Picking the Wrong KRs? Big Mistake!

Lesson 2 : Everything you should know about crafting Key Results

Now that you know what OKRs are, you might also be familiar with the idea that while picking the right Objectives is critical to the success of getting started with OKRs, the next vital step is picking the right Key Results that indicates success/progress towards your Objectives. 

Key Results or KRs are the high-velocity metrics that help move the critical business metrics forward. This is the time to remember that OKRs are about outcomes and not a laundry list of tasks.

Here’s a quick 30-second refresher on OKRs, before we get to picking the right metrics that matter. 

Objectives are “The big Why/ Idea,” in short, they are the propeller for your company to shift out of the existence mode to the winning mode. 

Key Results are where quantification steps in. Everything inspiring and aspirational in the Objectives needs to be quantifiable and that’s what you do with Key Results. 

Let’s look at an example of a Company OKR - 

Objective: Implement our new market strategy to increase revenues 

KR 1 Increase average ACV from USD 1.5 Million to USD 2.2 Million 

KR 2 Increase new client acquisition in new markets from 3 to 15 

KR 3 Increase revenues from USD 20 Million to 35 Million 

Wow, that looks easy, right? But in reality, teams struggle when it comes to crafting Key Results. Why? Because of two critical reasons: 

  • They confuse big ticket tasks/activities with Key Results 
  • They have difficulty in prioritizing - everything seems burning and critical to them 

OKRs are all about focus, picking the right metrics and most importantly, prioritizing metrics which really matter and can help you achieve the desired outcomes. 

When picking your Key Results - Less is More

Seems weird, right? In a world where everyone is chasing more in less time, OKRs emphasize on “less is more.” How then, can this framework really help with strategic growth…? Especially the 10x growth that it claims to bring about!

To top it all, you might think your teams are too hard pressed for time and don’t really have the bandwidth to sift through the Key Results to prioritize. 

However, OKRs help in driving focus, hence the stress on the importance of picking only a few Key Results that really move the needle.

Ever heard the phrase “When everything is important, nothing is important”? Imagine a day when you have 20 meetings planned, want to have the best time at work, spend quality family time, want to hit the gym for a refreshing workout, want to catch up with some friends for dinner and also have a client call in the evening that could land you a big ticket deal.

What will drop from the list? Let us take a guess -  maybe the gym, then the dinner catch up and sometimes maybe the family time too. So ultimately, you prioritized three things over the ten. Had you done this earlier, you could have saved yourself the stress of over-planning, over-accommodating and also compromising on the other things that were priority. 

There are several reasons for the accumulation of Key Results, some benign, others a bit more troubling.

Is the top reason, the difficulty to differentiate between tasks and Key Results?

10/10 to anyone who asks this question. When crafting Key Results, teams list not only the ultimate outcomes and the evidence of success on the objective, but also every granular step necessary to reach that outcome. To differentiate between a task and a Key Result, use this simple test:

If you can accomplish the action in a relatively short period it’s more likely a task than a true Key Result. And if you do find yourself listing tasks, ask,

“What will happen when I complete these tasks?” Doing so may lead to a more quantitative Key Result.

The completion of tasks necessarily does not guarantee outcomes. Teams get inspired if they work on adaptive tasks lists that would contribute to outcomes.

But, tasks are important. Why? Because they give you an indication on whether you would achieve your Key Results or not, how are you progressing towards your Key Results, which tasks/initiatives are working and which aren’t. These are the questions you need to answer as a team when picking your tasks and aligning them to your Key Results. 

So, How Many Key Results Are Too Many?

And how many Key Results are enough? Well, you can use as many Key Results as necessary to tell “the story” of your success. 

For example: To achieve one of the Company Key Results mentioned on the top, this is how a Department OKR looked:

Objective: Increase new offerings to top 10 clients to increase organic revenues 

KR1 Introduce analytics offerings to 10 existing clients in Financial Services 

KR2 Launch new offering addressing top 2 client use cases 

KR3 Increase proposal to conversion ratio from 20 to 25% 

KR4 Increase expansion revenue in Top 10 clients from USD 8 Million to 20 Million

While picking your Key Results, ensure you measure two things - How you would measure that you are progressing towards the Objective and how you'd measure achievement of the Objective. 

In this case, the first component of the Objective states  Increase new offerings to top 10 clients. That is measured with Key Result #2 and #3, Now look at the other part of the Objective. When you say - increase organic revenues - you are looking at the business impact. In this case, it is “to increase organic revenue.” Key results #1 and #4 help you keep control and measure of exactly that.

Are you able to visualize how the story of KRs spin around the Objectives?

But, What if I Miss Out on Something?

Yes, we can hear that FOMO :) 

Just avoid getting into that FOMO trap when picking your OKRs. Move away from the urge to grab everything and not wanting to leave things out. This could create a safety net that will make you feel cushioned about taking more and more Key Results.

Often, when sticking to the idea of too many KRs, teams realize that they couldn’t progress well on any, because they were trying to focus at the same time on many. Heard that before? We bet you did!

Once again, we would love to quote Steve Jobs, when he said, “Innovation is saying No to a thousand things,” because when you know what you don’t want to do, your effort and energy doubles in achieving what you really want to do. ‍

We know you enjoy being the Busy Bee and love buzzing around, but there’s no good in biting off more than you can chew!

Before we sign off, here’s a quick reminder to avoid creating multiple Objectives and pile them with tens of Key Results. Let your 90 days of OKRs cadence not make you an OKR martyr, instead, let it help you emerge as the winner who achieved their aspirational goals with the right confidence. 

If you want to unleash the power of OKRs to make some big changes in your strategy execution, we highly recommend that you start by getting OKR Certified.

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