How to be Realistic in Grading Yourself with OKRs?March 27, 2019
This article is part of a series where we have been discussing in length OKRs (objectives and key results), a goal system used by Google...
This article is part of a series where we have been discussing in length OKRs (objectives and key results), a goal system used by Google. So far in this series, we have discussed:
- The history of OKRs
- 8 reasons why you should adopt OKRs
- How to define your objectives in OKRs
- How to define your key results in OKRs
- How to Define Initiatives in OKRs
In this 6th part of our series, it’s time to talk about setting expectations with OKRs so you know how to properly evaluate your progress. We’ll also walk you through how Google and other companies grade themselves with OKRs so you can know better how to evaluate yourself. Let’s dive in with how to grade OKRs.
How Google Measures OKR Results
According to re:Work, “Google often sets goals that are just beyond the threshold of what seems possible, sometimes referred to as “stretch goals”. This means your OKR goals are not always meant to 100% be achieved. However, just because you cannot fully meet your OKRs, that does not mean your strategy isn’t working. This is something that’s especially important for upper management to realize, as assuming your employees will always meet these OKRs could set both you and them up for failure.
Google takes the approach of aiming very high, even impossibly high. Their principle behind OKRs is, it is better to aim toward what is unrealistic because even if OKRs cannot be met, there is immense growth happening in the process of trying to achieve the OKRs.
What Google does, is they set “thresholds” for success, for example, a successful OKR might mean meeting up to 70% or 80% of objectives. These “stretch goals” facilitate growth and can create opportunities for substantial improvement over the long-term.
Transforming Your Activities into Metrics
The first step to transforming your activities into metrics is to identify activities that are measurable. We talk about this in-depth in one of our previous posts, How to Define Your Key Results in OKRs.
The key takeaway to remember is that to measure OKRs, you must be able to track your activities. For example, if you have a goal to increase customer engagement, it’s important to pinpoint how exactly engagement will be measured and where. Some questions you should ask yourself are:
- What counts as engagement? (link shares, downloads, clicks, likes, contact forms, etc.).
- In what channels is engagement being measured? (social media, website, app, or a combination of these things).
- What numbers are going to be used to measure engagement?
- Do these metrics provide a clear picture of what we want to see in relation to our OKRs?
In addition, trackable activities must have a starting value and an ending value. When transforming activities into metrics, look at whether something should be measured. Many organizations make the mistake of measuring all activities when really, you only need to measure those things that will reflect on your OKRs.
Think about what value measuring something will bring to both your team and to your OKRs. Like most things in business, it should always be quality over quantity. You can read more about business activity efficiency metrics here.
What Does a Good Score Look Like?
Google grades OKRs on a scale of 0.0 to 1.0. As a review, your grading will be based on your:
Objectives (O): These are the actionable goals specific to the business that you want to achieve.
Key Results (KR): These are the results you aim to see under each objective. One objective may have multiple key results.
The philosophy of Google is if you get a 1 across all of your OKRs, then you are not setting your goals high enough. The “sweet spot” as they call it is around 60%-80%, in other words, .6 or .8. This is the recommended area because it means you are successful in making it toward objectives while still challenging your organization and teams at the same time.
You don’t want to wait until the end of the goal period to do your OKR scoring. The scores you want to achieve should be established from the beginning so you can monitor progress as you go along. A good idea is to “pre-score” your OKRs and clearly define what each percentage point means before you begin to set out achieving them.
Let’s say one objective of a company is to launch a new app. Here is an example of what that OKR grading scale might look like:
0.0: No progress was made, nothing achieved.
0.3: App tested internally, with internal suggestions made.
0.5: Changes made from internal feedback, app launched in beta.
0.6: Beta version of app shared with x number of users.
0.7: User feedback received and changes are made.
0.8: All app bugs are fixed and app is ready for scale.
0.9: Full version released on app stores.
1.0: App downloaded by x number of users with x number of active users.
Don’t be afraid to get as specific as possible when integrating your pre-scorecard with your OKRs. This scoring system should live under the key results that are tied to each objective. Remember, the more clear you set expectations, goals and key results from the outset, the better your chances will be at success in hitting your OKRs.
Here is a helpful sample scorecard from re:Work if you’re not sure how to begin.
The most important element to remember in how to grade OKRs is to make sure you are evaluating progress at the individual level all the way up to the organizational level. Grades and results from OKRs shouldn’t be used as a marker for performance reviews, but rather, a tool to look back at what was accomplished and what contributions were made.
Evaluation also serves as a way of considering the lessons learned from trying to meet one or more objectives. Say, for example, a lower score of 5.0 was achieved. Why was it so low? Was the objective simply too high? Were expectations not properly managed? Did something go completely wrong during the process?
Learning from the mistakes made and evaluating how much was achieved allows for important reflection on how to do better going forward, and that’s what OKRs are all about.
To make evaluation a priority, set schedules in your organization at different levels of when the planning and evaluations of OKRs will take place. You may set a planning meeting before the quarter, schedule a check-in halfway through, and then the evaluation discussion just after the end of the quarter.
We hope this post on how to grade OKRs has been helpful and gives you a better idea of how to get the most optimal results possible from grading OKRs.
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