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  • Writer's pictureFaye Almeshaan

Demystifying OKRs: A Compilation of FAQs

The buzz around Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is louder than ever, thanks to their incredible impact across startups and industry behemoths like Google, Deloitte, and The Gates Foundation. What sets OKRs apart? They allow you to dream big, foster transparency, encourage teamwork, and embrace stretch targets. It's this unique blend of ambition and accountability, without fear of judgment, that enables organizations to leap beyond the bounds of what they thought possible.

In my journey of bringing OKRs to life within dozens of companies, leading workshops, and engaging in countless conversations—from talks to impromptu LinkedIn chats—I've encountered a recurring set of questions. To shed light on this powerful framework, I've compiled the most Frequently Asked Questions about OKRs, paired with insights from my hands-on experience.

What Does OKR Stand For?

OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. It's a framework designed to set clear, measurable goals. An Objective defines WHAT you aim to achieve, and the Key Results are the HOW you will achieve them.

Who invented OKRs?

The concept of OKRs was developed by Andy Grove at Intel (built off what many of us have historically used, MBOs) and later popularized by John Doerr (I highly recommend his book Measure What Matters), which transformed how companies like Google and Spotify drive innovation and success.

Why are OKRs important?

OKRs align teams around shared objectives, ensuring everyone is moving in the same direction. Effective OKRs have a positive chain reaction within your organization, leading to impacts like more risk-taking and higher innovation, higher levels of accountability, driving focus, increased employee engagement, and achieving more in shorter periods.

OKRs, Agile, and Scrum: Do they work together?

Absolutely! OKRs complement Agile and Scrum methodologies by providing a flexible, outcome-oriented approach to goal-setting. I always recommend you start with your Vision, then design your OKRs, and then tie in the rest of your project/product management implementation to the key results.

Can OKRs and KPIs work together?

Yes, they can and should! While OKRs push teams towards ambitious goals, KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) measure ongoing performance. Together, they provide a comprehensive view of both your aspirations and your current reality.

Should OKRs be designed as SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals?

Partially. Objectives are meant to be significant, concrete, action-oriented, and inspirational. That means they are more vague and aspirational. Whereas your Key Results are most definitely SMART. You should be able to easily answer with a yes or no if those key results have been hit. 

Should OKRs be Quarterly or Yearly?

They can be either, but quarterly OKRs are more common. This allows for quicker feedback loops and adjustments, aligning with agile principles of rapid iteration. In some cases, I’ve recommended monthly cycles when a company is smaller and needs to adjust even faster. Objectives can also have different timelines than key results. An objective may be to launch a new product, which may be a strategic priority for a few quarters or years, whereas key results would be the more actionable HOW to get there, which tend to be shorter cycles.

When do OKRs fail?

Despite their potential, OKRs are not without their challenges. As John Doerr put it “OKRs are not a silver bullet. They cannot substitute for sound judgment, strong leadership, or a creative workplace culture”. Personally, I’ve seen OKRs fail when there are unrealistic goals, wavering leadership commitment, lack of trust in the team, and vision misalignment. As with any change you’re making at a company, it needs to be managed thoughtfully to have the most positive impact.

Who uses OKRs within an organization?

Everyone! The value of OKRs is in the transparency, everyone at the organization should be able to see and track the progress of the OKRs. When it comes to ownership and accountability, I like to use the RACI framework, when the A is the accountable party/the owner of that key result. That person ensures the OKR is on track and reports back. Not everyone will directly ‘own’ an OKR, but they should all know what the OKRs are and how they can support those strategic priorities.

What companies get the most value from OKRs?

Although OKRs are most popular with tech startups, they are helpful for any company trying to grow quickly, experiment with new ideas, and drive collective action from all employees. I’ve personally seen OKRs implemented successfully at tech startups, VCs, nonprofits, financial services, and professional services. 

The Future of OKRs

Are OKRs outdated? Far from it. Unlike many other goal-setting frameworks, the value of OKRs are their flexibility. You adjust the framework to whatever works best for your organization. As business environments evolve, so does the application of OKRs. They continue to be a valuable tool for setting, pursuing, and achieving ambitious, strategic goals. 


Embarking on the OKR Journey

Considering OKRs for your organization but unsure where to start? Let’s connect.

About Faye

Over the last 12 years, Faye’s worked with, scaled, and invested in 250+ companies that have raised from leading investors, such as Andreessen Horowitz, QED, Lerer Hippeau, Bessemer, Serena, and so many more.

As a seasoned operator, founder, investor, and now Fractional COO she brings a holistic approach to scaling companies. With an emphasis on collaboration, open communication, and transparency, she’s been able to turn around and supercharge the growth of companies globally.

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