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Creating Team OKRs that Inspire and Drive Value


From OKR’s to North Star

If you’re like many other Product leaders, you recognize the importance of setting the direction for your team with Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). But are you achieving the desired results? Are you tracking the right leading indicators to monitor your performance and product health? What is the difference between OKRs and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) anyway – and why are they so critical to success?

Setting OKR’s to keep focus

Here’s an example that demonstrates the importance of setting OKRs: Jim Carrey, the American actor and comedian, once wrote a $10 million check to himself for “acting services rendered” and post-dated it for 10 years later. He figured that if he didn’t make it as an actor by then, it wasn’t meant to be. Just shy of the 10-year mark, Jim received a check for $10 million for his part in the movie Dumb and Dumber. The simple act of setting the goal helped him focus on achieving the desired result – and it worked.

Similarly, setting OKRs for your Product team can help them to focus on the North Star vision. With meaningful target goals and metrics to help steer product development, your team is more inspired to drive value for your customer and achieve desired business results.

Let’s discuss how to create OKRs that are meaningful to your company and industry. It’s critical to understand what makes a good objective, the importance of having all eyes on the company’s North Star, antipatterns to avoid, and tangible ways to implement OKRs with your team.

What Makes a Good Objective?

Meaningful OKRs have these six elements:

  1. A “North Star”: Good objectives align with your company vision and are evident to the entire team. They highlight what matters most to your organization and provide a North Star to follow on the path to success.
  2. Ambitious and inspiring: OKRs should be as inspiring as a $10 million check. That way, your team will all “march up the hill” to achieve them, because they know the company is doing something great. Google is notorious for setting stretch objectives that are ambitious and inspiring – the company celebrates results of 60-70% success (not perfection – but impressive nonetheless).
  3. Simple and memorable: OKRs are all about building a foundation for the company, so they should be simple, memorable, and preferably catchy. For example, Martin Luther King’s most impactful speech began with a simple, memorable objective, “I have a dream…”
  4. Stable, but flexible: Set quarterly goals to help get there along the way. Check in at the beginning of month three of each quarter to look at QTD results and make necessary adjustments for the next quarter accordingly. Focus on moving forward with rolling results versus rigid long-term goals.
  5. Cross-departmental buy-in: Objectives are not created in isolation – leadership teams across departments have a stake in the game. Collaborating on mutual goals encourages buy-in, which is paramount to successfully achieving your OKRs.

Having good data is also important. This helps you make decisions on how you’re doing against OKRs. Ensure that your product team has access to track the KPIs that lead to success.

Avoiding Antipatterns and Pitfalls

Just as important as what makes up a good objective is avoiding anti-patterns such as using OKRs as metrics for employee evaluations. OKRs should be stretch goals that are assessed and adjusted as needed and celebrated once achieved. Setting the bar too low (does sandbagging sound familiar?) is also a poor strategy. Take Coca Cola for instance: while they lead the soft drink category, they’re never satisfied with resting on their laurels. They are on a constant OKR trajectory, looking at ways to capture even more market share.

Jim Doerr, the famed venture capitalist who brought OKRs to Google, once said, “The crucial qualities of a healthy OKR culture are ruthless intellectual honesty, a disregard for self-interest, and a deep allegiance to the team.” He explains that ruthless intellectual honesty should be applied to what’s achievable and how to get there. He also warns against falling into the trap of staying in the “comfort zone.”

Remember that failure can be a learning experience and an opportunity to revise your objectives. Putting self-interest aside and prioritizing the team dynamic will help you avoid the pitfalls of people-pleasing, as well.

Dive Deeper into OKRs

Ready to set OKRs for your Product team and focus on the North Star vision? Sign up for 280 Group’s Digital Product Management Course to learn in-depth how to set meaningful target goals and metrics that drive value for your customer and achieve desired business results.

Todd Blaquiere
November 01, 2022