Best Practices

How to Write Effective OKRs (With 10 OKR Examples)

Jonathan Friedman
February 6, 2021
How to Write Effective OKRs (With 10 OKR Examples)

Are you and your team struggling to achieve your goals? Are you looking for some OKR examples and tips on how to write practical goals? If you answered yes to either question, then you've come to the right place.

92% of people don't achieve their goals. That's right. Only 8% achieve those goals that they've set out to do.

But why is that? Why are only 8% of people getting this goal-setting thing, right? What is everyone else doing wrong?

Most of us are going about goals all wrong, to put it simply.

In fact, many people don't even realize how to effectively and efficiently set and meet a goal. They just kind of do it.

We can tell you're different, however. You clicked on this article, which means that you're here to do a little bit of learning about how you can set and meet goals effectively.

Great job! You've already taken the first step to getting better at goal setting and project management.

Now, just keep reading. We've got everything you need to know about this tremendous goal-setting framework known as "OKR." Plus, we're going to be giving you OKR examples to help you, your team, and your business better uses the framework to meet your goals.

Below is everything we will cover. Feel free to skip ahead.

What are OKRs?

OKR definition infographic

OKR, or Objectives and Key Results, is a popular framework for setting goals. It also helps users determine how they can achieve the goals that they've set for themselves.

Everyone and anyone can use OKRs. Whether you're looking to set individual, team, or business goals, OKRs are great.

Naturally, OKRs are split into two sections: objects and critical results.

Objectives

We define an objective as something that you want to achieve. An objective should be qualitative and ambitious while also actionable and time-bound.

Key Results

Key results are defined as how you'll measure your progress towards completing your objective. They should be quantitative or measurable and achievable.

You should have about three to five key results per objective. Additionally, to complete your objective, you must complete all of your key results.

How Objectives and Key Results work together

When you combine an objective and its key results, you have a plan to get things done. The great thing is that you've probably been setting up your goals this way for your entire life. You just haven't been executing it as you should.

To explain, let's run through an OKR example.

Let's say that your objective is the following: I will release an autobiographical novel within the next two years.

Your key results may include some of the following:

This kind of goal-setting sounds familiar, right? It should!

Many people set their goals like this. They have some big dream they want to achieve; they start breaking the vision down into tiny, chewable bites.

However, people fail for a plethora of reasons.

They forget. They don't try. They don't set OKRs.

Whatever it is, their goal and their dream fails. Let's keep talking about OKRs so that we can get to the root of why this kind of goal-setting needs more than a pretty plan.

OKRs vs. SMART goals

You may be thinking to yourself that OKRs sound like SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). They are similar, but there are some unique differences.

How SMART goals and OKRs are similar

Both OKRs and SMART goals are frameworks for setting goals. Additionally, both frameworks originate from Peter Drucker's theory of management by objectives (MBO).

Furthermore, the Key Results part of OKRs is nearly the same as SMART goals. Both detail how you will measure success by time-bound quantitative metrics.

OKRs vs.SMART goals: the key differentiators

However, OKRs and SMART goals differ in a few distinct ways.

First, in OKRs, you have objectives, which should be qualitative and aspirational. As a result, OKRs are generally less specific and more ambitious than SMART goals.

Second, SMART goals often measure a single metric, whereas OKRs are not a self-contained goal. Therefore, OKRs lead themselves to be used by an entire department, a large cross-functional team, or an organization as a whole. Unlike OKRs, SMART goals are often tied to an individual.

The types of OKRs

There are two different kinds of OKRs: aspirational OKRs and committed OKRs. Likely, your team or your business will have a mix of both.

In fact, having both can be great! They're both healthy to strive for and satisfying to complete.

Let's get into defining each one and providing OKR examples of each so that you're ready to conquer both.

Aspirational OKRs

Aspirational OKRs are the objectives that you set in your wildest dreams. In a word, they're ambitious.

These are the goals that realists would never try to set. These are the goals that may seem like they're a one in a million shot.

However, with hard work and dedication, they're not impossible.

Everyone should set these kinds of goals, even businesses. Aspirational OKRs are great for helping companies find innovative business techniques.

Who knows? An aspirational OKR could be the thing to rocket your business to the top.

Let's talk about an example of an aspirational OKR:

My business will be featured on Forbes' "Fortune 500 Companies" List in five years.

Your key results may include some of the following:

There you have it - an aspirational OKR example. Making it onto Forbes' "Fortune 500 Companies" list is not easy, especially not in five years. However, it's not an impossible thing to do. This is what makes it an aspirational yet achievable objective.

Committed OKRs

Committed OKRs are more realistic. These are the kinds of objectives and goals that people set all the time.

They're safer.

People like making safe goals and dreams because they're more likely to achieve them. Committed OKRs are almost always met and completed, so it's less intimidating.

People don't want to fail by making an outrageous goal, so they'd instead make smaller, more realistic ones.

Let's layout a committed OKR example:

My team will double the number of newsletter subscribers in the next six months.

The key results could include the following:

Boom! There you have it: a committed OKR example.

OKRs vs. KPIs

OKRs vs. KPIs infographic

Before moving on, we think it's essential to stop for just a minute. We need to talk about the difference between OKRs and KPIs.

People often mix up these two measurements of success.

First, let's review what a KPI is for those who may not know. A KPI (key performance indicator) is a metric.

Individuals and companies use KPIs to measure performance during ongoing activity. This being said, you can use a KPI to help measure your OKRs.

An OKR helps individuals, teams, and companies set and achieve measurable goals, while a KPI measures the performance.

Let's look at an example:

Do you see how the KPI can help you define and complete your OKR? You may need to use different KPI if you find that your company couldn't meet your OKR.

In turn, you may find that you need a defined KPI to understand your key results more. Many companies use KPIs as a means of measuring their success. Therefore, they include them as part of their key results.

If a KPI that a company is already measuring shows that the company needs to improve, that company could create an OKR to improve in that area.

It's all connected!

How to write effective OKRs

Ah, yes! Effectiveness is something that everyone and every business strive for.

It's time to talk about how we can make our OKRs effective to meet our goals and dreams.

First, let's talk about the formula. We recommend constructing your OKRs like this:

This seems simple, but it's actually revolutionary. This template for creating OKRs is useful and helps users figure out how to organize their big and small goals.

As you're writing these OKRs, you should keep a few things in mind:

Whew! That was a lot.

Now that we've cleared up what OKRs are and how to write the best OKRs let's get into some practical uses.

OKRs in Project Management

OKRs were made for project management, or that's what it seems like, at least.

People can set goals and objectives all day. You can map out a perfect plan to get things done, but that isn't what gets them done.

In order to complete these key results and complete these objectives, you need an action plan. Depending on how crazy or big the objective is, you need a large, detailed action plan.

You need to break your goals down into several tiny steps so that you, as an individual, a team member, or an employee, can finish them.

Without these tiny steps, it's nearly impossible to complete a goal.

In fact, people who don't take the time to sit down and plan out all of these tiny steps often don't end up completing the objective. It's nearly impossible to digest big goals without taking the time to plan everything out.

This being said, it's easy to see how OKRs and project management phases go hand-in-hand. OKRs map out what an individual or group wants to do, and project management tells that individual or group how to do it.

The easiest way to map out your big and small tasks is by using project management software. Using a project management system will help you streamline your operations to measure your success more accurately. You'll make everything a little bit easier to handle.

10 Practical OKR examples

Congratulations! You know everything there is to know about OKRs now.

Just like all of the things that we learn, we have to put it into practice. The more often you write OKRs and become familiar with the format, the better you'll be writing them.

That's why we've compiled even more OKR examples for you. Our practical OKR examples for growth in life and business will help you figure out how to write your own OKRs.

Soon, you'll be an OKR-writing machine. Until then, check out the best OKR examples we have to offer.

1. Project Management OKR example

Objective: We will improve our product's performance by 80% in Q2.

Key Results:

2. Operations OKR example

Objective: We will improve internal document management by the end of the year.

Key Results:

3. Marketing OKR example

Objective: We will successfully release our first monthly newsletter on the third of January.

Key Results:

4. Sales OKR example

Objective: We will increase sales by 10% by the end of Q4.

Key Results:

5. Customer Success OKR example

Objective: I will promote customer success across the company.

Key Results:

6. Finance OKR example

Objective: We will improve the annual budgeting process.

Key Results:

7. Human Resources OKR example

Objective: We will complete the employee reviews by the end of July.

Key Results:

8. Design OKR example

Objective: I will successfully design the product that our new client requested by the end of the year.

Key Results:

9. Engineering OKR example

Objective: We will improve data security by the end of the month.

Key Results:

10. Personal OKR example

Objective: I will be healthier at the end of the year than I am now.

Key Results:

Now that we’ve covered ten different OKR examples, we’re sure you can write one on your own.‍

Common OKR pitfalls

When it comes to making effective OKRs, some people don't have the best of luck. Some people aren't able to use OKRs effectively at all.

If you've tried to make goals in the past and ended up failing, we highly recommend that you take the time to read this section. It could save you from a whole lot of trouble.

We're going to cover some of the most common mistakes that people make regarding creating and implementing OKRs. Plus, we're going to tell you how to avoid these mistakes and do better.

1. You make great OKRs and then forget them.

This is the worst.

People set their OKRs and take the time to make an effective and exciting plan. Then, they just leave it there.

It's tragic. Why would you waste all of your time putting these excellent objectives, key results, and small tasks together if you were going to leave it?

If you're feeling tempted to give up, you need to figure out why. Why would you spend all of this time making everything just to give up in the end?

If you can find out why you're feeling unmotivated, you can get to the root of the problem and try to find out how you can turn it around.

Maybe this isn't the goal you want to set. Perhaps you're in the wrong job. Maybe you didn't set small enough tasks.

Whatever it is, you need to make it stop, or you've wasted your time and your potential.

If you think you're at risk for setting and forgetting, keep yourself accountable. Find someone to keep you on track. Share your goals with a friend or family member.

You should also be reviewing your OKRs regularly to make sure that you're still on track to complete your objective.

2. You've underestimated or overestimated yourself.

People tend to go one of two ways. They either grossly underestimate what they're capable of, or they grossly overestimate what they're capable of.

Both are bad.

If you underestimate yourself, you aren't genuinely growing when completing tasks and objectives. You're probably flying through them quickly because you've made tasks and objectives that you could sneeze to complete.

However, you don't want to overestimate yourself either.

If you overestimate yourself, then you're just stressing yourself out. You're putting too much pressure and expectation on yourself.

Ultimately, this could lead to burn-out, especially if you're striving so hard every day that you aren't giving yourself a break.

Stop and think about whether or not your objectives, key results, and tasks are too hard, too easy, or right in the middle. If you can complete the job in a minute, you're probably too hard on yourself. If it takes you a week and a whole lot of self-loathing, you might be being too hard on yourself.

3. Your key results don't have numbers.

If you make this mistake, you weren't paying attention or afraid of failing. Either way, let's fix this.

First, we'll review.

Your key results need to be quantitative and achievable.

For example, if you say that you want to increase sales, this isn't good enough. If you sell one more item than you did yesterday, you've completed that task.

You need to know how much you want to increase sales by and when you want to achieve this. Don't skimp out on the details because you're afraid of failing.

Be specific even if you think you can't do it. You'll either be happily surprised or learn something from the process of failing. Neither one of these is a bad thing.

4. You're doing too much.

We get it. You want to be the person who is a part of the most productive team in a more successful business. You want to be the best of the best as quickly as possible.

But, you can't do this in a day. You probably can't do it in a week or a month or even a year.

This entire time, we've been preaching for you to break it down. That's because you need to break it down.

Trying to take on everything at once isn't healthy, isn't possible, and isn't sustainable.

So, if you're trying to take on ten objectives and fifty key results, stop now. Pick out your top three to five. What is essential right now?

We know that it's hard, but you can put your other current objectives and key results on the back-burner for now. You can always look to complete these later when you're done with your current ones.

It's great that you're ambitious and ready to conquer your goals, but you can't take on too much at once, or you won't be able to complete anything.

Plus, think about this as encouragement. The faster you finish your objectives, the quicker you can start the next one.

OKR FAQs

For our final section, we're going to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about Objectives and Key Results. These are questions that we hear from clients, customers, leads, and more. This means that these are questions that you are likely to have eventually.

So, let's get to it.

1. How are OKRs related to a workflow?

People always want to know how OKRs are going to help their productivity. The fact of the matter is that OKRs work as well as you use them.

If you make them and forget them (as we previously talked about), they're not going to work. Having them in a file on your laptop doesn't magically make your wishes come true.

However, if you nurture these thoughts and complete these tasks, your workflow will flourish.

It's something about checking off one task after the other encourages and inspires people in their personal and professional lives. OKRs are likely going to help you as well. Put them to work for you rather than letting them haunt you.

2. Are higher-level business executives using OKRs?

Yes! Business owners, business executives, and every other type of business person and professional you can think of are using OKRs. They're everywhere.

Likely, your boss or boss's boss or boss' boss is using OKRs right now.

Using OKRs, they can quickly and easily evaluate personal, business, and employee performance. Plus, using OKRs improve resilience against change over time.

Even in the lows, a business will have its OKRs to work towards.

3. I heard individuals shouldn't use OKRs for personal goals. Is this true?

For some reason, this rumor has been going around. We're here to debunk it.

The argument against using OKRs for personal goals states that people are likely to misuse the goals, whether by creating goals that are too easy or creating goals that don't have a measurable status of success.

Because you've read this entire article (right?), you know that both of these things are no-nos.

Never sell yourself short. Never create goals you can't measure.

Ensure that your objectives, key results, and small tasks are all specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Besides, you need to make sure that you're reaching for something.

If you need to visualize it, sit in a chair. If you can reach your goal (metaphorically, of course) without getting up, you aren't dreaming big enough.

Using OKRs for Project Management

Wow! That was much information to go through. We're sure that you're filled with all kinds of ideas, hopes, and wishes after reading all of those OKR examples.

The truth is that anyone can use OKRs. No matter who you are, what industry you work in, or what you're interested in, you can use OKRs.

Here at TrueNxus, we work with teams and individuals to help manage their projects. We can help you and your team or business improve your performance. In turn, you'll be able to reach your goals more efficiently and effectively.

If you're interested in taking your or your business' goals to the next level, check out our project management software. Whether you're looking to execute complicated projects or complete day-to-day tasks, you'll find our software helpful.

Feel free to reach out to our sales team and check out the rest of our blog for more information. Now, get to planning!