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Published on June 30, 2020

How to Set OKRs to Keep Your Goals on Track

How to Set OKRs to Keep Your Goals on Track

Goals typically fail for several reasons, the main one being they lack purpose or a tangible reason why they have been set in the first place. If you don’t honestly believe in a goal or have an emotional attachment to why it’s been created, you’ll either lose interest or only do the minimum to deliver it.

There are several other reasons goals can fail, including:

  • The goal is too ambitious and so far from being achievable that there is no point working on it as you feel you’ll never achieve it.
  • The goal completion target is so far off into the future that you just put it off as there is no urgency.
  • The goal isn’t specific enough and so vague and hard to plan for as they may sound great, but you’re not sure how you’ll achieve them.

OKRs can provide the structure and direction you need to achieve your goals, whether you’re a company or an individual.

They create the purpose and direction you need to achieve and work towards, as well as offer strategies for how you’ll measure your progress, success, and then ultimately the initiatives to get you there.

Where OKRs work better than a single goal approach as they link everything together.

At the highest level, you have your company vision; below the vision there is the annual OKRs (3-5); then below these come the quarterly OKRs.

Each one is serving the next and is being achieved by all the initiatives (the work) being delivered by the teams and individuals day to day, week to week, and month to month.

What Is an OKR?

OKR stand for “Objectives and Key Results” and was initially created by Andy Grove in the 1970s while at Intel. Since then, OKRs have been taken on and used by companies like Google and Netflix[1].

OKRs are a collaborative way to create goals for a company and individuals as they are not only ambitious and inspiring but also achievable.

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OKRs were not only created to set objectives for companies but also to improve collaboration, engagement, and transparency between senior management and its employees. Having shared objectives throughout the company brings the whole workforce together to work towards common goals and then celebrate together when they’ve achieved them.

The objective within an OKR is the outcome you’re looking to achieve, and the key result is how you’re going to measure whether the outcome has been achieved.

Key results are what make OKRs measurable; they tell you if you’ve been successful with the objectives set up front as, without them, the success of an objective can be left open to opinion.

How to Create an OKR

An OKR consists of an Objective, which defines what you’re trying to achieve, and up to five key results. The key results are how you measure if you’ve achieved the objective.

Under the key results, you also have a set of initiatives, which are the activities or the work required to achieve the key results.

You create OKRs to set the overall direction for a company and create the alignment needed, so every employee is working with the same shared purpose.

While we will be discussing OKRs mostly at the company level, keep in mind that individuals can also use them for life planning.

A company typically has a single vision or a mission for the company, and this direction you want to move towards could be set for the next decade or even longer. This is the ultimate purpose that aligns your company’s employees and, in some cases, your customers on why you do what you do.

This vision sets your direction, which then allows the creation of the company OKRs, which are set annually. These 3-5 OKRs are the objectives that will move your company closer to that overall vision and are specific to what outcomes you need to achieve in the next 12 months.

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Each company OKR has clear key results (up to five) that are measurable, so you can track progress and measure success. These company objectives encompass all parts of the business and can overlap over multiple departments.

The departments within the company then set group OKRs, which are set quarterly using the company OCR’s as the direction. Again, like the company OCR’s, they all have key results defined and agreed on so the departments can measure progress.

What Makes a Good Objective?

Objectives tell you where you need to go and should inspire and set the direction.

When defining the objective for your OCR, it has to be clear, well-written and free of doubt about what the outcome of the objective is.

An objective should always be an outcome that you may not initially know how to achieve, but you understand what the outcome is you’re looking to aim for.

It also needs to be balanced in how achievable it is. If the objective is to achieve 100% market share in your industry, that is not only too ambitious, but it’s very likely to be impossible.

You could also make the opposite mistake and make the outcome of the objective too easy (for example, increase our market share by 1%).

If the objective is too easy, too hard, or impossible, you’re wasting your time creating it as it offers no value, and ultimately the team will pay no attention to it and lose faith in the overall approach.

What Makes a Good Key Result?

If the objective sets the direction you want and defines the outcomes you need to achieve, you can think of the key results as the milestones to get you there.

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The key results are how you’ll track progress so you can quantify and measure as you go to make sure you’re on track to achieve your chosen outcome.

If the objectives are well-defined and thought out, the key results are what keeps the team motivated and focused. This is because they’re measurable. Once complete, it can be a tick in the box to show not only progress, but also celebrate the success you’ve achieved.

These small, significant milestones keep the teams and individuals motivated, especially when working with quarterly objectives.

The vital part of creating key results is that they’re measurable. There should be no doubt if you’ve achieved a key result or not. For example, if you have an objective of “Increase revenue this quarter by 5%,” one of your key results could be:

“Sell 100 of our new training courses.”

If you’ve only sold 80 training courses, then you only achieved 80% of that key result.

How to Track OKRs

OKRs must be tracked and reviewed regularly.

The direction of the company, although this is an ongoing activity, is typically reviewed annually, but the company OKRs need to be reviewed quarterly.

A quarterly review would entail looking at the progress of the key results defined at the start of the quarter. These key results tell you if you’re going in the right direction through measurement and progress tracking.

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A quarterly review also gives the teams a chance to review the OKRs when it comes to the value they’ll provide the company, the staff, and its end users.

What you created three months ago may not hold the same value today. Discuss the value of the OKR. Is it still pushing you towards the overall company vision, or do you need to change or potentially create a new one?

To review OKRs at the team level and the initiatives in place to deliver them, you need to meet at least every two weeks or even weekly in some cases.

Meeting regularly follows the same principle as the quarterly and yearly review as you look at how are you progressing. What is working and what isn’t?

The Bottom Line

OKRs are a great way to adapt your goals into a more structured and trackable format that will keep your goals on track.

The OKR approach gives you the ability to separate your long term and shorter momentum goals so you can stay focused and interested throughout the year.

Making them measurable by creating key results allows you to track progress through to completion, which is a great way to stay motivated and push to complete more.

Like standard goal-setting, if you don’t invest the time up front to create them correctly, you’ll either lose interest, or they wont deliver the value you had hoped for.

To be successful when implementing the OKR approach within your company, don’t have too many, make them transparent, make sure your teams are aligned, and check progress regularly.

If you do all of this, you’ll give yourself the best chance to reach your goals.

More Tips on Objectives and Key Results

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Medium: Objectives & Key Results

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Ben Willmott

Productivity and Project Management blogger for at work and at home

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Last Updated on August 3, 2020

How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life

How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life

To make goals or not to make goals, that is the question.

On the one hand, if you make goals without asking yourself what your true strengths and values are first, you could put yourself on the fast track to disappointment. On the other hand, if you don’t set any intentions at all, you could bounce through life like a pinball doing what others want without accomplishing what’s really important to YOU.

Fear not. Here are 8 powerful ways to be goal oriented using the ENVISION method (Endgame – Nesting – Value – Inspiration – Superpowers – Intimates – Openess – Nourishment) that will help you create a successful meaningful life:

1. Start with the End in Mind

To ensure that you make goals that matter, stand back and examine your life from a broader perspective. Think about the happy ending you would like to achieve, the “E” in ENVISION, and work backwards to determine how you’ll get there.

For example, if you’d like to generate goals for yourself over the next five years, write down where you’d like to be professionally and personally five years from now. Let nothing hold you back. Just keep that pen moving and see where it leads you.

Where do you see yourself in relation to work? What’s your family life like? What type of friends and social support group do you have? What are your hobbies? How is your health?

Next, ask yourself where you would like to be one year from now relative to what you’d like to accomplish in five years. Write the answer out in enough detail so that it seems real to you. Then ask yourself where you’d like to be three months from now. Be specific.

What about one month? One week? What one small action could you take this week to come closer to achieving your master plan?

If this exercise seems daunting, don’t worry. It’s actually a fun and eye-opening way to line up your goals with the bigger picture of your life so that you won’t waste your precious time on passing fancies and other people’s agendas.

I’ve used it with thousands of workshop participants who have rocked their lives. It will work for you, too!

2. Create Nested Goals

The most efficient way to achieve your goals is to nest action items inside them, the first “N” in ENVISION. Get specific about when, where, and how you’ll reach your objectives by breaking them down into subgoals.

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Make your aspirations challenging but not too hard. Each one should be measurable. Instead of writing “I’d like to write a book,” try setting an intention such as “I’d like to write two hours a day four times a week” and mark space on your calendar for it.

Make your aims positive. Instead of “I’d like to quit my stinking job,” think about what a desirable career would look like. Try “I’d like to develop educational toys with like-minded people in a virtual office” and then send out your résumé to companies with matching job openings.

Come up with alternative pathways to your goals so that if one doesn’t work, you’ll already have plan B in place. It’s normal to fail and experience setbacks. This goal-oriented strategy will help you move forward on the pathway to your dreams no matter what happens.

3. Get Clear on Your Values

Before you start setting goals, it’s important to ask yourself what you really value, the “V” in ENVISION.

In my creativity workshops, I’ve found that most people don’t get what they want in life because they’re playing out someone else’s idea of who they should be.

The number one regret of people on their deathbed is that they did not live their dreams. Don’t let that be you. To avoid living a life full of shoulds and obligations, make a wish list. Jot down what you really want and put all the reasons you think you can’t have it aside.

These aspirations can range from the material (such as a new car) to the psychological (high self-worth), to the spiritual (inner peace), to — well — pretty much anything you can think of. What kind of life would be music to your ears? It doesn’t matter whether it seems unattainable or even downright crazy.

Giving yourself permission to daydream about a rich and fulfilling life is the first step to getting it. Be sure your goals speak to your soul.

4. Make Time for Inspiration

As you put your goals together, think about how you can find downtime to receive inspiration in your life, the first “I” in ENVISION.

Americans put in the longest work hours and get the shortest paid vacation time in the developed world. Those of us “lucky” enough to have jobs have added another day to our work week because we now check work emails and calls from home. It’s no wonder we try to stuff everything we can’t do at work into our off hours.

But the second regret of the dying is that they wished they didn’t work so hard. Research shows that people who engage in creative hobbies and side projects are happier and flourish more in life because they can generate new ideas and express themselves uniquely.[1] Feeling energized and playful, they get more done in less time, become better problem solvers, and receive better evaluations at work.[2]

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Make balance a priority in your goal-oriented life. Start a hobby or side project to rejuvenate yourself after the workday ends. Paint, play hockey or try a new dinner recipe. Doing something you love for just a couple of hours a week can significantly improve your life. Like steering a ship slightly to the right, over time you’ll arrive at the destination YOU desire.

5. Form Goals Around Your Superpowers

Research shows that people are more likely to succeed when they develop their natural strengths, the “S” in ENVISION, than work on their weaknesses.

If you don’t know where your true talents lie, try using assessment tools such as Gallup’s CliftonStrengths and psychologist Martin Seligman’s Character Strengths to discover your personal strengths. You can also find your superpowers by answering these questions.

Each of us has a unique purpose in life. Most of us don’t realize it, though, because we’ve been pressured to conform to someone else’s idea of who we should be. Fear of change and staying in our comfort zones stunts our growth. Stretch yourself and take a risk if you want to find out what makes your heart sing.

Make an action plan to create a life in which you express your superpowers on a regular basis, whether it be through your vocation, a meaningful side project, a worthy cause, mindful parenting, volunteer work, or whatever else sparks your interest. This goal-oriented strategy guarantees you’ll thrive at work and at home.

6. Make Time for Intimates

When setting your goals, be sure to carve out time for your intimates, the second “I” in ENVISION. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “intimate” as “a very close friend or confidant: an intimate friend.”

The fourth regret of the dying is that they were too busy to see their friends much.[3] Make it a point to connect with real friends, people you can turn to for sympathy when you need it, confide in about most things, and be your true self around.

A few weeks ago, I suffered from an “eye stroke” and suddenly lost vision in my left eye. I’d moved to Portland nine months before and only knew one busy family I didn’t want to overburden. I was super lonely.

Because of my vision loss, I needed to ask for rides from people I barely knew to attend meetings of some of the groups I’d joined. These acquaintances are now turning into friends. I couldn’t have made it without their help and the support of friends I’ve known for years scattered around the globe.

A new Cigna study shows that nearly half of Americans feel alone or left out.[4] According to Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad at Brigham Young University, the detrimental effects of loneliness is the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.[5] She warns that:

“Loneliness and social isolation are linked to around a 30 percent increased risk of having a stroke or developing coronary artery disease.”[6]

I should know.

Being with your friends is not only good for your soul, but it is also essential for your health and well-being. Put it in your goals.

7. Open Up Emotionally

When crafting your goals, be sure to include ways you can open up about your feelings, the “O” in ENVISION. The third regret of the dying is that they wish they’d had the courage to express their true feelings instead of stuffing their emotions down to keep peace with others. To lead a fulfilling life, it’s important to prioritize talking and behaving honestly with others instead of hiding your true feelings.

According to Dr. Leslie Becker-Phelps,[7]

“Start with identifying your emotions (e.g. angry, hurt) and understanding what triggered you to feel this way.”

She recommends you try to understand your feelings and practice self-compassion for having them. When you’re calmer, try to understand the person who upset you. What are their emotions? What triggered them? This will help you respect and care about yourself and the other person.

If there is someone you need to talk to or a situation you’d like to resolve, honor your feelings. Whether it be writing a letter or making a phone call or visiting someone you haven’t seen in years, put it on your goal list. Be sure to meet in a safe environment if you’re confronting someone who has abused or harmed you. Tell the truth as you see it and try to be kind.

Sharing your genuine feelings may bring you closer together and it may not. It doesn’t really matter how the other person responds. What matters is that you expressed your true self, that you did it for YOU. Make emotional honesty a habit by adding it to your goals.

8. Nurture Happiness

To be more goal oriented and succeed in life, nurture the people and activities that bring you joy, the final “N” in ENVISION.

The fifth regret of people on their deathbed is that they wished they’d let themselves be happier. Instead, they stayed stuck in old patterns and pretended to be content when they weren’t.

If you don’t like your job, make it a goal to look for a new position that aligns your paycheck with your purpose. If you are entrepreneurially-minded, think about turning your passion project into a business you love. If you have multiple passions, consider pursuing a slash career (e.g., copywriter/coder/career coach). According to Forbes Magazine, many companies are beginning to see the value in hiring employees who have side gigs that differ from their main vocations. You’ll bring in multiple streams of income and experience more meaning and fulfillment to your life.[8]

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If you are unhappy with your marriage or romantic relationship, set a goal to do something about it. Do you need to go to counseling? Do you need to move on? If you’re on the fence about whether to keep a friend in your life, be goal oriented about getting closure on the issue. Take care of yourself in the process by taking yoga classes or getting a much-needed massage.

Whatever you do, make it a goal to show compassion as often as you can because it will boost your happiness.[9] Dr. Amit Sood defines “compassion” as:

“Your ability to experience others’ feelings — from joy to sorrow — with a desire to help.”

By helping others in need, you not only can decrease their suffering, but you can also make yourself happier than you could by directly pursuing activities to make you happy.

Final Thoughts

In summary, the ENVISION method shows you how to blend lessons from the five regrets of the dying with effective goal setting techniques that center around your strengths to become goal oriented. It includes:

  • Endgame — Asking yourself where you want to be in 5 years, 1 year, now.
  • Nesting — Creating positive, specific, measurable subgoals.
  • Values — Building your goals around what truly matters to you.
  • Inspiration — Making time for meaningful hobbies and side projects.
  • Superpowers — Orienting your life plan around your unique strengths.
  • Intimates — Spending time with close friends and family.
  • Openness — Being honest about your feelings.
  • Nourishment — Nurturing people and activities that bring you joy.

It may seem like a lot of work at first glance but, in truth, it should only take you about an hour to piece together a list of goals following these guidelines. Why not trade an hour of watching television or engaging in social media to do this instead? You can always get online and watch TV later to reward yourself for becoming more goal oriented.

You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain by exploring what would make your heart sing. It’s worth investing in yourself this way. You have the power to create a life that totally rocks by setting the intention to do so. As the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi wrote,

“What you seek is seeking you.”

Be more goal driven!

More About Goals Getting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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