On OKRs – An Insider’s Look (Hint – Googler)
Google Thinks Big
At Google, we like to think big. Google uses a process called Objectives & Key Results (OKR) to help communicate, measure and achieve lofty goals. In January 2000, a member of the Board of Directors, John Doerr, stressed the importance of setting overall company objectives and measuring key results. Since then, OKR has become the way we do business and Google publishes company-wide OKRs every quarter.
OKRs are big, not incremental—we don’t expect to hit all of them or we’re not setting them aggressively enough. At the end of each quarter, OKRs are graded with a color scale to measure how well we did:
- 0-0.3 is Red
- 4-0.6 is Yellow
- 7-1.0 is Green
Corporate OKRs are set by Google Leads at the start of each year. Employees can view the company OKRs at an internal website. They grade themselves quarterly and update Googlers on their progress via Google Strategy Meetings and company meetings throughout the year.
In addition to company-wide OKRs, managers develop departmental and team OKRs that support the company strategy. Googlers also set their own individual OKRs to align with their team. This process keeps them focused on the biggest priorities and ensures that every Googler contributes to the success of Google as a whole.
All Googlers set their own quarterly OKRs with their managers. These are intended to support the objectives of each team, department and Google.
Objectives are what you want to accomplish:
- Make objectives aggressive, yet realistic.
- Keep it simple.
- Write them as an after-the-fact statement, as if it’s the end of the quarter.
- Example: Product X successfully launched with 50M 30-day active users
Key Results are how you will accomplish the objectives:
- Make them measurable and specific.
- Limit key results to progress toward the end outcome, not the intermediate process steps.
- Add a target completion date if relevant.
- Example: Users save $100M in Q3 with product X
Google managers are expected to work with their teams to define and set quarterly OKRs. They publish their team OKRs and stay accountable by checking in midway through and at the end of every quarter.
Once you hardware OKR into the DNA of your organization, you will be amazed at how it aligns and engages the workforce toward what matters most. It takes time and work to successfully incorporate OKR into your culture, but it is well worth the effort.