly initiatives to represent the steps that will lead you to your Key Result and, moreover, to accomplish your goal - Objectives. Initiatives are further broken down into Action Items or Tasks.
THE INITIATIVE is a strategy, an idea of how to fulfill the Key Results, and each initiative consists of multiple ACTION ITEMS.
You and your team should plan and include the Initiatives in the daily/weekly planning, so you make sure that everybody is working on them a least weekly. Every initiative you have planned for your week should have at least one defined next Action item you can do to move forward.
Here are some examples of initiatives and action items for better understanding:
O1 - Launch new Online Shop for Spices
Key Result - Website with 5 Subpages, payment is ready to launch.
Initiative - Choose the Technology for the Shop
- Action Item 1: Define my requirements! What does my shop need?
- Action Item 2: Do the research on the state of the art Shop Systems.
- Action Item 3: - Choose the system that fits my needs best.
The best way to keep track of this process is to develop a system that allows you to make the necessary changes in your daily routine and be able to track them.
How to measure and review your progress?
"If you can't measure it, you can't manage it!" Peter Drucker
Tracking and reviewing your progress is probably the most underrated, underestimated, and often forgotten step that can make the difference between success and failure.
You will repeatedly be working on tasks that will bring you closer to the goal. Tracking these tasks and reviewing them will firstly motivate you when you see that you are making progress and secondly, show you that you are not making any progress, and if you continue like that, your goal will most probably not be achieved. It's way easier to set thoughtful goals; the hard part is to stay on track, to follow them, and take daily actions.
There are different ways to keep track of your progress. One of the complete ways is to create an accountability system that helps you with that. Daily Planning / Journaling, Weekly Planning, Reviews, and Accountability Meetings will increase the chance to stay on track.
Weekly progress reviews turned out to be an excellent way to keep yourself and your team motivated and made sure that the progress is being made. If working with the team, you can organize weekly calls/meetings to check the status. If you are working on your business alone, you can set a reminder in your calendar to check your progress in the previous week and plan for the upcoming week. If you see that, you are not making progress, getting the help of an accountability partner could be an efficient solution to permit someone to hold you accountable for your progress.
There are many unexpected obstacles on your path to success; distractions, demotivation, and other challenges that will try to make you leave your defined way. So you need to make sure that you stay on top of the process and know your strengths and weaknesses.
"Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to the result." Bob Proctor
Best tools for OKR tracking and measuring your progress
There are different tools and systems you can use for that, depending on how you want to structure it. The most straightforward way and accessible is to use your Google Calendar and add your weekly action items there; for journaling, you can use Google Docs or any other platform that allows you to write down and save your thoughts. You can even write your tasks offline on a paper or notebook. Just make sure that you keep these notes, so you will be able to see your progress. For the sake of tracking, we would recommend using your online tools, where it's easy to track your progress.
If you would like to create a more sustainable tracking system, we would recommend using tools like Notion, which offers a fantastic way to structure your goal tracking system from the highest goal down to every micro initiative and measure the progress.
We created our tracking system to break down our goal-setting system from the company's vision to each action item. Leave a comment if you would like to know more about our tracking system.
The point is that this can be done in many different ways, depending on your abilities and preferences. The most important is that you find a way that suits you most, you feel comfortable using it, which motivates you.
Why to use OKRs?
When starting with OKRs, it can happen that you will need some time to make them right. But that's all right! You can experiment and learn on the go; the important part is that you are ready for the change, and you want to make a difference in your business or your private life.
No matter if you are an established business or just starting, implementation of OKRs will bring a structure in your life and show the weaknesses that you want to improve and strengths that you want to emphasize. OKRs will show you your current business's insights and help you proactively work towards systematically coming closer to your vision.
To avoid these mistakes and effectively implement OKRs in your business or personal life, be sure to read "The 3 biggest mistakes in OKR implementation for business and personal goals" and start achieving your goals with greater success today.