Once you’ve defined your Objectives, it’s time to fill in the Key Results.
I find most teams find establishing Key Results to be the easy part. This is an area of comfort and familiarity for most teams. By the time we get here, it really feels like we’ve transitioned from planning fully into execution… even though technically we’re still planning.
Let’s take a look at the steps and tips for setting Key Results in OKRs.
1. Include All Work Needed to Achieve the Objective
First things first. Make sure you’ve included all the work needed in order to achieve the Objective.
Put another way when all the Key Results are completed successfully, the Objective should be achieved. The end. That means when you’re defining the Key Results, you need to check that you haven’t forgotten a key body of work.
2. Aim for 3-5 Key Results per Objective
This is a rule of thumb, not a hard and fast rule.
Less than three Key Results and chances are you could probably role the Objective together with another. More than likely there just isn’t enough work here, unless the particular Key Results themselves are large.
More than five Objectives and chances are the OKR is getting too large and will be too difficult to track, manage, and keep under control. Seriously consider re-thinking and breaking the OKR apart.
Again, there is no hard and fast rule. Use your judgment to determine whether 3-5 are right in your case or whether your particular circumstance warrants a different approach.
3. Make Key Results as SMART as You Can
It’s helpful to use my tips on SMART goal setting for Key Results.
For example, if our Objective is, “Increase sales in the Pacific Northwest by 50% by the end of the Q2 by winning new customers,” then we can phrase our Key Results in a couple different ways. Which one seems better to you?
Option 1: Find new leads for our products in the Pacific Northwest.
– or –
Option 2: Find 100 new leads in the Pacific Northwest for Widget A by the end of Q1 to allow time for follow-up and new sales wins by the end of Q2.
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4. Scope Your Key Results Properly.
Take a look at the winning Key Result from the last example. How would you describe its scope?
I would call it a “small project.”
Generally speaking, Key Results usually wind up being “projects” of some sort. They might be “very small projects,” such as in this case. Or they might be bigger projects.
To see what I mean, let’s take a look at how we would actually accomplish our winning Key Result example above (Option #2, in case you’re still wondering).
- Build a lead magnet for our website.
- Create a landing page and response funnel for the site.
- Create a Facebook advertising campaign.
- Create a response plan and response team for following up with leads.
- Create collateral pieces for lead follow-up.
There might be a few other tasks, but that’s the basics. As you can see, that’s a rather small project that might take several weeks to a couple months to execute. That’s the general pattern of Key Results: They identify projects of some size to accomplish on the road to achieving the Objective.
5. Don’t Include Anything Not Related to the Objective
This is important to point out for two reasons. First, it can be easy when defining Key Results to go a bit overboard and include things that don’t directly relate to the Objective but which do relate to the other Key Results. In the earlier sales examples, it can be easy to rabbit trail down the need for additional sales training and let that take you into places that don’t directly relate to the Objective. Resist the urge.
The other reason to pause and reflect here is it is important not to include your daily, ordinary work. As discussed in the piece on Objectives, the goal here is to be transformative. As such, we’re not looking to include our regular tasks, workload, etc.
Bringing it All Together
You’ll find that for the most part, defining Key Results will move fairly quickly. Use these five steps and tips to stay on track and out of trouble.