How to set OKRs

Find your northstar.


This tutorial walks you through the process of setting OKRs.

It helps you identify and pick a north star for your crew to unite under. OKRs guide decisions and actions to focus all the efforts. They also offer a benchmark to monitor progress as you move forward.

“If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there.” — the Cheshire Cat


OKRs are an acronym for Objectives and Key Results popularized by John Doerr.


Objectives are states you as an individual, team, or company aim to achieve. They provide clarity of direction and inspire motivation.

Key results:

Key results make the achievement of objectives measurable.

Naturally, they are not all results, but those that really matter for the objective. Only outputs and outcomes qualify as key results. Inputs, i.e. the things you do, do not.

For detail on inputs, outputs, and outcomes check the people skill Reduce Waste

An Example

Imagine objectives as places on a map. Then key results are the things that tell you, when you've reached such a place.

Go from non-viral to the viral place:

Objective: Make our company go viral

Key result 1: Generate 100,000 views on our youtube channel

Key result 2: Get 10,000 new followers on instagram

Key result 3: Increase organic search traffic to our website by 20%

→ See more examples at


Step 1: Set a single objective


Begin by exploring multiple alternative objectives. Too easily we'll accept that which comes to mind first. Challenge yourself to come up with at least 5 viable objectives before you pick one.


Choose only one objective. Temptations are great to compromise and pick more.

Remember that you can only ever walk in one direction at any given moment. Don't pull your crew in separate directions.

You'll always have time to pursue a second objective once you've achieved the first. When sequencing objectives in this way, think of domino blocks: What domino needs to fall first to make achieving the other objectives easier?


If you are setting an objective for a company, look for favorable market positions. In any other case, identify the biggest contribution you can make to the OKRs of your parent unit.

Step 2: Define key results

Set between 3 and 5 key results. Not more, not less.

You want to strike a balance when setting key results.

On the one hand, they should be in reach for you in the given time frame. On the other hand, you want to stretch yourself a little.

A good heuristic is to aim for key results that you are confident you can achieve 60-70% on. While that is the expectation, you'll find yourself stretching to achieve 100%.

Don't fret, if you miss the 100%. The idea is to improve constantly by stretching and growing steadily.


Link KRs to incentives

Everybody does what they're incentivized to do. That is just how it is. Don't deny it. Don't fight it.

The biggest mistake with OKRs is introducing it in isolation from the rest of your performance management system. In all likelihood you crew is imbedded in an existing system that rewards performance financially and with career prospects.

Starting with OKRs, you'll at least want to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest with individual performance goals. At best, you'll switch entirely from individual incentives and align everybody on the teams' key results.

Make your OKRs extremely visible

The daily grind is treacherous. Too easily will it lure you away from your priorities. Having frequent visual reminders of your OKRs will help you stay on track.

If you're into coding, set up a simple dashboard wherever you do your work. Or just print your OKRs on a sheet of paper each in landscape, black and white, and as large a font as possible. Avoid all caps, though. They are like screaming.

Review quarterly

Schedule a day every quarter to review your OKRs. They are not edged in stone and you are free to iterate on them.

  • Is the objective still valid?
  • Have you achieved or surpassed your key results?


→ John Doerr: Measure what matters

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