What is OKR?

OKR - Objectives and Key Results Guide in 2021

The newly emerged Coronavirus has had various impacts over our lives and the business. Most of the employees around the world has started working from home. This transformation of the business world have made concepts such as employee motivation and progress tracking much more important. OKR is a framework that helps businesses unite around the company objectives. In this article, we will talk about what OKR is in detail.

A Brief History

A brief history of OKR

Andrew Grove developed and implemented a system called Objectives and Key Results (OKR) during his CEO tenure at Intel (the overwhelming success of Operation Crush has been attributed to his use of OKRs). In 1975 an Intel employee named John Doerr took a class on OKR taught by Grove. John went on to work for a venture capital firm called Kleiner Perkins, which invested in a startup called Google in 1999. John introduced the idea of OKRs to Google’s founders and they have implemented it throughout the company during its first year. Google grew from 60 employees to 100,000 and still uses OKRs today. John Doerr is published an OKR book which is called "Measure What Matters:How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs" in 2017.


OKR's Increased Popularity with Google

OKR Google

It was John Doerr who originally introduced OKRs in Google in 1999 and they have used the methodology so far.In Google, the quarterly objectives are set as high as possible to make people really push for the success. At the same time, each goal have easily measurable key results on a scale from zero to 1.

The first important point about OKR is, if you can achieve %100 of all your OKRs each quarter, you are not aiming high enough. The OKRs must be structured. In Google, each individual and team has it’s own objectives that contribute to a higher level objectives. That helps to make sure that everyone is working for one, unified direction. Google's OKR implementation was a huge success and this motivated the other startups especially in Silicon Valley to start implementing OKR methodology for their companies.

What is an OKR?


The OKR acronym stands for Objectives and Key Results. Objectives can be the broad goals of a company, department or a person. Key results is the success measurement of that objective. Key results should be SMART goals.

The definition of OKR is to set broad objectives for the future and measure those objectives with key metrics (key results). To put it into a perspective, let's go through an OKR example:

Let's assume we want to set an OKR for our sales team for the third quarter of 2020. The objectives can be broad like "Grow sales dramatically". So in order to measure this "dramatic sales increase" we should somehow define what we really mean by that.

One of the things that we may call this dramatic sales increase might be "to increase product sales by 100 % for this quarter". Another factor to define this dramatic sales increase might be "to increase consultancy revenue by 150 % for this quarter". So here we have defined our two so-called key results.  So the success of our Objective is determined by our 2 key metrics (key results). As you can see, objectives can be broad, intangible goals. But key results should be specific, measurable, actionable, reachable and time bound (SMART).

As an another definition for OKR, we can say that it a goal-setting tool used by teams, individuals or companies ranging from small startups to large companies to set challenging, ambitious goals with measurable results. Some of those companies which use OKRs are Google, Intel, Amazon. The aim of OKR methodology is to connect company, team and personal goals to measurable results while having all team members and leaders work together in one, unified direction.

Andrew Grove, who had worked with the Intel had carried out the development process that the OKRs have undergone to become the present. Also, people also know him as the father of OKR methodology. John Doerr expressed the main idea of Andrew Grove for OKR as in the following words.

"The key results have to be measurable. But at the end you can look, and without any arguments: Did I do that or did I not do it? Yes or No? Simple. No judgements in it."

What is an Objective?

An objective is a description of a goal to be achieved in the future. It is a step to reach something particular which is taken by an individual or a company. By setting an objective, your organization and team will have one, unified direction. In other words, objectives are milestones that help us to reach our goals.

Objectives are generally broad, meaning that they can be things like "to achieve an outstanding customer satisfaction" or "decreasing the churn rate substantially". One of good benefits of objectives is that it is easy to remember them. So when you have objectives like "improving my communication skills" or "learning a new computer programming language", they are really easy to remember and to focus on.


What is an OKR?

What is a Key Result?

A Key Result is a metric with a starting value and a target value that measures progress towards an objective. Therefore, they make it easier for employees and their leads to monitor progress. The key component here is measurable success. Since the general statements about progress and development are subjective, they are not sufficiently successful in describing the situation of achieving the goal. Unmeasurable Key Results prevent the capacity to be used sufficiently meaning that Key Results have a different meaning for everyone. Key Results must be specific. Organizations that have successfully used OKRs see that they use specific language that is common to all their employees when drafting their objectives and key results. Key results should be specific, measurable, actionable, reachable and time bound, aka SMART.

In today's world, companies such as Linkedin, Twitter, Oracle are using OKRs. Not only it helps to set goals, adapt at the enterprise but also, OKR lets companies to track progress and set goals across the company. In other words, OKR actually provide strategies and targets for organizations and teams in a certain time. As a result, OKR provide a reference to see how well done that they have been in achieving the goals.

Benefits of OKR

Benefits of OKR

The OKR approach provides a clear and simple framework for setting goals. When an OKR is prepared, it becomes visible with a line by embodying a target. At the end of the day, the company and its employees can measure their own success, depending on where they stay. Let's take a look at benefits of using OKRs in your company.


You can determine objectives on the basis of employees, departments and companies. And everyone should be keep objectives in  focus. Thus, everyone knows what to do in the specified time interval and regulates their work accordingly.


Shorter goal cycles allow faster adjustments and better adaptation to change, increasing innovation and reducing risks and waste.


The use of shared OKRs improves collaboration among different teams, solving interdependencies and unifying competing initiatives.

Clear Communication

The team will never misunderstand the expectation of the company with a clear and simple goal priority dashboard to as well as how they can contribute.

Engagement and Efficiency

People achieve outstanding results when they engage in the process with a purpose.


Since OKR is a flexible methodology, the progress achieved is often monitored on a weekly basis.


Transparency is one of the most beneficial features of OKRs, providing dialogue and clarifying the objectives of the organization. The target in each level determined takes its place in the real-time dashboard, and thus, can be used for employees at all levels.




What does OKR stand for?

OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. Namely, an objective tells you where to go, and a Key Result will let you know whether you are there or not. An OKR consists of an Objective and up to 5 Key Results.

With OKRs, which can be determined weekly, monthly, or yearly, you can set and monitor your goals and observe the road covered on the way to the destination.

The main purpose of OKR is to achieve measurable results by aligning individual and team objectives with the goals of the company or organization.


What does KPI stand for?

KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator. It is an indicator of the efforts made for the specified purpose. It guides you in setting goals and what you can do to achieve them. Moreover, KPIs provide control over the road to the goal.

There are two types of KPIs: high-level KPIs and low-level KPIs. While low-level KPIs are related to the departments within the company, high-level KPIs focus on the company’s total performance.

What is the difference between an OKR vs KPI?

KPI goals represent the results of the efforts mad efor the projects currently underway. On the other hand, OKRs should be neither too easy nor unreachable. In other words, they are not easy to achieve, but when the goals are reached, they are the factors that trigger growth by increasing the team and company motivation.

OKR has greater depth than KPI and provides a better framework for taking on new projects, ventures, even new directions for your business.

An OKR vs KPI comparison is as different as chalk and cheese even though they both contain keys, but one is a combination that contains the other. Because of their complementary scope, OKRs and KPIs are natural companions.

To illustrate the differences between KPI and OKR, you can think of KPIs as experiences on the road to success. Suppose you have set up a new start-up. You will have to go and try many ways until you reach your desired growth, and of course these roads can lead to success or failure. However, failures are actually the tools that form the basis of success. But of course, they do not bring it directly. In other words, the ultimate growth is achieved with OKRs based on the experiences stored in KPIs.

Hence, as a result, while KPIs are used to monitor the process, OKRs solve problems by providing accurate solutions.

OKR Methodology

OKR is a framework for defining and tracking business objectives and their outcomes. Objectives are the destination that organizations want to achieve and key results are metrics with a starting value and a target value that measures progress towards an objective. Key results should describe how you will accomplish the objective and measure whether you are on track, behind, or at risk of not accomplishing an objective.

Before setting your OKRs, company vision, mission and values must be revised. Generally, OKRs must be set quarterly. For the right engagement of employees, weekly check-ins will be a good OKR practice. OKRs mut not be used for employee performance but rather than can be used to motivate them to achieve stretched goals. Generally, firstly company OKRs are set. After that, OKRs can be shared with the other members of the organization. Departments can determine their own OKRs. These OKRs can be strictly aligned with company OKRs or may indirectly support company OKRs.

OKR Methodology

OKR Alignment

Before you come up with those great OKRs of yours,  you should really know the structure of the OKR alignment you want to create. OKRs can be set at 4 levels. These are Company, Department, Team and Individual. At the beginning, you can keep things simple by focusing on just the company and teams level. After that, you can introduce Individual OKRs when everyone is comfortable with the OKR methodology and sort of know what they are doing.

Aligning, Cascading, Linking

The purpose of OKR alignment is to unify the goals of your company.

However, you probably have heard lots of terms serve the same purpose. These are linking and cascading. What’s the difference between linking and cascading?

Cascading only focuses on a top-down approach. Namely, it is a kind of traditional way of management. Linking connects to alignment but is the actual process of directly connection Objectives at different levels.

Linking may be useful for OKR alignment process but is not necessary to have alignment.

OKR Planning

OKRs are a popular methodology used for planning and monitoring execution. This involves setting Objectives along with defining Key Results.

In overall OKR framework, it has 6 parts as follows:

  1. Mission Statement
  2. Company Values
  3. Long-Term Company OKRs
  4. Short-Term Company OKRs
  5. Short Term Department OKRs
  6. Short Term Individual OKRs

Mission Statement

It is a simple statement which outlines the company’s mission to the world. By defining mission statement of your organization, it should make it clear for everyone what the organization wants to achieve. Once articulated it is how employees, customers and partners can know if they are aligning themselves with an organization which is trying to do something they care about.

Here are some examples:

Linkedin: To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and succesful.

Facebook: To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected to each other.

Amazon: To be Earth’s most customer-centric company where customers can find and discover anything they want to buy online.

Once you have decided for a clear mission, everyone can contribute for focusing the organization’s efforts on doing things which will help you to achieve your mission.

OKR Planning

Company Values

Company values are the description of the things we value. This outlines our approach to building our company and product.

Long Term ( 3-4 Year) Company OKRs

After defining the organization’s mission and values, it is time to establish what we are trying to do by defining what long term success looks like. If we have a clear idea of where we want to be in 3-4 years, it is much easier to define what success looks like. Here is a set of steps to establish your long-term OKRs:

Narrative: Define a vision of what the company will look like in 3-5 years.

Objectives: Set 3 or 4 Objectives. For example, they can be qualitative descriptions of things the company will be trying to achieve over the medium to long term. Make sure these are consistent with your mission statement and company values.

Key Results: Set your (up to 5) quantitative Key Results for each objective. These Key Results must be SMART. These are the metrics that the company will use to define what success looks like for each objective and therefore how performance can be measured.

Short Term (e.g.1 Year) Company OKRs

After you have decided for long term objectives, you can decide what you need to achieve in the short term in order to be on track to achieve your longer term goals.

Narrative: A vision of what the company will look like in 1 years time after a successful year of execution.

Objectives: Qualitative descriptions of the 3 or 4 things the organization will be trying to achieve over the short term.

Key Results: Set your (up to 5) quantitative Key Results for each objective. These Key Results must be SMART. These are the metrics that the company will use to define what success looks like for each objective and therefore how performance can be measured.

Short Term (Half year, or quarterly) Department OKRs

Each department of the company should set its own short-term OKRs. These department OKRs should map to company’s OKRs. This is how the department can structure its planning while ensuring it is making a meaningful contribution to the success of the overall business.

Objectives: Qualitative description of the 3 or 4 things the department will be trying to achieve over the short term.

Key Results: The quantitative metrics for each objective by which the department will define what success looks like for each objective and therefore how performance of the team can be measured. These Key Results must be SMART.

Short-Term Individual OKRs

At the last point of OKR approach, each employee in a department can set its own OKRs. These individual OKRs should map to department and company’s OKRs. This is the way to keep everyone aligned in one, unified direction.

Objectives: Qualitative description of the 3 or 4 things the individual will be trying to achieve over the short term.

Key Results: Set your (up to 5) quantitative Key Results for each objective. These Key Results must be SMART. These are the metrics that the company will use to define what success looks like for each objective and therefore how performance can be measured.

After defining the OKRs for company, department and individuals, the most important point is to track the progress of your OKRs. To do that, you should check-in your OKRs progress weekly and evaluation meetings should be held in 3-month slices.

 OKR Examples

An OKR best practice is to start with top corporate objectives which are then cascaded to department or team OKRs. The resulting department, team, and individual OKRs must be aligned with, in support of, and contribute to the top company priorities.

In an OKR implementation, the objective is qualitative and answers the question of what is to be accomplished. Objectives are supported by key results which monitors whether we achieve the objective or not. Key results should be SMART.

OKR Examples

Here are some examples to understand the concept of OKR.


Research and improve customer satisfaction

Key Results:

  • Get 1000 survey responses to annual satisfaction survey
  • Conduct 50 phone interviews with top customers
  • Conduct 15 phone interviews with recently churned customers
  • Present an action plan of 10 improvements for next quarter.


Build a great corporate culture (delight our employees)

Key Results:

  • Launch an ongoing 2-way closed-loop feedback process
  • Achieve a weekly Employee Satisfaction / Pulse Score of 8+
  • Celebrate “small wins” and any type of progress every single week
  • CEO and SVPs to launch a monthly a questions&answers meeting


Launch the New Software Product

Key Results:

  • Give 20 prospective buyers 1 month free use
  • Use e-mail marketing during pre-pre-launch to get highest click-minimum 35% higher than before
  • Finalize feature briefs and sales enablement of the new product and add them to social platforms and website before pre-launch
  • The third key result is not based on quantity. To change it to a good key result:
  • Finalize at least 70% of feature briefs and sales enablement of the new product and add them to social platforms and website before pre-launch.

OKR Template

If you have a business that aims to improve itself, it's better to set objectives and a few key results to reach higher points. Aiming high will make employees discover their real potential. This means the business itself can go further. To organize goals and objectives that have been set and track their progress, OKR templates are used commonly.

What is an OKR Template?

An OKR template is a spreadsheet that helps to visualize your company’s target and summarizes its achievements by percentage.