What are Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)?
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are a goal-setting method that can help agile organizations and agile teams focus on what matters most and track progress toward achieving their goals. OKRs have become a popular tool in agile workflows, as they provide a clear structure for teams to define their goals, measure progress, and make adjustments as needed. By leveraging OKRs, organizations and teams can gain greater visibility into their goals and objectives, as well as increase focus, prioritize tasks, and measure team performance. Through OKRs, organizations can shape their agile workflows to be more effective and efficient, helping them to stay on track and reach their goals.
How to create OKRs
When creating OKRs, teams can follow this process:
1. Define the overarching goal: Define the overarching goal that will guide the team’s efforts. This broad goal should relate to the organization’s strategic objectives.
2. Define objectives: Next, break the overarching goal into measurable objectives that can help teams track their progress toward achieving the goal. These objectives should be specific enough so that teams can track their progress toward achieving each objective.
3. Define key results: Identify the key results that would help achieve each objective. These key results should be specific enough so that teams can track their progress toward achieving each objective.
4. Assign team members: Assign key results to team members so they can track their progress toward achieving the objective.
5. Track progress: Track each team member’s progress towards achieving the objective.
Tips for developing effective OKRs
Be specific when setting goals: Be as specific as possible when setting goals for your team. Vague goals that don’t align with strategic objectives won’t provide much value for the organization.
Set team goals: When creating OKRs, it’s important to set team goals rather than individual goals. While individuals on the team may have their own objectives, the team should set overarching goals.
Align goals with strategic objectives: OKRs are most effective when they align with strategic objectives. If your team is setting goals that don’t relate to the organization’s strategic objectives, they aren’t providing much value.
Strategies for tracking OKRs
Use a whiteboard or a digital tool – To ensure that everyone on your team can see what OKRs are being tracked, use a whiteboard or a digital equivalent.
Set a cadence for updating the whiteboard – If your team is using a whiteboard or a digital equivalent to track OKRs, set a cadence for reviewing progress, celebrating successes, and making adjustments.
How an Agile Coach or Scrum Master can use OKRs to measure team performance
An Agile Coach or Scrum Master can use OKRs to measure the agile team’s performance. To do this, start by assessing the current state of your team’s performance. For example, you can use a team assessment tool (e.g. a strengths survey) or conduct a team audit to identify areas for improvement.
Once you’ve identified areas for improvement, set new goals and objectives for the team, and track progress toward achieving those goals. By setting new goals and tracking progress, you can measure your team’s performance against the OKRs, providing greater visibility into how your team is performing.
Through OKRs, you can also measure individual performance on the team. This can be helpful if you’re coaching team members and want to track their progress toward improving their performance.
Examples of OKRs in an agile workflow
Example OKR for a scrum team’s process
Objective: Improve the product release process with higher quality.
- Key Result 1 – Reduced bug reported after release to 30%
- Key Result 2 -Implement automated testing to improve coding accuracy
- Key Result 3 – Decrease server downtime from 2 to 0
Example OKR for a scrum team’s performance
Objective: Increase communication and collaboration between team members
- Key Result 1 – Dedicate one sprint per release to pair programming
- Key Result 2 – Facilitate weekly progress meetings every Friday after the daily scrum
- Key Result 3 – Complete 90% of user stories on time this year
Example OKR for an agile team’s culture
Objective: Grow the agile team’s culture and boost morale
- Key Result 1 -Run engagement surveys every release with a 90% response rate
- Key Result 2 – Organize quarterly team-building exercises
- Key Result 3 – Create a wall of praise to encourage public recognition between team members
Example OKR for scrum masters
Objective: Help teams improve sprint goal delivery
- Key Result 1 -Introduce and report on 3 flow metrics: Work Item Age, Cycle Time, and Throughput at the end of every sprint
- Key Result 2 – Identify 3 areas, processes, or impediments preventing user stories from getting done
- Key Result 3 – Run retrospectives at the end of every sprint and ensure teams are taking at least one action step to improve sprint goal delivery
Challenges of using OKRs
Like any goal-setting method, there are some challenges associated with using OKRs.
- Lack of buy-in from team members
- Lack of focus
- The inability to track progress
To overcome these challenges, ensure that team members are engaged and supportive of the OKRs, set SMART goals, and track progress toward achieving objectives.
With OKRs, agile organizations and teams set a goal, identify a related objective, and then identify the key result that could help achieve the objective. This structure helps organizations and teams prioritize their goals, measure progress, and make adjustments as needed. With OKRs, teams are able to define goals, measure progress towards those goals, identify areas for improvement, and celebrate successes. OKRs help organizations and teams see their goals and objectives more clearly, focus on the most important tasks, and measure how well they are doing.