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How to Create Objectives and Key Results
How to Create Objectives and Key Results

Use OKRs to capture your strategy and build alignment across your team. Check out these examples for ideas on how to get started.

Nick Fields avatar
Written by Nick Fields
Updated over a week ago

The Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework has become more popular in recent years. While it has many applications, we’ve specifically seen how this framework helps product organizations transform from feature factories to purpose-driven teams. Recognizing the impact the framework has, we’ve built an OKR solution in ProductPlan. It helps your organization map the initiatives outlined on your product roadmap to the outcomes that you’re striving to achieve.

Below we'll review how to think about using the OKR framework for your product team along with some examples of OKRs for inspiration.

Objectives and Key Results

There are two parts to an OKR – the objective (i.e. the outcome) and the key results. The key results are the measurements you can take that will help you measure how close you are to achieving the outcome.

In ProductPlan, you can begin creating objectives from the Strategy product area. Click New Objective to start capturing your OKRs:

As you get started, keep in mind OKRs can be tricky to implement. Done right, they can accelerate your company’s success. However, if done poorly they can be a distraction, or at their worst, even deteriorate the culture of your organization.

Implementing OKRs well requires a shift in mindset from being output-driven to outcome-driven. For product teams, this means finding the right balance in measuring not just what gets delivered, but what impact the deliveries ultimately have on your business.

That's why in our solution we've created space to keep track of both. You can associate planned roadmap initiatives with objectives to see your outputs, and you can set unique key results for objectives to track the outcomes you're hoping to achieve:

It can be tempting to only celebrate and reward outputs (like shipping a new feature). However, this tendency can often mislead us from focusing on meaningful change. An outcome-based approach can give your team a sense of purpose by emphasizing the impact of their work, and ultimately what it means for the lives of your customers.

This doesn't erase the importance of your team's activities and outputs. Without delivering them, you can't achieve your OKRs. Think of the outputs as bets meant to improve your key results. If they aren't doing that, then you know it's time to change.

Tracking a combination of outcome-based key results alongside the delivery goals you've set can help you communicate the real impact that your team is making.

Examples of Outputs vs. Outcomes

Felipe Castro, a leading OKR trainer, helps us to find a good working definition of an outcome. In his book, Beginner’s Guide to OKRs, he offers:

“[An] outcome is the measurable beneficial effect on your customers, your company, or your employees.”

The wording of your outcome should be concise, purposeful and motivational –

“I know I’ve got a good Objective when I leap out of bed in the morning eager to make it happen”, says Christina Wodtke in her book, Radical Focus.

Your company objectives should drive at the heart of your company vision and mission.

Let’s compare some output driven vs. outcome driven objectives.

Output (ineffective)

Outcome (effective)

Launch a referral program

Earn the loyalty of <<target customer segment>>

Add error messages

Become a reliable solution for <<target customer segment>>

Build a public API

Simplify product maintenance and reduce barriers to innovation

Launch new features

Satisfy the needs of <<target customer segment>>

Build new support center

Help customers find answers when they have questions

Helpful Tip: output-based objectives often start with verbs such as launch, create, develop, deliver, build, etc... outcome-based ones use words like improve, increase, maintain, reduce, achieve, etc...

To accompany the outcome driven objectives you’ll need to find measures, key results that similarly indicate progress on the outcome. The recommended approach is to set key results about 30 percent higher than what you believe your organization can achieve in the allotted time. This helps your organization stretch themselves toward greatness. As Christina Wodtke put it, “I know I’ve got the right Key Results when I am also a little scared we can’t make them.”

Output vs Outcome Key Results

Let’s look at some examples of key results based on the objectives in the previous example:

Output

Outcome

Launch a referral program

  • Define a benefit structure

  • Release an MVP referrals landing page

Earn the loyalty of <<target customer segment>>

  • Increase NPS score by >10

  • Reduce involuntary churn

  • Improve referral attribution data

Add error messages

  • Identify and usability test 10 error messages

  • Add 10 error messages

Become a reliable solution for <<target customer segment>>

  • Reduce the frequency of error message occurrence from X to Y per day

  • Achieve a 90% usability test passing rate with a sample group of 10 customers

  • Reduce % cancelations due to “Product was unreliable” from 1% to .5%

Build a public API

  • Public API has feature-parity with the UI

  • New functionality is built API-first

Simplify product maintenance and reduce barriers to innovation

  • Incidence of direct calls to the database are reduced by 15%

  • Reduce average project estimate by 2 points

  • Reduce the number of “refactoring” efforts across teams by 5%

Launch new features

  • Design 2 new features for <target customer segment>

  • Build 2 new features for <target customer segment>

  • Launch 2 new features for <target customer segment>

Satisfy the needs of <<target customer segment>>

  • Increase the number of organic leads in <target customer segment> by 20%

  • Reduce churn by 4% amongst <target customer segment>

  • Increase DAU in <target customer segment> by 4%

Redesign the support center

  • Publish 40 new support articles

  • Launch article search functionality

  • Build an article recommendation engine

Help customers find answers on their own when they have questions

  • Increase “Did you find this article helpful?” article rating by 5%

  • Reduce customer support emails to 5 per 100 customers

  • Increase DAU of support center to 300 users in the 3 weeks after launch

In ProductPlan you can associate your bars and containers directly with your Objectives and see the progress of those activities side-by-side with your Key Results. Seeing your deliverables alongside the measurements you've set for success can be a valuable tool for communicating strategic decision making.

OKRs & Teams

Team associations and filters will allow your users to stay focused on what’s most relevant for them and enable multiple groups to coexist within a single account.

Professional and Enterprise customers can now associate and filter their OKRs with teams from their account. You're able to filter the objectives overview page by either the company or team level. The strategy overview page will now have a filter, and it will also display team names on OKR cards.

Within a roadmap, users will be able to see associated teams when selecting objectives for a bar. You can assign multiple teams to a single objective as needed.

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