How Google Plans Using Objectives And Key Results (OKRs)

Since posting this overview, I’ve received inquires asking for more resources to learn more about the OKR process.  One very interesting view is from the book In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives.  I highly recommend it for context around the OKR process.  I’ll post more resources soon.

In The Plex

If you’re looking for more resources outlining the OKR process, In The Plex is a great read.

One of the reasons I have not been blogging much the past few weeks is because of how busy things are at MindFire.  We are in the midst of a pivot to a new market segment with our multi-channel marketing automation platform, and anyone who has been through this before knows how hard it can be to repoint an organization that has years of built up momentum.  Exciting — but lots of work!

In late 2012, I flirted with the idea of using a method that Intel, Google, and others use for creating organizational focus and alignment, called Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs for short.

In a nutshell, the process starts by defining what is most important to the organization (as a whole), summarized in a handful of Objectives (somewhere around 3).  These are the key things the organization needs to do to.

For each Objective, there are a set of Key Results, which are measurable aspects of the Objective.  The Key Results allow you to define what success looks like.

Then, each functional area breaks apart the organization’s Objectives, and figures out how they will carry them out.  This results in an OKR for each functional area that is aligned to what the organization aims to achieve.  Lastly, each individual creates their own personal OKR, which aligns to their functional area.  

There’s a lot written about the process and its benefits, so I won’t go into great detail here, but not much is written from the perspective of a practitioner.  In other words, what is it like to roll it out?  Where do you start?  What are the problems that pop up?  How do you actually get it done?

I’ve done a lot of looking around, and I have not been able to find anything that provides details into real-life implementation.  If you know of a resource, let me know in the comments.

Because of this, I have documented the process from the start, writing down my thoughts and insights, objections from our teams and people, and methods we’ve found that help carry out the process.

However, I have come across a very helpful video on Tech Crunch.  In their words:

This gem is part of the Google Ventures Startup Lab‘s body of content, explained by current Googlers, and other technology execs; aimed at helping startups navigate things like A/B testing, holding productive meetings and more. While most of these talks are private, Google Ventures is gradually posting a number of these discussions online for all entrepreneurs to access. In the video below, Google Ventures partner Rick Klau, who runs the Startup Lab with Ken Norton, covers the value of setting objectives and key results (OKRs) and how this has been done at Google since 1999.

Klau, a former Google company employee himself, recalls the story of Kleiner Perkins’ partner and early Google investor John Doerr visiting the company early on to explain a method of setting goals he has witnessed at Intel (as told in author Steven Levy’s book, In The Plex). What’s super interesting about Klau’s presentation is that he found the actual deck that Doerr used when presenting to the Larry, Sergey, and the rest of the Google team in 1999 (around 7 minutes in).

Here’s the video; it is well worth the hour and 20 minutes:

I plan on sharing more details in upcoming posts around what it is like to roll this out, and how it fits into defining your corporate culture.

What do you think?  Have you used OKRs, or rolled them out to your organization?

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About David Rosendahl
Husband, father, co-founder of MindFireInc, two-time Inc500 software company. I love building things.

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