Objectives & Key Results (OKRs)

Transform decision-making by connecting investments, products, portfolios, and daily work to strategy.

What are OKRs?

Objectives & Key Results (OKRs) are powerful tools for defining and successfully executing strategy. They provide a framework for leaders to communicate strategy in an actionable, transparent way that allows portfolios, initiatives, and programs to prioritize and align investments, resources, and work to deliver results that support strategic objectives.

OKRs reflect a collaborative goal-setting method that can be adopted at different levels in the organization. The Objective is the “what” that is being achieved, and the Key Results represent the “how” — the steps or outcomes necessary for the Objective to be achieved. OKRs help organizations zero in on what is important to them.

Benefits of Adopting Strategic Planning & OKRs

OKRs enable business agility throughout your enterprise. John Doerr, acclaimed venture capitalist and author of “Measure What Matters”, calls the four OKR “superpowers”:

  • Focus – Objectives tell everyone in the organization what needs to be accomplished.
  • Align – Key Results link daily work to the company’s highest priorities.
  • Track – OKRs are visible across the organization and easy to monitor.
  • Stretch – Objectives help organizations reach higher achievements.

OKRs play a crucial role in Agile and digital transformation, enabling organizations to adapt to change and maintain focus on strategic objectives. Learn more about the importance of OKRs in digital and Agile transformation and how they can support your organization’s efforts.

How to Create Your Own OKRs

You can use the following sentence to help create a meaningful OKR:  We strive to <Objective> as measured by <the set of Key Results>.

Objectives are memorable, qualitative descriptions of what you want to achieve. They should be short, inspirational, and engaging. An Objective should motivate and challenge.

Key Results are sets of metrics that measure your progress toward an Objective. For each Objective, aim to have a set of two to five Key Results. Having a set of Key Results, including countermeasures to drive the right behavior, helps create a clear and sustainable OKR.

Guidelines for Writing OKRs

  • Set inspirational Objectives.
  • Limit Objectives to three to five per quarter.
  • Be aggressive and courageous. Don’t be afraid to fail.
  • Define clear, concise Key Results for each Objective.
  • Make KRs time-bound and measurable (using numbers works best).
  • Pair quantity and quality in KRs where possible.
  • Don’t dictate KRs. Let your team decide how to do the work.
  • Gather input from the bottom up.
  • Don’t worry about perfection. OKRs can always be revised or discarded if business needs dictate it.
  • Make sure everyone, from top executives on down, own individual Objectives tied to your organizational OKRs.

For inspiration on setting your own OKRs, explore our comprehensive collection of OKR examples for different industries, positions, and organizational levels.

Tips for Adopting OKRs

Successfully implementing OKRs within your organization can drive significant improvements in alignment, focus, and performance. Best practices and tips for implementing OKRs include:

  • Understand how Objectives and Key Results work together. Objectives are what you want to achieve (qualitative), while Key Results are how you will achieve the Objective (quantitative).
  • Be careful not to designate too many OKRs, as more than two to five across a given team or area can detract from priorities.
  • Actively monitor the progress of Key Results and reassign budgets, resources, and work for efficiency.
  • Capture OKRs then broadly and loudly evangelize the successful use of OKRs to execute strategy.
  • Allow transparency into OKRs throughout the organization to ensure alignment across the business.
  • Conduct regular reviews and check-ins of OKRs to advance accountability, transparency, and progress.

OKRs Throughout an Organization

  • OKRs can be leveraged at different levels of the organization: at the executive level, by product teams, and even by individual teams dedicated to functions (e.g. PMO, architecture) or technology domains (e.g. network, digital security).
  • Establish interest groups or evangelize documents to allow teams to share guidance, lessons learned, and collaboratively develop best practices.
  • Anticipate and encourage a degree of flexibility in how teams adopt OKRs to fit their specific needs.
  • Ensure all teams’ OKRs are defined to function in tandem with each other, working toward the same Objectives.

To ensure the success of your OKR program, it’s crucial to effectively measure and score OKRs. Learn more about the tools and techniques for OKR measurement and scoring in our in-depth guide.

OKRs and Strategic Planning

OKRs enable the strategic planning process for Agile organizations. Accelerate business agility and streamline your OKR implementation to drive better alignment, collaboration, and success in achieving your goals. Apptio Targetprocess, an enterprise Agile planning and management tool, powers strategic planning initiatives and transforms your organization’s decision-making abilities.

Learn more about Targetprocess.

Amplify Agile: Strategy & OKRs

In the seventh episode of Amplify Agile, Christopher Ruch, the chief executive officer of Agile Rising, joins host Kiara Zapanta, product marketing specialist at Apptio, to break down:

  • How OKRs are different from other goal-setting methods
  • What’s the best place to start rolling out OKRs and why
  • How you can track OKRs across the organization

Leading your organization with OKRs

The modern workplace has changed dramatically in recent years. Teams are more distributed as organizations embrace remote work, posing a challenge to leaders to ensure their teams’ everyday activities are aligned with organizational goals while fostering an inclusive, collaborative, and empowering work environment.

Leaders need a way to provide their teams with clear directions while ensuring flexibility and freedom to decide how they will achieve their goals. Many successful teams have adopted Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to help them do it.