Objective and Key Results

How to Define Initiatives in OKRs

15 Mar, 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. So far in this series, we have discussed:


Now, in the fifth part of this series, it’s time to discuss your initiatives in OKRs: how to define them, how to devote time to your OKRs, and how to read your metrics and interpret the results. Let’s get started!


The Value of Initiatives

First, let’s start by defining initiatives and discussing their value within your organization. As defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, an initiative can mean either of the following.


a new plan or process to achieve something or solve a problem;


the power or opportunity to win an advantage.


When it comes to OKRs, the idea is similar. “Initiatives” refer to the tasks you need to do in order to drive progress on your key results. Initiatives are frequently confused with key results, but they are two distinct things. Key results are not tasks but rather a measurement of your progress toward your objectives. Initiatives are your action plan (tasks, projects, etc.) that you have to complete in order to reach your objectives. It’s very helpful to define and describe your initiatives as a part of OKR because it helps you realize what, exactly, you need to do in order to attain your objectives and key results.

You need to develop initiatives before you can move onto the next step, which is creating a task list. While the end goal is for your company to thrive as a results-based organization (rather than a task-based one) the truth is that it helps to keep a list of tasks provided they are truly making progress toward your objective.

Bear in mind you will need to periodically re-define your initiatives if you want to get the most value out of them. Your initiatives can also change and shift throughout the project depending on how well they deliver your desired results, so it’s important to find that balance of sticking to your plan but also being flexible and changing it.


Defining All Actions Necessary in a Simple Checklist

If you’re going to get the most out of your OKRs, it’s important to develop a system for tracking your initiatives that is easy to use, and a checklist is generally thought of as the simplest way to achieve this.

Each initiative on your checklist should be measurable, specific, and within your control. Depending on your industry and your specific role within that industry, your initiatives could be to build/create a new product or service, to interview or hire someone, or to run an advertisement campaign.

Before you add an action to your checklist of initiatives, think carefully through it by asking yourself these questions:

  If you can answer these questions, then it is likely to be a worthwhile initiative, but if not, you will need to reconsider whether it’s actually suited to your OKRs. Next, ask yourself the following questions: 



If you answered “yes” to those questions, then you probably have a good initiative to pursue. You can have more than one initiative if there are multiple actions you need to take to pursue your key results.


How to Devote Time to Your OKRs

OKRs will help you stay focused, motivated, and aligned. But how much time will you have to spend in order to make OKRs work? The good news is, it should really only take a few minutes per week out of your schedule, with the occasional one-to-one evaluation to keep everything on track.

For department OKRs and personal employee OKRs, it’s important to officially meet and evaluate progress each quarter. This is the ideal length of time in between OKR evaluations because it gives you three months in between each goal-setting session, which is long enough to allow you to accomplish your goals, but short enough that you stay on track.

But, you will need to spend a few minutes each week tracking your progress. It can take less than ten minutes, and we suggest picking a day of the week (perhaps Fridays?) to jot down your progress on your OKRs each week on that day. An OKR management program like Heartpace’s OKR module is idea for tracking progress on key results, synching up progress between teams, and ensuring that everything is focused toward the common goal.


How to Read Your Metrics and Interpret the Results

When you use Heartpace’s OKR module, it becomes simpler than ever before to get insight on your progress. OKR is about far more than just a task checklist. It is about measuring results. Any metrics you use should be completely tied in with your OKRs.

With Heartpace, you can see easy-to-understand visual representations of your progress, and it is practically effortless to interpret the results.


If you would like to see what our OKR module has to offer you and your company, click here to learn more about the product and the pricing. You can also contact us to book your free, 20-day demo of the product. When you start focusing on results, you will be amazed at what your company is capable of!


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Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) system

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