How to Score OKRs
Objectives and Key Results is a framework designed to help organizations improve performance by focusing on what matters most. All three elements of that previous sentence are important – framework, improving performance, and what matters most. In this short article we’ll discuss one of those three – improving performance, by scoring OKRs.
The OKRs we set each quarter are designed to propel us forward by inspiring breakthrough performance on areas of strategic importance. So how do we actually determine whether or not we’ve improved? Through the scoring of OKRs.
Most organizations will score only their key results, and will do so on a scale of 0.0 to 1.0. To make end of quarter scoring easier, we should create targets when establishing our OKRs. Let’s use this key result as an example: Increase ticket sales from 2,500 to 3,000. Anything below 2,500 is a zero because that’s the baseline you’re trying to improve upon. So your delta is 500 tickets. In that case potential targets/scores could be:
- 2,600 – .2
- 2,700 – .4
- 2,800 – .6
- 2,900 – .8
- 3,000 – 1.0
You can do this type of mathematical scoring for all Key Results. It might not always be a factor of 5 as above, but simply divide the delta (x to y) appropriately. If your key result is a milestone, score yourself based on the ability to meet the date accompanying the milestone. Example: “Ship the new product by August 1.” August 1 would result in a score or 1.0. September 1 could be a 0.5 and September 30 could be a 0.3 (for example).
Some organizations choose to measure key results as a percentage completion rate, with 100% being the target. The primary benefit to this approach is you can monitor progress throughout the quarter and ‘see’ whether you are lagging behind expectations, and make adjustments accordingly.
25 Seconds a Failure?
Having said all this, scoring can still be subjective. Scoring is not a simple mathematical summary of the individual key results below it, as many factors may impact the success of a given objective. Sometimes you may not “technically” achieve your objective, but in reality your efforts have gone way beyond expectations, especially if your objective is a Moon Shot.
Here’s a great example… In the documentary “Breaking Two,” Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge wants to run a 26 mile marathon in under two hours, something no human being has ever done. So we could say his objective is to “Push the limits of human achievement,” and the key result is “Run a marathon in under two hours.” In the film he ultimately falls short of his goal, finishing in a time of two hours and twenty-five seconds. 25 seconds! Did Eliud fail? Not by a long shot. Although he technically missed the key result, he ran faster than anyone before him, and there is little doubt that he did indeed push the limits of human achievement.
Remember that OKR, as a strategy execution methodology, is largely crowd-sourced by thought leaders across the world. There are no iron-clad rules to OKR success, just best practices. At the end of the day then, you get to decide whether a scoring scheme makes sense for you and your teams. Your system can be a simple as Red, Yellow, and Green if that is what drives performance in your organization. And remember the time tested adage – less is more.
Simplicity is King in OKR. Don’t make the mistake of throwing complexity into the model just to make it look sophisticated.
Paul Niven is a Global OKR Coach and author of Objectives and Key Results.