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To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time. —Leonard Bernstein

…culture, productivity and alignment all in flux.

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Keep everyone moving forward as a team in a world where culture, productivity and alignment are all in flux.

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aims too low and achieving our mark.

Goals aren’t promises, they’re hypotheses

Not reaching a goal can be just as valuable as reaching it, just as disproving a hypothesis is as valuable as proving it

The purpose of a goal is to maximize your learning, not commit to a predetermined outcome.

  1. Don’t plan ahead of what you know now, or you’re just spinning fantasies.
  2. What you know now will likely be wrong in a few weeks.

I’m not saying "don’t plan." I’m saying that the plan is dynamic, constantly changing as you learn, and you’re always learning.


  • metrics drive behavior
  • People hate corporate acronyms that mandate work more than just corporate acronyms.
  • Multiple teams often depend on one another to succeed.
  • No one person knows everything going on inside the organization.
  • Personal objectives that are directly and clearly connected to the broader goals of the company are more inspiring and imaginative.
  • Public information that everyone can see help make you feel you are toiling in a thriving environment with your manager’s approval.
  • Public goals and clear results:
    • encourage people to ask for resources; and
    • easily spot where you can support your colleagues;
    • force different types of thinking around how people ask for help from others and helps amplifying this type of dialog.
  • Airing things out releases anxiety and let’s people get creative—that’s when interesting things happen.
  • Stretched goals:
    • help you to be ambitious enough the push you beyond your limits; and
    • focuses conversations about what is truly needed to beat expectations;
    • encourages to question everything; and
    • forces questions that matter like:
      • “I’d have to completely solve this hard problem”; or
      • “I need to completely rethink how I’m addressing X or Y.”
  • Having clear objectives, especially those tied to developing your skills, are a key part of career development.
  • People love hitting their marks.
  • Key results that are always tied to money block seeing other, diverse objectives in the mix—it will make people play safe rather than being ambitious and entrepreneurial.
  • Regular updates and reviews of objectives and key results spur increased dialogue between employees, co-workers, managers, and leadership and allows recognition to be spread out over time, which tends to be more rewarding.
  • Self-inflicted objectives and goals are much more powerful than top-down goals dictated from higher organizational levels.


  • serve as a layer of communication that holds the company together;
  • are designed for accountability;
  • are enforced with scores;
  • elevates its game;
  • can become a part of the culture;
  • use the following structure:
    • high level objective;
    • a more detailed description of why that objective is important—a summary of how the objective aligns with the broader goals of both the person’s team and the company; and
    • three to five key results that will help them achieve that goal.
  • track results on a quantitative basis—key results are not general or subjective actions you plan to take, and should always include numbers to make it clear how much has been achieved. For example, if Mary’s objective is to improve her sales prospecting skills, one key result might be to spend two hours a week shadowing Jennifer, the team member who demonstrates the most prospecting success;
  • are something for people look at, every quarter, every week, every day—consistently setting goals turns goal-setting into a habit and changes how people think about their work and approach their everyday to-dos; it puts in place natural milestones that make you think about what you need to do next and aim high;
  • are stretched goals in order to be effective—achieving 70% of your goals is just about perfect for OKRs—if you achieve 100% of your goals, you’re not trying hard enough (cf. Sun Tzu: bow tension);
  • are a tool for motivating and aligning people to work together by increasing transparency, accountability and empowerment;
  • make it easier than ever to keep people focused and collect feedback, inside and outside management meetings;
  • facilitate continual coaching of yourself and others and develops your whole ecosystem;


Encourage people to spend time defining their own OKRs and then to meet specifically with their managers to incorporate their feedback. Spend your time defining OKRs, not measuring them. Look at OKRs as a way to communicate so there’s clarity about the unity of purpose. Tweak and tune your OKRs to be more about collaboration and less about action items. Publish them for everyone to see (next to your flow board. Figure out how to put OKRs work best for you. ‘Retroprospect’ your OKRs with a season beat and make it a part of your operations review. Hold people publicly accountable for failing to regularly update their OKRs. Have 60% of your OKRs defined by employees, not leadership.

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Consider creating an impact map to discover and express the right OKRs.

Grading should be a simple exercise at every season beat, five minutes tops. Score an objective by averaging the individual key result scores underneath it. This is also why it’s so important to make those key results quantitatively measurable.


  • Do not mix OKRs and performance reviews; do not use it as a weapon against your employees in performance reviews.

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Sharpening Questions

Typical Progress Meeting

  • Ask people to share their quick wins—one or two notable things they or their team has achieved since last time.
  • Ask people what progress has been made agains their OKRs:
    • What are the areas that are still keeping you up at night?
    • Where do you need help?'
    • Everyone shares one or two things that are causing them the biggest concerns about hitting their OKRs
  • Have the major concerns guides the meeting’s conversation in the right direction—because they’re always focused on removing roadblocks, they always feel like time well spent.

Smashing Magazine:

Schedule deadlines as specific tasks, not the ends of phases. Rather than “Content will be completed by 4 April 2010,” state “Review the content over lunch on 4 April 2010.” This ties the deadline to an event at which results must be shown. Mini-deadlines tied to specific events are more powerful than general statements.