OKR Examples and Best Practices: A Complete Guide

Nov 9, 2021 | Performance Management

Looking for good OKR examples? Want to find out how to actually set them for your team? It’s a common concern for managers and company leaders.

OKRs are more than just a popular buzzword. Setting objectives and key results can play a vital role in your team’s success. They act as a framework for defining your goals and how to achieve them. 

Where did the concept of OKRs come from? Andy Grove, then CEO of Intel, created the idea in the late 1960s. John Doerr, then his employee, helped introduce it to the broader world. Joining Google in 1999, he brought this revolutionary goal-setting framework with him. It fostered creativity and growth, expanding what teams could achieve together. 

Let’s take a closer look.


1. What Are OKRs?

2. Good OKR Examples

3. Common Misconceptions About OKRs

4. How to Set OKRs

5. How to Track OKRs

1. What Are OKRs?

OKRs are quantifiable objectives (what you want to accomplish), and stepping stones to achieve them. The objectives state something substantial that you want to achieve. Meanwhile, key results serve as metrics or milestones. They allow you to measure your team’s progress toward your objective.

What They Are Not

Key results (KRs) are not just actions you plan to take. They measure the effect your work has had, not the amount of work you’ve put in.

“For key results to be effective, they need to measure a change in the behavior of the target audience of your work,” explains Jeff Gothelf in Harvard Business Review. “This is what makes them an objective measure of success, and not simply a documentation that energy has been spent.”

That audience will vary by department. Often it includes the customer or client base. However, it can also be an internal audience. For sales, the audience is customers; for HR, the audience is employees. Meanwhile, KRs for sustainability initiatives can measure shifts in company or departmental behavior.

Reading a list of books or even launching more campaigns are not KRs, says Gothelf. Yes, those things can build your credentials or enhance success. However, they do not benchmark a change in your audience’s behavior. And they don’t mark a change in how your company actually operates. Rather, they prepare people to make changes. 

For this reason, when demonstrating good OKR examples, they often revolve around teams. Within these larger groups, individuals must typically work collaboratively to shift customer or client behaviour. Team OKRs keep everyone moving toward a common objective. The team or manager then decides how each person will contribute.

However, managers can also help by providing OKR examples for individuals. This will allow them to set personal OKRs that fit within the context of the team’s. 

Why Use OKRs? 

OKRs give you a concrete way to measure progress. At the same time, they allow for flexibility in how you achieve your objectives. They help you focus on impact rather than on micromanaging how tasks get done, as Gothelf explains.

Other key benefits of OKRs include the following:

  • Aligning individual efforts around common goals to enhance teamwork.
  • Increasing individual focus and engagement.
  • Allowing managers to give effective performance reviews and feedback.

Setting and tracking OKRs gives leaders a better sense of how their teams are performing. At the same time, OKRs also improve performance. They motivate employees to aspire toward increasingly higher goals.

OKRs can also help your team decide if it should take on potential projects. You can evaluate whether a new idea falls within the scope of your OKRs, and then make the call, as stated on CIO.com.

2. Good OKR Examples

Effective OKRs stretch employee capabilities. Help your team (or individual employees) set OKRs that challenge them but are achievable. 

The objective itself does not need to include numbers, as Paul R. Niven and Ben Lamorte explain in Objectives and Key Results. It states a clear goal, while the key results illustrate how you’ll determine it has been achieved. Niven and Lamorte present the following OKR examples:

Objective: Design an engaging website for Service X.

KRs: 20% of visitors come back to the site within a week.
         10% of site visitors ask about our services.

Objective: Make our website more user-friendly for our target audience.

KR: Improve the audience’s satisfaction rating for website usability to an average of 9.

Here are some OKR examples set by Google:

Objective: “Design products and services for circularity and reuse materials at their highest environmental and social value.”

KR: “100% of Made by Google products launching in 2022 and every year after will include recycled materials, with a drive to maximize recycled content wherever possible.”

And here are some OKR examples from the city of Syracuse, New York, also shared by What Matters:

Objective: “Achieve fiscal sustainability.”

KRs: “Reduce the general fund budget variance from 11% to 5%.”

“Spend 95% of authorized capital project dollars by the end of the fiscal year.”

“Spend 95% of grant dollars for grants from prior fiscal years.”

Here are some OKR examples a sales team might use:

Objective: Expand to X new B2B customer segments.

KRs: Have calls with 50 new leads in each segment.

       Gain a 45% response rate from drip email campaign.

       Deliver 15 product demos.

       Make at least 5 sales to new customers.

Note how each of these KRs includes numbers that illustrate tangible results. By stating specific numbers to drive toward, they ensure you achieve meaningful goals.

3. Common Misconceptions About OKRs

  • They’re the same as KPIs. Not exactly—KPIs don’t include objectives. However, KPIs and KRs can overlap, as they are both metrics of success. And it’s perfectly fine to use both OKRs and KPIs. Or, you can use OKRs at the team level and KPIs at the individual level.
  • They’re a list of tasks. Actually, they’re results. Make sure you’re not just creating a to-do list. For example, “create a monthly content calendar” is a task. “Increase monthly readership by 50%” is a key result that you could accomplish with that task. People often make the mistake of listing efforts they plan to make rather than results they wish to achieve.
  • Your plan is set in stone once you create it. You should always stay flexible and reevaluate as needed, says Doerr in his book Measure What Matters. Look at how quickly you’re moving toward your goals. This will help you evaluate whether your OKRs are ambitious enough (or too ambitious). In our fast-changing world, goals or benchmarks sometimes need to shift for external reasons, too. If you set OKRs on a quarterly basis, you can absolutely add new ones within the quarter if needed.
  • Organizational leaders can simply tell employees what their OKRs are. In actuality, OKRs should empower employees to take initiative in goal-setting. Leaders shouldn’t dictate OKRs to them.

Now let’s examine how to write and structure OKRs with employees or your team.

4. How to Set OKRs

Man and woman discuss OKR examples
Credit: Kampus Production/Pexels

Setting OKRs can feel daunting at first. But you really just need to follow a few key steps. With the help of these guidelines, you’ll soon be setting great OKRs with your team.

3 Main Steps to Setting OKRs:

  1. Define your overarching objectives—what you aim to accomplish. 
  2. Set a time frame for reaching your objectives. 
  3. List key results that will demonstrate that you’ve met each objective. Make them quantifiable, using numbers to make them measurable. That way, you can objectively evaluate your success. 

6 Principles for Setting OKRS:

  1. Remember that they are outcomes, not tasks. 
  2. Make sure OKRs align with your organization’s strategic goals. If setting individual OKRs, ensure they fit into team OKRs. 
  3. Set OKRs collaboratively with teams, or empower them to set some of their own. This “bottom-up” approach will boost motivation, Doerr emphasizes. Everyone will feel more invested in OKRs when they have a voice in setting them. Plus, the people doing the hands-on work have a good idea of what is feasible.
  4. Keep the number of OKRs manageable. Less is more, says Doerr. Three to five OKRs work best for most teams (stick to three for small teams, urges CIO.com). Each objective should correlate to no more than five results. 
  5. Ensure your OKRs are measurable and transparent. You should be able to evaluate success easily.
  6. Make your OKRs ambitious. They should push employees and teams to reach higher goals. By doing so, they’ll keep your team energized.

After setting OKRs with your team, assign specific responsibilities. Assign each key result to a particular person, advises CIO.com. That person doesn’t have to accomplish it single-handedly. Rather, they must track progress toward that KR and steer the team toward that outcome. Define action steps for specific team members that will help accomplish OKRs. You can then help them set individual OKRs that align with this plan.

5. How to Track OKRs

Group of employees discussing OKRs in an office
Credit: Yan Krukov/Pexels
  1. Adopt a scoring system. If using software for tracking OKRs, make sure it offers a solid scoring system. For instance, you can use a scale of 1 to 100.
  2. Chart your progress visually using a graph. (A quality software program can create charts for you.) Interpret the patterns that arise so you can explain them to others. You can also create a progress table to share in team meetings. This chart includes a block for each week since you set your OKRs, summarizing the progress made that week.
  3. Share progress with the team on a weekly basis. Talk with individuals one-on-one about their progress toward their personal goals. Discuss any hurdles they are facing.
  4. Don’t connect OKRs to performance reviews and decisions about pay or promotions, urges Doerr. They should be motivational, not a source of anxiety. By disconnecting them from formal reviews, you encourage creativity and risk-taking.

Many teams conduct a thorough evaluation of progress on a quarterly basis. However, you can have a longer time frame for achieving objectives. Quarterly (or more frequent) evaluations simply give you a means of assessing progress on a regular basis.

Wrap Up

Now you understand what makes strong OKRs and how to track them effectively. Follow the principles we’ve discussed, and you’ll be off to a great start. That means setting a manageable number of ambitious OKRs. It also means making sure your key results are measurable and specific. Finally, set them collaboratively with employees rather than using a top-down approach. By doing so, you’ll lead all employees to feel invested in achieving their OKRs.

Ready to help level up your team with these OKR examples and best practices? Request a demo of our software to see firsthand how the right tools can be a game-changer. It will help you to set ambitious yet achievable objectives and desired results with your team. 

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