If you're into goals, you're probably familiar with objectives and key results (OKRs), the goal-setting framework that originated at Intel, thrived at Google, and is now enjoying new popularity, especially in Silicon Valley.
High-performing teams use OKRs because of the focus and clarity they bring to the workplace. They reveal what a team wants to accomplish (its objectives) and how, specifically, the team will know when it has accomplished them (2–3 key results tied to each objective). OKRs can also be established up and down a whole organization, increasing alignment and allowing everyone to see how they contribute to big-picture priorities.
At Khorus, we’re up to something very similar. And although our platform isn’t specifically designed to be “OKRs software,” teams that use OKRs often approach us to ask whether our software works with that methodology.
The answer is a definite yes. The Khorus methodology and OKRs are aligned in nearly all respects. Read on for a quick walk-through of how an organization might use Khorus to either:
- Make their current OKR practice more consistent and powerful, or
- Roll out OKRs in for the first time.
Set company-level objectives
Both Khorus and OKRs begin with leadership selecting a small number of near-term priorities for the organization. In OKRs, these are the company's "objectives"; in Khorus, they are “company goals.”
To create an objective in Khorus, click the blue plus sign and put your objective in the “Title” field.
According to OKR best practices, your objectives should be . . .
- qualitative (you’ll get into numbers in the next step, with the key results).
- inspiring and ambitious (but see note #1 at the end of this post).
- something one or more teams in the organization can contribute to.
Examples: “Launch an awesome mobile app,” “Improve customer happiness,” “Drive sustainable revenue growth.” There’s no rule, in OKRs or in Khorus, about how many objectives to set for your organization. However, most find that 3–5 is the sweet spot.
Assign key results to each company-level objective
Now, for each company-level objective, add 2–3 key results. In Khorus, these go in the “Measurement” field, since key results describe how you will measure achievement of the objective.
In her book Radical Focus, OKRs expert Christina Wodtke says that key results “can be based on anything you can measure, including:
Align team and individual OKRs
Now that your company-level OKRs are in Khorus, it’s time for each team and individual to set their own.
Business units will usually set 3–5 OKRs, several of which directly support company OKRs. Teams within the business unit do the same, all the way down to individual contributors, who also set their own OKRs to clarify their priorities for the quarter. A team or individual may take one of the key results at the level above them and transform it into an objective of their own.
In Khorus, you can easily track this process by selecting "parent" OKRs for the OKRs you set for yourself or your team.
Transparency and autonomy are major components of the OKR methodology, and Khorus supports both. All employees can see the OKRs set throughout the organization in Khorus and how they all fit together. Everyone is also empowered to set their own OKRs autonomously, based on their understanding of what the broader organization is trying to achieve (although OKRs/goals in Khorus are, ultimately, subject to manager approval).
Once everyone is equipped with their OKRs, the whole organization has an aligned game plan for the quarter. From there, it’s critical to check in regularly to share insight on how the OKRs are going.
Although most orgs that use OKRs review them weekly, biweekly, or monthly, Khorus supercharges these updates. Every week, each employee logs in and rates their OKRs on Likelihood and Quality, a discipline that makes updates much more valuable:
- Likelihood ratings reveal the OKR-holder’s confidence that the objective will be achieved—an explicitly predictive metric that helps leadership anticipate the future.
- Quality ratings ("How do you feel about the quality of work done so far?") reveal the qualitative side of the OKR, painting a fuller picture of how progress is going. You can read more on why that's important here.
- All updates are transparent to the whole org, and leadership can see aggregated update in the Performance Dashboard. This gives them an at-a-glance view of the health of each OKR and its supporting OKRs, and a simple way to zero in on problem areas and remove roadblocks as necessary.
Close out and grade at quarter-end
Finally, the OKR process involves regularly closing out OKRs, assigning them a grade (from 0.0 to 1.0), and then establishing a new set. To get an overall score for your objective, you can score each key result and then take the average.
Most organizations using OKRs reset them quarterly, and this is the cadence supported by Khorus as well. At quarter-end, everyone in the company marks their OKRs either achieved or not achieved, and gives the final Quality a rating on a 1–5 color scale. Some Khorus customers use the Quality rating as a stand-in for the overall OKR grade:
Dark green = 0.8–1.0
Light green = 0.6–0.7
Yellow = 0.4–0.5
Orange = 0.2–0.3
Red = 0.0–0.1
You can also record the numerical OKR grade in the field below the Quality rating, along with any other comments you might have.
Two final notes for OKR users
1. Setting aggressive OKRs: Classic OKR methodology, as practiced at Intel and Google, states that OKRs should be ambitious, beyond your comfort zone. So if you grade all your OKRs with a perfect 1.0, you know you’re not setting difficult enough goals. According to this line of thinking, you want an average OKR grade of 0.6–0.7.
Although Khorus in no way restricts you to a certain difficulty level in OKRs/goals, we generally advise organizations to not set overly aggressive goals just for the heck of it. Our CEO wrote about this issue here, but the short explanation is that Khorus is designed to help companies operate predictably. You can’t deliver predictably on your goals if you expect to only get two-thirds of the way there.
Of course, this is not to say that you should expect all goals to be achieved in Khorus. To date, Khorus users average around 75% goal achievement—although with weekly Likelihood predictions, leadership probably knew well ahead of time that most of those 25% unachieved goals wouldn’t be hit. The main point is that we don't suggest making a habit out of over-aggressive goals; even Google has written recently about how “roofshots” are often preferable to “moonshots.”
2. Linking OKRs and compensation: OKR proponents also advise against tying OKR scores directly to compensation. On this one, we wholeheartedly agree. Both OKRs and Khorus goals are intended to drive performance, build clarity and alignment, and help the whole organization learn and grow—not to determine how much employees should earn. If you turn OKRs/Khorus into a tool for justifying salaries and allocating bonuses, you detract from those much more important aims.
Long story short, Khorus is a simple and transparent way to scale the OKR process across the whole company and drive measurable performance. Want to give it a try? Please reach out via the button below and we’ll set up a demo!