OKRs - What are they for and why you should implement them in your company (Part 1/3)

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash


If someone asked me what is most important in the success of a startup, I would have a clear answer: its product-market-fit. But an effective management system must be put in place for any company to become successful.

Thank God, and more specifically to Andy Grove, for something called OKRs (Objective and key results).

Speed is key to any startup, often becoming its most valuable competitive advantage. These are companies that originally lack bureaucracy, "legacy" or hierarchies that distance the decision makers of the organization from their own teams or customers.

However, for this competitive advantage to reach its fullest expression, it needs to be supported by five pillars:

  • Team alignment
  • Commitment to the company's vision
  • Data measurements
  • A frustrating but inspiring absence of complacency
  • Focus on what matters

This is what OKRs are all about. If you think your company's culture incorporates these values, this series of posts will be of high interest to you.

OKRs means culture

The biggest mistake is to exclusively implement an OKR system as a method to measure the company's performance.

Objectives become “wild” and inefficient when they are removed from the company's culture due to narrow-mindedness, unethical behavior, poor incentive, involuntary blindness, reduced cooperation and, as a result, demotivation within the team. I try to explain it better in this Twitter thread.

For this reason, to establish a good OKRs system you must start with the mission, vision and values of the company. That is the magic of this system, it allows to unite what I do every day with why I do it.

OKRs means alignment

Photo by Matteo Vistocco

The advantage is obvious when we all move forward together, at the same time and in the same direction with clear objectives. All goal systems talk about this, but the OKRs, build that alignment on information transparency.

The best way to reduce all your team's doubts is to be transparent, in both good and bad times, and only then will you get your team in line.

This is especially useful and relevant when your organization has a high degree of uncertainty, that is, when it is in "search of a repeatable and scalable business model", and you tend to say that it works like a startup.

If you can set up a system that links the company's mission with each employee's daily task, by linking it through your OKRs, you obtain two valuable treasures for your organization:

  • All the strength of the team is oriented towards the same mission, and if your forces are aligned the impact is greater.
  • Since you are rowing towards the same place, everyone collaborates, and you are more likely to break down organizational silos.

OKRs means commitment

OKRs end up becoming a kind of social contract within the organization.

Everyone works under this framework with a common mission that you address through objectives linked to each other, which you measure thanks to the Key Results known by all. So, within this methodology, whoever is not able to contribute to these key results is not complying with the group and therefore is not fulfilling his obligations to the company.

OKRs means ambition

The closer you see the ceiling, the harder it is to imagine the sky. The fact that the whole system starts from the company's mission (i.e.: the ultimate goal) makes you decide where you set the next goal that leads you to fulfill your mission, and the more ambitious you are, the better.

OKRs try to favor a risk driven culture, where it is well seen to pursue something almost impossible to achieve but that can generate a strong impact on the company's mission.

In fact, under this philosophy, when you achieve 100% of the goal it means that you were not ambitious enough when setting it.