December 5, 2019
Brian Strom

OKR__ You do know the missing letter…don’t you?

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are one of the more popular goal setting and tracking frameworks out there. With proponents like Google, Intel, and LinkedIn, you’d be hard pressed to argue against their ability to drive success.

If you’re not familiar with them or would like to learn how to use them within your organization there are a number of resources on the internet to get you started (or shoot us an email and we’d be happy to help). The basic premise is that an organization creates their (O)bjectives and then (K)ey (R)esults which measure the progress of those objectives. So, an organization who sells a software product could have a (simplified) sales team OKR like:

Objective: To improve the health and depth of our sales pipeline.

Key Result 1: Implement a training program for all salespeople.

Key Result 2: Increase the number of salespeople to 5.

Key Result 3: Require 100 cold calls per month per salesperson.

As you can see in this example, a single OKR is concise, easy to understand, and structured so that it’s easy to track its progress. When done right, OKRs can be highly motivating.  And, when your organization gets into a quarterly rhythm with them, they provide the agility to adjust to today’s rapidly evolving and highly competitive business climate.  It’s no wonder the framework has become so popular, right?   

But there’s a consistent problem that HoneIn sees with the use of OKRs, and we see it in companies of all shapes and sizes—with Fortune 100 clients all the way down to a one-person startup. That problem? Companies very often get the work they are doing confused with the results they are trying to achieve. OKRs track results. They do not track work. Organizations and individuals do work to drive results NOT to measure results. To help make more sense of this, let’s go back to our sales team OKR:

Objective: To improve the health and depth of our sales pipeline.

Key Result 1: Implement a training program for all salespeople.

Key Result 2: Increase the number of salespeople to 5.

Key Result 3: Require 100 cold calls per month per salesperson.

Guess what? This is actually a very bad OKR because all of these Key Results track work and NOT results. This organization could be 100% successful with every one of these Key Results but have made no progress on the overall objective of improving the pipeline’s health.

So how do we make sure that our OKRs are actually tracking results and not work? We fill in the missing letter in the OKR acronym: W for work. Our sales OKR(W) now becomes:

Objective: To improve the health and depth of our sales pipeline.

Key Result 1: Pipeline increases to 100 active leads

Key Result 2: Average deal size increases to $50,000

Work 1: Implement a training program for all salespeople.

Work 2: Increase the number of salespeople to 5.

Work 3: Require 100 cold calls per month per salesperson.

Adding this extra component to OKRs helps with a few important concepts in OKRs specifically and your overall strategy in general. First, it helps make sure that our Key Results are indeed results and not work since we are now classifying each separately. Next (and maybe more importantly), it introduces a critical “leap of faith” into the equation. You must choose the work you do with the belief that it will move the needle on the results you are trying to achieve. Strategy is all about making choices: you have limited time and resources, so you need to be aware of those choices and why you are making them. You choose your objectives with the belief that it will move your organization forward. You (and the teams involved) choose the work they are doing with the belief that it will move your objectives forward.

Putting all of this together, we can now restate our OKR in reverse order as a verification that we have all the pieces correct (and going forward, you should apply this test to yours as well!).

I believe that choosing this Work:

  1. Implement a training program for all salespeople
  2. AND increase the number of salespeople to 5
  3. AND require 100 cold calls per month per salesperson

Will result in these Key Results:

  1. Pipeline increases to 100 active leads
  2. Average deal size increases to $50,000

Which will mean that we’ve met this Objective:

Improve the health and depth of our sales pipeline.

We’re big believers in OKRs here at HoneIn, they’re easy to implement, great at breaking down big goals into manageable ones, and when applied correctly great at clarify and aligning the important choices you need to make to move your organization forward. Get in touch with us if you need help with your OKRs, strategy, or need a platform to drive you to success on your goals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *