OKRs Library Preview

I just got some “constructive feedback” from my last OKRs workshop. Even if you didn’t attend Goal Summit 2017 in San Francisco and listen to Doctor David Rock from the Neuroleadership Institute talk about the importance of feedback, you probably know that feedback is really important. But it’s the feedback that you ask for that is most valuable. Your feedback inspired me to develop this OKRs Library!

Feedback for Ben

  • Your overall presentation on OKRs is good.
  • We like your style.
  • Oh, also, some of your stories are funny.
  • But…
    • YOUR EXAMPLES ARE GEARED TOWARD A SALES AND MARKETING AUDIENCE.
    • YOU NEED MORE EXAMPLES THAT REFLECT PRODUCT, ENGINEERING, TECHNICAL AND INTERNAL SUPPORT TEAMS.

Gratitude

Thanks Marty Cagan for sharing thoughts after observing my most recent OKRs workshop. And thanks to John Norman for the detailed feedback on the OKRs book I wrote with Paul Niven recently.  Marty and John: I’m listening. And as I look back at which Quora posts and blog articles are getting the most views, I see a simple trend. OKRs that feature specific examples get the most traffic. So, let’s collect real-world, team-level examples of OKRs. And let’s not just do this for Sales and Marketing. Let’s do it for technical, creative, and internal support teams such as Product, Design, Engineering, HR, and Finance.

In fact, in 2012 when I started on my first OKRs project, I remember team leaders asking for examples of OKRs specific to their department. So, I am announcing the world’s first OKRs libary! I’m currently in Beta now as I’m posting 1-2 OKRs with detailed analysis each week to the OKRs Library. Access to the library isn’t free. But, if you read this post and send me a note, I will get you a nice discount or even a free 1-year login.

Why an OKRs library?

When Key Performance Indicator (KPI) libraries first came out, I paid a monthly fee. Now, there are dozens of free libraries with KPI examples by function. Of course, you can also pay a bunch of money to get a list of standard KPIs by industry and department at APQC, for example. However, I’ve not seen a decent set of OKRs indexed by functional department and industry. And, seeing examples of real-world OKRs is an excellent way to ramp up your knowledge on OKRs.

The making of an OKRs library

After several years of coaching hundreds of teams all around the world, I estimate that I’ve now reviewed over 10,000 OKRs. I am pleased to share some of my experiences with these OKRs with you in this library. As you browse through the sample OKRs, I invite you to interact with me and other OKR experts with your comments and questions about specific OKRs in the library.

What makes the OKRs library super cool?

If you’re going to build a library from the ground up, why not do it right? The OKRs may be somewhat interesting in their final form. However, it’s the process of asking questions that really makes the OKRs framework so powerful. Remember my definition of OKRs: “OKRs is a critical thinking framework and ongoing discipline that enables employees to focus effort and make measurable contributions.” So, I am not simply listing OKRs here. I will make each entry a short story that includes an excerpt from my coaching conversation with the team leader. If you are my client and you see your excerpt, that’s great! But to protect us all, each team leader in these stories will be given a pseudoname. This peak into the coaching process with various departments across various industries will give you a peak into the OKRs drafting process.

Library Preview Entry!

Check out this free example entry from the OKRs library. And, if you post a comment to this blog that includes your reaction to this example library entry with feedback for how to make it more useful, I will incorprate your feedback into a future OKRs library blog post. My goal is to have over 100 entries in the OKRs Library spanning Finance, IT, HR, Product, Engineering, Treasury, Legal, and just about every industry by end of 2018. Grab a chair, get a nice reading lamp by the fireplace, and let’s have a conversation in our OKRs library. Well, OK, just sit by your screen, skim this example, and let me know what you think 🙂

OKRs Library Example Entry: Legal Team

Objective: Bring legal support for APAC up to par with our support in the Americas
Key Results
  • 10 of 13 weeks in Q2 have 100% of legal requests getting a 1st reply within 3 hours in APAC
  • Report a baseline metric that reflects current levels of satisfaction with legal support in APAC based on 80 or more responses from internal stakeholders.

Context

Legal teams often do not set their own OKRs. Rather, certain individuals comprising the Legal participate in OKRs development with other teams that do set OKRs. Teams that rely highly on their Legal colleagues should proactively include Legal when creating their OKRs.

However, the head of this particular Legal team, let’s call him Richard, was quite keen to be part of the OKRs process. He wanted measurable goals for his team. Richard explained that getting more “metrics-oriented” was something that Legal Operations was trying to do, and OKRs seemed like a vehicle for getting more metrics focused.

First, we developed the mission sentence: “Constantly improve processes to ensure intelligent risk taking at the operational level.” I liked this mission since it was written in simple English and it got me wondering how we could know if a risk was “intelligent” to take. This mission is the long term statement of purpose. But when we got into the Objective for the upcoming Quarter, we did not directly define what types of risks are “intelligent.”  And that’s fine.

However, notice how we did focus on providing legal support faster to a certain stakeholder group. Indirectly, we could see how the final OKR supports the broad mission. Provding more rapid legal support is related to ensuring “intelligent” risk. If we were to look at this on a deeper level, we’d need to ask what might happen if we did not provide responses to legal requests on time. For example, would some account managers just make decisions without legal support, thereby taking “less intelligent risks”? Here’s a key excerpt from our OKR drafting session.

OKRs Coaching Excerpt

As is often the case a Legal team, we ended up creating just one Objective with a couple Key Results. The premise was that a bunch of the work in Legal is not really planned. Legal is often reactive rather than proactive. Legal agreements are often “1-offs” and you often don’t even know where you’ll focus your efforts until something bubbles up.

However, when I asked Richard, “what’s the number one thing Legal Ops needs to improve in Q2?” Richard explained without hesitation, “Right now, we need to improve the legal support in APAC.” Here’s a summary of the coaching conversation:

Ben: Why is APAC so important right now?

Richard: Everyone is complaining that we’re just not responsive enough to legal requests – and part of that is timezone, but it’s also that we don’t have the systems in place to really support them efficiently.

Ben: First of all, how do we know this is such a big problem? Is it really ‘everyone complaining’?

Richard: Well, not everyone, but we now have almost 100 account managers in APAC and I’d estimate 50% of them are not happy with our support.

Ben: Are you tracking the level of satisfaction in APAC?

Richard: No, but we should. I’m going to write a baseline KR to capture current satisfaction with legal in APAC.

Ben: OK, but how will we know that we have a valid baseline?

Richard: We have a standard internal stakeholder satisfaction survey we can run.

Ben: Great, how many survey responses will we need in order to say we can report a valid baseline?

Richard: If we can get 80 or more, that would be more than adequate.

Ben: Great. We have a baseline Key Result – ‘Report a baseline metric that reflects current levels of satisfaction with legal support in APAC based on 80 or more responses from internal stakeholders.’

Richard: yes, that’s an important one.

Ben: Agreed, but back to the actual support. What is the intended outcome of the support we’re providing to APAC?

Richard: Well, every contract gets a different set of feedback. The main thing is that we give them a quick response to whatever issue arises. Sometimes this helps them close deals, but mostly it just helps them manage existing customers. They depend on us for legal guidance for tons of things.

Ben: OK, so how do we know that our legal support makes an impact? How can we make this measurable?

Richard: We’re tracking this now as ‘response time.’ The benchmark is the Americas where we reply to basically all legal requests within 1 hour. No request ever goes more than 3 hours. But in APAC, we’re all over the place. The average is close to 2 hours. The problems occur when we don’t close the issue within 3-4 hours.

Ben: Given we’re measuring this support time, could we just have a metric like reduce average support time from X to Y in APAC?

Richard: Well, the average isn’t really the issue. It’s the outliers where we’re not responsive that make the negative impact. So, I’d like to have no more than 3 requests take more than 3 hours.

Ben: OK, this is good, but it’s a bit negative, can we make it more positive, like “10 of 13 weeks in Q2 have zero requests taking more than 3 hours”?

Richard: Yes! This is a good one. This way every week where we get 100% of requests done within 3 hours is a win.

Post Your Comment!

When you post a comment, please let me know if this format works for you, how it can be improved, and what department you’d like to see me include in the OKRs library. For extra credit, post a draft OKR here and we can start improving it together for everyone to see the OKRs coaching process in action.

Comments (26)

Excellent stuff.
Legal teams and other support functions (as well as scientific researchers, care givers and other areas) are notoriously hard to measure.
By writing this post so that the reader is a kind of ‘observer’ it’s a great way of learning.
It might be even better if you added a ‘key points’ summary where, for example, you could highlight the ‘killer coaching question’ that you asked that was the breakthrough. In the above case the main ones might have been:
– how will we know that we have a valid
– how do we know this is such a big problem
– how do we know that our legal support makes an impact

The above example is a “nice” one because ‘Richard’ was both cooperative and smart.
I’m afraid that most of my clients, here in the UK at least, aren’t like that.
I find quite a few hidden resistances because people are scared of being measured (and highlighting their inadequacies), don’t really know their role or what good looks like (which often points to a fundamental flaw in the vision and strategy of the organisation as a whole).
But these challenges are, in fact, OK because it’s always about surfacing these areas (context, getting feedback, correct organisation structure etc) that’ll help organisations move forward.

Anyway… in all, I think your OKR Library initiative is excellent!!

Bryan, Great point. Free access to library will be coming soon! I show you the excerpt of the coaching conversation but I don’t really reflect on it. The Left-Hand Right-Hand column exercise is the tool I use in my live OKRs trainings and I will experiment with incorporating it here. By the way, have I sent you the example of the LHC-RHC coaching excerpt I did with the VP Engineering based in the UK? We AMERICANS seem to think that the Brits are super-smart, at least when you use that “intelligent-sounding” accent. All kidding aside, Richard was pretty sharp, so point well taken. Look for some more OKR library entries with “more challenging” coachees.

This is awesome. I was wondering if the library could also contain examples of OKRs where for example the KRs are actually tasks. Then next to it there is the ‘correct’ example to show the same OKR but with the KRs now being translated into actual results.

So: examples of ‘badly written’ OKRs vs. ‘correctly written’ OKRs.

Mel, Free access to the library is in order here! Your comment is spot on. It’s almost like we’ve worked together on OKRs in Amsterdam in the past 🙂 I will certainly give examples where the coachee proposes lists a bunch of tasks when asked about KRs. And I LOVE your idea about having the 2 example OKRs — I am picturing a “before and after” side by side example. Great feedback!

Happy that it’s useful and thanks for the free access. That is appreciated! Can’t wait for future collaborations. Speak soon!

Hi Ben – sounds like a great resource for those of us implementing OKRs in our businesses. It’s the first question I get asked when talking about OKRs (either internally or externally) and while I do have a growing crop of nice examples from our experiences so far it would be great to be able to draw on non-News organisation ones. Every quarter we ask the “is this is a good OKR” question and it will be great to find other examples to compare them to. Looking forward to having a look through and building my own knowledge of best practice. Thanks!

I forgot to say, I would be particularly interested in any examples from “health” teams, those that are focused on maintaining the health of the current platforms/technologies etc, those that are required for the business to continue to operate. We use OKRs across a number of different teams each quarter, some of which are innovating, some of which are iterating on a current model, and some of which exist to maintain the operating health (this is across multiple disciplines; engineering, product, marketing, sales, optimisation etc etc). It’s this third category of team, the health teams, that we’ve struggled to develop clear, consistent, measurable OKRs for but if we could align their OKRs with the other categories of team then it would help raise the awareness of their critical work with the business. Thanks!

Duncan, Thanks for the note and expanded comment. I am generating a discount code for you and will send via email. I would like to include examples of how OKRs can be created for “health” teams. Can you give a bit more background on what your current OKRs look like for these teams? Maybe I can provide some real-time commentary and we can all learn from the dialog? Of course, if you’d rather talk about OKRs offline rather than “on a blog” – that’s fine also – just let me know and we’ll set up a private email dialog.

Hey Ben,

we just started with OKRs at our company and got a very good impression of the concept by reading your book. However as with most frameworks, they are easy to understand but hard to master, especially when first creating OKRs. What helped me very much reading this article were the questions you asked during the discussion when creating the OKRs. While the objective in this case study seemed obvious, I don’t assume that this will always be this way. I would highly appreciate example questions of how you find a “good” objective.

For us, I recognize that my colleagues often think in terms of tasks or to-dos or key results instead of the more “meta-level” objectives. However, this article helped me a lot and I’m sure access to the library will help even more 🙂 Great book btw.

Best,
Kai

Oh one more thing: Right now we draft OKRs for one of our business units and I would be grateful if we could use it as an example for how the drafting process could look like 🙂

Kai,
Thanks for book comments! Are you looking for an example of the end to end OKRs drafting process in general or would you like to discuss your specific situation? If in general, check out CRAFT in the OKRs book 🙂

I think right now we have big deal with finding good Key Results after we overcame the first difficulties with objectives :). Biggest issue seems to make a difference between output and outcome. I hope to find some more examples in the library. Did you already grant access for me? That would be awesome.. Thx and best regards,

Kai

I’m not going to make the library access a paid product. But will charge a fee for comments on OKRs people submit to me for feedback. Sending an email to you with the OKRs Library content in its current state now.

Hi Kai,
I am hoping the CRAFT process outlined in the OKRs book might help here. Perhaps you can tell me a bit more about the kind of info you’re looking for?

I will share our experiences once our first quarter is over and we bundled our learnings. Then i might be able to specify our problems more accurately.

Great plan! Best to get into your actual experience with OKRs rather than “best practices” as I find each organization defines their own best practices 🙂

Thanks Kai! I am soon to make the library free for all… I think the part that will be paid will be customized coaching comments on your actual OKRs. So look for the library to be revealed soon 🙂

Hello Ben,

I think examples and excerpts as the ones you presented provide great insight into what OKRs are and how it’s done.
I totally back Melanie Wessels’ suggestion. My contribution is a small one though: I was thinking that the actual OKR example should come at the end (after “context” and “coaching excerpt”). Just so that the answer (OKRs example) doesn’t get in the way while reading about the process that takes us to it.

I would like to see more OKR examples related to software development and engineering teams. They are the ones we struggle with the most.

Context of the company I work for: 20-employee B2B SaaS startup that sells event-management software and on-site solutions such as check-in and badge-printing.
.
Here’s what the engineering team has been working on so far (as an annual objective btw).

Objective: Build a robust enterprise organisation

KR1: Achieve 99.9% system uptime during at least a quarter
KR2: Obtain ISAE 3000/SOC2 type 2 certificate
KR3: Have a secure, up-to-date, and patched platform

To my understanding, the first one looks like a metric KR. The second one, instead, is a milestone KR.

If I think about the desired outcome of KR2, the first thing that pops to my mind is an increase of interest of bigger clients because of complying with security standards. But I’m not sure which kind of metric could fit there, besides of some sort of survey in which clients can indicate if they chose us because of our security standards (among other things). Any ideas?

KR3 doesn’t look very good like that. I was thinking that the “secure” element there would benefit from a metric that indicates amount of “information breaches”, or something like that. While the “patched” platform could benefit from a metric related to only new bugs coming our way (no complains about old bugs that should have been fixed).

Cheers!

Yes, 1st KR is a metric. Second is a Milestone. Third KR is actually more like an Objective. It is qualitative and we need to define the underlying KRs that reflect the achievement of the Objective. Make sense?

Hi Ben,

This format is very helpful. The coaching excerpt is especially useful in diving deeper past the templated theory of OKRs. I don’t necessarily have a recommendation on the type department, but I would be interested in seeing consulting/professional services OKRs in the library.

Thanks for the valuable resource!

Hi Jimmy, I will post some more OKRs around consulting and professional services. Great tip!

Ben, the library concept is brilliant and very needed. I agree with the suggestions of showing from bad, to good, to great. Especially with the common pitfalls of right KR’s as tasks or non measurable things. Show how this can get restated to be an effective Key Result.

Thanks Gina! The OKRs library is now free to all. I am simply posting new entries in my blog. I plan to post more in 2018!

Ben, the library concept is brilliant and very needed. I agree with the suggestions of showing from bad, to good, to great. Especially with the common pitfalls of right KR’s as tasks or non measurable things. Show how this can get restated to be an effective Key Result. Would love to read more!

Hi, Ben! Love the potential of an OKR Library. Keep up the good work. Also, I have devoured your book and have found it very helpful. Thank you! Any chance you have ever seen OKRs for implementing OKRs? I am being asked to implement an OKR Methodology at my company and “prototype” it in my group to see if it will work in our culture/business. Have you seen OKRs for an OKR Initiative before? If so, any chance you can share the OKRs for their work as they ramped up and adopted it?

Hi Michelle,
Yes, I have seen “OKRs for Implementing OKRs” – wow! That just gave me an idea for my next blog post. Stay tuned!! Taking the time to write down the “OKRs for OKRs” forces you to answer the question: “Why are we implementing OKRs” and “How will we know the use of OKRs is making a positive impact?”

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