Posted by: Alisha Sedor, Founder
It's mid-January, how are everyone's New Year's Resolutions going???
That good, huh? Not to worry, we all have busy lives and there's a lot of noise in the world these days. The news gets wilder every day, there are asks from every direction from work, family, friends, etc.; it's no wonder that keeping ourselves organized and goal oriented is a challenge.
To combat some of that noise, I wanted to share the concept of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and tell you how pulling them from the business context into your personal life will help you set goals and achieve them. Give you the track on which to run your resolution train, if you will.
Ok, so what are OKRs? The story goes that they were created at Intel but Google has really brought them to the fore. Following their lead, all kinds of organizations use OKRs to set goals and drive toward them efficiently. I'm talking tiny little companies you've never heard of like Twitter, LinkedIn, Spotify, and (my nearest and dearest) Harry's.
For a more in-depth look at OKRs, you can find materials from Google, but in short they work as follows:
OKRs are a way to set business strategy and the means to get there. Generally, senior leadership sets company OKRs, each team sets OKRs that ladder up and fit under the company's OKRs, and so on down to each individual employee. It ensures the organization is working as a singular organism - each system, organ, and cell has their own specific goals and measures for success but they all work toward a singular overarching purpose.
An objective is your overarching stretch goal - the big picture of what you’re trying to accomplish. It should inspire you. We’ll choose one as an example:
- “Improve my physical health so that I’m energized and engaged in life.”
Your key results are the “what” of what you’re going to do to achieve that objective and how you’ll measure progress. They’re meant to be measurable (easy to grade with a number) time-bound, and ambitious. At Google, they set their KRs to aim for a 60-70% grade at the close of the OKR period.
So, returning to our health example:
- Improve my physical health so that I’m energized and happier
- Wake up at 6am 5 days/week to do yoga before work
- Meditate for 15 minutes 7 days per week
- Incorporate fruit or vegetables into 100% of my meals
Lastly, you set a time period in which to revisit your OKRs, score them, learn from where you came up short, and create your next set. I’d recommend once per quarter, but you can do every month, 6 months, whatever works best for you.
What I'm recommending to all of you is to take your New Year’s Resolutions or 2018 goals and codify them formally as a personal strategic plan via OKRs, in writing, with pre-scheduled check-ins and (at minimum) a mid-year revision period. Why, you say? Let me walk you through the benefits.
First, OKRs provide structure with specific timelines. KRs are time-bound, so you know when they're complete and we all love ticking things off a checklist. Each overall objective is supported by your KRs, making it much more clear how you’re actually going to achieve it. Instead of “Do more networking” you’ll have:
- Gain broader insight into my field of work by creating stronger network connections.
- Attend one networking event per month
- Join a slack space for a group that’s aligned with my goals (for example one of these)
- Follow-up the next day with an email to at least one person from each networking event - get those business cards!
Having OKRs gets your goals out of your head and on to paper. Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, found in one study that "you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams, simply by writing them down on a regular basis."
Second, outlining your goals and resolutions in this format can tap into a higher level, more motivating value of yours and help keep you on track. In the business world, OKRs give employees a great sense of purpose and motivation by tying their individual work to the broader company strategy. On the other end, this format drives specificity via the KRs, and breaking down big ideas into smaller, bite sized goals makes the path to accomplishing those goals much more clear. And, because KRs are meant to be stretch goals, they’ll push you to go beyond what you think you can do.
Finally, the scoring and writing period gives you an opportunity to learn about yourself. You'll dig in to questions such as:
- Where did you come up short? What were the challenges that kept you from getting to specific KRs? Are you not a morning yoga person, should the goal be rewritten for evening yoga next quarter to make sure you get to more classes?
- Where did you exceed your expectations? Did you underestimate yourself or was there a change in circumstances?
- Which measures were most motivating? How can you capture more of that in your next iteration to keep you moving forward?
So, if you want to kickass in 2018 by setting clear, measurable, and inspiring goals that will hold you accountable, get moving on drafting those OKRs!