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Last Updated on December 3, 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

More by this author

Ben Willmott

Productivity and Project Management blogger for at work and at home

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

6 Ways to Finish Strong (When Your Momentum Is Low)

6 Ways to Finish Strong (When Your Momentum Is Low)

There are times in your life when you will have to define a path to achieve your goals. These are moments to decide how you will push through to finish strong.

Will you give up or give it all that it takes? Will you bring all your energy and skills to bear or provide an excuse? The only person that possesses the power to choose your response is you.

It may sound impossible anytime you hear the phrase “finish strong.” This is because your natural tendency would be to settle for the status quo or accept fate, and when you are facing life’s biggest challenges, you may face the temptation to quit or compromise your standards.

The story of Tyrone Muggsy Bogues will inspire you. He lived in abject poverty while his father languished in prison. He was hit by a stray bullet at age five and grew up to be 1.6m tall[1].

All these challenges did not deter him from becoming the shortest player in the history of the National Basketball Association. Tyrone had 6858 points, 1369 steals, and 6726 assists all through his NBA. career. Just like Tyrone, you should not allow life challenges to stop you down from finishing strong.

Here are some fun facts to buttress why you need to push through the end:

  • Most of the points scored in football occur a few minutes before the game ends.
  • The last seconds in a race determines who wins as every runner wants to give the most effort.
  • You work harder when there are deadlines to meet.

Here’s more proof of why the finish is highly significant. People rate the quality of life higher when it ends better, not minding if it was short. This is often called the James Dean Effect[2].

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These five proven steps will enable you to finish strong if you already have goals you want to accomplish.

1. Write Your Goals Down

A study revealed that people who write their goals down have an eighty percent chance of finishing strong[3]. You can create a Goal Journal or adopt the S.M.A.R.T goal technique.

Don’t forget, your goals have to be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

While it might look like an additional task to write down your goals instead of storing them in your memory, there are more sides to it.

Two things happen when you write something down:

You are documenting the goals on paper, which makes it easier to assess and audit in the future. Neurologists believe you will recollect visual cues more compared to non-visual cues.

Furthermore, you are encoding those goals as they travel to your brain’s hippocampus, where analysis takes place. From that point, sorting happens. Some goals are stored in your long-term memory while others are discarded. Writing facilitates the encoding process, so write down those goals!

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2. Break Your Goals Into Milestones

Breaking down goals into small bites will help you celebrate your small victories. You need that momentum to finish strong.

For instance, if you are writing a book, you can:

  • Write the book concept or blurb
  • Conduct keyword and content research
  • Create an outline
  • Write the content
  • Edit and proofread
  • Format and publish
  • Market the book

Establishing milestones provides you a clear format that will help you not burn out when working on your goals. Moreover, milestones are those actions you need to take to finish strong.

A study conducted by Gail Matthews shows that those who write their goals have a 33% chance of actualizing them compared to those who only have their goals in their brain[4].

3. Build Momentum

As I stated earlier, you need momentum to finish strong. You can gain momentum when you meet each of the milestones. In his book, Darren Hardy recommends consistency as a sure way to generate all the momentum[5].

How do you build momentum by being consistent? Hardy recommends five actionable steps:

Establish a Morning Regimen

According to Hardy, you may find it hard to take charge of your mid-day, but you can determine how you start the day and end it. Therefore, design your rise-and-shine routine. Do your Most-Important-Task (M.I.T.) in the morning.

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Morning routine to finish strong

    Create an Evening Schedule

    Hardy defines this period as when you cash out on your day. It is a moment to assess if you have accomplished all you wanted to that day. You can ask yourself these questions:

    • Which items do I need to carry over to the next day’s M.I.T. list?
    • What item on my to-do list is still relevant?
    • Which of the tasks do I need to cancel?

    Restructure Your Routine

    It can be boring doing the same thing over a long period. Therefore, inject some excitement into your plan. Visit the park, prepare new food, or take a short, online course. Shaking up your routine will naturally assist you in building momentum.

    Keep a Log of New Habits

    Track new behaviors and log the number of times you perform them. That way, you can compare your goals with the outcome.

    Avoid Negative Self-Talk

    What you say affects how you finish your goals. Positive self-talk is a time-tested method to set goals and follow through. Any time you doubt your ability to finish strong, respond with positive affirmations.

    Do not bow to negative pressure to give up. Control your thoughts, and do not permit external forces, such as fears and doubts, to control them. Here are ten positive affirmations to help you finish strong.

    5. Find a Mentor or an Accountability Partner

    You need all the support you can find to stay the course. A lot of successful individuals attribute their success to the influence of a mentor or an accountability partner.

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    The right mentor will offer you insight, advice, and connections to help you finish strong. A mentor’s role is to guide you on self-reflection and help you ask self-discovery questions.

    Here are ways to maximize mentorship:

    • Be curious: Ask questions that provoke deeper thoughts.
    • Be honest: Feel free to share your challenges and be open to feedback.
    • Be punctual: Be timely and stick to appointments.
    • Be specific: Establish what you want from the relationship.
    • Be respectful: Respect should be mutual. You should respect the boundaries set by your mentor, and your mentor should do the same.

    You can read more on How To Get The Best Out Of Mentorship.

    Bonus Tip: Engage the Self-Awareness Technique (S.A.T.) to Finish Strong

    It is not enough to be an enthusiastic starter; you must also be an optimistic finisher. What is self-awareness? Self-awareness is getting in touch with how you feel and think. It could also mean connecting to your core values and beliefs to live a life that aligns with them.

    Self-awareness can help you figure out your strengths so you can focus on them. It also helps you discover your weaknesses. The moment you accept what you can’t achieve, you will bring together all of your strengths to achieve what you can.

    An HBR report confirmed that when you have a clear picture of yourself, you can be more confident and unleash your creativity. You will also build long-lasting relationships and communicate better[6].

    Final Thoughts

    As you assess the aspects of your life, you need to finish strong, take time to study your past achievements, and apply the lessons to the last phase of your present pursuit.

    Always remember, you have all it takes to finish what you started.

    More Tips on Completing Your Goals

    Featured photo credit: Ethan Hoover via unsplash.com

    Reference

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